Recently my church hosted a performance by a group of Sufi musicians. They played the songs they use to worship in a temple where they serve in Northern India. Not only was the music amazing, vibrant, moving, and the rhythms irresistible. But the devotion and joy of the music was clear. In the smiles they wore, in their bodies, their gestures, and the way they let the music enrapture them, you could see joy. It seemed to come so easily, was part of the music and part of them…the reason they played and sang. It was great! Joy created! And even better than that it was permission for all of us to feel joyful.
And it really made me think about how we tend to tamp down our joy. It’s fine for kids, but as adults we learn to rein it in. Being happy is fine. And being really motivated and energetic too. But joy kind of makes us uncomfortable, especially any kind of devotional ecstasy, makes us nervous or suspicious that you might be trying to preach to me.
My yoga practice teaches me to reframe my thinking about emotional ups and downs as energy cycles. High & low, up & down. Sometimes my highs and lows are responses to physical conditions and sometimes about people and situations. But I try to see whatever my mood—high energy, like being stirred up by anger or happiness, or low energy, like sadness and anxiety or evenness in between—as part of a natural cycle. But it is easy, addictive sometimes, to fixate on the angry, and I don’t want my only “Up” energy to be something negative. I want joy.
And I don’t want it accidentally. You know how you might turn on the music because you feel good. I do that. But how about turning on the music to create joy…to do it by intention. (Maybe it’s something else for you!)
Think of the imbalanced place we can leave ourselves in when on that cycle of up or down energy the only “Up” we allow ourselves is some form of anger. So many of us struggle with stress and feeling busy and overwhelmed….negative forms of energy themselves.
Yet we have within us our own ability to heal some of the draining impact of that with our joy. Joy fills and heals. We know when we see the face of a joyful child. I felt it taking in the joy of our guest musicians. After all, there are plenty of voices giving us permission to vent the energy of our anger and stress, but few that tell us it’s okay to be fully joyful.. …ecstatically joyful. Intentionally and purposefully joyful!
So The next time you crank up the radio in the car and then pull up to a light, don’t turn it down, roll down your window, keep singing, turn to your neighbor and smile.
How do you find joy in your life? Does it come easy or do you have to make an intention to bring it into your life?
Please share in the comments below so we all can learn from each other.