I spent this past long weekend guiding yogis on a retreat in the mountains. It was an amazing experience for me, and the mood of the entire weekend was relaxation, gratitude, curiosity, vulnerability, and JOY!
I just looked back to find this old post about Joy. It turns out that I set an intention to BE joy, on November 6, 2013. Four years ago, I made a conscious decision to tap into joy.
Since then I have spent a lot of my time meditating and cultivating joy. Enough time, in fact, that now, I am always joyful. Deep down, underneath whatever else is happening, there is always, joy; calm abiding joy.
Even as I moved through the breast cancer chapter of my life, it was always there. Sometimes it was waaaayyyy down at the bottom of the well, but it was always there. I can remember lying uncomfortably in recovery, breathing deeply, as I dropped the bucket down and brought up a sip.
On this retreat weekend, the joy was much closer to the surface. Four days of yoga in a big beautiful house full of yogis, with no obligations, no to-do lists, no clock to watch. No obligations… just joy!
I woke up much earlier than everyone to meditate and write and drink large amounts of coffee. As the others awoke we spent time moving through our shared spaces in (almost) complete silence until after our morning excursion outdoors for silent walking meditation.
As we silently walked together on Sunday (our last) morning, I kept smiling and chuckling, Recalling the night before. Eleven of us practicing Joy & Laughter yoga, cackling hysterically in a Great Room with vaulted ceilings. We were all bound together in joy. Pure unadulterated joy.
I let the feeling wash over me as we walked, and began to skip, as I often do. (More so since I made a promise to a departed friend.)
As my co-teacher/friend and I had discussed the night before, she led us to the beach. We stood in a row on the sand at the water’s edge facing the lake. She signaled for us to bring our hands to our hearts. Gratitude. A deep sense of gratitude. The air was crisp. The wind was calm. The water was a sheet of glass reflecting blue sky, white clouds, burnt umber leaves, gray brown trees. It was a pure Pennsylvania autumn moment. It was pure joy.
She leaned over and smiled a giant smile at us all and took a deep breath in. Time for us to OM.
Halfway through the first OMmmmm I felt the stir. The vibration washed over me, the joy overtook me. The well overflowed. And it came out in sobs. Deep, heaving sobs. I couldn’t OM. I could only listen. And cry.
When I first began meditating on joy, I would often find myself crying. As with all things in meditation I acknowledged the tears, resisted the urge to step away from the cushion, and simply allowed myself to feel the feelings. In this moment, standing sobbing on the shore, I allowed myself to simply feel the feelings.
When we make a conscious decision to tap into joy, we have to tear down the walls that protect our hearts. Walls that were built, brick by brick, by our experiences, and the experiences of every person in our tribe, our society, our culture.
As the wall comes down and the heart begins to open it doesn’t only open to joy. It’s like Pandora’s box. There are 1000 emotions in there. Or more. And each emotion has more than 1 way of manifesting.
Joy can manifest in hysterical laughter. Or sobbing tears. Or calm abiding.
It’s our job to observe the feelings without judgment. No feeling is either good or bad. Let them rise up to the surface. Let them flow. Feel all of the feelings. We must allow ourselves to be overcome with joy, overtaken by sorrow, or sometimes, both. At the very same time.
I came away from this weekend with a much deeper sense of calm abiding. I also came home with a profound sense of sorrow, and a few extra buckets of joy.
And some yummy chutney!