Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy
When we think of joy, or cultivating more joy in our lives, we don't usually think of the verb to choose. Is joy a choice? If so, how? And how much joy can we really chose, if our circumstances are particularly unpleasant or (as I like to say) counter-joyful?

Is choosing joy really possible? 

The answer is Yes, and....

Why we must choose joy

In my first blog for 2019, I talked about my goal for this year - to turn toward joy (read that blog here). I made a commitment, based on the recent experience I'd been having in connecting to joy, to do more of that. I'd discovered that, in fact, joy isn't just a feeling that sometimes arises in us when things are good. It's an energy, a power, an entity.

Actually, to put it in more concrete terms, I think joy is a quality of God. And the measure to which you can connect in with the God force or Source energy or the Spirit, is the measure to which you can access the wellspring of joy that's available to us all. 

That's a long sentence and it's a process to learn. It's a mind shift for some of us, and it's a practice we need to undertake regularly. 

But the first step, and the essential step, is to learn to choose it. Choose to learn how to connect to joy, choose to give the practice time and focus and choose (most importantly - and difficultly for me) to reassure yourself that it's ok to feel it and allow yourself to feel it.

Reassuring ourselves that feeling joy is safe

The biggest struggle I have found, in my practice of connecting to joy, is to actually allow myself to feel it. It sounds weird, but I think this experience is probably a common one.

When I connect in with joy, the first thing I notice is that my body relaxes. this is one of the body's signals that it senses safety and truth. After that, I feel the joy present in every molecule of matter and air...like everything is made of joy, at it's core. And that feeling of abundant, universal joy just rises up, flooding my heart and my mind and my body. My Spirit lifts, it's buoyed and a smile unfolds across my face instinctively. 

It's truly such a beautiful feeling. 

So the question is, if I can feel that good, so easily, why don't I stay there longer, do the connecting practice more often or, better yet, just work the muscle of staying in that feeling all the time. Because I do believe that's possible. 

The answer is that my mind doesn't want to. Minds love chatter, brains love to find things to be fearful and worried about, and for most of us, worrying, whirring thought patterns are really, really well ingrained neural pathways in our minds. That means, we jump back on the well worn paths easily and quickly. 

Our brains are well trained to run our attention around the same old tracks, every day. 

So, while it's relatively easy to connect to joy, I need to do a lot of it to build neural pathways that are equal in their appeal to my brain as the existing negative ones. 

I can achieve this, in part, by simply doing the practice more and more. Each time I do it, I strengthen that neural pathway a little more. But it takes a bit more than that. I also need to feel my fear and distrust of the good feeling, that sends my brain back to fear and distracting chatter. 

This involves recognising that feeling joy carries some insecurity for me. Why? Probably because, somewhere in my childhood, I learned that feeling a pure, good feeling was going to leave me vulnerable to something negative. Without going in to the world of childhood wounds too much, this is a fairly common learning and, therefore, is something many people struggle with.

Recognising that I have an insecurity around feeling good, and my brain naturally takes me on an aversion path after I've felt it a while, helps me know when I really need to commit to staying seated in my joy-connection practice. I then imagine the fear and aversion coming from a scared little girl, within me, who simply needs the adult me to calm her and sooth her. She needs me to reassure her that this joy, this good feeling, is OK to feel, it's safe and it never has to end. 

We must reassure our scared selves that joy is safe to feel. 

Allowing ourselves to feel joy

The other major obstacle I've found to staying connected to joy is an odd sense of not feeling worthy...feeling like I don't deserve to feel that good, that much.

This, of course, is a common issue people have. It starts, for the most part, quite sub-consciously. We've learned our unworthiness from a very young age. This learning can work itself out in how we handle money, romantic relationships, pleasure, self care and life being generally good. 

It's a common piece of the life coach's activities, because not really believing we are worthy of the things we want can easily derail our ability to let ourselves have it, and when we do have it, it can prevent us from enjoying it. 

So when my fearful and distracted mind pulls me away from that beautiful feeling of joy that has arisen within, I need to encourage it by reminding myself, with a calm and loving voice, that I'm allowed to feel joyful.

There's an in-built message which says something like "who do you think you are, that you should get to feel that good, all the time? Other people don't, what makes you think you are? What a big head you have!!" 

The more I work at countering that message, at any time of the day, the more I sense the joy rising in me and lifting my spirit again.

How to connect with joy

Now that you're aware of two of the key issues you might encounter when trying to connect with joy, let me talk you through my process.

1. Sit still, close your eyes and breathe deeply. 
This is how all meditative practices start, and it's that way for a reason. It helps slow your thinking, relax your body and focus your attention. Spend a minute or two just doing this.

2. Visualise the molecules of everything around you, including the floor, the chair, the walls, the air and your own body.
Scientists who study the activity of micro matter know that, at any moment, the cells making up my body may jump out of me and become part of any other thing around me - the chair, the wall, the plant etc. We are, very plainly, all made up of the same thing, the same matter. So visualise the similarity of all the cells in you and all other things.

3. See each of those cells as fuelled by, or vibrating with the energy of, joy.
See it in each cell and see the energy of joy around you, forming the shape of the floor, the chair, the plant etc. Start to see the joy energy more than the thing itself. 

4. Feel that joy energy in your own cells, forming your energy field. 
You are vibrating with the same joy energy that everything else is. Joy is part of the fuel that creates all matter and sustains all matter. And that includes you. 

5. Sit in that feeling state, feeling the joy force all through you and around you. 
This is the beautiful state of truth that is available to us at all times.

Can we experience joy constantly?

In short, yes. But be aware that this joy isn't a giddy, happy or manic excitement. It's a deep and calm, love-filled reality. So it is possible to feel joy and while going through hard times that create sad feelings.

But to do that, it takes skill and practice in the activity of connecting to joy. It takes really strong neural pathways that are easy for your brain to use. And it takes you having done the work of believing you're allowed to feel joy, fully and deeply and constantly. There are a lot of social norms and subtle learnings we pick up that tell us that if something bad is happening in life we're not allowed to feel good. 

Ask yourself: 
Would you allow yourself to feel joyful when you're grieving the loss of someone you love? 
Would you allow yourself to feel joy if your child was seriously hurt and in hospital fighting for her life? 
Would you allow yourself to feel joy if you didn't know how you were going to pay the rent this month, and other bills were already piling up? 

That's some serious spiritual muscle we're talking about. It takes a lot of practicing when things aren't so bad, to maintain that kind of joy-constancy in harder times, that kind of self caring which allows you to have joy in sorrow, fear or threat and some serious choice to feel the joy when such un-joy is also present in your life.

Are you ready to up-level your joy experience? 

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