A disclaimer I always feel I would like to make when I write a post about my health or share my circumstances with people I know is “these are just externals, they are not really me or how I experience things”. In other words, I’m not defined by such stuff anymore or, in any real sense, wobbled on my internal axis, even by the most intense pain episodes as I have had recently; although that wasn’t always the case…believe me, I used to plunge into their deep end, hook line and sinker. This is something I have come to learn the slow and steady way, through personal effort, and I would love to convey the difference of view from where I am now because it’s something we could all use as external circumstances continue to wobble. Here’s my personal newsflash: yes, I live with chronic, often intense, pain and considerable physical limitation and have my share of other challenges and worries like everyone else but joy is still the most defining experience in my world; my life is brimful of joy because I look out for it.
If “joy” seems like a tactless word to use in 2020 or if this sounds like bumper sticker talk then I apologise but, paradoxically, its never been more obvious than this year, when oh-so many outside circumstances have come to try us all…and yes these things happen and can even seem quite chaotic at times, but I am not those circumstances, however much they may impact me, and they do not get to become me. Quite literally, they do not become me, as in, they do not suit who I am, in my frequency bandwidth or most authentic self. I don’t regard myself as a person in dire straits “in there”, and never have, not even when I have been, apparently, up to my ears in them, which has definitely been the case across the course of my fairly “interesting” life. I never made any of this into “who I am”, then or now and don’t identify with pain or any of the rest of it at that level of my being. Living in joy is far more important to me than all that.
I’m not in a state of joy all of the time, I grant you, but I aim to experience it at least a little every day and therein lies the strength of my practice…and it is a practice, because it leads to familiarity and a sense of reliability around the topic of joy. I have never been more aware that I reside within, and that stillness can be found there, come what may; so the rest is just a load of trappings to do with circumstance, which really helps on the way to activating joy, though there’s more to joy than just stillness…yet its a good start. Sure, some days dialling into that stillness is really hard, and so I get carried away on some drama or other; but generally not for long and I keep an eye on myself and how much I am indulging the deep-dive into “problems”. I stand for no nonsense in this regard and will laugh and coerce, even dance, myself out of the mire just as soon as I think it is getting too serious but, mostly, I will simply turn to my pursuit of joy as the non-negotiable priority to get me out of there…its by far the most effective method!
So, my bounce back factor has only got stronger over the last quite demanding decade and a half where, to identify with the challenges would have meant being swept off into a frenetic dance marathon with no pause for breath; one you fervently long to be over yet having no control over the kind of music playing or your ability to sit this one out. On the contrary, I remain wholeheartedly eager for life and having regular access to joy allows me to feel as though I have some control, way beyond externals. None of this is because I am special; its all down to the mindset I learned to adopt, when I was deep into my darkest hour, and it has served me so well ever since. So here’s the gift: the harder things get externally, the more motivated you can become to go after joy, if you at least get it back under your radar as an experiential option (so many people seem to forget it is even on the menu). It why people who recover from serious illness or make a comeback from the very brink are often the most joyful people on the planet; they don’t intend to waste anther moment on all that other stuff.
So, how do you encounter joy when all is going array, perhaps inside your body and all around you (and relentless physical pain and/or fear for the future can be an especially hard ones to tackle, I speak from experience)? There are various means but one of the most potent is to learn, and then remember as an oft repeated habit, how to activate your joy in your own particular way. Make note of the steps, then ingrain them into your routines.
First things first, how to recognise it and, remember, your joy won’t look like the next person’s. A BIG part of mine is to be creative, in numerous ways, from engaging with art and music to coming up with creative solutions or improvements, transforming things and even situations, and sharing big ideas in conversation; so yes, creativity is an exceptionally broad heading but I can identify how my joy resides in a lot of these creative places. It can also be found quite easily when I engage with nature, beauty, birds and birdsong, sunlight, flowers and gardens, and so on. When I put two or three of these together, for instance painting outdoors with birdsong or music, I am effortlessly there, even on days when gathering the initial motivation to set up my paints is like pulling teeth sometimes (and then I wonder what took me so long). Dancing is a massive source of joy to me and yet I denied myself this for the best part of two decades; not any more, it’s my daily practice….even when I hurt. A sign of whatever activates joy in your case could be that its “that thing” where you seem to loose all track of time, immersing fully. We each have our version of this; we just have to identify, then prioritise, it.
Next, you will have noticed I used that world “activate” when it comes to joy, as in, it doesn’t just happen. So, though you don’t have to be an artist or innovator to experience joy, creativity is frequently a guide to its door.
In other words, to experience joy, which I recommend you do as often as possible, you need to be an activist, as in, you have to work at activating it in the body. Not unlike some other qualities that can make quite the difference to life, for instance calm…you have to take steps to cultivate a state of calm or stress will keep on coming at you, nibbling at your edges…sometimes you have to stop expecting something to just flow right on in and make it happen by choice; and its never been more important!
So, you won’t just magically trip upon joy very often (it could happen but, really, you probably walked yourself right up to it though whatever choices you made; so give yourself some credit). We each create it, which is why creativity is such a natural lead-in to the creation of joy, and then joy itself becomes one massive force of creativity, generating creative outcomes as though they magically appear out of the ether. So, what I’m saying is, it becomes a self-regenerating thing, as soon as you take those initial steps to manifest joy in your life as an active daily practice.
As I said, my joy won’t look like your joy, we each have our version of it, which is why it is such a fundamental ingredient of self-actualisation; each one of us becoming that aspect of Source that we came here to be as we pursue what so uniquely draws us. So joy could be anything that keeps you bright, light, connected, in touch with your own life-force and emanating that out to others and, of course, the beauty is we always know it when its there because there is no mistaking the feeling of it, the way we light up inside and become very aware of how present we are in that moment. Achieving presence is both one of its gifts and a signpost that joy is close; and so there is great healing and spiritual progression to be found when we allow ourselves to immerse in our joy; we are, in a sense, doing the work we always thought was “out there” somewhere in the busy world by learning how to just be present in that moment, giving it our full attention. Whether its the joy of conversation or of putting your hands in the soil, you will know when its arrived and then you get even better at recognising thus creating more of it.
It can also help to write a list of things that bring you joy and then take steps to fit one or two of them in per day; but make time for that, don’t short-change joy or make it conditional upon getting other things done first. Then, when you schedule a time slot for it and make that happen, it helps reinforce your understanding that you brought this about, it was no mere accident, which strengthens your sense that you are the prime source of your own joy…which is important. Over time, this feeling accumulates to where you start to trust in yourself over and above dreading outside circumstances that may cause you to wobble.
To be clear, this isn’t that worldly thing “happiness” we are talking about here; this is Joy with a capital “J”, the straddler of realities, upholding cosmic law rather than subserved to manmade ones, which means that it blows raspberries at the idea of separation; so no one is ineligible. Often, people in the most dire straights, abject poverty, hardship, ill health etc are the ones who are most familiar with joy because they realise the importance of courting it, through whatever means, for instance music, whereas some of the most privileged in the world are the first to let it go.
So its unconditionality also means it can’t be compromised by externally challenging circumstance and this brings me back to my original point. Yes, it can be far harder to motivate yourself to create joy when those things “happen”, but if you can get past that small glitch and go after it anyway, as a daily habit with top priority, you are just as likely to create joy in a body that is in pain, for instance, as one that is perfectly fine since its a mindset to begin with; and then, the pain seems to back off, the more you activate that joy and demonstrate, day after day, that you are prioritising it. The body then comes to trust that, from now on, you won’t live so conditionally or let joy slip away again and so it can reliably look forward to experiencing more moments of joy, so then healing or other kinds of resolution can start to occur at ever deeper and more lasting levels. Imagine; if you are no longer dependent on outside circumstances being “just so” to experience joy, your dependency on broken systems and fools making rash decisions outside in the world, or even on diagnoses or levels of pain, is dramatically lessened, so it becomes more of an inside job to be joyfully alive in a physical experience, tailored to you.
You then also need to become the caretaker of your joy, by protecting your own boundaries and your daily requirement for joy, which is an important milestone that our newly reinvigorated appreciation of joy helps us to achieve. Which is why, when devoid of joy, we become such push-overs, allowing people and circumstances to walk all over us for all the difference it makes, but not now we have something to safeguard, meaning we are not so haphazard with out boundaries. So many people (and I was one of them for a very long time…) surrender their joy for others, often quite flippantly, as in they allow trivialities and selfishness to sweep in and chase their own joy away. This is a habit we can break out of…but, again, it takes practice. Sometimes we even need to get a little bit fierce about safeguarding our joy, which isn’t to say we get aggressive about it as such, but we rise up to our full size to say “No!” to whatever has come in to try and claim it away from us….whether this is a person or circumstance, or even information we don’t need to hear. We now think twice before letting it go again.
Then, the more you create joy, the more joy you will create, for yourself and others. This doesn’t even rely on creating the kind of joy that is visible to the outside world; it can be a deeply private joy-practice and yet it still ripples out to affect the energy field in which we all rub shoulders with each other, and it does make a huge difference. Those who are diligently creating joy this year, perhaps even more so than ever, in spite of the odds, are doing a massive service to all humankind and if you are one of them, please keep up the good work…the world needs you!
Because it was never more important that we all pulled together to hold the frequency of joy in place in this reality, to pump it out even more diligently as a bandwidth of experience, because there are forces and individuals at large that are quite determined to sweep it away. Yet the era that awaits on the other side of our effort is one that will be defined by the importance of joy; we just need to demonstrate we still know what it is and prioritise it, to stand up for it, to hold space for that new reality to birth. This is where joy activism is just as important as any other form of activism currently at large on the planet; there should be great pride in pursuing it and, of all the different kinds of activism you could take part in, this one most closely matches the frequency of New Earth because its foundation is in positivity and love, not opposition, separation or conflict. This is why, when we think of the forthcoming Age of Aquarius, we imagine radiantly joyful people as one of its most defining visuals; that cliché was really no joke.
So the more deeply we plunge into exploring what brings us personal joy and allowing that to manifest as often as we can, even if only for a moment or a few minutes here and there, the more we are actually doing for the collective; which is very contrary to what we have been led to believe…but then, surely, there has never been more cause to question what we have been told is “the case” than at this point in our history as so much is revealed to be sham. The old yet still presiding motivation has never been to generate more joy on this planet but to service far more materialistic outcomes for a small minority; so its down to each and every one of us to prioritise joy for ourselves, which is as it should be. This is exactly how joy is designed to be experienced, as an expression of individuality, the frequency of joy itself being the unifier that dials us all in to a top note of experience when we get there. Yet this is harmless individuation; never at another’s expense…and therein lies the difference, which is our bridge to a new era. We get to be who we uniquely are and, in the meantime, we meet in the territory of those upper notes, like a chorus of joyful beings making beautiful music together. Its why joy is so contagious; we all long to sing with it when we are in its company!
There is, of course, an alchemy to joy but don’t be put off by the word. A great deal of mystery has been garnered around the topic of alchemy for the longest time, as though only “special people” are capable of achieving it…but we are all our own wizards when it comes to mastering the alchemy of joy. Really, “all” it takes is the merging of the very essence of ourselves (even though that part of us is invisible to the naked eye) with some kind of solid three-dimensional material, to enable it to manifest a little more into the physical world. This could be the mixture of, say, inspiration and paint or words on a page…but it could just as easily be a vision for a garden or the new use of a room, a different way of structuring a venture, that inspires you to make some changes, or it could be having the insight to realise that the very deepest part of you would be healthier (as in, more “in form” or manifest within a healthier body) if it was enabled to sit quietly in a garden or in meditation once or twice a day. It could be the simple act of noticing or appreciating beauty, gentleness or the wonders of nature, even if you have to go looking for that on your computer screen once a day; which is to make conscious what might otherwise have been missed. When we pursue these “dreams” and bring them to life, we create the very alchemy that is joy as an everyday occurrence.
Some days won’t feel so conducive to this, of course; but as we get to recognise this truth about the effect of joy in our life, we learn to hone the way our days look. It might be slow or even a little arduous to start with, but this desire for more joy becomes a major motivational factor, once we allow joy in. Resonance is our helpmate; because if we follow the pathway towards the feeling we now equate with joy, the rest, as they say, will tend to fall into place. So joy itself becomes a signpost; and we can test this out by feeling into choices before we even make them, noticing which one offers a preview of joy, because we feel it even as we visualise the better feeling option. As out choices become healthier and more self-supportive, the outcomes we manifest lead us towards more joy than we previously knew was available and it becomes the hand that leads us towards a reinvented future, as I can vouch for as the experience of my last decade and a half. As we do this individually, you can see how we are also doing to together; taking a stand for joy as a priority in a world that also needs to heal from its apparent absence.
This is where the joy body, which is as real a part of us as the cellular flesh and bone, serves as a partner to our intuition, helping to land joy on the “ground” of our experience, so that it becomes more real than all that other stuff going on in the crazy circus of life. Thus our highest source of guidance is allowed to land “in form” and so this kind of navigational skill becomes in-form-ation of the highest kind, in a world where we hardly know what information to take seriously anymore. Becoming our own source of trusted information is another skillset that calls for our activation, since it won’t just land in our lap, but joy will surely get us more than half the way there. This is why spiritual practice in the New Era is, by definition, joyful…unlike religious practices of old, many of which upheld useful practices but they were so often more about the forming of habits and following of certain rules than making space for joy to come in. In this paradigm, joy itself is the good habit and everything else falls into place around it, as I have found for several years now. Yes, life still lumbers on with its issues and challenges but, at its core, there is still me as I recognise myself…and there is joy.
I keep mentioning this word “activation”, which (dictionary definition) means the action or process of making something active or operative or catalytically active; in other words, the one thing catalyses another to realise a state that it is already there in potential but which had become dormant or “forgotten about”. In a spiritual context, it can be used as an example on behalf of unity consciousness because, even as we do what we want to do, perhaps throughly focused on our own individualised pursuit of joy, we can still influence the field sufficiently to catalyse others. In other words, this is a feminine-masculine collaboration…effort goes only into being that which you innately are, which adds its contribution into the sum of all conscious beings on earth, which is a different approach to the soley masculine approach of wanting to drive a particular outcome or manipulate a conclusion, affecting others, that has been decided intellectually and which is often achieved by coercion or force. It’s worth pondering what activation looks like in our day-to-day experience because, just as we can activate things with our intentions, they can activate us out of the blue…for instance, art or music can often activate us more profoundly than we can explain. This is why, honestly, exploring new music and revisiting stockpiles of favourites is up there as one of the most powerfully joyful things in my life and no day would be complete without access to it since I, consciously, play music for the primary aim of catalysing giant peaks of goose-bump inducing joy, on demand.
I wanted to clarify that because I think one of the reasons music is such a powerful activator, along with visual and the performing arts and yes, these days, videos is that all of these touch us without needing any recourse to our intellect, sparking not only joy but deep understanding and moments of remembering who we really are, and all of this without any force or coercion. On that topic, I want to share this powerful video from Lee Harris for the track “All Who Walk the Earth” from his forthcoming album AWAKEN, featuring dancers from the Slovenian national ballet and with such stunning nature visuals, because it is just so on-topic here and with beautifully balanced masculine-feminine joy permeating every moment of it; surely, this is a depiction is how life on earth was meant to be before we faltered. Everything I have been speaking about here is to do with “making an effort” to remember what joy feels like…and this video must have triggered off such a deep activation of what joy looks and viscerally feels like that it reduced me to tears only seconds after starting to watch it, even though I am very familiar with Lee’s song. So, to finish, I invite you to enjoy this highly activating and quite stunningly beautiful video. We have so much we are ready to remember together…let’s open up wide to do just that.