Joy comes at the most serendipitous times for me. Last Sunday during our ConnectEd Workshop we went for a “mindfulness walk” around the pond at the Smyrna Community Center. In an effort to bring awareness to the importance and beauty of the trees in our city the Smyrna Tree Scarf Project “yarn-bombed” the trees around the path surrounding the pond. It was a beautiful day, one that was reminiscent of fall. There was a nice breeze and the temperature had dropped into the 70’s, a rarity for late August. I was enjoying the various displays on the trees, when I came to a tree that had a heart hanging from it, and was encircled with a rainbow of colors and the words “free tree hugs”. I smiled, because I consider myself a “tree hugger”. And as I got a closer look, walking around the tree I saw various flowers, bees and hearts that were knitted within the display. And then I saw a gigantic strawberry, and it immediately hit me. My mom. When I was a teenager my mom went through a phase where she collected all things strawberries- strawberry dishes, canisters, glasses, salt & pepper shakers. Our kitchen was filled with strawberries. In this moment I was overtaken by joy for this reminder of my mom, who had passed away over 14 years ago.
Another time I remember driving up to South Carolina late at night for a family reunion. We were high up in the north Georgia mountains and it was pitch black. I looked out the window and was struck by the grandeur and awesomeness of the night sky that was FILLED with stars! I rarely experienced the beauty of a star-filled sky due to light pollution since I am a city girl. This excitement that I felt can only be explained as a moment of pure joy!
As a society we talk about happiness an awful lot. I’ve found that often happiness and joy are used interchangeably. But in my experience there is a difference between the two. This quote by Brother David Steindl-Rast sums it up best- “Joy; the kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” Happiness is fleeting. It’s here one moment, gone the next. We are happy when we get the job, happy when we buy the house, happy when we... fill in the blank. And I don’t want to downplay “happy.” Happy is good. We LOVE to share happy on social media these days. And I get it. We want to share our happy with others. And we certainly should celebrate the happy times! It’s just that sometimes I think we are chasing happy to the exclusion of experiencing the joy of our beautiful, messy lives. The joy that is often found in unexpected places and times. Joy reminds us that we are part of something bigger and that we are intricately intertwined, just like the threads of yarn that adorn the trees.
So, can you experience more joy in your life? I believe the answer to a more joyful life lies in living in the present. There are no ordinary moments, yet we are constantly chained to our thoughts about the past, or worrying about the future so much so that we miss out on what is happening RIGHT NOW. We are so damn busy today it’s no wonder that we are unfulfilled and depressed. And that we are seeking MORE. But the more that we are seeking is within us. It’s just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. That which we seek has been within us all along. We’ve always had the power to experience more joy.
The path to a joyful life is paved with mindfulness and gratitude. Think of it like this- we can only take one step at a time, and we can only live life one moment at a time. When we stay in the present moment we don’t project the limitations of our fearful mind. When we practice gratitude we can find joy in the most difficult experiences, like losing a loved one, because we accept what is, knowing that life is constantly changing. Just like the seasons, we experience the birth, growth and death that meets us at every turn.
I encourage you to catch yourself when you take your attention away from the present and gently bring it back. So much of our modern technology is vying for our attention that it’s easy to drift away and lose sight of the present moment. Additionally, with the birth of social media we are bombarded with what everyone else is doing that looks so awesome and somehow better than what we have going on that we forget all that we have to be grateful for. Make time to create a gratitude practice to acknowledge all that YOU have to be grateful for every day.
And finally, when you take care of, honor and love YOURSELF by creating a self-care practice you will notice the joy that has been there all along, just waiting for you!
With Love & Gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel