When I was asked to contemplate JOY to create a ceremonial space for the beautiful Rainbow Running Club community, I knew I was being given a theme and direction that would lead me to uncover much more than just the meaning of this small three letter word. As I walked through the woods speaking to Lucy on the phone, I knew this would be as fulfilling and beneficial to me as it would be for the people who came to attend the ceremony...
As the days ands weeks passed, I became more and more aware that JOY was, in fact, appearing in more instances than I had previously noticed. That it looked somewhat different to how I’d viewed it before. Not just a word we see at Christmas on decorations and cards. Not just reserved for moments of extreme happiness or success or elation.
I began to notice nuanced moments where my attention would be drawn to a very faint but tangible rising of something so soothing and warm and it was even happening during moments of frustration, anger, defensiveness and struggle.
I have come to notice that JOY lives quite frequently within me and exists as a subtle hum.
I think within society and in our fast paced lives that generally succumb to comparison and the need to always strive for better or perfect, we can overcomplicate the feeling of JOY as needing to be attributed with success or extreme happiness or because of something material. This is rather a mental construct and when we allow our minds to take over what something ought to look like, through no fault of our own, it becomes imprisoned there. Like so many things can. The over processing of thoughts and feelings within our minds can be such a prison cell. This is where gentle contemplation, dropping in to the heart space and taking moments to be with our feelings can lead to so many breakthroughs.
Here are some moments I have recorded over the past couple of months as I have slowly allowed myself to embody the true essence of JOY...
JOY is connecting to the subtlety of the very beat of nature’s constant, careful, intelligent narrative and feeling that innate similarity within myself. Each walk as Autumn turned to winter showed me a letting go, a death, less colour, more stillness, more cold, more darkness and eeriness as the life drained slowly from the canvas my eyes took in. And I realised that the very same cadence was occurring within me. Needing more rest, more sleep, more quiet, less energy. And the joy that overcame me was that I am at one with Gaia herself. I saw the very same flow within myself as I did in the natural world, experiencing my own winter, my own shedding, my own need to be still and let go and that we are doing this together. No need to fight to stay bright... only sweet surrender and respect for the process. Most importantly, never alone.
JOY is when bliss arrives like a subtle cavalry and envelopes your being in such a way that your belly softens, your chest can open and the corners of your mouth curl into a warm smile of knowing that this feeling is your birthright.
That it is cultivated in the simplest of moments outside of what we sometimes overcomplicate it with, what we may have been programmed to recognise it in.
I took a trip to the supermarket one evening after finishing work. I was hungry and so was my son and I needed to pick up ingredients for dinner. I was keen to get it done quickly so that we could eat and relax for the evening. My haste lead me to forget my bank card and I had left my phone at home charging. When I got to the checkout to pay I realised my error and, embarrassed and frustrated, I had to leave my shopping and drive home to get my card. I was so angry and really did get quite nasty in my thought patterns toward myself. I arrived back at the supermarket with even more haste to get it over with. I approached the checkout assistant who had previously served me and she could sense my urgency and frustration. She had thoughtfully put my frozen items back in the freezer for me and went to get them. She then helped me as I was struggling with the bags and she spoke so kindly to me that it instantly broke through the walls I had surrounding me made out of frustration and anger. I left so softened by her that I had big tears welling up in my eyes. I felt my anger had been diffused by her kindness and as I drove home calmly with warm tears anointing my cheeks and arrived to unpack and cook I knew that moment of allowing that softening to occur, the little cry of tears like the melting ice of the anger icicle and the calm that emerged from it all had cultivated a moment of pure joy. And I revelled in it for the rest of the evening.
JOY is knowing that we do not always need to be right. That we do not always have to agree or please.
The freedom this permits us is a shedding of the cast iron suit of armour we dress ourselves in in this life. The armour that keeps us from the ever flowing nuanced moments of joy that we are, in fact, always entitled to regardless of our beliefs or our differences.
When we can be of a different opinion to our friends or family and respect one another still without needing to shame or prove right or wrong, despite the discomfort this situation will inevitably bring, we begin to find the joy in allowing the flow. Because when we can let tension soften and welcome easefulness in any situation, we find sweet relief.
This resonates with me very much after feeling some days like I fit in nowhere. Where much of my life I’ve agreed with everything just to keep the peace and please people. Yet now it feels important to me to live in my truth regardless of whether it suits those close to me. A challenge that has been and will remain uncomfortable at times, taken to a level of respect and acceptance and kindness. I think the little snippets of joy are just about reaching through with this challenge for me. It’s still one that requires the most work but it feels like a worthwhile project.
It is important to understand that our range of feelings and emotions are so vast. Yet the more uncomfortable and negative ones can seem to outweigh happiness and joy at times. Perhaps during long spells of grief and definitely during a global pandemic. But if we can notice the softening, welcome the tear-filled releases, the moments of kindness, the comforts we are surrounded by, the smiles of our loved ones, moments of abundance, we begin to witness the small moments. Then we begin to embody them and capture them into our consciousness. They then begin to appear more frequently and then we are in the flow. The flow that exists within us, all of us. We escape our mind prisons and allow our whole selves to open up to receive this bounty.
May you find so many of these moments in your beautiful existence.
Beauitful photo of Clare by @faithdwightphoto