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Finding Paradise Within

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Photo Credit: Yevgen Timashov/Thinkstcok

Can any of us read the news anymore without a sense of overwhelm and even, can I say it, nausea? Politics that are more theatrics; race relations that are more heart-breaking than ground-breaking; and an American idealism guised as gun rights and religious zealotry. The list goes on, but its all pretty crazy.

You could head to an isolated island for a sense of paradise. The breezes are gentle, and the waters are warm and inviting. With time though, you will find the breezes can be too humid from a warming ocean, and the healing waters are also home to sharks just around the corner. Also, while down time and alone time are invaluable to the human spirit, no woman or man is an island. We need each other.

So, our current state of global affairs got me thinking, existentially: What are we doing here on Earth? Like the whack-a-mole game, once you think you’ve got it answered, another deep truth pops its head up making you wonder or simply realize there is no one answer. Joseph Campbell has said that it’s not so much that man is searching for meaning, as much as we are searching for the feeling of being fully alive. This is a paradigm shift that changes everything.

Is there anything that makes us feel more alive than love? Years ago, I was graced with a remarkable union. Before this, I had only dreamed of being so connected with another person. It’s a strange beauty being so deeply joined to another soul, regardless of gender politics.

After my partner Jeff received a fatal diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease/ALS, it became a lightening rod of awareness. My epiphany: I wasn’t grateful so much for the fact that I was loved by him, which was a glorious thing, but for the fact that Jeff had let me in—emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. He had removed the barriers to love and just allowed me in. I, in turn, had done the same for him. 

We human beings put up these walls and section off our hearts, perhaps out of necessity in this strange and bitter world. Yet, maybe this is what love really is—just letting others in. It feels like heaven on earth when it happens—whether with family, friends, or lovers.

As we look out into the world and find such suffering, such cruelty, such sadness, I wonder: can we find paradise now? And by paradise, I mean paradise within. Can we simply release our sense of being daunted by the world’s grief and sadness, and get on with what it is we truly want?

At our deepest human level, our want, our need, is to feel fully alive. Rather than searching for love or meaning, are we willing to let others in for our own world to become more alive? Symbiotically, as we open up, meaning reveals itself and all other things fall into place.

It’s risky business, I know, but if we find a trustworthy soul, I suggest loosening up our armor and exploring the raw, real us. This is where our spiritual warrior work lies. We can cultivate this openness with friends and family, too, and in fact we must. It’s really about a perspective of how we approach our world. We are not obligated to find the perfect, idealized life. But neither are we free to neglect doing this important work of the heart. The opposite—shutting down, closing off, and living in an isolated world—is too bitter a price to pay for any human being.

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

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