I have discovered a simple thing: Joy. Perhaps you have, too! I have discovered that I can’t always feel it. Perhaps you’ve also discovered this.
I’m still rearranging the definition of what joy is in my life. Early childhood priming from my upbringing — along with media exposure to TV shows and ads — affected my understanding of joy. It subtly told me that I had no control over how or if I created it.
We could define joy as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, as something uncomplicated and simple. It can be felt instantaneously and lost just as quickly. Remembering what it feels like in your body can help you feel it again: the curve of your mouth as it smiles, the feeling of warmth flooding your chest as your heart opens, the infusion of endorphins giving us a feeling of well-being. It’s hard not to love the feeling of joy.
However, we all have had experiences that affected our capacity to feel joy. Aside from what advertisers would have us believe, experiencing joy is not always easy or simple.
In my search for it, I have found both joy and everything but joy. I suppose that is how most of us find it. We find what we want by acquiring what we don’t want. At first, I tried to adopt how other people found and felt joy, but something was always lacking. After some searching and a lot of discarding, I realized I had to define joy and what gave me joy for myself. Joy is best embraced when we know our own definition of it. I also had to let go of thoughts that told me I couldn’t have joy and replace them with an understanding that I could have joy.
While searching and defining may feel lonely and frustrating at times, I look at it as going to the school of the universe. Just like practicing math or writing skills, we start with simple problems until we have the tools and skills to feel mastery with it. I write “with it” not “over it” because even Ph.D.s need refresher courses. No one can keep joy in their life without ongoing attention.
As with any skill, we must start at the beginning, and the beginning of acquiring skills is the thought that we can do it. Belief shifts outcome. We must believe in ourselves and our power of change. Positive thought is a skill to keep in your toolbox.
This skill leads to another acquired belief: remembering innocence. Innocence is a difficult topic for many people, but I have found that in order to truly feel joy, I have had to rediscover my innocence. I worked to define innocence for myself, as others have tried to either define it for me or take it away altogether. I now define innocence as living within trust, engaging life with my Heart, being wide awake to life’s possibilities, and believing in life’s beauty.
Equally important, we must believe we are good just as we are. Adding skills may allow us to be better at feeling joy, but it does not make us a better person. There can be no qualifiers about who we should be. We only add skills so that we become more present in life and are able to appreciate and feel the beauty of joy.
To do all of the above, I have to believe in who I am — just as I am. When we make peace with who we are at any moment, we open ourselves to the possibility to feel whatever we want. Constructive thought is the strongest tool in making lasting changes and feeling what we want to feel.
I know you can do all these things: remember what joy feels like, define what joy is for you, think positively, rediscover your innocence, and believe in yourself. What is the benefit of nurturing these skills? Creating an emotionally safe space in your life to feel deep joy.