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Cultivating Joy

Joy isn’t the attainment of happiness. It is finding enjoyment in the bits and pieces of everyday life. Finding joy is a practice. Much like yoga or meditation we don’t master joy in a day, a month, a year, but instead we work on cultivating it over the span of a lifetime.

Personally, I find joy in nature. I love to ground my feet into the damp spring earth and watch the flowers and trees bud. Even on a frigid winter day the sound of chirping birds brings me back to myself. Birds, I believe, are God’s music.

As a young child I spent a great deal of time playing in the solitude of nature on our family farm with the hum of tractors in the background.

There was nothing fancy. Just open fields, walnut trees, butterflies, fireflies, mud, cows, and all other forms of wild things. I felt free in those moments. Reflecting back I realize that I was living in joy in those solitary moments with mother earth. I didn’t expect anything. I was just happily playing with what nature gave me.

Adolescence and adulthood separated me from this sacred space as I began to chase happiness. I pushed myself to be the best student, fastest runner, and collect all the certificates and trophies available.

As life continued on I found myself briefly fulfilled with each achievement but within hours or days later the feeling of unease and unhappiness reappeared. I then focused on the next thing to chase.

The sounds of the birds and nature didn’t cross my radar. They had faded and the urge to chase happiness replaced joy.

Yoga and meditation have taken me on a path that led me to find God in the little things. It also led me to start to hear the voice of my grandfather again as I walk through the same fields I often walked through with him. He taught me the lesson of joy in that he didn’t care about clothing, possessions or other people’s need to attain happiness.

He taught me the silent lesson that everything we need to have a content life is within us and around us.

When I feel the cloud come over me and I feel the urge to chase happiness my practice returns me to the place of being instead of doing. Each day I wake up is a new experience however and there are moments in life that challenge me to hold onto this mindset of joy when it feels easier to chase after something that gives me a fleeting sense of happiness but with time and practice joy returns and I feel my grandfather’s hand leading me back to the simplicity of open fields.

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