Posts Tagged ‘Choosing Joy’

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,


 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.

What Is Joy? Part 1: Joy is a Choice

Comments Off on What Is Joy? Part 1: Joy is a Choice

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,