It’s said that we are born with joy and that this natural capacity gets covered over with life’s experience as we get older. In our busy, hectic lives we can become so caught up in the noise, activity, and stress of life that it’s easy to lose the ability to experience joy. Some people, who lose touch with and no longer know how to access joy, look for a quick fix in alcohol and drug addiction; attempting to connect with this lost emotion but in the wrong places. Interestingly, some psychotherapists say that most of what they do is about helping their clients “dis-cover” joy within themselves.
Joy is something we experience internally that resonates with the profound feeling of energy and aliveness in our body and heart; our natural state of being, underneath all the pressures, emotional burdens and limiting beliefs. Situations, where it’s easier to experience joy, include walking in nature, looking at a sunset over the ocean, during a music concert, and seeing a new-born child.
Feelings of joy arise in the present moment as a felt sense within the body and are about being, rather than doing. In other words, joy is a somatic experience and not about mental content and activity. Joy feels expansive and limitless, as we expand away from our “constructed” and limited sense of who we are in our heads, to the more inter-connected reality of our heart. It’s worth noting that recent research suggests that the heart is surrounded by neural connections like the brain. The neural cells around the heart are not the same as those in the brain that allows us to process thoughts, but even so, the research does point the way to broader felt-sense experience that relates to cultural ideas about the heart and emotions.
Many things can block or cover joy; for instance, being judgemental of ourselves and others, feelings of isolation and disconnection, self-protection, dissociation and disengagement from unpleasant reality as we perceive it. Also, if we’re feeling restless, angry, low, worried or anxious there’s no space and freedom for joy to emerge. The majority of these things are the unconscious habits and behaviour patterns that may have been useful at one point in the past, but now limit and no longer serve us. We feel joy when we connect with openness, compassion, and trust in a sense of deeper and benevolent wellbeing that lies beyond the turbulence on the surface.
Some of the ways we can intentionally cultivate, or uncover, joy include:
- Appreciating, embracing and being present to joy when it appears in our lives
- Improving how we regulate our emotions and moods, including being more aware of them as they arise, and learning how to work with them more skilfully
- Calming our minds and emotions to create the conditions for joy to naturally arise
- Bringing greater appreciation and gratitude into our lives
- Practising generosity, kindness and seeing the good in others
- Observing and investigating the habit patterns that block our experience of joy
- Making sure we have fun and bring lightness and laughter into our day
Joy is the oxygen that allows us to flourish and engage more meaningfully with our experience. It’s the emotion that we were born with that’s become covered over as we’ve done our best to cope with the challenges and trauma of life. Joy does not need to be a distant memory. By creating the right conditions, we can allow joy to emerge as a vital, life-affirming emotion in our lives.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the first settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then play the second practice to explore and experience the joy that lies deep within us.
Suggested weekly practice
- Creating the conditions where we are more likely to experience joy, settling the mind, calming emotions, relaxing tension in the body and connecting with the present moment.
- Planning events where we may feel joy, for instance, attending a life-affirming concert with a friend, walking in the woods, or looking at a beautiful sunset.
- Tuning in to the felt-sense of energy and aliveness in the body and heart that resonates with joy.
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