I usually love the turn of the year, when I set time aside to do visioning and planning, think about the big picture of where I’m going, and get revved up for the months ahead. But this year, my life took a different turn. I was ambushed by a nasty cold, the kind that lies in wait until you say to yourself “Now, I have some space to let down” and then attacks.

This wasn’t the rest time I had imagined. Indentured to a period of forced relaxation, and attached to a permanent kleenex, the last thing I wanted to do was figure out my future. I’ve learned to not think too far ahead when I’m feeling punk and wearing mud-colored glasses.

The only future I could see was the next hour, as I tried to imagine what would get me through an afternoon of feeling dumpy.

When I sat and asked my team of inner advisors for a piece of advice, they offered me this wisdom that I share with you:

Find something of joy. In the next hour.

A new way to look at joy

I’ve often thought of joy as a state enlightened beings achieve, like happiness on steroids. Because I’m still in remedial enlightenment, I don’t have high hopes for achieving an ultimate state of bliss in this lifetime. I’m challenged by my ability to see the not-joy parts of the world around me (aka the suffering) even on the days when I’m feeling especially good. So how would I ever attain this perma-state of enhanced happiness?

One way I occasionally experience joy is when it runs into me. Joy sparkles in the wake of external victories: our team wins, the lottery calls our number, we win a contract or score a date, our child is born or our dog has puppies. Joy like this feels great, but it’s a gift that doesn’t last because it comes from outside. And big successes can’t just be conjured up when you need them.

What I needed was now access to joy I could find in the moment, joy that would get me out of my funk, out of my nightgown, and into the world (or at least the portion I felt well enough to be in).

I decided to concentrate on the suggested assignment and look for a moment of joy in the next hour. It wasn’t that hard. Soon, I progressed to looking for joy every fifteen minutes.

The process is remarkably easy. You just tell yourself you’re going to find a moment of joy and you find it. You take an inner snapshot of anything that awakens your sense of wonder, awe, magic, beauty or whatever turns you on. The moment only needs to last for a few seconds, just long enough for you to pause.

Because you’re not trying to achieve a state, you don’t have to deny that there’s tough stuff in the world. You can delight in the absolutely exquisite, orange mushroom that is growing beside the smelly garbage can.

 

Joy-hunting shifted my focus.

When I decided that the color royal blue brought a bit of joy to me, I began seeing royal blue everywhere. I had never noticed it was the color of our county’s recycling bins.

You see what you give your attention to.

On my joy-quest today, my first day I ventured outside the house, I found joy through:

  • a fascinating conversation with a stranger on the bus
  • gazing at Mt. Rainier set against a cloudless sky
  • watching my mother almost smile from her bed
  • feeling my thighs burn as I ran to catch the ferry
  • dreaming of puppies

and those were just a few of the many mini-moments.

Finding simple enJoyment in these moments didn’t have to be significant in any way. I was relieved of the pressure to make something meaningful out of them, or make sense of my life, decide whether an event was good or bad, or determine the direction of the world. Instead, the equation I used was much simpler: did something make me feel a hint of joy: yes or no?

I really recommend this as a practice, especially for those of us who need to occasionally claw our way out of the doldrums. I made it back to the land of the living, where perhaps I’ll start that process of visioning in a couple of days.

Now to you. I’ll give you fifteen minutes: Where will you find your moment of joy?

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