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Practicing Joy, Part 1 (of 3)

30 May

Take What You Need - Love - Hope - Faith - Patience - Courage - Understanding - Peace -  Passion - Healing - Strength - Beauty - Freedom

I find it interesting that in this picture I found online there is no mention of joy or happiness in the pull-off tabs.  Our western, modernized society is greatly lacking in joy & happiness – it may even be our biggest collective challenge.

After I had an emotionally difficult summer a couple years back I came to understand that, like everything else in the world, joy takes practice.  Before that point I think what I figured (subconsciously) was that joy was something that either happened to me from outside forces or was something that sort of magically appeared when the conditions were “right”.  Either way I didn’t play an active role in whether joy manifested or not.  I emerged from that dark summer with deep realizations: 1. Joy takes practice  2. My happiness really is up to me.

Over the last couple of years I have talked a lot about cultivating joy because it has been so fruitful for me and such an important component in my everyday mindfulness practice.  And as I’ve talked about it I’ve seen a confusion, of sorts, come over people which has lead me to trying to further break this process down in order to explain it better.  Just how do we go about watering seeds of joy?  It’s a good question!

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While I was thinking deeply about this question the other day part of the answer sprang to mind.  One of the biggest components of cultivating joy in our lives is two-fold: 1. We need to stop caring so much about what other people think  2. We need to set aside our egos and realize that we are not so important that everyone is staring at us anyway!  We hold ourselves back in a variety of ways due to the simple tendency we have to be overly concerned about what others will think of us – and we’re mostly worried about the viewpoints that come from people we don’t even know!  What is the deal with that?  The truth is, much of the time we SWARE people were looking at us funny or giving us dirty looks they were either consumed in their own state of affairs and couldn’t care less about us or had quickly forgotten about us in the next moment.  With the coupling of our perceptions not usually being very accurate and also having a strong tendency to think everything is about us we can really conjure up some vivid pictures that are painted entirely with disappearing ink.

Sometimes, oftentimes perhaps, the best answer is three little words: Let it go.  We cling so darn hard to things, people, ideas, notions, feelings, perceptions, and should’s and should not’s.  If we were able to let go of what we think others think about us we would be so much more free to enjoy life!

Joy is possible in the very here and now.  We have all the conditions we need to be happy, except for perhaps the willingness to let it all go.

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