She grew up without electricity or running water on a hippie commune, with a father who was abusive, who had a cult following, and who has been compared to Charles Manson.
She was taken away for child abuse and put in foster homes. She was a ward of the state who didn’t go to school until the 4th grade.
She had serious health issues, and almost died a few times. She struggled with addiction.
Then at 19 she hit a wall. She was at war with herself and the world, and either going to kill herself or change.
And now her life is all about fighting for her joy. All of us could learn something from Siobhan Neilland, the founder of OneMama and Shaboom Cosmetics, about fighting for our joy.
She Created OneMama.org
“I am a miracle,” said Siobhan in a TEDx talk that she did about “Fighting for Our Joy.”
“I took the manure of my life and transmuted it into a flower. I didn’t roll around in it.”
Siobhan’s organization OneMama was founded after she lost a baby. Suffering from post-partum depression after her miscarriage, she went to Africa “to go help other people, to get out of myself.”
She visited a village in Uganda with no running water. The villagers, she said, exuded joy and had a sense of peace within.
Out of that came the work of OneMama, an organization which builds birthing clinics, medical clinics and community centers that can become self-sustaining within their local villages over time.
Siobhan says about the children and villagers: “They’ve got so much to teach us about how to be joyful with nothing. Imagine. Look at how happy they are.”
According to Siobhan Neilland, “Joy to me is peace in action. Joy is the new currency in the global economy.”
“You have to fight for your joy,” she says. “You have to savor every moment. You have to make it happen.
“Life is trying to take it away from us. Our mind is trying to take it away from us.”
Fighting for Her Joy!
Siobhan had a vision when in her teens of working in villages in Africa. And now it is her reality.
Based in San Francisco when she is not in Uganda, Siobhan swims in the Pacific Ocean with the dolphins every morning, to fight for her joy. She flies medical supplies to Africa to stock the clinics with safe birthing supplies.
She shows up every day and fights for the good in her life. She radiates joy and is a bright light like few I have ever known.
She has come so far, and touches so many lives with her joy. Every $4 donated to OneMama saves two lives, of one Mama and one baby, through safe, hygienic birthing kits.
Siobhan has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives by fighting for her joy. How will you fight for yours?
Celebrate Your Joy!
OneMama is celebrating with a gala fundraiser this weekend in San Francisco. I wish I could be there to celebrate with them.
This time, I’ll be cheering them on from afar. I’ll be helping them to raise more funds to save the lives of mamas and babies, because that brings me joy.
And I’ll be fighting for my joy, here.
Fighting for Our Joy
We all need to fight for our joy in this world. I think this involves a few steps.
1. Focus on what brings us joy. Do more of it! Whether it’s dancing, gardening, cooking, writing, traveling, partaking in those activities that bring us great joy is important. Your soul knows what you love. Do more of it!
2. Practice gratitude. How is it that children who have no running water or electricity can be so joyful? Perhaps because they focus on the love and connections in their lives. Instead of focusing on what we feel we lack, it’s possible to be thankful for what we do have. This can include the love of others in our lives, a safe home, food, clothing, clean water, things that it’s easy to take for granted. Yet not everyone has all of these things in their lives. 1.8 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. We who have computers where we can read this blog or check Facebook can practice gratitude for so many things.
3. Make our lives a quest for joy every day. When we get frustrated, or focus on what isn’t working in our lives, it’s easy to let joy slip away. It’s important to find joy in the little pleasures every day. This could be enjoying a good meal, picking or smelling a rose, sipping a glass of red wine, laughing with a friend. Just feeling the sunshine on our skin, or getting a good night’s sleep, can be cause for joy when we focus on the good in our lives.
4. Find joy in service. Often when we are feeling down, helping others can help lift our spirits. This was the case for Siobhan when she headed to Africa after losing her baby. Service is one sure path to joy.
5. Bring joy to others. When we feel down, sometimes making someone else happy is just what the doctor ordered. Bringing joy to others can lift our spirits as well. And, when we focus on the joy in our lives, sometimes we find that it’s overflowing and we simply have to share it. Sharing our joy only increases it.
Love is joy. Service is joy. Sharing is joy. So much of our lives are characterized by joy, when we choose it.
May you always fight for your joy!
Lisa Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on the Madam President Project.