Last week I attended a short workshop on the topic of Joy with facilitator Adrienne Enns (www.mayyouknowjoy.com). Adrienne’s key message was that we can set the intention to choose joy no matter what else is going on in our lives, even when we find ourselves in the midst of experiencing difficult emotions. It’s not about ignoring our pain and suffering; it’s recognizing that our pain and suffering isn’t everything that is going on at any given time.
Using an example from my own life, I recall that while deeply grieving the loss of my mother two years ago, I was also aware of the deep emotional connection I was experiencing with my siblings and friends during this time. In the days and months following her death, I often felt moved when I noticed things that she loved – trilliums in the spring, a book I knew she might enjoy, or homemade date squares. Although these moments were always tinged with sadness at her loss, they often made me smile and feel grateful for her continued presence my life. I think this is what Adrienne was getting at when she talked about choosing joy even when we are dealing with heavy emotions.
It occurs to me that choosing joy is closely associated with mindfulness and self-compassion. When we engage in acts of self-compassion in response to suffering we feel comforted, which in turn can help us to broaden our gaze to a wider field of experiences. To connect with joy, you have to be mindful of the good that is simultaneously occurring during moments of suffering – awareness of personal strength, feelings of gratitude or even acknowledgement of life lessons learned. Mindfulness helps us to avoid getting attached to our most challenging emotion when we realize that suffering is only one part of our constantly shifting emotional state and experience.
Not long after the workshop, I went snow shoeing on a brutally cold day. I almost made the choice not to go because of the cold, a relentless headache and the fear that I would not be able to keep up with the group. The snow was deep and crisp and the trees were drooping from the weight of their thick blankets of new snow. It was almost silent in the woods and the white sparkling landscape was truly magical. All of my senses were engaged and I felt that I had never been in a more beautiful place and time. I chose joy that morning and I am so grateful that I didn’t let my earlier focus on what was going wrong stop me. I hope you will also decide to choose to joy today; whatever the day brings your way.
In kindness, Patricia