“Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of influence.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks) Doesn’t that quote offer an irresistible invitation? But to avail ourselves of the gift of joy, we need to know what gives us joy; what makes our heart sing. What we value is the key, so clarity is essential. Wherever we choose to put our energy is a guide to what will expand in our lives.
The phrase “follow your passion” asks us to recognize the need for discernment and honesty. It is an invitation to acknowledge what is personally engaging and enjoyable so we can open ourselves up to expand into joy. This is so freeing because it means we can let go of overfilled calendars, people who drain our energy, and the emotional drain of anxiety. We have choices! Joy will lead us to what we are meant to be doing, which then clarifies our true sphere of influence mentioned above.
Many of us have felt the heaviness of loss reflected in a crisis of health, career, relationships, or finances. Out of those times can emerge a wealth of needed change. Speaking from personal experience, no matter what form the crisis took, I needed to reevaluate priorities, reset limits, reorganize the budget, choose nurturing relationships, and give my body the time it needed to heal. And along with the struggle came gratitude, which is the key to joy. M.J. Ryan writes in her book Attitudes of Gratitude, “It was then I learned that gratitude is the best feeling I would ever have, the ultimate joy of living. It was better than sex (if it’s better than sex I don’t want to miss it), better than winning the lottery, better than watching your daughter graduate from college, better and deeper than any other feeling; it is perhaps the genesis of all other really good feelings in the human repertoire.”
It is now evident that clarifying what we value and gratitude are essential to living in joy and carrying a light heart. Looking back I can clearly see the shift in attitude that brought me the gifts of serenity, joy, and gratitude – even when the loss was deepest. This doesn’t mean we pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. Acknowledging the challenge, whatever form it takes, is healthy. We also need to acknowledge the feelings that go with the challenge. When we face and accept what we have to deal with, and consult our Higher Power, we can then make a plan for change. Since joy comes from the inside, it can’t be controlled by our circumstances. What is going on in our life does not determine our joy, so it is possible to live with a light heart even in the middle of a crisis.
This was a personal discovery for me when preparing for my first of several surgeries after my cancer diagnosis. What I valued was clear, and I had expanding gratitude for the help and support I received. In the middle of so many unknowns, I transitioned from living with a heavy heart to living with a light heart. Joy and gratitude filled each day. Instead of being broken down by life, we can choose to be broken open: open to staying in the moment, celebrating each day, accepting help, living in gratitude, experiencing joy, and transitioning from living in fear to living in love. This leads to being grateful for the difficulties themselves, because what we have learned is of great value. For instance, a difficult father taught me how to work with difficult men, a bossy friend taught me how to stand up for myself, a budget taught me to appreciate what I have, and cancer taught me the value of every moment. Despite outward appearances, this is the path to joy and a light heart.
“Saying yes to the grand adventure that is ours if we are willing to step out in faith, is not only a gift to ourselves but to our children. Seeing us working with joy leaves them a great legacy.” (Linda Kavelin Popov, A Pace of Grace) There is joy available at this very moment. When we live with a light and grateful heart, we can fully experience love and joy, moment by moment, in all circumstances; yes, even in the most difficult circumstances. In Attitudes of Gratitude, M.J. Ryan suggests that with gratitude, our soul’s capacity deepens from contentment to purpose to life in all its fullness. That fullness is the ultimate joy of living with a light heart. Here is a blessing to end with from M.J. Ryan: “May you experience all the levels of thankfulness and the soul-gifts that each offers. For then it will be truly possible to give and receive joy every day of your life.”
Until Next Time – Sylvia