Is life steering us toward joy?

Naomi

Today I heard someone say that everything that happens in life is trying to steer us toward joy. 
It stuck with me. 

I know a lot happens in life that feels about as far away from joy as could possibly be. But, true as that feels, the steering-us-toward-joy theory really hooked me in.

There's a theory that our spirits agree to take on a life here on earth in order to grow and learn certain lessons. And so things keep happening to us, throughout life, until we get the lesson.

The steering-us-toward-joy theory is similar...we're here to learn how to experience more joy, to learn the value and centrality of joy to all of life. So whenever something happens that feels like it's driving us away from joy, perhaps we can ask "What is there to learn about the nature of joy and the path to it through this experience?" 

So, I put it into practice. Here are my first attempts to find steering-toward-joy evidence.

The death of a loved one certainly taught me to value life, and joy, because it can all be gone so quickly.

The end of a relationship brings into focus how much I want a good relationship, one that brings me joy, not an unhealthy one.

Lean financial times have reminded me that joy doesn't need money, or fancy things.

A bad flu can remind us how much joy we could be experiencing if we were more conscious of how good being healthy feels. 

But my life doesn't feel joyful - it feels damn hard! Where is all this joy hiding?

Each of the things I listed above feel horrible. Each in their own way, each for different amounts of times and with different emotional landscapes, but none of them are ever going to seem like a good time.
But here's something else I've learned the hard way - the more I choose joy, the more I choose to focus on joy as a core energy in the universe, meaning I have it buzzing inside of me at all times, if I choose to connect to it, the more the hard things aren't overwhelming.

Note - I didn't say they were no longer hard. Some things will always be hard. But having a joy practice certainly changes how you experience the hard things. And seeing all things as an opportunity to steer more fully into joy is really powerful.

Also Note - I am not saying don't feel your negative feelings fully. White washing sadness, anger, depression or hurt feelings with artificial joy (that is, niceness, sweetness, fake happiness, manic crazy-giddiness) is unhealthy and will ultimately make the negative feelings last longer. Feelings are there to be felt. 

But...
...the trick to feeling your feelings fully without getting mired in them and never returning to a positive state, is to watch the stories your mind is telling you. Do you repeat scary or sad things to yourself? Are you picking an emotional wound instead of letting it heal? Are you riling yourself up into anger by telling stories of mistreatment that are inflated or hyper-sensitive? It's important to tell ourselves the truth, but the mind can be wiley and it loves a disastorisation story about the future. If you're not sure if your emotions are healthy or unhealthy, a therapist is a good place to gauge where the balance line is.

Where to find joy when it all seems bad

While you are working through your hard times and negative emotions, finding joy might feel impossible. But it isn't, it just takes a bit of focused attention. But again, this isn't meant to be a distraction from feeling your hard emotions...it's its own practice, which is good for us no matter what else is going on in our lives. 

Finding Joy Technique 1 - Go Micro
Find a small thing, something little, something insignificant, which brings you some measure of joy. A gentle cloud moving over a beautiful blue sky. A small, common field flower. A shard of light through a blind. The wonderful feeling of a warm shower, or the moment you relax in bed at night, or the smell of your coffee. Look around the room and find a colour you really like. Appreciate it consciously. 

Offer gratitude for this small piece of beauty, for this moment when you had the time to notice it, and for the blessing of such a thing being...just there, for you to enjoy right now. 

Finding Joy Technique 2 - Memory
Do you remember a time in your life when you felt joy? Or when you really had a wonderful experience? How about something funny that happened once and always makes you chuckle? Bring to mind the best of the past, the highlights and the good times. Make sure it's something that naturally makes you break into a smile. 

Offer gratitude for that moment, for the memory you can call on, for the blessing of that time being part of your life experience.

Finding Joy Technique 3 - List good things
You'll have noticed a theme forming - gratitude. Try just listing of things you're grateful for, good things you've got in your life, or you've experienced. Be grateful for each one, be awed at the luck you've had to have experienced those things. Be grateful and focused on the good.

With these under your belt, perhaps you're now ready to tackle the bigger technique - seeing the negative as a sign post to joy.

Where is life steering you towards joy today?

What's happening in your life right now? What good and what not-so-good things?
How might life be trying to steer you toward greater consciousness of joy, greater experience of it, through these things? Can you find the door way joy is calling you to walk through? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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