Joy, where have you been?

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. 

Mary Oliver

We fool ourselves in thinking that we pursue joy, that we can acquire or even purchase joy. We know in our hearts that this is not possible. When we’re not joyful it’s proof, we know and have had joy. Joy is always there. There is a great infinite reservoir of joy within us that gets obscured and hidden by the fog of our distractions–Our wants, our needs, our desires and our cravings. In our minds we get confused that joy is a fleeting thing. Yet joy is part of our true self.
We build structures, thoughts and stories based on a range of “facts” that submerges and suffocates joy. Our inner child who is interested in everything and finds joy in anything, has been exiled by our rational and material illusions. We know that a child always has joy. As big children, we have forgotten our joy.

Not saying that we don’t also have other emotional truths, but joy is a constant that is interrupted by our minds. The great infinite ocean of joy can be accessed at any time. When we are still and our minds are quiet, joy will arise—it emerges. And if we pay attention and truly witness it, joy will let us know of its presence. It will speak to us. It will overwhelm us. It will transform us. For we forget so easily, who we are and why we are here.

Joy. The warmth, the deep satisfaction. The being lost and transported to a place where you are reminded of the joy within you. Not for a social media post but for self-understanding. Sheer joy. For the confirmation of your true self.

If we are present and truly notice what our bodies are telling us. Yes our bodies. For emotions and real feelings vibrate through us. Our minds try to confuse us, but our bodies and our senses are the truth tellers.

We ignore what our bodies tell us. How we feel. What signals we get from how we breathe. Our heartbeat. Unlike desires or dreams, our thoughts and emotions don’t only exist in the mind. Feelings are actual and physical feelings. We get butterflies in the stomach and hot-headed. We have literal gut feelings, pains in the neck, goose bumps, chills, our hair stands on end….

Joy has its own physicality. Its own emotionality. You feel it.
Your deeply personal sense of satisfaction will relax you. Your discovery of something that gives you joy  may release dopamine to soothe you and even endorphins to energize you.

I love this passage from Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past:
…my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. She gave me one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?  

Marcel finally comes to realize why the tasting experience is so surprisingly potent. Anchored by a long-forgotten memory that emerges to the surface of his consciousness. He recalls many extraordinary details where on Sundays his aunt would soak pieces of madeleine in her lime blossom tea. From this seemingly micro beginning comes the vast outpouring of Marcel’s memories of his past life. More than 3000 pages!

Anything that will cease our incessant feelings of being mediocre, accidental, and mortal is JOY!

We can be so preoccupied with the “very important” things we are doing, we are unmoved by what we taste, smell, and feel. We ignore what could inspire us, define us, and propel us. 

A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. Robert Frost

Have you heard of emergent curriculum? It’s a process that preschools and elementary school educators use to guide what they’re teaching. What the subject of the day is. What emerges becomes the curriculum. The news of the day, what has happened to a classmate, the weather….Using reality to guide what we learn and teach is a beautiful framework for young students, perhaps for all of us. How the environment and the mindsets of the students becomes part of the faculty. Because while we need to keep the conveyor belts of our work, our productivity and our priorities on deadline, life is happening. And it is telling us things, informing us about who we are. Sometimes we pay attention, most times, we don’t.

Despite the facts, despite everything you think, everything you know, –how are you pursuing who you are deep inside? What’s emerging for you? It’s a function of what you’re paying attention to. How do you give that emergence, space, light and the opportunity to grow?

Before my mother discovered her artistic side, she reluctantly took a painting lesson. She had never held a brush before. She was afraid. She was curious. She was excited. The first time her brush hit the canvas she was struck by a deep emotional and physical feeling throughout her entire body. She heard these words: Where have you been? Where have you been? Over and over in her mind. She had found herself in that moment. She was not thinking about becoming an artist, or that she was even creative. But in that moment, she realized something profound about her true self and how her life would be changed. My mother embarked on the journey of becoming an artist, a painter. During the next 45 years she completed 1342 original oil paintings. It defined everything about who she was and how she saw the world.

My mother found deep and sustained joy.

One of the most important lessons from Proust and my mother is the try things. New things. Things that will take you our of your comfort zone. Things that will unleash your joy. A cup of tea you did not want. An unplanned painting lesson.

Where have YOU been?

To be transported by a taste of a cookie or a stroke of a brush. To reveal your undreamt dream, your emerging and suppressed self, the impulses and insights to who you really are.

To seek the great joy within you. The joy that is yearning to be free.

A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth’ by Wisława Szymborska

With childhood joy and curiosity–What things in your life will not move by themselves? They need to be helped along. To see what happens, what emerges………

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