“Life is not about waiting for the storm to end; it’s about learning to dance in the rain”
I love this quote. How many of us consciously or subconsciously keep waiting for the storm in our lives to pass? “I’ll be happy when ….” Yet somehow it is one thing after another until our lives are over …. So when will we stop waiting for the future and start living?
There are so many simple ways we can dance in the rain. Many of these may be well-known, and yet I believe we can all add a little more of this dancing into our lives …
Withholding judgement and labelling: It can be so easy for us to react to a situation with an instant judgement: “I like this” or” I don’t like this”; “This is good” or “this is bad”. Yet how often do we find that there is a little bad in the good, a little good in the bad. Or even that we were totally wrong in our judgement of something that appeared bad, but turned out to be good – perhaps bringing powerful learnings, or taking us to a new stage in our journey, or bringing us into contact with a new person or situation. Labelling an experience or a situation as “bad” leads to resistance – and resistance to suffering. Can we withhold our judgements and just allow what is to be?
Living in gratitude: Often when I hear people complaining about this or that, I wonder how much we really need to be happy. Many of us have so much, and yet for some small thing we are coveting (or regretting, or wishing were otherwise), we manage to overlook the many blessings we have. Not only the basics – enough to eat, shelter, our health – but often wonderful people, beauty and many luxuries around us.
A simple gratitude practice can be formal – thinking of, or writing in a journal, 3 or 5 or 10 things every day we are grateful for. Or it can be informal – just being mindful of what we are grateful for from time to time. Especially when things are tough, it can be grounding and encouraging to remember all the many things we are so lucky to have and enjoy. (And it is often said that gratitude for what we already have allows more blessings to flow … ) Epicurus said “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”
Enjoying the little things: Society encourages us to have grand ambitions – and it is not necessarily wrong to reach for the stars. But sometimes in our focus on the great, we miss the little – and that is really missing out on so much of life’s joy. Perhaps we are stressed under financial pressures, under-valued at work, or struggling with a challenging relationship. Can we, though, even in those times, find ways to enjoy the simple pleasures – the smell of the rain, the sunset, the taste of our morning coffee, the smile of a stranger?
Being present: Enjoying those small moments means being conscious of them, living in the moment. Some years ago, it was not uncommon for me to eat a sandwich at my desk as I worked, and not taste a single bite. We have all experienced being in a place of beauty, but miserable because of some mental drama which is distracting us. As we become more present, getting out of our minds and into the moment, we find that we can be with whatever arises – on the outside or in our minds and emotions – and that joy rises spontaneously.
When we used the quote above on the invites to our Festival of Commitment and Celebration, we did not expect it to turn out so literally …. After a beautiful ceremony in the sun, the storm clouds started to gather over lunch, and just before dessert the heavens opened …. Since we were down by the river, the only nearby shelter was a storage container – one by one, we all made the dash into the relative comfort of the container, which happily enough was being used to store the fridge full of desserts and all the spare wine and champagne ….
While the storm raged outside and the hail on the roof almost drowned out our conversations, we popped champagne, passed around the desserts, told jokes – and laughed so hard at the whole situation … Everybody forgot all expectations they may have had for our planned evening candle ceremony and drumming around the fire and threw themselves into enjoying the moment. It was a wonderful lesson as we were all reminded how love, friendship and laughter mean more than anything, and that together we can get through anything – not reluctantly, but with a genuine smile on our faces at the things the world can sometimes throw at us …
There was a second lesson the next morning, as we revisited the site of the ceremony after the storm. The river had flooded, and all traces of the ceremony – the hay and flowers covering the floor, the odd glass or program left lying there – all had been washed completely away.
Together with our friends and family, we had worked so hard preparing the area before the Festival began. Everything came together at the last moment – I ran up to change into my dress about 30 minutes before the ceremony started – but after a perfect ceremony, less than 24 hours later, it was gone.
I was reminded of a sand mandala, lovingly created over many days or weeks – only to be swept away. And so I was reminded as well how much joy is in the moment and in the journey and not in holding onto the outcome. How often this is the case in life too … Whatever outcome we may be chasing may be attained, but for one reason or another, the pleasure gained from it is fleeting,whereas the joy in the process of creation, and the bonds of friendship and love created along the way go far deeper …
We were reminded also of the transience of life … Nothing lasts forever. We cannot hang onto the things we want to hang onto … but nor do we need to worry about the tougher times remaining forever. “And this too will pass”… How much more reason then to live each moment completely, embracing everything with gratitude and openness, for this is truly living.