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How to find more joy in your life … and make it last

JOYFUL WOMAN
Shutterstock
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The best moments in life are fleeting, but there’s a way to capture them and let them light up our lives.

Here in Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s been unseasonably rainy. More than unseasonably, really — it’s been raining almost constantly since mid-September. I will be the first to admit that I’m no pluviophile — rain makes me sleepy, lazy, hungry, and cranky.

This? Not me. I need sunshine in the same way introverts need silence — it rejuvenates and invigorates me, and makes me happier than anything else, so these weeks of rain have really been getting me down.

But last Tuesday, the sun came out. Not for long — for just a few brief, fleeting minutes the sun broke through the clouds and cast an unfamiliar brilliance across the world. Luckily I was outside at the time and able to stop everything, raise my face to the sun, and just bask. I relished every second of sunlight while it lasted, and when the sun disappeared behind the clouds again I felt happier and more hopeful than I had in weeks. In fact, that one moment buoyed my spirits during the several days of rain that followed.

Yesterday I read an article on mindfulness at Becoming Minimalist that echoed my own experience, and it made me realize that the way we choose to experience life has a greater impact on our happiness than anything else. The writer speaks about how we can take powerful fleeting moments and actually make them last:

It was almost as if I bottled up that moment, tucking it into my back pocket, available to access at any moment. That is the magic of mindfulness. It asks that we bring all our attention and all our awareness to the present moment. We engage our five senses in a heightened way, capturing details we might otherwise miss. Mindfulness allows us to bottle up a moment, making its magic last long after the moment has ended.

That moment two years ago changed my life. It set me on a path towards minimalism in a way I never expected. That moment was so magical, and it didn’t involve an ounce of stuff. No thing or possession made that moment possible or better or richer. And in a moment of quiet honesty, I realized that my connection to stuff probably kept me from having those moments more often.

It’s amazing how powerful a few minutes of sunlight — something I took for granted all summer, and really for most of my life — became for me when I hadn’t experienced it in many days. It made me newly aware of how many small moments I take for granted … moments that don’t require buying things or going places.

Bedtime stories, for example. Bedtime stories used to be a ritual for us, followed by prayers. That routine was a fact of life, like the period at the end of our day. But as the kids got older and life got busier, bedtime stories began to fall by the wayside. When I started working, I wasn’t home for bedtimes at all two nights a week, which took even more of a toll on our sacred little ritual. Over the past six months, bedtime stories disappeared entirely, becoming a thing of the past. Like alligators and golf carts, they belonged to our Florida life.

But last week, Lincoln brought a book home from the library: I Want My Hat Back. It was a book we owned in Florida that got lost in the move, but it was one we read often. The kids loved it because I did funny voices for all the animals, and they would fall over in squeals of delight when the bear finally realized who had his hat.

Lincoln pulled it out of his backpack after school and said, “Mommy, see the book I got? Can you read it to us at bedtime like you used to?” His earnest question almost broke my heart, and all at once I realized how much I missed our bedtime story ritual. It really had been a sacred time for us, one that I let slip away because life became too busy.

But it didn’t. Not really. Life is never too busy for one bedtime story … especially when those bedtime stories are really a precious time to connect with my kids. Just as life is never too busy to turn your face up the sun when it makes a brief appearance, or to give a child one last hug before school. Those are the moments that define our life, and choosing to cherish them can make the difference between a life full of stress and a life full of joy.

Read more: 3 Lessons about minimalism from St. Francis of Assisi

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