Joy. Pure unadulterated joy. I bet many would have a difficult time remembering the last time a moment could be described as joyful.
Our world is a stressful place. Demands are placed on us, we are pulled in so many different directions at once we feel like a ‘Stretch Armstrong’ doll from the 1980’s. Sometimes our only viable option is to survive the day leaving little time for squeezing in a moment or two of joy.
Joy is essential to our wellbeing; mind, body, and spirit. Without joy we can easily become overwhelmed, our lives out of balance, perspective lost, and we suffer mentally, physically, and spiritually. We are empty vessels on autopilot. There is a lot of information thrown at us about chronically high cortisol levels, the so-called ‘stress hormone’ and its effect on the body. In a nutshell high cortisol levels are killing us. Said another way, lives lacking joy is killing us.
To experience joy we need to practice mindfulness and gratitude; two sides of the same coin. Mindfulness is the practice of being present, in the moment, aware. Until one becomes present in the moment we are unaware that we are missing the gift of life. When did we forget how to be joyful?
Children are spontaneously joyful, so are animals. Children and animals exist in the moment, are fully present in the moment. Children learning about their world experience joy and wonderment as a normal part of daily life. They allow joy to consume them, adults are too caught up in the stresses of life to appreciate the sacredness of pure joy. I love to watch our dogs run and jump and play. Everything is experienced no matter how mundane and ordinary. Our puppy discovered June bugs the other day. She is fascinated, lost in the discovery of a creature many people are either afraid of or crush with their shoe. A leaf blowing across the yard will become a toy, and off she goes bouncing through the grass, her whole body involved in the wonderment and joy of a leaf.
We cannot be filled with joy and loaded down with stress at the same time. The moment by moment practice of mindfulness reminds us life is sacred, there is heightened awareness of the subtle blessings we miss when we allow ourselves to be caught up in the chaos and stress of life. Allowing the experience of joy to spontaneously burble over into full-out belly laughing or becoming lost in the beauty of clouds on a sunny day leads us to gratitude, appreciation for the moments of joyful abandon and sacredness in life.
Experiencing joy is a practice as is gratitude. God provides us the opportunities, we are responsible to recognize the opportunities, be present in the moment and appreciate the simplest joys. As I am finishing I have two Yorkies looking up at me with their big brown eyes. It’s time to play…..