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How to Have a Deeper, More Joyful Life

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The couple was the first off the bus on a cruise ship excursion; obviously, travel veterans, they went immediately to the Information Counter at Butchart Gardens in Victoria.

“We have 90 minutes and we want to see it all. What’s the best route?”

Our 3-year granddaughter and I were there because we had been promised a Carousel ride and an ice cream cone by Grandma. She loves The Gardens so we have passes for the season.

Not to diminish the need for first time Victoria visitors to see (and spend) as much as they can since, in other times and places, we know the pressure to sponge up everything before heading back to the vehicle.

This day, however, our focus is not upon the mass consumption of sights and smells but upon the changes that have occurred since our last visit. How have The Gardens grown and developed? What colours now form the palette of The Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden or the Italian Garden? How does The Dragon look in his setting? And when do we get the ice cream?

These trips to The Gardens allow us to step away from the rhythm that sets the dance for much of the rest of our life.

Daily life moves at a more hurried pace; at times exciting and, at others, on the verge of being out of control, like a toboggan picking up speed. Too often it feels as if we are doing our best to simply hang on, scream and hope no big rocks or cliffs appear suddenly.

That is not all bad though sometimes it is hard to escape the feeling that we are missing something important, something beautiful, if life is only viewed through the window of a life on the freeway.

My friend Janet Gear, who teaches at the Vancouver School of Theology, says that people most often report experiences of God in situations of great beauty or struggle. Both beauty and struggle break the rhythm of normality.

We most often report experiences of God in situations of great beauty or struggle. 

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We do not have to be in extreme situations to experience greater depth and joy in life; disciplines and practices help us break the flow and pay attention.

Every night our oldest daughter Christie asks her children two basic questions: What was the high point of your day? What was the low point of your day?

Over time, this simple practice develops the habit of pulling over to a viewpoint and appreciating the vista.

Ben Campbell Johnson, professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary, suggests that, at the end of each day/week, we ask some basic questions.

  • What are the things for which I am most grateful this day?
  • What hunger of the heart did I feel this day?
  • What questions arose for me today? Have some of those questions been recurring over a period of time?
  • Did anything puzzle me today?
  • Were there moments that had a sense of wonder or a whiff of mystery?

Engaging such questions every day would function as a Fitbit for the Soul.

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