“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon
My brother died suddenly, at just thirty-nine years old. One moment he was in the midst of a regular working day. Half an hour later he was gone. Twenty-four hours later he was buried.
With things happening so fast, I found myself alternating between paralysis and intense waves of pain, anger, guilt, sorrow, and devastation. I guess we all felt this way. Only it didn’t quite look like we all did/
In between waves of sadness and silence, my brother’s children were playing and having fun and enjoying an ice cream as if nothing had happened.
It wasn’t just because they didn’t quite understand what was going on. I mean, none of us could really understand this. If you’ve ever experienced a tragedy (and who hasn’t?), you know exactly what I mean.
Rather, the children were merely being themselves. They were simply going with the constantly changing flow of their emotions and expressing it spontaneously. That’s what children do.
And so they expressed the wonder of being alive as wholeheartedly and as immediately as they expressed the pain of missing their beloved father.
We, the adults, were only able to feel and express the latter.
Does it mean that we are made of different stuff than children, then?
Not really. It’s just that most adults have great difficulties dealing with certain emotions and situations, and the name of the problem is “judgment.”
Back then, while watching the children play I found myself kind of baffled. I didn’t really judge them. And yet, there was judgment there. Because, in the face of such loss, joy feels inappropriate.
I’m sure you know what I mean. Whether we’re confronted by personal tragedy, an act of terror, a natural disaster, or genocide, joy just doesn’t seem to be the right response.
Even if there might be glimpses of it here and there, we fear that expressing joy might be mocking the tragedy. But that’s not necessarily true.
In fact, countless people (including myself) have experienced deep joy right in the middle of tragedy, and not just in glimpses.
Don’t get this wrong. You’re not joyful because of the tragedy. You are joyful because you are “heart-broken open,” as Kristine Carlson calls it.
In this sudden state of openness there is a sense of deep love and a degree of emotional nakedness that we don’t usually expose to each other. Being in such a space together, being so present, so connected with each other, so united across all differences, is indeed joyful, in a mellow sort of way.
And yet, many who experience such joy keep it secret, simply because it feels wrong somehow, even if nothing could be more right.
Remember, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” And discovering who you are includes discovering that you are all your emotions, not just some of them.
So let’s replace the idea that joy is inappropriate with something that is closer to truth!
3 Reasons to Bring Joy Back into Your Life
Reason #1: Joy is your nature.
Joy flows from the same source as love and peace; it flows from your heart.
Would you want to deny your loved ones your love and your peace? Of course not. Then please, don’t deny yourself your joy either.
Don’t push it, either. When sadness comes, allow your tears to flow. When joy comes, allow your smile to shine. That’s how it is supposed to be. It’s your nature; it’s who you are.
Reason #2: Joy is your light.
Joy is the light within.
Would you want to deny your loved ones that light? Of course not. Then please, accept it for yourself as well. When it shines, you can see the path in front of you, even if just one step ahead.
One step at a time, toward light—isn’t that a fine way to respond to tragedy?
Reason #3: Joy is your power.
The deep joy flowing within you is a healing force. Its warmth has the power to melt the inner paralysis. Its energy has the power to fuel your journey toward a life in alignment with your heart’s desire.
Would you want to deny your loved ones that? Of course not. Then don’t deny yourself the power of your joy either. Because your heart’s true desire is to live, and to feel joy.
But how? After tragedy, how do you even open your heart and mind to joy?
It depends on who you are. In other words, discovering who you really are also means finding your way back to joy.
In that spirit let me present to you some of the infinite numbers of ways in which you could bring joy back into life. Perhaps even more ideas will show up in the comments section.
In any case, I invite you to look at all these ways as possibilities, nothing more. Ponder them for a while, and then find out which one you feel most drawn to.
Pick that one, and then start practicing joy in this way, daily. Here they come, in no particular order:
21 Ways to Bring Joy into Your Life
1. Spend time with children (there are children everywhere).
2. Discover something refreshing (or surprising).
3. Feel your body (you are a miracle of life).
4. Read a novel (fiction, stories, not the usual self-improvement stuff).
5. Travel (any distance).
6. Look for smiles in people’s faces (on the street and on TV).
7. Write thank you notes (to yourself too).
8. Create a rhythm for your daily life (simple things will do).
9. Exercise (in a way that makes you smile).
10. Help someone (with something you enjoy doing).
11. Find a color that makes you feel good (and wear it).
12. Enjoy your spiritual practice. (Enjoy!)
13. Spend time with nature (plants and pets are nature too).
14. Do something creative (just for yourself).
15. Accept help from people (strangers, too).
16. Learn something new. (What have you always wanted to learn?)
17. Listen to music (and let your body move along).
18. Walk barefoot (slowly).
19. Savor simple pleasures. (What’s that?)
20. Give yourself a break (in every sense of the word).
21. When you have a choice, choose joy.
I believe most of these suggestions are pretty self-explanatory. If in doubt, just ask in a comment and I’ll respond ASAP.
Also know that once you decide to allow joy back into your life, joy will show you the way.