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We create room for joy as we move beyond "shoulds" and "musts" to an expansive state where we accept our capacity to be both powerful and gentle, expansive and reclusive, delighted and bored, wise and confused, passive and assertive, giving and receptive, generous and withholding, frightened and adventuresome, angry and loving. As we become accepting of ourselves we are more able to reach inside and speak our truths: Yes, No, I want, I can, I feel, I believe, I see, I love. This is a form of self-love that creates unity and peacefulness within because we are living at one with our wisest self.Joy leads us to the heart of our spiritual journey because it ignites the fire of transformation that enables us to change our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. In doing so we are able to transcend an empty, humdrum existence and infuse our lives with vitality, awareness, and the ability to move beyond the limited boundaries of self. Finding joy doesn't mean life will always be easy, rather life becomes rich because we live near the pulse of possibility. To open the door you can start by saying, I am willing. I am willing to feel, to Know, to love, and to expand. I am willing to let the concrete walls of my beliefs slip away and move into a new level of awareness.
In his "Ode to Joy," the German poet Friedrich Schiller wrote, "By that holy fireimpassioned, to thy sanctuary we come." When we allow ourselves to feel joy, we create an inner sanctuary, a home for the soul that allows us to feel safe to laugh, cry, be angry, question, and think for ourselves. When we create this home for truth and delight, we feel a sense of inner strength. Unkind remarks and difficult situations lose their ability to singe our souls or tear at our hearts because we are no longer candles in the wind. Rather, we become the fire of life itself--a being, an identity that cannot be blown about or extinguished by external events because we accept all of who we are.
Remember Joy and Find Hope
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops, at all.
Joy brings hope and hope brings joy. Imagine joy as a memory dwelling within you--a bird perched on your soul singing a song of hope. Let yourself know it is always there. Sometimes we lose contact with that voice and feel despair. In those times, if we can remember that the potential for joy lives within us, we may regain hope and find the strength to take steps to improve our lives.
If you feel down, blue, depressed, or tend to be hard on yourself, take time to remember the good things you have done for yourself, the risks you have taken, the ways you have survived. Remember times when you experienced contentment or joy. Then hold these images in your heart and tell yourself you can re-create them. You have the power to create happiness in your life--the potential for joy is within you. You might ask yourself what in your life right now blocks you from feeling joy, and consider what you need to do to get on a path toward greater happiness.
The bird of joy that "perches in the soul" never stops singing--we just stop listening. When we can hear the promise of joy within us, we have more power to come alive to our desire for life.
Joy may seem illusive or fleeting, yet there is a path we can walk that brings the delight, passion, and sweetness of joy into our lives, sweeping over us, filling us, transporting us, making life feel worth the trouble. Joy may appear to come suddenly, but in reality we prepare for joy every time we speak our truths, care for ourselves, expand our knowledge, nurture our friendships, let people love us, take on new adventures, and go where our hearts lead us.
My friend Janet is about to have her second baby. She has developed a strong bond with her husband; created a cozy living space, a network of friends, a good job; has read a great deal on parenting; and has enjoyed her first child. She has also spent many years investing in her personal growth. In other words, over the years she has built a nest for herself, both physical and emotional, that enables joy to flourish amid the fears and difficulties of having a new child.
Preparation for joy can span the decades of our lives and even go back to the time of our ancestors. For example, I am currently making plans to go backpacking. Preparation began a couple of months ago when I started working out at a gym to strengthen my leg muscles. Or perhaps preparation started even earlier, when I took a racketball class fifteen years ago in an attempt to get regular exercise. Or was it when I was a child, and experienced the wonder and joy of hiking with my father in the pristine forests and mountains of Montana? Is that when I started preparing? I remember back even further, to stories from my grandmother, a botanist, about taking her young children out in the woods for walks and picnics, and I realize that joy is passed down through the ages. It is a paradox to say we are always preparing for joy, because when we prepare for joy--living by love and our heart's desire--we are experiencing it as well.