Joy is the serious business of heaven.
- C.S. Lewis
I am coming undone. Rewiring by joy.
I’m often on a high when facilitating a workshop and afterwards comes the fall. It’s like coming home after a fabulous vacation and realizing it's time to do the laundry and bay the bills. Necessary, yes. Fabulous? Less so. It is in this place where my rubber hits the road. Choosing joy on these days. From what part of me am I going to live during the non-peak moments of life?
I have friends who don't get joy. Joy is bigger and different than happiness. Take holiday carols, for instance. Frosty the Snowman was... happy, until he melted. Songs of joy, on the other hand, include angels, triumph and exultation - the Herald Angels sing, "Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies."
When someone wins the the Olympics, it’s joy. Can you listen to the theme for Chariots of Fire and not feel something rise in your chest, this exultation of spirit, the desire to stand tall, burst into song or take a stand for something?
For those of us not winning an Olympic medal today and not immersing ourselves in holiday songs as summer approaches, how can joy make its way to us? And how can we meet it?
This experience of joy is a conscious decision to reorient towards something new. This is what I am climbing towards, and sometimes crawling towards, in the non-peak moments of life. The average days, the gray days, the busy traffic and the folding laundry days. And it is not always easy.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, refers to the choice as an act of will. She describes it as stubborn gladness. In referring to her work as a writer and lover of her craft, “My ultimate choice, then, is to always approach my work from a place of stubborn gladness.... I’ve decided to meet that destiny with as much good cheer and as little drama as I can - because how I choose to handle myself as a writer is entirely my own choice.”
Stubborn gladness isn't as sexy as exultation, but it speaks to the commitment, the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-gritty-with-joy. It takes effort and will. Without the commitment, dullness and dissatisfaction can creep into life like wet fog, clouding the exuberance of life. In her commencement speech at U.C. Berkeley, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook describes the effort and commitment to choosing joy in the grieving months after her husband’s unexpected death.
"When life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning."
It takes guts.
When people come to me in workshops, meditations, or for one-on-one sessions they often have specific wants. They will likely never use the word joy. They might say they want to be happier. But what I hold for each and every person, all the time, is a connection to their own joy. The source of it, the power of it, the exuberance that can blow open doors and the stillness that feels so full, it has no choice but to rub off on others and expand the room. Always and forever, every time I take any step with someone on their journey, this is what I aspire for them.
"My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild