I’ve been thinking a lot about joy today. Partly, that’s because it’s been a great day, full of joyful conversations, activities, happy spontaneous encounters, such as…
… watching a fabulous webinar on how to make photography a contemplative practice;
… welcoming my niece and her daughter, fresh from a Highland Dancing exam, and sharing their joys and their frustrations over coffee and cake;
… playing with my new digital craft CDs and making a card for my friend Catherine in France;
… noticing the seagull – who visited the bird-table last summer while nesting in the chimney of the school over the road – is back! And he has a girlfriend (or she has a boyfriend)! Actually, I’m assuming it’s the same gull, since I can’t really tell them apart. He does seem quite fearless, even if he’s not yet pecking on the window to let me know there’s no food left. (I kid you not: he actually did this many times last summer – although I suppose it could just have been a reaction to seeing his reflection in the glass. I prefer to think of it as the ‘feed me’ impulse, though.)
… feeling the warmth of the spring sunshine on my face as I pegged the laundry on the washing-line in the back garden this morning;
… enjoying the quiet companionship of sharing an early evening film on TV with my father – even if he did sleep through most of it (hence the quiet);
I could go on, but you’re probably thinking of joining my father asleep on the couch here if I do.
Anyway, this joy thing is an elusive beast. We often don’t realise we’re feeling it until it’s left us. Its touch is fleeting, but its affect is profound.
Because joy, like hope, is one of the wellsprings of life. It’s as essential as the food we eat and the air we breathe. Without it, life is dull, grey, full of drudgery, an endurance test.
But with it, well, we are transformed. No longer subdued, we’re alive, vibrant, living in colour!
And once we have it, once we’ve tasted its soft refreshment, then nothing else will do. We want to inhabit that space, feel its texture, breathe in its soft scent.
How? There’s no secret; we merely have to pay attention. When we know what brings us joy, then we can construct our days ensuring that, as far as it depends on us, we can open ourselves to the activity or stimulus that allows joy to flourish.
May I suggest a Joy Map? This is one of the most useful visual reminders of those things we should be scheduling in our calendar along with the football practice and the budget meeting.
Here’s mine – constructed (free) with the aid of the website, Tagxedo.
Another tool would be compiling a Book of Possibilities. Have you ever seen the film ‘Last Holiday’? It’s a gentle comedy about a shop assistant who, after being told she has only weeks to live, decides to give up her job, cash in her savings, and spend the little time she has left doing all the things she ever wanted to do but had neither the time nor the courage before. (It’s a fabulous ‘feel-good’ film. I recommend it if you haven’t seen it.)
But how did she know what she wanted to do? Because she kept a Book of Possibilities, so was ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. (I’m quite inspired to start one myself.)
So, today, I’m asking: are you getting your recommended daily intake of joy every day? And, if you are, what techniques do you use to make sure you don’t go without?