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 we might choose to live in a more open, joyful, and loving way, but sometimes we don’t feel like it. And there are reasons why we might feel that we have no real choice. There are many outer situations in which we feel restricted and overwhelmed, in which possibilities seem just out of our reach. But on the other hand, as long as we are able to breathe and to think, we are free to access our inner world, which no one can take 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 gaining clarity 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 and see: “Is there anything I am joyful about in this moment?” By repeatedly doing this, we create a new habit that can operate on its own. 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.
In the beginning we might train recognizing joy. From there, rejoicing in one’s own and others’ success, good luck, and happiness follows naturally: When we recognize our own joy, and really feel it, it’s easier for us to recognize and accept other people’s joy. And when we really feel that too, we can appreciate it and rejoice. Feeling and valuing our own joy enables us to appreciate others’ joy—because we resonate and benefit too. In this way we establish a natural, healthy, and energizing new pattern in our being.
Then we can notice that our mind naturally experiences more pleasant states: beautiful moments of connection, a special light shining through the trees, sparkling reflections on gently moving water, the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, the little bird that appears in front of us, and the pattern the rain is painting on our window. We find we want to take mini breaks and allow our senses to reconnect with the world around us.
Benefits for our 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 be a selfish wish to be merely happier and more joyful, can lead to a healthier and more energetic body and mind that allows us to effect positive changes in our environment, too. It’s beautiful to rejoice 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.
As we’ve already seen in past posts, our awareness and our focus in daily life is a matter of choice and not just given. Following are some suggestions and links for those of you who would like to look a bit deeper into how seemingly automatic patterns can be rethought and refreshed.
Joseph Goldstein leading the rejoicing meditation:
Tara Brach gave a beautiful talk about opening to joy:
I wish that your week might reveal more and more moments of joy. Next to all those common daily states of tension, self-criticism, and doubt, we always have these little jewels. The more we are able to feel them deeply and enjoy them for some time, the more they leave an imprint and change our well-being in a very positive way. This is also true for rejoicing in the good of others.