“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”– from the poem Moving Water, by Rumi
This week I launched into a free online art class called Finding Your Joy. I was drawn to it not by the title so much as by the intent of it – to paint and create from the core of yourself, from your deepest well of authenticity, from a place of playfulness and joy. I just completed lesson one, and we’ll see what happens, but it has got me thinking a little more about this idea of JOY. I think most of us use the words joy and happiness interchangeably, but joy is not necessarily the same thing as happiness. In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu describe happiness as a fleeting emotion, dependent on external circumstances, and joy as an attitude, coming from within and independent of external circumstances. I kind of like this distinction, and it explains why so many people (me included) spend so much of their lives chasing happiness but not finding joy.
As the poet Rumi says, joy is the river moving in you! So, how do we access that river of joy? I’ve spent a lot of years on this Earth paying attention to what makes me happy, but I haven’t spent nearly as much time contemplating or working on how to develop a joyful attitude. Only in the last few years have I begun to feed my river of joy.
Listening to a summer tanager calling as I write this post from my back deck makes me happy. Feeling this breeze on my face does, too. Seeing a baby calf romp in a meadow yesterday made me smile. I also delight in picking peas I’ve grown, watching my flowers bloom, discovering a monarch caterpillar munching on the milkweed out back. All of these things make me happy. And I believe that being attentive to the small stuff like this – every single day – is the beginning of cultivating an attitude of joy. So does embracing Mr. EndlessSeeker’s constant and unwavering love and being consciously grateful for the simple, everyday stuff of life – a home, good food and friends who would do anything they can to help us if we ever need assistance.
I think joy is born in these happy moments and grown in the fertile soil of gratitude. It matures with acceptance of things as they come and an understanding of the absolute interdependence of our world. Eventually, joy spills out into the universe from an open, compassionate heart nurtured by the profoundly liberating act of letting go of expectations, desires, obligations, possessions, everything…and letting loose the bare naked core of who we are.
Getting there isn’t easy, but it is possible for each of us. I want to be joyful. I want to feel the peaceful dance of it in my heart. I want it to flow out of me with wild abandon and into the lives of everyone around me. It’s taken me over six decades to get to this point of understanding. I’m still getting there. I feel it. Every day through quiet contemplation, sacred time in the woods and gardens, deliberate expressions of gratitude, and the ever-vexing practice of letting go, I am finding my joy. I am becoming my joy. I am sharing my joy.
I don’t know if this art class will unleash the river in me and set it free, but the simple act of taking time to think about joy and feeling, sensing, contemplating what it means to be joyful is certainly a good start… and it is certainly fun to paint with wild abandon!
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” – Rumi
What helps you find your joy?