Sunday, January 29, 2012

Miscellaneous Joys

In addition to inviting the enemies of joy, committing to exploring the idea of joy also has invited its allies. Despite a three-day migraine, this week has been one of splashing through puddles of joy.

Can I be joyful when I am in significant pain? Not exactly, but I was introduced this week ("by accident") to Carolyn Hobbs, author of Joy, No Matter What: Make 3 Simple Choices to Access Your Inner Joy. She speaks of the joy of living:

Have the intention: “I choose joy right now, even in situations where it seems impossible.”  Joy is always here in the present. Am I willing to hold all of my feelings… All of the conflict and stress… All of what I'm dealing with in this unlimited joy of being alive… Being awake… Being conscious. With each moment that we do that our quality of life changes…Our ability to be peaceful when everything feels in flux around us. Our capacity to feel joyful begins to grow and expand.
Several times, as I brought myself to mindfulness within my pain, I understood that the joy of living was supporting me… Like the diaphragm supports a deep breath.

It sounds just like me to ask the question, "what does joy sound like?" The people of New Zealand, with the help of Bobby McFerrin, gave me an answer. Here's the first song created entirely from the sounds of New Zealanders experiencing joy:


Blogger Kate Kresse of Believe Anyway has started the Joy Forwarding Project, where folks report what they've done to spread joy and thereby get inspiration from each other.

Finally, despite some grumbling over software limitations, I had a great time fingerpainting on my iPad this week, seeking to express joy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Joy: Experiments in turning toward the light

When I decided to commit to these positive 12 kind promises, I knew that the monsters that roar against them would start biting at my heels.

This month, as I focus on joy, pain and weariness are weighing me down. "How can I be joyous," I wonder, "when I hurt and am exhausted?"

Deep breath.

I remind myself of the second part of the promise, "...without reason." There is a wonderful history of oppressed peoples living with joy and celebration amidst their troubles. I know the human spirit is capable of it; I just need to find my way.

Tools I can use:

Music: Country and gospel music provide me with a legacy of folks using music to transform pain. (I just spent far too long on YouTube watching versions of "Mourning into Dancing") Yesterday, I finished rewriting the lyrics of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" to be about chronic illness. Music cheers me up and gives me energy.

Color: Speaking of cheering me up, color says joy to me. For the next week, I will try to make a joyful picture each day, "fingerpainting" on my iPad.

Movement: Moving our bodies gives us joy; that's why dancing is fun. It gets a little harder for me, as I can't voluntarily move much of my body. I can however chair dance. I can wiggle my body to music. This gets me music and movement simultaneously!

Play: a friend of mine sent me this video, reminding me of the importance of play. I am strategizing how to increase games and silliness in my everyday life.

There is a fullness in the moment of play that can be considered a way in which the universe is expressing its own magnificence and joy. In a moment of deep play, in a moment of deep love, in a moment of deep celebration, that's why the universe exists, There. Not for what it leads to, but for that moment. -- Brian Swimme

I'll report next week on the results of these experiments.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Joy is My Lesson

My kind promise to myself for this month is to live joyfully without reason.

In early January, I wondered whether to choose a different promise next. My mother died at the end of December. Perhaps joy would be hard to come by or an inappropriate thing for which to reach. I know my mother loved me and I know that a loving mother wants her child to be happy. I added the words "without reason" to this promise precisely because I want to learn how to be joyful in the midst of hardship, how to live with joy despite the circumstances. So here we go.

My first task, with each of these themes, is to search for appropriate quotes and load them on Twitter. (Yes, I use a Twitter buffer called Twuffer rather than posting live.) As I was puzzling how to be joyful, I ran across this quote:

It made me think of A.J. Muste's famous line, "there is no way to peace—peace is the way."  It will not serve me to overthink this joy thing.

There is no way to joy. Joy is the way.

(I need to lose my inner Mary Poppins!)

Forgiveness and Chronic Illness

I can't leave the topic of forgiveness without saying a few words about forgiveness and chronic illness.

It is easy for me to feel I did something that caused me to become ill or, since  my illness is progressive, something that's making it worse. Perhaps if I hadn't been so stressed as a 20-year-old, the disease would've taken longer to appear. Perhaps if I'd stayed on that special diet, I wouldn't be using a wheelchair today. You get the idea.

Cindy Hively, a teacher of mine, recently wrote "No matter what some people may say, your illness is not your fault!" Reading those words, I felt a knot inside me loosen.

As a person who faces health issues...
I forgive myself. I have done my best.
I forgive my body. It has carried me through this life, responding as well as it can to the changes within it.
I forgive healthy people who walk without thinking about it, who complain that they ate too much, who type on keyboards without realizing the miracle.
I even forgive the disease. Some DNA quirk responded to an environmental trigger and here we are.

No harm was meant.

Forgiving with wild abandon means that I embrace us all tenderly and love us immensely.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Forgiveness and Letting Go

Whether it's forgiving myself or someone else, I've discovered it's a practice.

I love practice. Have I mentioned that before? Forgiveness is built into practice.

  1. I plan to do something. (Intention)
  2. I make an effort to do it. (Action)
  3. It doesn't go the way I think it "should" go. (Judgment)
  4. I let go of my ideas about what should have happened. (Mercy)
  5. I reset or re-envision my intention. (Resilience)
  6. Repeat.
Watching myself around forgiveness, I have found an unfortunate tendency to get stuck on step three. I judge. I try to let go, but it really shouldn't have gone the way it did and it's really not my fault, but if I'd only done it differently

The image that came to mind is of carrying around a stone. I set it down for seconds and then, compulsively pick it up again.

Forgiveness becomes a practice of letting it go and letting it go and letting it go.

Angel Sighting

I first heard Mary Johnson's story on the CBS news. A short time later, I was delighted to watch it from a different angle as as a trailer promoting one of my favorite art experiments, The SMOOCH Project.

Mary teaches me that "unforgivable" may not exist.