You may not think much about finding joy in small things when you have bigger goals in mind. Take the usual bucket list. It’s filled with grand goals such as: traveling to faraway places, writing a blockbuster novel, climbing Mount Everest, seeing the Northern Lights, running a marathon, or learning another language.
But the vast majority of our time is spent doing ordinary activities: going to work, participating in family activities, attending church, and running errands to support every-day living.
It’s easy to get into a rut and have joy slipping away, same old, same old, stress and grind. That’s where it helps to find joy and meaning by practicing mindfulness in the small things.
A Life of Speed and Never Enoughness
I attended a meditation retreat led by one of my favorite authors, Wayne Muller. He wrote two of my favorite books Sabbath – Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, and A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough.
Wayne shared that no matter how much work there is to do in the world, there will always be more to do. When we are moving too fast, we can’t see the small things at high speed.
Finding Joy in a Small Thing Someone Has Done for You
He told us to think of a small thing someone had done for us. Then he asked if anyone wanted to share. A woman named Lara raised her hand. She told us that ever since he was able, her son Ben picked the first dandelion of the year and presented it to her. He had turned fourteen and still does it.
Lara and I stayed in touch after the retreat. In the spring, she texted me a picture of Ben picking the dandelion. He continues that small gesture. And each year that small act of love touches Lara’s heart and brings her joy. (It brought me joy just thinking about it.)
Finding Joy in Small Things You Love
There were fifty people that attended the retreat. We were asked to split off into small groups of five. We pulled our chairs into a circle so that we could face each other. Then we were asked to go around the circle and say things that we loved. The responses were things like: the smell of coffee in the morning, dogs greeting us at the door, a child’s laugh, reading a book, all very ordinary things.
Wayne walked around, listening in on the groups. When we reconvened, he said, “I didn’t hear anything that cost $100,000.” Indeed. We all found joy in the small things that we loved.
Be Mindful of the Small Things
A brilliant sunset, a small gesture of kindness from a stranger, the first sip of coffee or tea in the morning, all green lights going to an appointment, the thump of your dog’s tail on the floor when he or she is having a dream. All are small, ordinary joys that make life extraordinary in living with greater peace and lightness.
Pope Francis writes, “We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full.”
What small thing will you notice today that will bring you joy?
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