Find the Joy Anyway
(from Within My Illusions)
He said, “Your job
when you leave this room
is to not deny what’s happening in your life.
Whatever shit is hitting the fan
at any given moment,
whatever pain or pressure
you might feel, feel it.
And find the joy anyway.”
There comes a moment
in every cycle class
when the room goes dark
and my heart becomes more
than the transport organ for my blood.
I become the one transported,
opening to wisdom and insight,
clarity and focus.
After the hard work is done:
the fastest sprint
the highest climb,
the tests of strength and endurance,
we ride in a strange sort of silence
created by the steady bass line
of electronic music
and a few words offered
by our instructor.
Often I am in my own zone.
Sometimes I compose verse in my mind.
And once in a while
I hear words that penetrate.
“Find the joy anyway.”
Easy to say, but on days
when tears burn the backs of my eyes,
it can be harder to remember
that finding joy is not a matter of searching
like a child on Easter morning
for transient treasures
contained in plastic eggshells.
It’s more like traveling
the yellow brick road and discovering
that there are gifts in the wandering,
that there can be laughter
in the moments between tears,
hope beneath fears,
a chance to shift gears and see
a little differently.
And maybe, just maybe, realize
that the joy was inside me all along.
A couple of weeks ago, a comment I made about filling someone's joy basket sparked my imagination. What had I meant when I used the phrase "joy basket," and how would I go about creating one? What would I put in my own joy basket? Ideas started spinning, and after talking with some of my favorite creative co-conspirators (including writer Jennifer Hritz, wise women Dina Tibbs and Christine Arylo, and positive psychology researcher Andrew Villamil), I drafted a 40-day practice as an experiment that I'll start next Friday, just a few days after the summer solstice.
This practice is particularly meaningful to me now, not because I'm feeling light hearted these days, but because I'm not. I know it will take a some extra care and attention to fill my reservoir of delight. I also know attention is a powerful tool for focusing energy and creating shifts in mindset, and that feeling positive emotion (even briefly) can create pathways of possibility.
I wanted to share the idea with you in case it's something you'd like to try too. You can read the description below, and contact me if you'd like a printable PDF version. I'll let you know how it goes for me, what I learn, and the surprises along the way.
On this week of Juneteenth, Father's Day, and June Solstice, may your joy basket be filled with possibility and delight.
Joy Basket 40-Day Practice
Joy Baskets are my experiment to create space for bringing intention and attention to joy sparkers – moments and memories that evoke a feeling of appreciation, delight, ease, or lightness. Daily practice builds a habit and primes the mind to notice that it’s possible to experience joyful moments even during challenging times. It’s also a reminder that joy is often about the little things and not the grand gestures. Over time, many small moments can add up to a brimming basket. Make this practice your own. Be light with it. Play. Explore. Notice. Allow.
Step 1: Create Your Joy Basket Choose a dedicated container to collect joy sparkers. The idea is to have a blank slate which you will fill over time as you notice sparks of joy. Here are some ideas for what you might use to create your container: Paper, Canvas, Journal, Scrapbook, Calendar pages, Bulletin board, White board, Basket, Bowl, Vase, Box, Bag, Tray. If craftiness is your thing, start with a basic base and decorate it to your liking. If you prefer simplicity or store bought, that’s great too! If you travel, choose something portable.
Step 2: Pay Attention to Joy Sparkers Create the intention to pay attention for joy sparkers each day for 40 days. Notice when you smile, giggle, smile, laugh, feel a sense of ease or lightness in your body, or even shed a tear of nostalgia. Let yourself be surprised by what emerges. Linger in the sensations for just a little bit longer than you normally would.
Step 3: Fill Your Basket Add the joy sparker to your basket. You can record them in your journal or add paper notes or photos to your container. You might include quotes or memes that make you smile, short descriptions or stories. You might also add physical objects as touchstones: a dried flower or stone from a moment in nature, a napkin from a newly discovered eatery, a candle with your favorite fragrance. Anything that helps you remember the moment.
Step 4: Practice Daily Repeat daily for 40 days. Keep your joy basket somewhere visible. Look through your collection throughout the practice and at the end of the 40 days.
Step 5: Share Joy Make it a group thing. Share joy and appreciation with people in your community. Assemble joy baskets for people you know. Share your joy sparkers and invite the people around you to share their joy sparkers with you.