Live your life on purpose . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding Joy Through Pain

Recently, I came across something written by the philosopher/writer, Kahlil Gibran, regarding the contrast between joy and sorrow. Here's what he had to say:
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow, that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  
And so it seems that, in order to truly appreciate joy, one must first experience the contrast: pain and sorrow. I thought about this for awhile, and realized that, it's true. If your life is constantly filled with happy things and there are few disappointments, you can't really feel contentment and the relief of knowing all is well with your soul. It's interesting to note that within  every person, there is the capacity to rejoice and to mourn. These actions come from the same place -- the seat of our emotions -- the heart. 
Perhaps it seems cruel to suggest that a certain amount of pain is necessary for one to fully grow into the person that they are destined to become, but I have to say that those that I find the most real, the most credible people that I know, have experienced tragedy and lived to tell the tale. These are the ones who know how to laugh and to love in spite of all adversity, and who truly appreciate the relief of joyous times, however random and infrequent they might be. We would all love to have things go our way and to find happiness at every turn, but in reality, this is not the best path for us. This is not what will build our character or draw us outside ourselves and into a relationship with our Creator and our fellow human beings. It is only in the loss of our desires, and in the pain that we experience being deprived of those things, that we develop an appreciation for how beautiful life truly is, and what a gift each day brings.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saying Goodbye to "Stuff"

For the past several weeks, I've done alot of thinking about all the "stuff" that takes up space in my home. I'm talking about everything from furniture, clothing, books, cds, papers, kitchen gadgets, you name it! Even though not currently in my plans, it would be difficult for me to move into a smaller home, or to move anywhere for that matter. I would have to get rid of lots of stuff, some of which would be hard for me to part with. While there may be several obstacles to downsizing one's stuff, I'd like to share with you one major key to my own struggle with this issue.

If you examined some of my stuff, you might not think it worth much. Then again, sentimental attachment is in the heart of the beholder. That old ticket stub from a concert years ago, that coffee mug purchased on vacation, that dress worn on a wedding anniversary. None of these things have much monetary value. Rather, it's the emotional hold that makes me hesitate to get rid of them without a fight. That's when I have to stop and think about their true meaning in my life. Then I discover it's what I associate with them that I really treasure -- not so much the things themselves. And one's memories can never be sold, traded, or stolen.

So, gradually, I am learning to let go of things. I am whittling my wardrobe down to the bare essentials, those articles of clothing that I really like, the ones that look good on me and fit me well, the ones that match my lifestyle these days. I plan on donating anything that doesn't meet my new requirements, because surely someone will be able to use what I can no longer justify occupying my closet. I get excited thinking about all the space I will create by doing this, but even more importantly, how I will be helping someone else in the process.

Next on the agenda is my huge collection of books and cd's. I have always loved to read and listen to music, and the shelves in my living room (as well as other places in the house) reflect years of enjoying both activities. The problem is, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to devote to all the books and cd's that I own! Then, too, there is the constant dusting and organizing necessary to keep them in good shape. Once again, when I mindfully reflect on reducing the size of my collection, I think about giving to others. Donating these items to the local library, which I use regularly, gives others the chance to enjoy books and music that they might not have access to otherwise. In fact, if I desire to listen to that cd again or reread that book -- all I have to do is go to the library and check it out! It's a win-win situation, as far as I can tell.

All this is just the beginning of a new way of looking at the stuff in my own life. I constantly remind myself I am not the sum total of the stuff I own, and I never want it to own me! In fact, instead of taking the time to worry about my stuff, protect it, maintain it, and store it -- I'd rather spend my days enjoying the people I love, doing meaningful work, and celebrating the blessings I have in health, faith, and beauty all around me. How about you? Are you ready to say "goodbye" to your stuff for the sake of finding out what's really important in life?