“Do not delay, Do not delay
The golden moments fly.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The little things. The little moments. They aren’t little. “ — Jon Kabat -Zinnn
Alice was 67 when her husband of 35 years died. She had lived her life as an optimistic cheerful person. Now her eyes had lost their sparkle. Her grief was overwhelming. After several weeks, she decided to return to work at her brother’s optical shop. The first day Alice came home after work, she seemed transformed; her face glowing, her eyes dancing as she told about encounters with customers, how good she felt when helping them find the perfect frames. She loved seeing them happy with their choices. She was still broken hearted over the loss of her beloved Harry, yet she was able to make room for small joys.
Alice was someone I knew well — my mother.
She was my inspiration 45 years later, long after she died, as I faced the death of my husband from a devastating illness.
Alice had never heard of Abraham Maslow, the humanistic psychologist who wrote about meeting needs, living life to the fullest — being “self-actualized.” He believed that people who thrive often have peak experiences, moments where they feel whole, in touch with their best selves. Those moments can be very intense, alive, filled with love and positive energy. Alice had those moments every day. They were often small but special. When she was in her 90s and no longer working, she still found ways to get those highs. She would carry a purse filled with See’s lollipops, giving one to anyone who craved a little sweetness. Family, friends, even strangers were so touched but not as much as Alice. Her eyes were always shining. Giving out those lollipops filled her with delight as did slowly savoring one herself.
Even in our days of darkness, we can have experiences that could be thought of as “golden moments.” If you are in a content, peaceful state, you most likely reach out to the world in ways that give you many special moments. However, if this is a difficult time, your grief overwhelming, your life filled with worries, then you might find it hard to imagine having any pleasures. It is still possible even in the darkest of times for golden moments to occur. They don’t have to be big peaks. They can be small and sweet.
Here are some ways to find rays of joy, transcendent moments every day regardless of your emotional and physical state.
Seek experience with the easily accessible outdoors. You don’t have to be standing at the top of the Grand Canyon or hiking in an enchanted forest — simply going outside and taking a gentle walk can lift your spirits.
- Enjoy the beauty of a flower. Watch a butterfly or a hummingbird suspended in mid-air.
- Look up at the night sky. Follow the phases of the moon. Let yourself feel awe as you take in a star-filled sky, the vast universe.
- During the day, look to the earth. Plant seeds, see them grow and blossom.
- Go to the beach and watch the cycle of the waves going in and out as you feel the warmth of the sun.
Be open to the bounty of nature available day and night.
Let the world of the arts into your life. It isn’t necessary to be artistically talented to enjoy coloring, painting, molding clay, creating something that makes your eyes light up.
- Visit a local museum or go online and see what you can find as you surf the internet for works of Art that take you to realms of beauty and wonder.
- Perhaps it is literature, poetry, dance or drama that calls to you as a spectator or participant.
- Seek music that touches you, a favorite song or the sounds of an orchestra filling your living room — whatever fits your mood.
We can experience moments of transcendence and calm when engaging in practices that are mindful, such as meditation, hypnosis, imagery, yoga. So much of our emotional pain comes from being mired in the past or ruminating about the future. We need ways that ground us in the moment and promote tranquility. Meditating alone or in a group, staring at a flickering candle as soft music plays, watching puffy white clouds float by — these are but a few of the myriad ways to go to a mindful place that is soothing to the soul, even the troubled soul.
Savoring is a mindfulness habit that can provide countless mini-peak moments, and can include:
- Letting yourself enjoy every sip of that morning cup of coffee.
- Taking time — If you have a beloved animal in your life — to slowly pet and cuddle your fur baby, giving your full attention as the love flows between you.
- Deeply breathing in the smell of something delicious such as baking bread as you enter a local bakery or your own kitchen.
- Eating a favorite food, noticing all the mouth sensations and pleasure whether it is piece of chocolate or a fresh salad filled with color and texture. (Chocolate usually works better than salad!)
- Witnessing the magic of the setting sun or rising moon.
Little highs from ordinary experiences with our senses can lift us and flavor our days as the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Golden moments of purpose can come from giving of ourselves.
If you are feeling depleted from grief, you may not imagine being able to give of yourself. But even giving in a small way can work wonders. In bereavement programs such as HOPE Connection, giving can occur in even the earliest stages of the group when you listen and are empathetic to other group members who are grieving. Your caring presence can mean a lot and provide moments of connection for both of you.
When you are ready to expand out into the larger community, volunteer activities that fit your personality and grab your spirit will elevate your life while you touch other lives.
As a popular quote says: “Don’t be afraid to give some of yourself away. It will grow back.”
Memories of our loved ones who have died can be bittersweet, with the bitter being more prominent when we are enveloped in grief.
But memories can also be a source of sweetness, bringing back precious times that we can relive and hold in our hearts. Golden doesn’t always describe those moments. Instead, they may be best described as blessed or sacred, connecting us to love that lives forever.
Sorrow and joy can intermingle in golden moments as we move along on our challenging life journey.
In the midst of mourning, light is lost to darkness
Sorrow flowing in rivers of tears
Morning — the emergence of light
Not a relative of “mourning “other than by sound
The two words worlds apart
Or are they…
Our mourning cannot exist devoid of all light
Dawn comes, illuminating even the darkest of nights
The dance of mourning and morning
The two intertwined in the endless night that is our grief
Seeking a path toward a new day
There is wonder, as pinpoints of light come through
The tiny light piercing the forces of despair, if only for a moment
Mourning intersects with morning
Each moment of light is sweet, soothing, shining
As we find our way without a flashlight.