"Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy." — Catherine Fenwick
On the Is Yoga Legal facebook page this past week or so, the focus has been on joy. Last week, I posted a question, “what does joy mean to you?” I got some interesting answers. Joy is a “spark of curiosity and wonder.” Joy is peace in the heart along with exuberance for life while remaining present in the moment. Joy is “happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction all in one.” And the lawyer response, it is difficult to see, “but you know it when you see it.” (For the non-lawyer readers, that is a famous quote from a Supreme Court case about obscenity.)
Looking around the internet for quotes about joy, I have found a few themes. Joy is something that must be shared, and it multiplies by sharing it. We gain joy by sharing it with others. We learn about joy by learning about sorrow. Richard Wagner says, “Joy is not in things; it is in us,” and Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
In other words, joy is a lot of things to a lot of people.
I sort of laughed when I saw the “you know it when you see it” comment. It is such a famous quote, but in so many ways, it describes this situation exactly. Joy is not something we can define. I love all the other definitions. They help with the “I know it when I see it” statement. But deep down, joy is something personal. It is something we must experience for ourselves. As Catherine Fenwick says in the quote above, “Your soul cannot heal without joy.”
Play and laughter are for the body and mind respectively. But joy is reserved for the soul. It is the deepest and most intense type of healing we give ourselves. But what is it? Is it something we have to seek out? Is it something that comes to us? Is it simply about being present?
Joy is something we must experience, but more importantly, it is something we must allow ourselves to experience. I can share in your joy, and I cam empathize with your joy, but your joy is something you need to experience for yourself. But even more than that, it may be that we also have to create it for ourselves. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.” Sometimes, we have to create the precipice for the experience of joy. He reminds us that joy is a choice we make each and every moment. Joy is present everywhere, and we get to find it and make it our own.
It is more than knowing it when we see it. Joy is about knowing each and every moment can be joy. Sometimes we experience moments that are joyful, but how often do we simply sit and bask in being joy in its purest form? Joy can penetrate our bones. But first we have to let it into our lives. And that is when it begins to heal the soul. When we become joy and make it part of our lives, our soul brightens and heals.
Yoga, from asana to meditation, is a healing practice. It brings us closer to understanding all that happens in life, whether in our bodies, minds, or souls. And joy is part of that practice. When we learn to notice the joy of yoga, we learn to be able to share that with the world. Lawyers are not generally thought to be joyful people. Instead of joy, most days we ponder disaster and how to avert it or clean up the mess it left behind. But what if we also allowed joy to penetrate our Being and we started sharing it with clients and colleagues? That is not necessarily easy to do, but arguably it is necessary.
When we can experience joy for ourselves, we can bring it to others and help them heal as well. Joy is definitely something we can recognize and see for ourselves, but it is also something we can create through our smiles. And the more we recognize it, the more it comes into our lives. And the more it heals. But we have to take that first step. We have to be willing to allow the joy into our lives. That seems silly to say, but how many of us hang out in sorrow because it is what we think we are supposed to experience? How many of us are willing to let that go and experience pure joy? How many of us are willing to actually be joy? If you are willing to take the step and open your Being up to joy, what sort of impact will it have on you? What sort of impact will it have on your family and friends? What sort of impact will it have on the people you serve in life?
So, I will ask the question again – what does joy mean to you? But also, how do you bring joy into your life? How do you share it with others? Are you willing to be joy?
© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.