AWAKENING OUR INNER HERO: Choose Joy, Regardless | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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AWAKENING OUR INNER HERO: Choose Joy, Regardless 

A column to help locals live a kinder and more courageous life

Joy must transcend our day-to-day lives. It is a choice. Maybe the most important choice we ever make.

The son of a friend of ours was recently killed. Shot down in public. Life cannot get much worse for a parent.

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Pause for a moment, please.

These words are infinitely more than words. They are lifetimes of excruciating pain. Potentially lifetimes of paralyzing misery. At a gathering recently, Mary (name changed for privacy) shared that she has chosen to live a joyful life despite her loss. These words can barely touch what they attempt to describe. Do your best to soak in what you know you probably won't be able to fully ingest.

Our friend has chosen to live a joyful life.

Every moment, there are lessons to inspire us to live life more joyfully. Some lessons are revealed. A mother holding her smiling infant. A father pitching a softball to his three-year-old daughter. An older couple warmly smiling at each other after all these years. So many.

Many of our lessons, and probably most of them, are not apparent but rather are deeply concealed. They initially appear damaging, even irreversibly destructive to our joyful existence. A disabling disease. A miserable job. An abusive childhood. A painful divorce. A murdered son. So many.

Lessons never stop arriving.

Can both joy and suffering coexist inside one soul, one family, one community, one country... our one world? Absolutely! And it is our responsibility to ensure they do. Let us take a closer look at what we often think of as the same concept: joy and happiness. The following wisdom is derived from the book, "Covenant & Conversation" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Happiness is dependent on things going well for us. Am I free of pain? Are my children living how I would like them to be living? Is my political candidate winning? Are friends returning my phone calls? Are my morning eggs cooked the way I like them? Happiness is more directly related to our comfort level.

Joyfulness takes us into another realm. A realm beyond how I am feeling. Some would say joy is a spiritual realm. Day-to-day, we live in a world of ups, downs and inside outs. Most of which we cannot control. We are observers in the stadium of life. Cheering, booing, winning and losing—the game has no time-outs and lasts forever.

Joy revels in the larger and smaller pictures. The infinite cooperation that allows every day to unfold. Our blessed food suppliers. Transportation of every kind. A butterfly fluttering by. Our caring healers. A grasshopper's ability to jump. Music that awakens our souls and moves our happy feet. Distant galaxies. Letting go of time.

Joy asks us to relinquish our attachment to our "me-centered" world. Our lives will always include pain of every kind. That's what we signed up for. But we also signed up for a universe filled with magical wonders, as long as we are willing to soak in the miracles we see daily, and the untold billions more we will never, ever see.

"We can choose to live in joy." -Joseph Campbell

Another word for joy is connection. Deep connection. The Hebrew word for joy is simha, and it has a nuance that is untranslatable into English. Joy, in English can be experienced alone. Not so with simha, which means happiness shared. True joy reverberates. From this perspective, joy is a connector. There is always a WE. Gratitude, by definition, connects.

Joy is what we need for our souls to flourish, and also for our families, communities, nation and world to flourish! No one is excluded from true joy. Not the rich. Not the poor. Not the strangers, orphans, widowed nor our handicapped.

I will leave you with two ancient practices that strengthen our joy muscles. They need to be exercised, or else they weaken and we fall into taking for granted how fortunate we are.

Express your gratitude, as best you can, as much of every day as you are able.

Give to charity at least once a week. What we "have" is not "ours." It was shared with us along the way. Sharing with others who need it reminds us we are all in this game together.

Breathe. Again, we are beyond words.

Thank you! Bless you!

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