How do you experience joy?
Joy, at first glance, seems to be a lot like happy. But there are many differences.
We are told that happiness is something we need to chase, where joy appears to be a state of being. Merriam Webster tells us that joy is an expression of happiness, but I would argue against that being the only way to experience joy.
If you compare the words technically, joy can be used as both a noun and a verb, whereas happy is an adjective. (so there lol)
And why am I going down this rabbit hole?
Because in a few traditions, joy (along with love) is thought to be a state that exists fully in each of us, 24/7. I could get a little woowoo and describe it as our essence.
So, stay with me and just pretend.
Happy New Year y’all!
I published my blog early this week as it felt very New Years-y and I couldn’t wait until today. No doubt you can scroll up and find it if you are so inclined.
What I did want to share today is that over the years, I have had a lot of people ask me about meditation. I was one of those people who was curious about it for a long time prior to actually beginning a practice, so I get it.
Everyone has a different path it seems, but I personally did a meditation retreat with Deepak Chopra back in 2014, and I have had a daily practice ever since. My practice has changed and transformed many times over the years, yet I cannot imagine my day without it.
I bring this all up because this last year I started listening to a new podcast. It is called Ten Percent Happier and each January, they offer a free intro class/challenge/experience. It goes on for 21 days, and you are encouraged to try to meditate for at least 15 of the 21 days.
Expectations are funny things.
Over the last couple weeks, I have had more than a few moments when I found myself awash in a pool of self-pity about the holidays.
Our 20-something year old daughters are on the other side of the country and neither are coming home.
I was sad. Part of me still is.
But I really needed to get over it as my emotions were truly getting the best of me. So, I decided to pull out my secret weapon — curiosity.
I began my exploration with the specific question of ‘what would a perfect Christmas look like’. From there I did what is called a brain dump (a scientific term no doubt), where you sit down with pen and paper and write for 15 minutes non-stop. (side note – brain dumps are a wonderful way to discover some of the unconscious programming running in the background of your mind)
Let’s just say it was a very revealing experience for me.
One of the best things that came up was that there needed to be snow.
I know there is already a bunch of written work out there about the holidays but alas, I couldn’t resist.
For most of us, the holiday celebrations coming our way in 2020 won’t look like the ones of yesteryear. But does that have to be a bad thing?
What if we just made it okay for things to be new and different? Maybe even radically different.
I understand that people are often challenged by change, but what if instead of resisting, we just embraced it?
What are the emotions that often come up around the holidays?
Yes, there is joy. Yes, there is celebration and togetherness and love and laughter – no doubt.
But what about the other feelings that can creep in. Come on – I can’t be the only person who has also experienced obligation, necessity, responsibility and expectation.
When it comes to the holidays, we often find ourselves doing things for no reason other than it just being the way we have always done it.
I always used to say I was good at forgiving, but forgetting? Yeah, maybe not so much. Sure, there is wisdom in being wary of a person after they have acted in a questionable or unfavorable way towards us. But I now believe being able to let things go is necessary as a part of our emotional well-being.
So often we think if we forgive someone, it means we have somehow condoned their behavior. We hang onto their wrongdoing, so we can hold that person accountable. It feels righteous and we carry it like a torch. We believe justice needs to be served.
So here is my question. Don’t you ever get tired? Tired of telling the story. Tired of working so hard to keep the flame alive. Tired of feeling hard done by. Tired of feeling like the victim of someone else’s actions. Tired of still feeling at their mercy after all this time.
Last year I was involved in a situation where I felt horribly wronged by another person who I am close to.
Are we having fun yet?
That used to be a line my friends and I would regularly throw out when we were having questionable experiences. As in experiences that weren’t often that much fun.
Kind of like these last few months.
I had a co-worker from a job many years ago who I adored. (hi Bruce) It was a job we both enjoyed, but it wasn’t without it’s stressful times. We once made a pact to have at least one belly laugh each day. I have often thought of those days, and I know we didn’t always meet our goal. But when you have that as an intention, I do believe it changes your mindset. There is a part of your brain that is always scanning for something that could potentially be funny. And I think it’s a good thing.
We also used to create moments of potential hilarity. We would buy the trash papers (the ones by the check out at the supermarket?) to scan for anything funny. And trust me – there were usually many, even if it was point-and-laugh humor.
So many people, when asked, will say their life goal is to be happy. Come to think of it, even the Dali Lama said it, and he is pretty high up the food chain.
It sounds lovely and oh so honorable, but it’s almost as though we have developed an obsessive relationship with it. Happiness can be illusive, and when we pursue it, we are often left feeling full of self judgement. It can make us feel flawed.
So where does happiness come from? We often believe happiness comes as a result of something outside us. Our accomplishments. Relationships. The success of our children. Money. A new house.
The irony of it all is that happiness originates from that mass between our ears and from our hearts. And it is available to each of us, whenever we choose it.
‘Trying’ to be happy can feel inauthentic. Chasing happiness can leave us unfulfilled and miserable. We say things like – this isn’t fair. Or I don’t deserve this.
Do you like yourself?
I remember my life as an angsty teenager, and I am pretty sure the answer back then would have been a hard no, accompanied by a long list of reasons why.
But now that I am all grown up, I don’t have problems like that anymore.
Oh wait. Yes I do.
One of my favorites these days is when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and all I see is this older woman looking back at me. I don’t always recognize her, and there is a moment when I seriously wonder what she is doing in my mirror. I have no idea why I still expect to see my 20 or 30-year-old self.
Hmmmm. Unless it has something to do with the fact that the only pictures of me in our home are of a younger version, usually with great hair and make-up. Seriously, I just had that realization. Wow. (add – find new/old pictures to my list of things to do for next week) But I regress.