Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bottling joy

Joy. A feeling of great pleasure. Bliss. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.

Good stuff when we can have it.

Some days, though, we need to dig deep for joy. Things don't always go as we hoped, frustration or sadness can set in, and it can seem too hard to uncover and polish the nuggets of joy buried deep within the challenges of everyday life.

I've told you before about some of the little things that make me happy. For me, it's always a welcome surprise when it's something quite small that brings on a great big feeling of happiness and gratitude.

Big things don't happen every day for any of us, so it's always been more satisfying to me when there are opportunities to notice and honor the ordinary as extraordinary.

I've always thought that it would be a major triumph if we could bottle joy or a good attitude and pass it out to those in need. But life is hard work for all of us and it seems experience can be our best teacher.

It's been proven over and over that when we acquire good things too easily, many times we don't perceive the full value they deserve. So maybe handing out bottles of joy to others would seem trivial and suspect.

So, yes, I frequently think about this kind of stuff as part of the journey I'm on.

Speaking of journeys, I have what I consider a lengthy commute to and from work, which gives me some time, yes, to think about work. Most importantly, I like to use the time to ponder what's great about life on this good earth.

In the car at a stoplight not too long ago, for no particular reason, all of a sudden I felt I would burst with an emotion. I hadn't really been thinking about anything special, but I quickly identified the emotion as joy. The more that I was sure it was joy, the purer the emotion was.

The experience was a blip in time that felt like an eternity, leaving me with a fond memory and a desire to recapture the state. But later I knew I was lucky to have felt joy so strongly once and had no right to expect that I could command that bliss at will.

I wasn't sure what triggered this sudden and amazing release of emotion. I can remember the exact spot on my route where this happened.

My car was not idling by a happy family on a corner, I had no view of a majestic tree, and I was not observing beautiful clouds move across the sky. I was not even thinking about any of the family and friends or other things that make me happy. I was just existing. Being.

To be exact, at this time I was waiting patiently in front of a sad, dilapidated and abandoned building for the green sign to go. Why did joy come to me there?

Why was this intense feeling of joy surging through every cell in my physical body? Was everything all lined up and perfect in my life? No. Were there any challenges I faced in my day-to-day? Yes.

I couldn't put my finger on it. What was this volcanic and joyful emotion erupting from within me?

I didn't know for sure the source, but I knew it was real and recognizable as joy. I didn't need to know why, but still it interested me.

Maybe it was a culmination of a lot of little things that made me so happy. Taking time to recognize the small stuff that's good can certainly help keep me appreciative and grateful.

Some days are tougher than others for any of us, but I truly believe that perspective helps keep negative thoughts in check for me.

Any time I start to question why things aren't going so well, I try to snap myself back and acknowledge the things that are good. I hold myself accountable and remind myself that there's so much to be grateful for.

Besides, I've learned, it's never really any fun to attend a pity party for one.

Fostering joy undeniably takes some work. On a daily basis, I work hard to be positive. I'm not always successful, but I guess that's why some of the things I do to bring joy in my life are called a practice.

I take yoga classes when I can. I try to keep a gratitude journal. I even sign up for and navigate through online challenges to meditate daily. All these practices contribute to my joyful perspective. Things don't always go as planned and I don't have it all down pat.

But that's why it's called a practice. Life is practice. I always say we're not done until we're done.

Author and spiritual teacher Anne Wilson Schaef, who writes about personal growth and healing, wrote a paperback, Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, that I keep within easy reach.

Every day I read the easily digestible and thought-provoking meditation for the calendar date and look at the few minutes I spend to read the day's entry as a well-deserved gift to myself.

Wilson Schaef's June 30 entry is titled "Joy and Happiness."  The author calls out a quote by a spiritual teacher, author, and lecturer I follow and admire, Marianne Williamson:

"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

After the quote, Wilson Schaef goes on to provide her own commentary on joy. The author shares that a particular phrase has become quite important to her. "I'm quite happy."

Wilson Schaef recounts all the times and places she bursts out with those three words: driving down the road, watching a favorite TV show with her purring cat on her lap, working at her desk.

"A strange phenomenon occurs at these times," Wilson Schaef explains. "I have discovered that when the words actually form, I am even happier."

I can buy into that thinking. Being positive brings more positivity.

So here I am a few days ago, driving on my long morning commute to work. Once again, I found myself thinking about my experience that day not so long ago and how that joyful interlude has stuck with me since.

Hmm, I remembered that I had a draft of a blog entry on joy sitting and waiting for me to make the time to finish and post.

I remembered how I pondered the good that could result if we could bottle euphoric joy to help ourselves and others.

I continued on my drive to work.

I can picture the exact spot as a I navigated a curve. The trees were proudly showing me the fall colors of their foliage while my eyes darted back and forth across the road to be sure no deer was ready to run.

For no particular reason, or maybe it was the inspiration of the display of fall colors, I decided to repeat out loud in my mind, "I am so lucky to be on this beautiful good earth. I am so lucky to be on this beautiful good earth!"

I am so lucky to be on this beautiful good earth—a phrase that has come to me naturally over the years as I've thought seriously about all the beauty nature provides and realized that complaining about trivial stuff gets me nowhere.

I am so lucky to be on this beautiful good earth!!

Suddenly I felt a mini wave of tingling gratitude and joy!

It wasn't the euphoric burst I experienced that time before, but, hey, I wasn't about to belittle the reality that I just experienced what I thought was impossible.

On just an ordinary day, on a typical commute to work, I triggered a physical feeling of pure joy through the power of positive thinking!

So maybe we can bottle joy. Maybe anything is possible when we practice.

What brings you joy? I'd love to hear.

Until next time, yours in striving for happy bliss and joy...Therese

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