By Angelina Stevens
I must admit, there is a a romantic yearning inside of me for a simpler existence, to retreat to a plot of unscathed land, living off the earth. With our constant exposure to big media, the Internet, and our various forms of communication, it can be easy to become entranced in a virtual world and become detached from our true selves and other human relationships. Never before in the modern world have the conditions for survival seemingly been easier, more efficient, and more intelligent. Yet we are plagued with dangerous health issues, man-made environmental destruction, disastrous wars, and internal conflicts within ourselves and with others. If most humans share the common desire to live a meaningful and fulfilled life, then it seems that it should be easier to coexist in this common goal and assist each other along the way. However, our modern advancements have born a society that rewards wealth, beauty, and consumerism, rather than wisdom, spiritual connection, and inner peace. With our constant exposure to warped cultural standards, happiness seems to elude us, much like a cat chasing its tail.
What exactly does it mean to be happy? Our personal definition may change as we evolve, grow, and become closer to our true selves. Children nurtured with love and met survival needs are masters at expressing themselves. This, for a child, involves also a direct pursuit of happiness at all times. As adults, with greater choices and responsibilities, it can become easy to lose the pursuit of that happiness in everyday life.
Being conscious and taking time throughout the day to stop and notice what is most enjoyable about this moment can link you to your happy, authentic self. The 14th Dalai Lama said, “We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives …” If we focus our lives around the wisdom that is inside our true selves and helping others from that place, we can elevate ourselves and the world around us.
I have recently been inspired by the renowned book “A Man’s Search For Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. Frankl relates his experience of surviving three years in Auschwitz and other Nazi prison camps under the most horrendous conditions. His account blows the lid off of what a human can endure in the pursuit of survival, and inspires with his reliance on his inner world and present state of mind in the midst of starvation, illness, death, and cruelty.
During those three years, Frankl was able to feel joy in advising and serving others in the camps, and in remembering his beloved and deceased wife. He discovered his life’s meaning in the truth “… that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which a man can aspire.” Where there is meaning and purpose in our lives, there also must be meaning in our suffering. Out of suffering, whether it be great or small, can come deeper understanding and reliance within ourselves. Whether it is suffering with illness, the loss of someone you love, or the 90th mile of Leadville 100, the peepholes of light that emerge from these experiences can inspire the greatest of joy, enlightenment, and personal peace.
As our personal meaning of life changes and evolves, the simplest solution is to lead a purposeful, happy life that feels good. One thing I like to do is to check in with my emotions and see how I am feeling in my physical body. If I am feeling good (healthy, energized, pain-free), it is a good indication that I am on the right path with my true self. If I am not feeling good (sick, fatigued, depressed, or in pain) it usually means that I am on the wrong path and need to recalibrate with my internal compass. Fortunately, even the most skewed directions and the deepest of sufferings can offer us the opportunity to awaken in our beautiful lives. Living to experience this life for the highest good and the highest love feels fantastic, whether one is running a marathon, enjoying a beautiful sunset, or sitting quietly within.
Yours in health and happiness, Dr. Angelina Stevens
Dr. Angelina V. Stevens, D.C., owns holistic chiropractic and acupuncture centers in Durham and Chapel Hill. She is passionate about healing the body naturally without the use of drugs or surgery and by finding the true causes of pain and illness. As a triathlete, Dr. Angelina has completed in world-class events and has represented the U.S. as a triathlete on Team USA 2001. She currently competes as an elite cyclo-cross racer and can be reached at www.stevenswellness.com or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.