Joy to the World!
I wish Joy to the world, not only during this holiday season, but always.
Joy is the deeply beautiful feeling that connects us to all of life, beyond our differences and before our fears. It is innate to all people, and readily accessible, but, like a rainbow peeking through storm clouds, easily obscured or overlooked. It is born of quietude, a mind at peace, immersed in the present. We fall into joy naturally. The feeling wells up from within our spirit as we simply allow our minds to come to rest. Regardless of turbulence around us, joy elicits calm, certainty, wisdom, understanding and unconditional love. It lifts us away from anxiety and towards transcendent responses to all of life’s challenges. The power of joy is far greater than the pressure of distress.
For a few years now, I have offered programs at the Women’s Resource Center in Bradenton, Florida, that have the word “Joy” in their titles, most recently, “Get Your Joy Back!” On the first night, I ask participants what drew them to the program. Most often, the responses are something like, “I had forgotten all about joy. It seems like something for little children that we don’t have as adults. But I saw the title and I realized I really would love to have joy back in my life. I just didn’t think it was possible.”
Why not? Once we awaken to the way the human mind works, anything is possible. The very same power that brings us worry, upset, stress, despair can also generate joy when we recognize it and see how we use it to create our reality. We leave joy behind when we get into the habit of thinking too much about everything, trying to rely solely on our intellect to arrive at answers. In my mind, the reason little children are so filled with joy is that their whole world is about discovery, about a constant flow of insights, one Aha! moment after another. Every new experience is a delight, a learning, a chance to see and know something fresh. Children don’t overthink. They don’t know, and that’s OK with them; they wonder and they realize. They live in the moment; untroubled by the past and unafraid of the future. They’re sad, they’re happy, they’re silly, they’re serious. they’re angry, they’re loving — they just move through whatever they’re feeling and let it go when new feelings arise, without any judgment or effort to hold onto one or drop another. They are humble; they don’t have a lot of ideas about what they should be or should be able to do. They jump into life and live it to the fullest!
The only reason growing up brings an end to that is that we learn to take our thinking seriously and we lose that graceful ease of moving from one thought to another, moment to moment. Instead of thought serving our curiosity and bringing us ever more insights about life, thought takes on weight and volume and we learn to bear it like a burden and try to take charge of it.
It’s pointless to try to figure out how and why that happens. But it makes sense to understand that we all have within us the power to stop it from happening, no matter how long it’s been going on. We never lose the capacity for joy; we’re born with it and it is as much a part of us as the beating of our hearts. We never lose the ability to dance with life, moving effortlessly through the darkness and the light.
We rediscover our intrinsic joy when we see for ourselves the remarkable gifts we were given to lead our lives, the gifts of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. We don’t have to “do” anything to use them to create a joyful life. All we need is to recognize when we are overriding the natural flow of thoughts and turn away, leaving our thinking alone to right itself. Those gifts are spiritual, not actual. They are creation. They bring us into creation. We are parts of the infinitude of creation, just as molecules of water are part of the ocean, and there could be no ocean without them, nor could they be without the ocean. Mind is universal energy, life itself. Thought is the power we have to use that energy to create our personal ideas, to navigate our own way. Consciousness is the power we have to be aware of what we are thinking, to see and feel life in action. These forces are, like gravity, eternally true and always at work, whether we know it or not. When we do know it, we know better than to interfere by using our power to think against ourselves. Knowing that we are creating reality, knowing that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts, we can see that our moment-to-moment thinking creates moment-to-moment changes in our feelings about life. When we cling to thinking that brings bad feelings in an effort to overcome it, or fix it, or change it, we just hold those feelings in place. When we see it is the nature of thought to flow and change, we can use bad feelings as reminders that we are thinking too hard, filling our heads with extraneous thoughts, interrupting the spiritual flow of the present moment. We can take bad feelings as a signal to slow down, turn to quiet.
Joy is the wise and lovely state we enter as soon as we find faith and gratitude that, although we were given the power to think our way into anything, we can use that power to clear our heads and start fresh. Now. No thought has power over us; we’re making all of them up for ourselves. We can discard any thought in an instant, as readily as we created it.
So, look to joy. A river of answers to all our perceived problems flows through that precious state of being.
P.S. If you are interested in a deeper exploration of Joy, please consider joining me and my wonderful colleagues Bill Pettit and Christine Heath for a four-day retreat in June, 2015: