Next to love and compassion, joy is a powerful emotion that can make our own life and the lives of those around us more beautiful.
These positive emotions are related to states of mind that steer our inner orientation towards warmth, freshness, and an energetic lightness.
There are many situations in which I might choose to live in a more open, joyful, and loving way, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. And there are reasons why I might feel that I have no real choice.
It’s true, there are outer situations in which we feel restricted and overwhelmed, in which possibilities and anything positive seem just out of reach. And it’s also true that as long as we are able to breathe and to think, we are free to access our awareness and our inner world. No one really can take this away from us.
Our mind is naturally much more open and flexible than we can imagine (I wrote more about that in the post on Joy). Here I’d like to choose a slightly different focus.
Perhaps surprisingly, joy can come from an inner clarity we have related to our vision and goals. When we do this spade work, we experience a sense of authenticity and deepen our understanding of what actually makes us happy and what actually feels meaningful to us.
This naturally gives us more energy to live in an active, authentic, and inspired way. In this way, guided by a vision we respect, we move along day by day with more awareness and precision. Precision arises because we know what we are doing and why.
However, despite our perhaps lofty goals and good efforts, we will experience both joy and disappointment, success, failure, and occasionally, boredom. We are more or less conscious of each of these experiences. Some, we may try not to be conscious of! Adyashanti, an American meditation teacher coming from the Zen tradition, puts it this way: We are aware all the time, but we are not necessarily consciously aware. It might be that we have a lot more to explore here. 🙂
Joy and rejoicing
We act and react, make decisions, are lucky and unlucky. Joy is possible in all of that, like a ray of sunshine suddenly appearing. Knowing this, we can tune into it. We can open ourselves to the possibility for joy right where we are. This might sound weird at first, but really: Is there nothing you can be grateful for or joyful about in this moment, in your life?
By repeatedly asking ourselves this, we create a new habit of a different focus. It is important to know that we are not creating fake joy here, but allowing for more openness in which we can experience the authentic joy that is there already even if its next to many other sensations.
In the beginning we might train recognizing joy, maybe with the help of noticing what we are actually grateful for. From there, rejoicing in good situations, one’s own and others’ success, good luck, and happiness follows naturally: When we recognize our “good,” our own joy, and really feel it, it’s easier for us to recognize and accept other people’s joy. We might notice envy and other irritations. We can open our awareness to feel them, and embrace them with compassion. There are many ways to be with obstacles in very beneficial ways. The more we learn those we will know so much more about ourselves and can feel joy and rejoicing in much more authentically ways.
Feeling and valuing our own joy enables us to appreciate others’ joy—because we are happy for them. We know what that joy feels like for them and we resonate. In this way we benefit too. We slowly establish a natural, healthy, and energizing new pattern in our being.
This might start very small and it might feel like a slow process. But you might also notice that your mind lightens up and naturally experiences more pleasant states: beautiful moments of connection, a special light shining through the trees, sparkling reflections on a gently moving puddle, the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, the little bird that appears in front of you, and the pattern the rain is painting on your window. You might find that you want to take more of those mini breaks and allow your senses more often to reconnect with the world around you.
Benefits for your well-being
Throughout the day we often find ourselves in stressful and tense states which exhaust our energy, health, and well-being. Moments in warm, open and joyful states cause our nervous system to relax and re-calibrate. In this way we can integrate these new patterns of enjoying and rejoicing as resources in our life. As a result we might feel more resilient and even a bit stress-proof.
So, what first might appear to you to be a selfish wish to be merely happier and more joyful, can lead to a healthier and more energetic body, mind, and spirit. This allows you to effect more positive changes not only in yourself but in your environment and those around you, too.
And it’s beautiful to rejoice in those changes and in others’ happiness, good luck, and success, and to authentically join with them in the growth of their positive conditions and emotions.
In German we say, Geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude: Shared joy is doubled joy.