I want to talk about the tale of having it all. There are two camps. One says, you already have it all. The other says, you don’t have it all and you sure as heck better struggle to get it. Whatever “it” is. I think truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Several years ago while riding the metro to work I had an epiphany. Despite all the stress, difficult personalities, and bureaucracy of my job, I realized that no one and nothing could take away my joy if I didn’t let them. The buck started and stopped with me. For years I had been suffering, burning out, overwhelmed, and pushing myself. That morning on the train, as I watched the stress on the faces of others, I made a decision. I was no longer giving my joy away.
This aha came with lots of meditative practice, reaching my threshold of suffering, and finally the realization that the single factor between feeling like I had it all and I had nothing was simply my mind. How was my mind was oriented and what my mind was focused on. While I knew this theoretically far before I had this moment of clarity on the metro, it's an entirely different reality to Know this in every fabric of your Being as a lived truth.
Today I’m dedicated to seeing the richness in my life always. To feeling how full my cup is. It’s not that my life doesn’t have challenges. It does. But the way I meet them is with a knowing that no matter what, the only person that can steal my joy is me.
The number of people I know struggling to “have it all” could fill reams of paper. And the number of people I know preaching that we already have it all could fill a library. Both the sea of struggling and the simplistic preaching frustrated me. Do I think we have it all already? Yes. Is that obvious? No. Does this require more than simply hearing this truth? Yes.
I want to be real with you. It’s an illusion that people who are happy just are naturally that way. If that were true, spiritual practices, paths, and traditions wouldn’t exist. Does it seem to come “easier” for some people more than others? Perhaps. Or maybe that’s an illusion too.
Happy people practice choosing to be happy. Happy people choose to decide that they already have it all. And happy people choose to get clear on what having it all means to them and then get to orienting their lives around what matters most if it’s out of alignment.
Sometimes this choice is easy. Sometimes this choice is downright difficult. But the key underlying factor is a dedication to choosing to be happy regardless of whether it’s easy or difficult on any given day or any given moment.
I’ve always been an overachieving go getter. I’ll probably always have a schedule that overwhelms people who look at it. I’ll always have my toes in multiple pots at the same time. It’s in my nature and I’ve made peace that this kind of active dance brings me a lot of joy. But when I turn the beat up too fast and dance too long, I wear myself out. This used to look like working full time, teaching yoga full time, going to grad school full time, and studying to become a religious scholar all while being married and owning house. It was crazy, attainable, and absolutely unreasonable. It came from me striving for what I thought having it all was until the day that I looked at my “have it all list” and realized I had it all, but felt unfulfilled.
When I found myself energetically on the floor and struggling to get back up I had to be honest with myself about what “having it all” meant to me and why I was so fundamentally unhappy. When I sat with myself I saw that my “have it all” idea had a long list of achievements that were always updating. This meant that I’d never actually feel fulfilled because there was always another goal I was working towards. And happiness was always “one day when.” While this striving can be beautiful, it’s destructive when your entire worth is connected to it. So many people I know, particularly women, locate their self-worth in their achievements like I did. This is a sure fast way to never ending cycles of unfulfillment and even depression.
I started paying attention to what really fulfilled me. What lit me up? What were moments when I wanted nothing else from life? Hint: the moments you don’t want anything are the moments you’re having it all. For me, I realized that having it all had everything to do with connection. Connection to myself, connection to something Greater, and interestingly a deeper connection to both through connection with others. I discovered that I had it all when I found silent intimacy with myself in moments of meditation, yoga, being in nature, reading a good book, or drinking a cup of tea. In moments of an all embracing hug with a friend or loved one. In moments of looking into the eyes of another. In moments of sharing a laugh. In moments of seeing the bigger miracle of life as I watched people on the subway or while sitting on a bench on the street. In these moments of profound intimacy with Life, I wanted nothing else. My job, my wealth, my possessions, my achievements, melted away. It didn’t mean that I wanted to give them up, but it meant that my locus of fulfillment had dramatically shifted to deep deep inside of me. And as a result, external realities were pennies in the larger picture of soul gold.
We already are enough, complete, and deeply loved. Seeing this can be extremely tough when life is hitting you upside the head with some challenges and bumps in the road. I get it. I felt it. How I started shifting even amidst my biggest challenges and darkest moments like a marriage falling apart and questioning everything I knew was a dedication to knowing there was more. To paying attention to all the nooks and crannies of life. And to getting very, very, very, clear on what I was feeling, all the time.
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I want to invite you to start the journey of exploring what a lived truth of having it all would be like. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Set a timer for 10 minutes and brainstorm moments that you remember feeling like “nothing is better than this moment” in your life. The moments you realize you wanted nothing else. Like the rest of life melted away. The worries, the need to know what is next, the fears shifted to the background as pure love, happiness, joy, peace shifted to the foreground.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and reflect on the question “what do these moments have in common?” My list was all centered fundamentally on connection. Connection with myself, connection with the Universe, connection to another living being or beings.
Take a look at your schedule the rest of the week and reflect on the question, “Is my week in alignment with what it means to “have it all?” Remember, happy people practice choosing happiness. Both in their mindset and in their actions. For me this meant that I recognized that when I felt connected, I never doubted I “had it all.” This means that daily I make time for meditation and quiet reading/journaling to connect with myself. It means that I prioritize time with friends and loved ones by phone and in-person over taking up another project, hobby, or class. These tradeoffs allow me to stay connected to my knowing that I am loved, enough, and my life is complete.
Identify one way you can intentionally make more time for recognizing you “have it all.” You only have 24 hours in a given day. If you aren’t aligning your time in small ways to what reminds you that your life is full, your life is likely to feel more empty.
Practice choosing to recognize how you “have it all” every day. Maybe it’s a moment of silence of taking stock in the morning and/or evening. Maybe it’s a list-writing practice. Maybe it's saying the mantra “I already have it all” whenever you’re feeling fear, constriction, doubt.
Now that I’ve located my energetic pot of gold in connection, even when circumstances get tough, I’m no longer a prisoner to my circumstances. I’m no longer at the effect of life. Sometimes I have moments of forgetting. Sometimes I have moments where it’s easier to recognize I “have it all” more than others. But regardless, it all goes back to where I started. It’s a choice I’m dedicated to making every day because I know the only true thief of my joy is myself. And I’m not stealing anymore.