Archive for the ‘What is Joy?’ Category

September 22, 2010 · by Brooke · Joy Is All Around You, What is Joy?

Photo by h_ssan, courtesy of flickr

 

From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This is the final post in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy. 

Part 4: Joy Lives in the Heart, Not the Mind  

“Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside.” – Dr. Melba Colgrove 

Joy is a spark that begins, completely unconsciously, when your heart (not your mind) is open to it.  One of my recent Joys was also an example of this when a friend invited me to the Whitney Museum to see the Charles Burchfield exhibit, an artist whose work I was not familiar with.  The paintings are truly something to behold.  However, it is Burchfield’s journal quotes that really struck me, as they capture his ability to find Joy in the everyday world surrounding him:  

 “Listen long to the singing of the telephone poles.  It sounds more weird and beautiful by moonlight…Each pole has a distinct tone.  A steady throbbing sound – the poles, once trees, still are full of life, which is expressed in this pulsating sound.  Seems a voice from the center of the earth.” 

— Charles Burchfield’s journals, Salem, OH.  August 4, 1914
Whitney Museum plaque: Song of the Telegraph, 1917-52

 

What an exclamation of Joy!  And he beautifully demonstrates that Joy is not something that initiates in your mind; it begins somewhere in your heart.  It is hard to imagine Burchfield consciously thinking that the hum of the telegraph wires would give him Joy.  Rather, his heart was open to finding Joy in the small things that made up his daily life — Suddenly he was struck by the aliveness of the sound.  Many other sensations such as Happiness or Gratitude, while often felt in the heart as well, can begin with the mind.  But Joy is usually not a conscious decision.  Often, part of the delight of Joy is that it is unexpected.  Joy is a spark that may or may not be easily explained, but begins when you are open to experiencing it. 

Burchfield also found Joy during a time he was suffering from a prolonged and severe illness, thereby reiterating a point made in What is Joy: Part 3 — you can experience moments of Joy, even when significant life events mean that you are not experiencing Happiness: 

“I must tell you about ‘my’ oak leaf – in my neighbor’s yard.  The yard had been raked clean of leaves, but later on, somehow this oak leaf got attached to something in the grass, so that it stands upright, and repeated gales and snow storms have failed to dislodge it.  It bends over with the wind and when it is calm again, there it is, standing up so pert and imp-like…” 

“…For me it has become a sort of symbol or example – as it clings on so stubbornly, so must I ‘hang on’ through this illness which has lasted so long.  I have moments of utter despair, and then I look out and see this little oak-leaf, my little friend.  Each morning I look for it and it is always there.” 

 — Letter from Charles to John I. H. Baur, January 7, 1957
Whitney Museum plaque: The Constant Leaf (The Steadfast Leaf), 1960

 

In the first paragraph, Burchfield expresses his sense of Joy – a pure and simple delight in the unexpected discovery of a lone leaf.  This sensation of Joy is not conscious and comes from his heart, not his mind.  In the second paragraph, Burchfield’s Joy spreads to a sensation in his heart and his mind — one of Gratitude or Happiness for each new day that he saw the leaf because it represented another day he had survived his illness.  

Frequently Joy leads to Gratitude or Happiness.  As one woman who kept a Joy Journal remarked, “Observing your Joy can create a general sense of Gratitude.“  By being present and experiencing to a greater degree the Joy that generally surrounds one, many Joy Journalers feel more thankful about the good things in their lives.   

Joyfully yours,
Brooke

  

 Images from the show are on view at the Whitney Museum website and also via a slide show from The New Yorker.  

And my Gratitude to the curator who pored over Burchfield’s 10,000 journal pages to share with us these quotes.  Reading them gave my heart great Joy.

Photo by Rob Owen-Wahl, courtesy of stock.xchng

   

From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This Blog post is the third in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy.  

  

Part 3: Joy vs. Happiness  

Joy and Happiness, while closely related, are different.  For some people, Joy may be your companion on the road to Happiness.  

Joy is simple and surrounds us, but many factors contribute to Happiness.   

Joy is an openness.  It is a willingness to see even the small good things around you — to allow yourself to give them due notice and to allow these things to lift your spirit.  It can be the sound of a 3-minute downpour while you were cozy indoors (or maybe you were out in it and enjoyed the sensation.)  Or ice cold lemonade on a hot day.  Joy can be the warm hug from a child.  Joy is personal, so you may not find these examples particularly Joyful, and I am certain there are things you personally love that aren’t above.  In fact, take a minute to name a few of the small daily things that give you the most Joy.  Do you feel a small boost from thinking about them?  

Happiness is more complex and multi-faceted.  According to Dr. Martin Seligman, considered one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, enduring Happiness is a function of three things: 1) the natural disposition you are born with, 2) the circumstances and events of your life, and 3) factors under your voluntary control such as planning and conscious effort.  The field of Positive Psychology offers a variety of methodologies for achieving greater Happiness, all based on scientific research.  In fact, you can take a course on it at Harvard or get a Master’s degree at University of Pennsylvania.   

Happiness is greatly affected by what happens to you, while Joy is something you carry with you.   

Illness, loss, poverty, heartbreak, and pain are all realities of the world in which we live.  And they can take a tremendous toll on a person’s Happiness.  These circumstances also make it more difficult to allow yourself moments of Joy, but Joy still surrounds us in spite of our fear, challenges or pain.  One of the readers who kept a Joy Journal for a month was a woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She recorded her daily Joys while she was undergoing treatment.  In her words:  “How many tiny little snippets of wonderful happen in a day!”  Among her larger Joys were the support of friends and family, quality medical care, and the hope of recovery.  But she also recorded her morning cup of tea.  And now when she sees a sunset while driving, she pulls over to enjoy it.  These are moments of Joy that exist no matter what is happening, if you allow them in. 

I wish you many moments of Joy along the road to Happiness, and would love to hear your experiences with Happiness and Joy.  

Joyfully yours,
Brooke

Photo by ascom, courtesy of stock.xchng

From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?” This Blog post is the second in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy.

Part 2: Joy is Being in the Present

“The breath, body and heart all live in the present time. Joy lives in the present time. It’s the mind (where our awareness is so easily snagged in past memories and future plans) that rarely stays in the present for more than a few seconds.” — Carolyn Hobbs: Joy No Matter What

Children often understand instinctively how to be fully in the present moment, and being open to Joy. A friend of mine was recently sideswiped in a car accident with her 4 year-old son in the car. Both were thankfully unhurt, but badly shaken up and in shock. As the situation sank in, the son began to cry hysterically with large gasps and sobs. After a few minutes though, he looked up — and his eyes, still wet with tears, lit up – “Mommy, LOOK!” The police lights danced through the car and the sirens filled his ears, and he experienced a moment of pure delight. Later, after he got to wear the officer’s cap while the accident was cleared and the police reports completed, he proclaimed to his mother that this was “the best day EVER.”

I don’t imagine our rational adult brains would allow most of us to be Joyful in the above situation, but it does serve as a reminder that Joy seeps in when we let it – when for a moment we live a little more in our hearts and a little less dominated by our minds.

Dozens of people have kept Joy Journals and shared their experiences with me. Many of them talked about the Joy they experienced from children, seeing the world through their eyes. By choosing to acknowledge the Joy felt, and then recording it, many Joy Journalers found that they reconnected with their own sense of wonder they had when they themselves were children.

Joyfully yours,
Brooke

Photo by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne courtesy of stck.xchng

 

From the time I began to talk about my experiences with keeping a Joy Journal, people have asked me, “Why Joy?” and “What is Joy vs. Happiness or Gratitude?”  This Blog post is the first in a four part series sharing some of my thoughts exploring Joy.

Part 1: Joy is a Choice

Joy begins with a choice.  Joy surrounds us.  We must choose to let Joy in.  Too often, we all (myself included) are tempted to blow right past Joy as we lead our busy lives.  And then we miss the moments of Joy!  I might fail to notice, for example, how the morning sun has created a perfect sunbeam.  Moreover, that my cat hasn’t missed it and is currently stretched out on the floor purring and soaking in the sun.  In fact, my cat is offering me her belly for a rub.  But I am late for a meeting, so I don’t stop to feel the sunbeam’s warmth, or pet my cat, or hear her purr…

Instead, I can choose Joy – choose to let it in.  The act of noticing the sunbeam, or the time it takes to bend down to rub the cat’s belly – in fact, these things take only seconds.  But their impact can linger.  They create a little boost in my spirit that can last through the morning.  It might even make that meeting I was racing to a bit more pleasant.  And by then, there is another Joy to let in.  Perhaps an eager hug from a child, or a courteous driver waving me on, a tree in full bloom, a special treat at lunch, or an email that makes me smile.

Joy is a state of mind, or mindfulness.  Above all – it is an openness: to life’s wonderful moments and its treasures, no matter how small or fleeting they may be.  Keeping a Joy Journal is an act of choosing Joy.  It is a conscious choice to be present and open to the Joy.  By stopping to notice the Joy around me and acknowledging it through the act of recording, I find myself more Joyful.

Joyfully yours,
Brooke
September 12, 2010 · by Brooke · Inspiration, Joy Stories, What is Joy?

 

One of the remarkable women who received my invitation start her own Joy Journal found herself wrestling with the concept of small joys. A highly capable, intelligent, no-nonsense businesswoman in the healthcare industry, to her initially, Joy meant something monumental – like the birth of a child or a wedding.  But the concept of Joy captured her interest and she decided to explore the places in her everyday life where Joy might also be found.  I absolutely adore the piece she wrote about A Joyful Sneeze and she agreed to let me share it with all of you.  Wishing you Joy and laughter in any size and form!

A Joyful Sneeze:

What I find joyful is a good sneeze…the kind of sneeze you really wind up for.  The kind of sneeze only allowed when by yourself, well outside the earshot of anyone who could say, “Good gracious, that sounds like missile launch!”  It’s not the kind of sneeze proceeded by rapid fire follow ups.  Nor is it a wet and messy affair.  Or worse than that, its not one which seduces you into thinking this-is-really-going-to-be-a-good-one, only to have this disappointing little oink squeak out!  No, the kind of sneeze I am talking about is a singular event which starts with the faintest little tickle at the back of one nostril… quickly fading away.  There it is again…tickle, tickle, tickle.  Ah ha!  Now you know you’re onto something. Careful, don’t jump the gun.  Here it comes!!! ah-ah-ah-ah- ah-chew!!!

Now THAT was as fine a sneeze as I have had in a long time.  Satisfaction.

May you find Joys in the huge and the tiny things.

Joyfully yours,
Brooke