Your Choice: Joy Or Suffering

Recently something became very clear to me. I have known this idea for many years but it has taken time for me to really understand the impact of this statement: We shape our experience of life moment-by-moment by our thinking. 

We all have the opportunity to live a life of joy and happiness. It is a choice we make throughout each day. If joy is not the choice then the results often included suffering. Suffering is a product of our mind running us, not us running our mind.  

The following is a summarization of the mental obstacles to living a joyous life:

1.           Your lifetime of conditioning shapes all your experiences. You are a product of your environment. You have been conditioned and programmed by the world around you for your entire life. If the messages you received growing up were that life is suffering, painful, a struggle, or not likely to work out, then that is what you expect your life to be like. If there is no struggle or suffering you may not trust your experience.  You may even create struggle where there is none to be more comfortable.

This program of suffering may not be conscious to you. That’s okay because awareness can help make it conscious. Watch your life and see where you get caught up in familiar old patterns of struggle. Note what you do to cause suffering.

Do your best not to judge but become aware of the power your mind has to shape every moment of your day. Where do you turn life experiences into struggle against others or things you do?  See where you might have to move past old familiar ways. What moments bring you joy?

2.         If you are familiar with a sense of powerlessness or a feeling of “poor me,” you may more easily trust the discomfort of feeling like a victim.  If you see yourself as a victim in relationship with the world then your mind will go in search of situations that confirm your powerlessness.  

Take note when you have moments of “poor me,” or moments where you feel powerless to do anything. See if you can find the past source of those feelings. Take the time to inquire within to locate the history of feeling like a victim. Most feelings of powerlessness are from the past.

In the now, free of the past there is no sense of powerlessness. Actually in the present you feel powerfully in charge of your own life. How do you move your thoughts from feeling powerless to feeling joy? 

3.         Fear can dominate your life if you don’t take the time to notice when you are afraid. Fear is caused by your thoughts. If you are afraid, you will not experience joy. Changing your thoughts can eliminate most fear. Are you willing to commit to changing your thoughts?

Fear has little affect unless you give it energy. You feed fear by focusing your thoughts on what could go wrong and by not questioning your fear producing thoughts. Maybe you have become so familiar with fear, worry and anxiety that you don’t know how else to be. Is that possible?

If you want to choose joy all you have to do is change your thoughts from those causing you to be afraid to those that make you feel happy.  Moving from fear to having fun is easy if you become mindful of your thoughts.

4.          The stories you tell yourself about your life shape it. If your story is about you as a loving, smart, creative and growing person, your experience of life will be a happier one. If your story is about not being okay and not having what you want, your experience of life will not be much fun.

The stories you create are shaped by your interpretation of your life experiences. What would your story be like if you focused on the positive, saw everything as an opportunity to grow, and spent time each day in gratitude for the blessing you have been given?

Your stories only matter to you so why not shape them in ways that seem fun and full of life. Be the creator of joy in your life.

5.           If you obsess about the past or future you will not have much fun in the present. The real joy of life happens only in the now. If your mind is always worrying about the past or trying to control the future, you will miss so much in the present.  You can live in joy in this moment. This moment is the only place where joy, happiness and love exists.

The past is over. Let it go. Your mind is the only thing that brings the past forward. Stop reviewing the past or you miss out on what is happening today. Any worries or fears about tomorrow are a waste of time and energy. Make plans for the future but live life in the present moment.

The now is where happiness and joy are waiting. You don’t have to worry about the past or future. All your worry does is make you miss out on the good things that are happening right now.

These 5 points are just reminders. We all slip into less than optimal mind states once in awhile. If you are aware of your thoughts you can create the most wonderful of life experiences. 

Living a joyous life is worth the effort of keeping your mind open, free and present.

PS. Early in 2013 I will have a new book available to you that will help turn your mind into a great source of joy.