Sometimes I feel guilty about being joyful. When I think about all of the suffering in the word, especially right now, sometimes reveling in joy feels like I am being irresponsible and forgetting my responsibility to work for greater justice, equality, and peace. Lately, though, I have been thinking that feeling joy regularly is one of the best things a person can do in order to work for a better world. Joy is a deep, authentic feeling that reminds us of the best things about being human. We often feel joy when we experience a loving connection with others or a beautiful scene outdoors or when we become involved in a project that is deeply meaningful to us. Joy is a celebration of love, beauty, and purpose, and because of this, joy is an invitation for us to remember the kind of better world we are working to bring about. It is a reminder that this kind of world is possible. I actually think joy is all around us waiting for us to revel in it and recharge our spirits and minds.
The other night, as I was falling asleep, I heard a little chorus of frogs chirping outside, and it filled me with profound joy. It was suddenly amazing to me that we lived in a world full of silly and delightful things like frogs. I have been thinking about the frogs all week, and I decided to draw and paint them last night. I have recently discovered watercolor paints, and I am delighted by them. For several hours, I got lost in painting this frog picture, and I felt pure joy. This joy was a welcome relief to me because I have been intensely worried about politics lately. My recent encounters with joy reminded me that even though there is a lot of cruelty and ignorance in the world, there is also beauty and delight. These are the best parts of the human experience. This helps me to have faith in humanity and faith that it is possible to cultivate better things than those we see around us currently. My goal in the next year is to look for the beautiful, delightful, and wonderful things around me and cultivate joy so I can share it with others. This is part of what it means to work for a better world.
Here are some things that have helped me cultivate joy lately:
1. Spending time in nature, even if it is just sitting outside looking at trees.
2. Spending a few minutes each day to be silent and to listen to the silence.
3. Talking with friends on the phone or in person.
4. Drawing and painting, even when I don’t think I am that great at it. (If you would like to draw but are not sure what to, draw here are some great ideas:draw)
5. Writing (If you would like to write but are not sure what to write about, there are some wonderful ideas here:write)
6. Cuddling with cats (or whatever pet you have)
7. Expressing love to my husband (or expressing love to any loved one in your life)
8. Looking at beautiful art. I recommend Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”. This picture is in my office at work, and it is so soothing. I have also recently discovered Molly Kahn’s Buddha Doodles. These are delightful, whimsical pictures that fill me with joy.
9. Listening to beautiful music. I have lately discovered the artist Jai-Jagdeesh. She writes beautiful music that helps to connect listeners with Love. One of my favorite songs of hers is In Dreams. I think you might love it, too.
Joy to you, Dear Friend.