It’s been decades since I’ve taken mushrooms, but I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to have more and more “mushroom moments,” where even without the help of psilocybin in my blood I find myself “tripping” on the beauty of just being alive. This learning has been amplified by a spectacular but old book I’ve been listening to, called The Middle Passage by a Jungian writer and analyst named James Hollis.
When I came upon this book, I did not see its subtitle (From Misery to Meaning in Midlife) but rather was merely curious about writers exploring the middle of life. It’s about a certain age, but its lessons are ones I wish I’d heard when I was twenty years old.
Hollis teaches that the “first adulthood,” which we enter after our teen years and remain in for decades, often involves forming our personalities around what others want, expect, and demand. We play the role of this cobbled together “us” we’ve created until the middle passage, (or sooner, if you are lucky), when one wakes up to the question, “Who would I be, and what would I do if I’d formed myself reactively?” It’s been a marvelous exploration that has returned me to many simple sensory joys as part of my own exploration.
The brilliant neuroscientist and author Sam Harris has many teachings that can snap you into the present and a moment of shrooming on the beauty before you. In one favorite, he tells us that we never know when we are experiencing the last of something—the last time we will pick up our kids or the last time we will see a loved one or friend—so we must hold precious each and every experience against this backdrop to elicit a mindful reverence of the simple joys of life. This lens has worked for me as well to magnify beauty.
Read more: The Magic of Daily Gratitude Rituals
Like a million times in my over-energized life, I see that each of these lessons is about slowing down and allowing rather than creating, shifting the motion and energy of life down one gear and moving from one meaningful moment to the next. In fact, this orientation has allowed me to ride some very hard times in the last two years. Those tiny joys won’t leave you even when big goals are shattered or other dreams fail.
For the many folks out there who have trouble practicing gratitude, who feel it’s too sappy or too Oprah to make the lists so often advocated for mental health, I say go smaller and go sensory. Reaching to find large anchors of gratitude can be authentically difficult, especially for a gratitude beginner, but if you focus on your senses, you can find these bounteous moments everywhere, from a squirrel running up a tree in the morning to the smell of a yummy hand cream to the sun hitting your kiwi.
This article was also published on Juliet Funt's LinkedIn