I write a lot about joy. It is a simple thing, a word of a mere three letters, but it can be such a difficult state to attain in this crazy world in which we live. The stresses and strains of the daily grind, worries about finances, health, work or the state of the nation… the list is endless seeming and different, but no less consuming, for each of us.
Yet, it need not be so. We can find joy in the most unlikely places and when we are least expecting it. It can be a shaft of sunlight through autumn beeches, a stag on a golf course green, a smile or a song. We can touch it through a child’s laughter, a blue sky or the sound of pebbles on a wave stroked shore. Wherever we find it, it is born within. It does not come from anywhere outside ourselves, but bubbles up and overflows like champagne from a wellspring of inner life.
So why do I write of it today? Because I am basking in its glow. Last night I danced for the first time in nearly forty years. With that first waltz as my feet miraculously recalled the steps and I sank into the music and movement, the world fell into place. The bare hall could have been a glittering ballroom and the practical leggings a confection of shimmering silks.. it wouldn’t have mattered a bit. Only that moment mattered.
It is hard to define that moment of pure, unreasoning joy. It is not something we are taught about, nor, I think, something everyone feels automatically. It requires, perhaps, an openness to life and comes when we enter into a moment and live it wholeheartedly and absolutely. It rises from somewhere so profound and engulfs the being, feeling as if it will overflow, something so vast that it cannot be contained within one human form and must burst the boundaries.
Sometimes there seems to be no reason except a simple joy in being alive. Sometimes we know what has triggered it. The catalyst may seem obvious to us, and we may think ‘this makes me happy,’ or even ‘you make me happy’.. yet it is not so. Nothing and no-one makes us feel that inrush of joy. We do that ourselves when we allow ourselves to open the doors of being and hold out our arms to the moment and that feeling. When we experience life on all levels, entering and living it for a time with a conscious abandon.
And this is a great gift, for if joy depended on exterior things, situations and people, think how fragile it would be, how much at the mercy of change and loss. Yet joy, the capacity to feel it, remains in spite of the impermanence and fluctuation of the material world and our mundane existence.
We are, I think, each responsible for our own capacity for joy. Circumstances may hurt or distress us, events and heartaches overtake us. But that capacity to feel remains, and we have that perfection of free will that allows us the liberty to simply react to outside pressures or to act as we choose. And I believe we can turn our faces towards possibility and joy.
And it feeds the soul in the same way that light brings the rose to glory.
Originally published 2012