As I was finishing up my last blog post on Cultivating Play and Rest, Brené Brown dropped another and very timely podcast with Karen Walrond, author of the Lightmaker’s Manifesto.

Joy or Guilt? Guilt or Joy?

Brené has been struggling with guilt over feeling joy in her life because of all the suffering in the world, but specifically with the invasion of Ukraine. Recently while celebrating a soccer goal scored by her son, Brené was overcome by thoughts of how Ukrainian children his age are fighting in a war. In that moment, she felt this deep sense of guilt over her joy, her emotions overwhelmed her, and she had to leave the game to regain her composure. After that event, she realized she could not find joy in her life at all. As a result, she reached out to Karen to do another podcast on joy.

In the podcast, Karen shares that she has cultivated her practice of joy over the course of 20 to 30 years. She journals about it when she starts her day and says a prayer of thanksgiving every night as she goes to bed. Her practice of joy has sustained her through many difficult times, including the loss of her home during Hurricane Harvey. Each night she asks herself, 

“What’s a good thing? What’s something good that happened? What is something that I can hang on to? What is something that I can hang hope on to, so that I can go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and try again?”

Practice during the good times

Cultivating joy and beauty, just like meditation, is a practice. You have to do it during the good times so that when the difficult times come, you do not have to think about it….if the practice becomes part of your daily routine, it is there for you when times are hard.  

As I was listening to the podcast, I thought of a gratitude practice of a friend and fellow board member for The Resilient Activist, Anna Graether. Anna posts a photo each day to social media along with a list of three good things. The good things can be anything from time with family and friends, a good meal, a beautiful hike, etc. Anna says this about her daily practice,

“I started posting as a way to be more accountable to myself to look for things each day to be grateful for —solace and grace in the midst of what is not always easy to face each day.” 

Anna posts a photo every day, no matter what else is going on in her life or in the world. The daily practice cultivates both beauty and joy through finding gratitude in the events of each day.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 

A Daily Practice

Thinking through the benefits of cultivating a daily practice of joy and beauty, I lamented how I did not really have one….and that I needed to figure out how to implement something meaningful that I would actually do.

And then it hit me……I already have at least one daily practice in which I find joy and beauty each day. I just was not thinking of it in that way because I do not document the practice through photographs or journaling.

I have two rescue dogs that wake me up at about 5:30 AM every day for a walk (no need for an alarm!). We walk almost two miles through the neighborhood each morning unless there is a thunderstorm, it is really icy, or it is close to zero degrees. Even when the weather is terrible, we usually take a quick walk around the block.

Most of the year it is dark when we walk, yet we still get to observe the seasons; fallen leaves, fresh snow, the fragrance of spring flowers, and the very humid, yet slightly cooler morning air in the heat of the summer.

It is usually quiet and peaceful at that time of the morning…perfect for pondering one’s existence. The dogs and I generally take the same route each day, which includes a small pocket park where we walk the path around the park.

Finding Orion brings me joy

At the darkest part of the path, on clear mornings, we stop so I can look up and see the stars. I do not remember all the names of the constellations that I learned in 7th-grade science, but finding Orion on bitterly cold, clear mornings always brings me joy. The moon is rarely visible in this location, but as we leave the park and head back west towards home, when the moon is full or nearly full, its radiance always surprises me and takes my breath away.

Neighborhood scene at sunup.

These are the mornings I walk alone….many mornings the timing works out such that we run into other dogs and their humans who have become our friends.

These relationships encompass joy and sadness, as we share the events of our lives during the early morning walks.

I would not have made these friends if not for my dogs I have walked through the years.

Some days are hard….like when one of my dog-walking friends told me that his wife has cancer. Now when we see each other he catches me up on her treatments and the status of her health. Yet, he and I still find time to talk KU basketball, celebrating victories and lamenting defeats.

Joy, Beauty, and Gratitude

Blogger Anne Melia with Bricker and Frankie

Although many mornings, especially when it is cold and snowy, I wonder, “why did I think I needed these dogs?” I realize that this daily walk is a way that I cultivate joy and beauty in my life. It is something that I do nearly every day…no matter what the circumstances.

Even when I am exhausted or it is freezing cold, I find myself being grateful for the opportunity to experience my piece of the world in the peaceful early morning; grateful for my body that is physically capable of making the walk; grateful for the wonder of the moon and stars; grateful for the seasons, and grateful for the friendships that I have made along the way.

We likely all have activities that we do each day, that either are – or could become – a regular practice of cultivating joy and beauty. It comes down to the way that we perceive the nature of the activity.

It does not have to be a big production, or something new, or a hard practice… is just something meaningful done every day which allows for a few moments to ponder existence and find at least one thing that sparks joy or beauty.

Anne Melia

Anne Melia is an environmental and political activist, currently knocking on doors and having as many awesome conversations as possible in advance of the August primary and November general election in Kansas. She is on a journey to re-evaluate her life goals and actions towards a path of deeper self-discovery and increased environmental and social activism. "The challenges of 2020 crystallized in my mind both the desire to become more actively involved in efforts to address climate change and social equity issues, but also the need for a nurturing community to provide safety and respite. Through the Resilient Activist, I have found opportunities for activism as well as connectedness and community. I am excited for the opportunity to join with Sami and others to further the vision and mission of the organization."

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Marcela Renna

    Thanks for a beautiful piece, Ann!

    1. Anne Melia

      Thank you Marcela!

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