Friday, December 30, 2011

Joy in the New Year

My new column for Women's LifeStyle Magazine, January 2012 issue, is now in print. Unless you live in select cities around the U.S, you may not have access to it. It is available online and I'm sharing it with you today in this sacred space.

May all forms of joy—from subtle pleasures to all out bliss—be yours in 2012!

Joy in the New Year

You have to sniff out joy.
Keep your nose to the joy trail.
~Buffy Saint-Marie

I've been sniffing around a lot these days. Looking deeply, really taking note of things. It’s a new day, a new year, and I love the notion of living it with more joy.

But where is joy to be found, really? And how do you experience more of it? For many of us, joy seems to be elusive—a fleeting gust of extraordinary happiness that blows in when we least expect it. I love the idea of joy but, truthfully, I never really felt like a joyful person. Happy? Yes. Jumping for joy? No.
For me, a large part of this unfolding journey into joy has been about redefining the notion itself. I sensed when it began that I was holding onto a self-limiting definition of the concept, as in "exuberance" or "elation." And, truly, I didn't often feel that way unless something in my outside world gave me a reason to be wildly enthusiastic. Therefore, I felt I must be lacking in joy.
But now I know different. Joy wasn’t lost. In fact, I realized it was right here all the time. Joy, like any other “virtue of the spirit” lies within us—just like peace, love, or courage—and it can be cultivated. We simply need to stop searching for it outside of ourselves and let it bubble up from within.
Does 2012 seem like a year you’d like to experience more joy too? How about we sniff out joy together and begin our new year with its scent permeating our days. We can begin by taking three joy-enhancing steps:
Find Words for Joy
Being a woman of the pen, I know the tremendous power specific words have upon me. Just a slight shift of perspective and a new vocabulary enabled me to begin to embrace the joy that was already here. My wise friend, Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, author of The Joy Book, gave me permission to define joy for myself. She suggested words like: gladness, pleasure, or an inner smile. She offered phrases such as: a passionate awareness of the very act and art of living; sacred happiness; an abiding sense of love and belonging. Just thinking about these words and phrases brought a feeling of joy to my heart.
Today, my joy word is “contentment.” Now, that’s not a jumping-for-joy sort of phrase, but it works for me. Saying it, thinking it, feels very joyful in my mind, body, and heart. Contentment.
What words or phrases would you use for joy? Take time to identify your personal favorites. Let them guide you so that when you need an infusion, joy will be just a thought away.
Grant Yourself Permission to Perceive Joy
Sometimes the process of allowing ourselves to fully experience joy takes time. We have to give ourselves permission to perceive it, to see life through new lenses—with wonder and delight, with acceptance and gratitude. With joy!
If we slow down, stop, and take a good look around us, evidence of joy is here. When I stop and see—really see with the eyes of my heart—this is what I notice. A loving spouse, the beauty of nature, the smiles and laughter of my children, good food on the table, a cozy warm home, good health, work that satisfies, and so much more. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach might call these “simple abundances,” and they are. For me, the simple pleasures of life are valuable treasures and they bring feelings of not only gratitude, but joy.
How about you? When you see with the eyes of your heart, what and who is there that naturally, effortlessly, causes feelings of gratitude and joy to fill you up? Make a joy list so when you are feeling a bit down-in-the mouth you can refer to it and remember your bliss.
Seal In Your Joy for Posterity
For the past six years, I have been crafting a special kind of journal, though I hesitate calling it a journal. It’s more like a journal/scrapbook. One of my more recent collections is a “Joy Book.” It’s great fun and, of course, I feel quite joyful when I am creating its pages.
Ingrid Goff-Maidoff describes a Joy Book like this:
"This is a place to collect favorite writing, inspirations, aspirations, and collages of beautiful pictures. Here you may call forth the riches, express your gratitude and your heart's affections. Have you had a joyful insight? Write it down. Keep your own list of luminous things—things that bring you Joy.”
Would you join me in creating a joy book for yourself? Returning to it will refresh, uplift and inspire you to live with ever more joy. And what a treasure for your children or grandchildren to look at when they are gone! They will remember you with joy.
Joy is ours for the taking—one breath, one glance, one pleasure-filled choice at a time. May it be so for you in the new year.


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mermaid said...

Beautiful post.

Lately, my joy word is compassion. Initially, it may sound dismal, but it truly helps me to awaken joy. Gratitude is another joy word for me.

Also appreciate the idea of a joy book:)

Darla said...

Lovely, thank you! When I read "keep your nose to the joy trail" I immediately thought...of course, for me, to be grounded in the present brings joy...and "nose to the joy trail" reflects that beautifully...especially when I recall watching one of my beloved canine friends focused, intent, fully present and grounded while sniffing a trail! :-) Blessings!

Joy said...

I do *love* this :)
I think recently my word for joy would be pleasure and comfort.
You highlight an important point to consider. When we think of a "virtue of spirit" we are attempting to put thought and a label upon a feeling. And that thought/label may be self limiting. So, when I think of a word I am also aware of how does it feel to me, and how does it work within my life in these moments..allowing the definition to be custom and fluid.
When creating my new site, I chose "Facets of Joy" because in today's mainstream society we are often "afraid" of joy and pleasure and delight; rather than cultivate them as we work and play and love, we tend to put them in a corner for later. Sometimes as a reward rather than as a nutrient. I would like us to become so familiar with joy that we include it in every moment of our lives. So I am thrilled to see you focus on joy..a vital component in our creations, I think allowing depth and range that might otherwise not be present.

Jan Lundy said...

Mermaid, I think that is one of my favorite joy words too. Compassion. It simply makes the heart sigh...xo

Darla, I am glad you like the St. Marie passage. And that it applies to your animal loving life. Happy New Year!

Hi Joy,
You raise an interesting point - that we might be reluctant to embrace joy. I like your idea of joy as a nutrient too - so essential to our well-being. I am very glad you have found your own joy trajectory and honor that path and all it reveals to you. Happy New Year!