Joy in Wholeness
Finding Peace During Troubling Times
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | October 8, 2020 (edited November 18, 2021)
We have many ways to escape, fracturing experience into bite sized nuggets, missing out on the wholeness of life, and limiting our joy.
I certainly am not a mindfulness guru. My practices of meditation come and go. I have an internal drive to do. The pushes to perform have served me well, keeping me busy, and blind. A lot was going on in my body that I was joyfully ignorant to. The swirling emotions, building tensions, and smart remarks flew beneath my conscious judgements of self. And then, my beautiful house built on the shifting sands of denial, came crashing down, exposing a naked, fearful child. My insecurities were exposed, and I was tired of running.
Sometimes, we need a spanking from the universe before we can look at everything afresh. A mindful journey into our souls may unearth some nasties, but within the dark caves of hidden secrets we find the allusive treasure of joy dwelling within our wholeness.
Anti-everything, seething with hate, our bodies (and minds) break down from the constant angst. We can’t find joy while continually engaged in problem-solving. The problems, I assure you, will line up out the door and weave down the sidewalk, dealing the woe of endless worry.
We can’t find joy while continually engaged in problem-solving.
Problem solving isn’t evil. We should solve the critical encounters. Problem solving is an effective emotional regulation practice. When anxiety arises, we can attack the nuts and bolts of the problem to find relief. However, not all anxiety comes with clear solutions. Many of life’s anxieties are on-going, requiring attention to prevent the mess from exploding into devastating chaos.
Have you ever worried over a spouse or child lost in addiction? Recovery is a lengthy process, not achieved through simple problem solving steps. Much of the time progress is not visible. Each action must be carefully examined and weighted for possible enabling and co-dependence. We need other tools to manage these types of long running anxieties.
My use of problem-solving morphed, transforming into a maladaptive ego protection defense. Driven to solve problems, I lost my self. It is much easier to focus on what is wrong with somebody else. Other peoples’ blemishes divert attention from our notable deformities. We pull up our pants, tighten our belt and get to work—to fix them. Straight foolishness.
Healing by Letting Go
After the collapse of my marriage (because I couldn’t fix her), and the loss of my home (because that is what happened to financial unprepared people in 2008), my world looked pretty grim. But I wasn’t ready for a mindful journey into the painful realities, living inside my being. I needed a few disastrous relationships to humble me enough to hear the shouting from a wounded soul.
A quiet evening, sitting on my bed, I pondered some passages in a book.
“We discover in the course of our lives that reality refuses to bow to our demands. We are forced to let go when we want so bad to hold on, and to hold on when we want so bad to let go.” David Richo
My whole life was nothing but holding on or pushing away. In a radical shift, I thought, perhaps, I should sit in quietness for a few minutes, slow my racing brain, and see what happens. After several struggles to redirect my thoughts away from the mounting problems, I found it—a sweet spot. A momentary glimpse of nothing.
Quiet, Peaceful Nothingness
Nothing was certainly something. I never experienced quietness and enjoyed it before. Life didn’t immediately transform into a new reality. Troubles still needed attending to, but now, I was learning a new tool. I could create space around them. I could step back, examine the problem along with the rumblings beneath my skin, and explore new options, including the new option of just letting go.
David Richo explains, “perfect discipline or perfect control is the best way to miss out on the joy of life. The unruly givens of life are permissions to not be perfect. We know now that a ‘yes’ to life is a ‘yes’ to grief and pain, since all the conditions of existence represent losses and disappointments. ‘Yes’ is a healthy response to the human condition” (2006).
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
Mindful acceptance isn’t automatic. I still default to problem solving. But I now schedule time to feel life, escape from harsh realities (the painful reminders of humanity), and delve into peaceful shelters, hidden in the corners of my mind. I find peace. The problems momentarily melt, emotions settle, and the mind heals from the damaging worry. This routine practice has taught me that my emotions are not monsters. They are intimate parts to the wholeness of the human condition. And there, away from the outside world, I found the treasure of internal joy.
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Richo, D. (2006). The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them. Shambhala; Reprint Edition