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Joy as a Practice of Opening Your World

Nanette V. Hucknall

December 20, 2021

When I connect with my clients on how to discover their purpose and potential, I often find that many aspects of their lives are bound in feelings firmly rooted in fear. As discontent, insecurity and pangs of inadequacy abound in us as individuals, those feelings spread out to our society, so much so that the world around us can feel heavy and uneasy. 

These fear-based emotions are caused by our conditioning. We are culturally accustomed to viewing life in fixed, fatalistic terms with finite outcomes and limited possibilities. It can be difficult for us to apply imagination to our life and our world, and therefore, we get stuck in patterns where only the existing options are believable. 

It has been my work as a therapist to help clients bring a new sense of perspective, to open them up to the possibility that their destiny is actually one that is full of joy, happiness and purpose. It is only when we have the capacity to open our lives to the potential of positivity that we are able to believe a brighter future is possible for ourselves – and to realize that possibility. 

Joy is often portrayed as a grandiose and euphoric emotion, but a touch of joy can be uncovered in many simple, small encounters of our daily lives. Being enchanted by a piece of music, glimpsing a shifting sunset or catching the sound of children laughing as you pass them playing on the sidewalk –  to name a few. It is felt in any relationship where love, or even a gentle, respectful kinship is present. Joy abounds in nature – the hearty resilience of a stretching flower, a chilly breeze on your warm face or the scent of a nearby body of water and all its brisk beauty. 

When we welcome these small joys into our world, we train ourselves in obtaining the higher states of joy that are possible in life. There is a natural wisdom in growing your capacity to experience joy. Our conditioning tells us that joy is a transaction that is made possible when we find the right combination of material accomplishments. But like all the other virtues of spiritual growth, joy is fostered through a daily practice of love, compassion and contentment that comes from your internal essence, not from an exterior accessory. 

It is no coincidence that many of the great spiritual leaders, like the Dalai Lama, radiate an unconditional happiness that’s seemingly unshakable. It’s not that they are incapable of experiencing the emotions of sorrow, loss or disappointment, it’s that they trust those emotions will pass and they will once again discover the quiet joy of the world around them. 

One of the best pathways to joy is through beauty. Beauty in this instance is not limited to physical, romantic attraction but to any aspect of your world that inspires, gives-life or energizes. Beauty is, as we have heard, in the eye of the beholder, and is different for every person. Some may access beauty in the presentation of a well-made meal, others in the symmetry of a mathematical equation.  Part of the practice of cultivating joy is to hone your personal exploration of beauty. Whether your beauty is a well-delivered poem or a perfectly passed football, make it a goal to express and experience as much beauty in your day-to-day life as possible. 

As this joy begins to flow in your life it may be expressed through laughter, stillness, tears or simple sighs of nourishing relief. You may also notice a continued sense of distrust of or resistance to joy. It is important that we continue to work with the places within us that are resistant to joy, because that is where our conditioning is keeping us back. 

The following exercise is designed to support you in your practice of bringing joy into your life ~ 

Find a quiet place and sit comfortably.  Take some deep breaths and relax your body, breathing deeply until you feel peaceful within.  As thoughts and feelings arise, let them go, and rest in gentle stillness. 

Next link with your heart chakra in the middle of your chest.  Try to experience the heart chakra.  It can be a slight pressure, a movement, a light, or even an image.

When you feel you are experiencing your heart’s center, place something that you experience as beauty in that heart space and simply be with it. 

As you share space with your object of beauty, lean into the aspects of it that are moving to you. 

As love and appreciation for the object grows, feel it expand throughout your being. When you feel you are verging on joy, give into the sensation. Allow that feeling to take center stage, resting in its uplifted spirit. 

If you encounter a wall or a limitation to the expansion of that joy, see if you can explore that resistance. You can ask your heart, 

“Is there anything preventing me from fully and regularly experiencing this joy?”

If the answer is yes, ask “How do I overcome the block?” 

Try working with the block, again repeating the exercise at another time. Notice if there is a difference in your experience. 

As you let the exercise dissolve, remember that you can always return to the source of your joy to prompt you if you’re feeling flat or uninspired by your world. Simply place your source of joy in your heart and rest there with it until you are nourished and inspired.

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