What percentage of our time do we actually experience joy?
By joy I mean that deep down, beyond happiness, make you cry or laugh out loud, or quite serene experience.
I write about joy because it is one of my aspirational goals. Many of us cannot sustain joy for more time than we can hold our breath. Or else it comes in a flash and then disappears.
Why so? Because joy requires that we
- Being present is more the exception than the rule for most. We live with the detritus of hurts and struggles of the past or ambivalence about the future rather than being here now.
- Embrace the world of opportunity. For joy to occur we need to view the world as one full of exciting possibility rather then as a dangerous place where people cannot be trusted.
- Get over the joy killer beliefs. Our Puritanical background or our superstitions dampen any possibility of joy. Our internal script goes something like this; “If you have fun and let go (the prelude to joy), something bad will happen.”
- Manage our stress levels. Our stressed out life style crowds out any chance of joy.
- Regulate our inner critic. When we are feeling anxious, down, afraid or whatever the negative mood of the moment we add insult to injury by judging ourselves. And that inner critic is joy-killer #1.
How then does joy happen?
Most of need support in the quest for joy. We need to surround ourselves with nurturing people who can accept us just as we are and not try to change us. In that way we are more likely to be joyful.
Find places where we can practice being fully present and get off life’s treadmill. The setting for joy could be in nature or at our meditation or prayer group. It is also helpful to design a tranquil and nurturing living space.
Acknowledge our inner judge and let it sit in the corner of our mind. Let what the critic says be neither good nor bad. It just is. So take nothing personally, least of all yourself.
Despite all the common vicissitudes in life, joy is lurking in the wings waiting to come to center stage.
In the end, despite the above pointers, we cannot choreograph joy. It just comes in and takes over. At the birth of a child, a moment of wonder in nature, the gratitude of a friend, joy just happens. Ultimately we can’t ignore it.
How have you been surprised by joy?