Joy as a Spiritual Practice

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“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

-Jack Gilbert

As I wrote about seasonal pleasures last month, I heard a voice in my head saying, “This isn’t important.  In light of what the world is going through right now, this sounds trivial…a silly distraction from all of the problems that we collectively face.  How dare you write about this?”  It is easy to feel as though we are not entitled to moments of joy when there is so much that is going wrong, so much that needs fixing, so much suffering all around us.  But perhaps we need simple pleasures more than ever right now, perhaps finding joy in the everyday becomes a spiritual practice in and of itself.  Yes, there is suffering here.  But there is also goodness.  And we can, we must, hold them both at the same time.  If we wait to take joy in the world once things improve, once we feel entitled to it, that opportunity may never come.  Why?  Because, in the words of Krista Tippett,  “we can’t call forth in the world something we don’t embody.”  We practice joy in small, simple ways in our daily lives as a call to ourselves and others to move in the direction of that which we want more of in the world.

Good things come from this practice.  We may feel as though we are filling a well of energy that lies deep within our being.  We may feel more grounded.  We may feel a renewed sense of hope and possibility.  We may remember what is so precious to us about being a human on this planet in the first place.  This is an act of radical self-care, to be sure, but it goes beyond that.  It is the recognition of something sacred, a connection to something ancient and universal, and it is deeply nourishing on a soul level.

From this place of deep nourishment and connection, we become more capable, compassionate humans.  We are more able to be of service to others.  Our well is full and we can see clearly, both the suffering and pain AND the hope and possibility.  You are more than entitled to joy.  You are doing us a great service when you find and celebrate it.  Let us first embody that which we want to call forth.

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