JOY. What makes your spirit smile? Are you experiencing at least one instance of pure joy every day? Do you regularly share acts of kindness?
It’s been said that pleasure is in the body, happiness is in the mind, and joy is in the heart. Both pleasure and happiness are fleeting. Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of the Spirit - a deep-in-the-soul feeling. It is a state of gratitude and appreciation reflecting your relationship to your Self, the world, and your Greater Source. Cultivating joy is a spiritual practice. Its companions are faith and love. Together they form the axis of the ancient Wheel of Life, and are anchors in the Power Living® Practice. As the cycles of change happen, the ability to tap into these essential states of being allow you to fully enjoy the triumphs and patiently endure the trials.
A few years ago, I attended a laughter meditation workshop in New York. For two and a half hours, I reclined on the floor and laughed. Some may look at that as a waste of time and money. At the start, I was wondering what craziness had gotten into me to participate in such a frivolous activity when I had so many other things to do. However, it was a ton of fun to let loose deep, belly laughs that actually toned my abdominal muscles and relaxed my nervous system. In the end, I realized that I had been taking things way too seriously. It was a delight to simply let go. In letting go, I found true control and pure joy. The ability to be open allowed me to feel free and just be.
"Sometimes it takes knowing great sorrow to realize the true joy that is already present." -- Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy
The quest for immediate gratification, which is so prevalent in our society, can inhibit the feeling of true joy. We often go for the quick “feel-good” fix – fast food, the latest gadget, a shot of botox. This brings on a shallow view of life and a reliance on external items to simulate a temporary high. Sometimes it takes knowing great sorrow to realize the true joy that is already present. As Kahlil Gibran said: “…joy and sorrow are inseparable… together they come and when one sits alone with you… remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” He also said: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
How do you cultivate joy?
I remember when I was in the hospital battling Crohn’s. It was a cold and lonely place. At one point, the doctors were contemplating putting in a feeding tube since my body kept rejecting food. There were already IVs in both arms to pump in medicine and lipids (imagine having fat poured directly into you). In trying to remain optimistic, I wrote down a list of what I called “Little Treasures.” I kept it in my journal, and referred to it when I needed a smile or a taste of hope. When you’re stripped down to your core, the little things begin to matter in a really big way. Staring at those dreary walls, unable to eat or sleep, I reviewed what I held dear:
Do you smile every day?
My mother’s voice.
The thought of my father.
A Scrabble game with Daniel (my nephew).
A chat with an old friend.
A walk in the park.
The taste of fresh fruit.
The warmth of a hug.
Sunlight on my skin.
The smell of ocean air.
The smell of the rain.
A kiss on the forehead.
A long, hot bath.
The wag of a dog’s tail.
A full, deep belly laugh.
A family dinner.
A picnic for two.
A movie date.
What are your "Little Treasures"?
Now, years later, after just receiving another clean bill of health, I look at the simplicity of these items. There were no things, only experiences. The list was really about connecting with the Universe and feeling the Divine – in nature, in people, in sense perception. Holding this list close has helped me remain present with life and celebrate the moments.
Every day you can choose to take a positive or a negative view; to live in darkness, or actively seek rays of light. Make a habit of rejoicing. Honor your own successes and enjoy others good fortune. Give yourself permission to experience joy even in the midst of illness or crisis. If someone is negative or attacking you find a way to respond with compassion instead of firing back. As the Dalai Lama says: “…give with radiance on your face.” Offer selfless service. Release your joy every day and it will come back to you in amazing ways. And, most of all, be the source of your own joy; don’t wait for something or someone to provide it. Be a witness to life. See the miracles all around you. Delight in the subtle. Feel the presence of the sacred. Give thanks for everything. As Thich Nhat Hanh said: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Evaluate your current state. Ask yourself, “How often do I experience joy? What or who makes me smile? What or who spoils my joy? How can I create an atmosphere of joy in my home?” Be willing to see where you are so you can map out where you’re going. Remember that you are in control of your own joy.
Make a playlist. Write down ways to have fun and nourish your soul. Look to the arts for inspiration. Experience nature. Create a joke book. Go to an actual playground. Commit to playing for at least 20 minutes a day - by yourself or with others. Make play dates.
Actively seek joy. Create a positive ritual to set the tone for the day. Take note from ancient cultures and offer a prayer, sing a song, or do a dance to greet the new morning. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “ How can I find joy in this moment?” You may be in the midst of chaos, around family or people you may not want to be around, but still ask the question. In the asking, you’ll find an answer – an answer so simple that it in itself may make you smile.
Capture your joy in a journal. Every time you experience joy – from a special event or an everyday moment – write it down. Your own recording of “Little Treasures” will be the gift that just keeps on giving because you will take pleasure in rereading the entries.
Share your bliss. Help those in need. If someone looks down, offer a smile. If someone else receives an honor, rejoice with her. Embody the qualities of joy and allow it to stream from you.
I celebrate the moments of life. I understand that joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering; it is the presence of the sacred. I open my eyes to see the grace and goodness around me. I take time to pause and play. I cultivate joy every day, in little ways. I smile, laugh, and revel in life itself.
Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy is President of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. and Founder of PWR Brokers Incorporated. A former vice president at MTV Networks, she has a Ph.D. in World Religions, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and certifications in Holistic Health, Yoga and Fitness. Contact her at email@example.com, or 212-901-6913.
Power Living® Column Vol. 67.07, originally published December 2007. Terri Kennedy has written over 70 "The Power of..." columns that are available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.