Discovering Joy Through Daily Rituals

"What makes life really worth living?" is a question I ponder often. Each person probably answers inquiries such as this differently.
"All you need is love" is one notion that's been piped into my sub-consciousnesss for decades. Yet even though I'm certain that at least a few people love me, a vague angst knaws within. "Is love enough?" I ponder, then cease because in the deepest sense of the word, I probably have no more than an inkling as to what real love is.
"All you need is money" is another credo echoing through the corridors of my mind. Certainly this is a practical way to approach things and when I remember the brief periods of my life when I had no food, I promise myself not to become too impractical. Howver, though money buys a lot, happiness is seldom on the inventory.
There are many other "All you need" texts tugging somewhere inside my tiny brain. I might as well be honest and say I have no idea what I actually need. I'm not even sure that lasting happiness for humans is possible. The architecture of my mind - and most of the minds I have encountered - have so many coding bugs that whaatever joy does come invariably seems fleeting.
"What makes life worth living?" Retuning to that question, these four things seem salient -

(1) Celebrate parts of you that are young and playful

A lot of my body feels like a creaky garbage truck: years of hubris are stuck to my neurons, and the results manifest in the droop of shoulders, sag of my forehead, and eneverated slump of my waist. Foretunately, my toes have a different energy. Each morning before getting out of bed I wiggle them a few minutes. It helps me connect to a kernel of my being that's uncorrupted by pessisism, unmarred by pain, and gleefully immune to lethargy.
Ever notice how babies take delight in wiggling their toes? It's part of their wisdom of unknowing: they're not only burning a few calories; they're also stimulating nerve centers and important energy channels. Why can't more adults do that? There's a natural exuberance in the process. If I spend a few minutes every day simply wiggling the toes without thinking of anything else, the day goes better. An inner smile appears. Just as computers need to boot up properly to function well, humans need to follow certain protocols when waking up to optimize their awareness.
When I start the day off by wiggling my toes with foolish delight, things turn out a bit more magically than when I devote the entire day to non-sense efficiency. Toe wiggling is a celebration of play and important daily ritual. It might seem foolish, but things which are absurd in terms of ordinary sense are often precious from a different sense.

(2) Send love to plants

It might seem incongruous, but oneimportant daily ritual I treasure is walking by a garden and sending love to some plants. On the way to work, I pass by a field of mint. Two years ago somebody put weed killer there and the whole patch nearly died. However, mint is a resilient herb and I'm encouraging the remaining plants to grow back. Each day I send a lot of love to that mint patch. And in ways I can't explain, I feel those plants encourage me. The dark, aromatic green leaves and faint lavender flowers of mint have qualities I respect.
One part of me thinks it's foolish to love a verdant perennial that dies each winter . . . another doesn't worry because all love is ultimately idiotic - and for that reason it is so beautiful. Also, there's something brave about the way the mint flourishes. No single mint plant lasts long, yet the colony thrives even under adverse circumstances. When I close my eyes before sleeping, sometimes I feel aromatic mint leaves.

(3) Send love to my "Inner Circle"

T.S. Eliot said that most people have an "inner circle" of friends that they consider important. The people in your "inner circle" are alive in you - you have conversations with them regularly. They are the those who have made you who you are. Your inner circle consists of those who inhabit your conciousness. It doesn't matter whether or not those in the inner circle are actually alive - some people live long after their bodies have disappeared in the hearts of others. Christ is (or should be) alive in the hearts of all Christians. And Buddha is (or should be) alive in the hearts of those who take his teachings seriously.
Who's in your inner circle? That's a question worth reflecting on. The way you answer that query influences the geometry of your heart and shape of your live.
It seems like seven people are in my inner circle: my mother, father, wife, Yea-Huey, Noriko, Cindy, and Mayumi. Every day and send love to these people and wish them well. I do not try to measure the love - it's a daily ritual to put them each in my heart and offer them love regardless of whether they feel it. Intellectually, part of me wonders about this whole process. However, I now regard the intellect as an imperfect abritrator in life: many things that we do not fully understand we can intuitively sense.
There's something healing about being sending love energy to others. A wise person once told me "there are no others - just different fragments of the same self." Although this doesn't make sense intellectually, by giving love toothers, my heart gains energy as well.

(4) A Peace Prayer

Recently I've made it a point to stop myself briefly each day and scan the body. This daily ritual consists of doing an objective scan while sitting or standing . . . I can locate parts with anger, joy, lust, clarity, and sloth. So many different parts! I've almost given up trying to figure out how all of them fit together. Instead of trying to comprehend each part with my tiny intellect, I pause for a moment and simply accept them. How? It's hard to explain, but knowing we're more than the sum of our parts helps. The parts that exist are just short-term configurations . . . rather than resist each impulse, it seems wiser to breathe softly and let it pass. When I'm still and allow the parts to be without trying to "change" anything, a modicum of peace arises. I acknowledge a lot of mayhem exists within me. Fortunately, there is seldom a need to act on any of the impulses . . . they can be for a brief moment, then vanish.

These four daily rituals might seem insignificant, but they make my life more worth life. Different people no doubt have different daily rituals to enrich their lives. However, I encourage you to try these things out. Sometimes small things can make a big differene.
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