Part two in practicing joy is simple (although most likely not easy) – we have to do it! We actually have to physically practice joy. Just as if we were to go and learn how to play the piano, to paint, to play tennis, how to fly fish, or crochet we have to put in the time necessary to master the art of joyful living.
We would not expect to sit down to learn how to play the piano and become masterful in a matter of minutes. We have to put the time and effort into learning. We have to be patient. It is like this too with the cultivation of joy. As I spoke about in Part 1 before my very difficult summer a couple of years ago I was under the impression (albeit subconsciously) that joy was something that just happened when the conditions were right, such as when it was sunny outside, my husband went along with what I wanted to do, my bills were paid, I had chocolate, etc. Joy wasn’t something I was an active participant in. So step 1 1/2 might very well be to change how you view joy and ask yourself the question: Am I responsible for my own joy and happiness or do I depend upon others and the right conditions to arise in order to feel joyful?
How do we practice joy? What does that mean? It means that we make time to do the things that create for us an authentic sense of connection. It might be a connection to ourselves, to others, to the world, or to the present moment, but most especially it would foster our connection to feelings of gratitude, joy, and happiness. We need to make time for the things that we enjoy doing. Too often we prioritize things in which are of the least value, such as watching tv, texting, surfing the net, and facebooking, or a complete waste of time all together, such as worrying about the future or complaining about the past. And it’s important to remember that what brings happiness to one person will be different for another. There are as many ways to practice joy as there are stars in the sky.
Just like with anything else the more time we devote to the practice of joy the more skilled we get in cultivating it in our daily lives. The more we practice the more we keep practicing! We cannot realistically expect to become well skilled at anything overnight. While it may be easy to think to ourselves that we just aren’t good at something and should throw in the towel when we aren’t progressing the way we think we should this is often an example of impatience and ego getting in the way. We need to not be in such a hurry and remember that with great skill comes great effort, diligence, and time applied.
While we may not be aware of it most of us make plenty of time to practice suffering, we are very skilled at it, masterful even. We need to make the time to water seeds of joy. At first it might feel fake or phony, we may even feel silly or undeserving of joy. And just as there would be an awkward time period in the first days and weeks of learning how to play the piano we need to keep going if we are to learn and grow and transform. We need to keep tickling those ivories if we are to play beautiful music. The music will come forth if we nurture it.