I ran into an old friend on the street the other day, someone I hadn’t seen in years – and it was only afterwards that I became aware of the intense feeling of joy that had accompanied this chance encounter.
What’s joy, really, you might ask, and why’s it so important that we pay attention to it? Well, joy is a feeling of lightness and elation, as I’m sure you already know – but you’re probably not aware that it often causes a quick spike in our emotional field which can often go unregistered in our minds.
I think of joy as something like an ‘orgasm of the soul’. Much like a genital orgasm, it builds to a fast climax, then soon fades away. It’s a fleeting emotion, unlike many of the heavier, more negative emotions that we can easily get stuck in – and because of that, we often we fail to pay attention to it. But when we do, it can lead to some startling insights.
In essence, those joyful moments often inform us of where our passions lie. Why’s that so important? Because it’s passion that gives our lives our meaning, purpose and satisfaction. So by becoming more mindful of the joy we experience, we can find clues to the types of activities and people that make our hearts sing, and our lives rich.
It’s worth noting that authentic joy emerges from inside you. It’s not generated by validation from others (for example, by a compliment you might receive). It’s an interior response that speaks to you from your soul. For instance, an artist friend of mine gains validation from selling ‘commercial’ paintings that are designed to have mainstream appeal – but his sense of real joy comes when he’s pushing himself past his usual limits, reaching inside himself and painting something entirely new and fresh.
For my artist mate, it’s easy to recognise where his passion originates… but for many of us, it’s harder to pinpoint. That lack of purpose, that feeling of emptiness, of something being ‘missing’, or being incomplete or unfulfilled is incredibly common. Yet what’s often at the core isn’t the lack of joy itself, but the lack of noticing and therefore feeling the joy.
If realising your passions is something you’ve ever struggled with, one way to raise your awareness is to keep a diary of your emotions. Essentially what you do is to report in a notebook any moment where you feel like you’ve experienced joy. At first, you may find it hard to identify many instances, but keep paying attention, and over time, you’ll hopefully start tuning into some brief flickers of pure joy, no matter how fleeting. Whether it’s the pleasure of having cooked yourself something yummy for dinner, doing something interesting at work, or achieving a goal you’ve set yourself, write down these moments, because they’ll provide the signposts you need to creating more of those moments in the future.
Once we can be mindful of life’s joyful moments, we can experience greater contentment from the realisation that there’s actually more joy and meaning in our lives than we might think – and we can work on maintaining and increasing those same types of joyful experiences, to give us even more meaning, purpose and satisfaction.
In love and light,