being happy anyway

You are the Light

The Solstice is near, and every day, the sun sets earlier now. The gathering dark is a reminder of how important it is to rest, to pause, to nourish ourselves with quietude. In the dark, growing things germinate. In the dark, our shadows sigh with relief, grateful for a moment away from the harsh light that seemingly always finds our flaws. In the dark, we can be present with the truths about our vulnerability that we might fear to bring out into the public square.

When we are submerged in the dark time of the year, we can bleed the crisp edges of our mundane lives off the page a bit and become more magical, more diffuse, less judging, more generous, more magnanimous. For many, the nadir of the solar year represents a complex combination of revelry, love, stress, and critique of false or forced jollity. It's not simply the holiday season that brings this forth. It's something about the light, or lack thereof. The peaceable and inconvenient silence of the long night beckons us inward, away from inauthenticity, regardless of how many blazing neon signs leer and tempt us to fling caution to the winds and overindulge, overdo, overspend, or overachieve. We are, if we deeply listen, instead being called to just get very, very real, and love very, very much.

In the gathering darkness of this solstice season, and the gathering shadows of greed and systemic abuse in the world, it is tempting to vanish inward in a spirit of discouragement, fear, or sorrow. While these feelings are valid, they are not likely to accomplish much, so try your best to reframe your perspective so that your quietude is not torturous, but is rather nurturing and healing. You must not allow yourself to be overcome. You must remember who you are, and the power of one person's love.

How many times in your life has the kind word or gesture of one person changed everything in a moment for you? Countless times, to be sure. When you needed it, many times, loving people in your life came along and lit a lamp for you in your hour of confusion and murkiness. When you are feeling low, one of the most valuable things you can do is to recall those kindnesses, and to light your own heart like a candle, illuminating the way for someone else in pain for a while. Doing this may not end your own pain, but it can supply you with a different emotion for a while, and even that is enough. 

You can succumb to the glaring stressors and hide from the world, or you can soften into the glow of your own inner fire, warming yourself and others, even when times are tough. The choice is yours. Try it. You are allowed to emerge from the dark night of the year, and from the dark nights of the soul, feeling grateful for what you have and who you are, generous, pleased to participate in the joy of others, and aglow with the happiness that even a single moment of compassion can generate.

This winter solstice, and every season, you are the light. Don't forget.

Seed the world with magic

Part of the practice of taking joy in the joy of others is to actively create opportunities for others to experience their joy. But how can you find the wherewithal to do that amidst difficult times of your own? You shouldn't fake it. You shouldn't give up, either.  Instead, you can launch a personal campaign to seed the world with magic, and ripple it outward from there. Your magic does not need to involve wands or velvet capes, though if it delights you to bring these along, please do. Your magic involves actions taken to make the world a better place for others, in ways small and large.

Begin by making a short list of things you can do, quickly, quietly, and with minimal effort, to bring joy into someone's day. You can pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. You can pick or purchase an inexpensive bunch of flowers or fragrant herbs and surreptitiously leave them in public places, tied with a piece of ribbon. You can bake or buy a cake for your co-workers and leave it with an anonymous note in the break room. You can compliment strangers on their good taste, cute smiles, or witty remarks. You can participate in a Little Free Library. Each of these small acts is a seed.

From there, reach higher. You can bag food at a local food bank. You can help with a fundraiser for a good cause. You can organize a beach clean-up day. You can light candles for those who are suffering. You can sing love-grams into the voicemails of your friends. You can jump on the bandwagon of someone's GoFundMe and spread it like wildfire. You can organize a group of friends to serve soup to the homeless. You can participate in ceremonies and rituals for peace, or lead them. You can remember tiny details about people that others don't usually remember, and watch them smile shyly when they realize you have. You can make the effort. Each of these acts is a seed.

From there, reach higher. You can start a business that creates joy for others through art, beauty, nourishment, and creativity. You can fill out the paperwork to create a 501(c) charity organization and provide services that are needed. You can help to build a temple or two, advise ethical organizations as they strategize for their futures, step in when you see abuse happening and refuse to back down, create a commune where artists can safely live and hone their craft. Teach yourself to build websites. Host epic parties that raise money for good causes. Each of these acts is a seed.

I used to think about how I could create happiness in the world, and I considered all of the items on this list. They intimidated me. My ego stepped in and tried to tell me my ideas were both frivolous and impossible.

Now, I have done everyone one of these things and I refuse to be intimidated by any dream I have of creating joy, no matter how frivolous or impossible it may seem. Instead, I look for new frivolous and impossible ways to create more joy. Not all of the seeds I plant take root, but I would rather scatter thousands and reap hundreds than stay frozen in fear of planting a single one.

Start where you are. Your magic is needed. Now is the holy moment.