2020, 2021! <Sigh>
It feels like this will go down as the longest year in our lifetime. We’re certainly having experiences we’ve never had before and hopefully will never have again once we get through this markedly unique time.
Cultivating joy and reconnecting with our inner spirit has been swirling around in my mind. And, how do we reconnect to our inner joy despite the challenges we experience in our daily lives?
These are the questions that have come up as I’ve been thinking more about Joy – especially during this holiday season – and also while reflecting on this year.
To be honest, I think about joy quite often.
Am I cultivating joy each day – at least in some way? What can I do to be in a joyful state more often? Is it possible to cultivate joy and feel joyful despite the chaos around me? I’m sure you have some of your own questions about joy and more importantly, how to tap into the feeling of joy, reconnect to your inner spirit and the joy that you know is within you.
This is what we’ll explore here along with some tips on cultivating joy, and yes, reconnecting to our inner spirit.
Let’s begin here – What is Joy?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.
I liked that positive definition and still wanted to dig a bit deeper.
So, to that end, and since I’m not an expert in cultivating joy (remember, I’m seeking to reconnect to joy too) – I reached out to some of my favorite people – those that have experience in helping others connect to their inner spirit and joy.
Anne Parker was my go-to specialist while at Miraval in Tucson, AZ, so I posed some questions starting with her definition of Joy.
According to Anne, “The definition of joy that I use is the Greek word eudaimonia which literally means “good spirit” (eu = good, daimon = spirit). Aristotle described eudaimonia as “flourishing”. This kind of joy is cultivated from within and, though it can be influenced by the external, it is not dependent on the external. So this is the key difference between what we call joy and what we call happiness.”
In addition to connecting with Anne Parker, I also connected with another go-to wellness resort and my contacts at VeraVia. This is what Stephanie Zito, VeraVia Wellness Coach & Yoga Instructor, shared with me.
According to Stephanie, “The first step is to recognize that happiness is an emotion. It can shift and change – but joy is a state of being! Joy is who we are at our core. We find joy when we connect with our true selves. Sometimes we can forget this when we get wrapped up in stress and in taking care of everyone else but ourselves.”
Now that we have a better understanding and a knowing that Joy is truly within us, let’s move on to some tips in cultivating joy and reconnecting to that part of ourselves.
Some of the things that I thought about as a way of cultivating joy that I shared with Anne have to do with being mindful of activities we like such as art, music, drumming, coloring/mandalas, adding color to our lives (something Anne Parker suggested to me a few years ago), and cooking (especially baking in 2020). Meditation and sitting quietly and reconnecting to our inner self vs always being on the move would be helpful along with breathwork and yoga. A gratitude journal, too.
Again, I’m still seeking Joy so let’s hear more from the experts.
Anne shared, “Cultivating joy is partly about engaging with what we enjoy as you also mentioned. It is also about engaging in what is most meaningful to you. This can be in outer expressions such as giving service, acts of kindness. It can also be in personal ways such as savoring sense pleasures – luxuriating in the present, allowing space for small adventures and explorations, allowing yourself to release the inner struggle (whatever that may be about), allow yourself to rest in paradox rather then trying to resolve the unresolvable, making sure you are connecting to “the greater” (which is what I call the spiritual energies).
Mostly it’s about being clear on what’s truly important and making those things your focus in the midst of the craziness of life.”
Here are Stephanie’s Top 5 Tips to connect with our inner joy.
1. Take a moment to just be. Stop what you are doing. Breathe.
2. Find something small that makes you smile, something where you feel that inner spark or glow!
3. Connect with your inner gifts and talents.
4. Find one thing you can do to express this inner gift or talent.
5. And as we move into the holiday season, perhaps even share your talent with someone. Gift yourself the time to explore a hobby that gives you joy, like cooking, writing, painting, etc. Consider sharing that gift with someone, even if your gift is connecting with others and making someone laugh – Gift your talent to a friend or loved one.
As we give of ourselves and share our inner spark, our inner joy grows as it touches others too.” – Stephanie Zito
According to Stephanie, “As we tap into our inner spark, as we do something that lights up our talents and as we share it, our joy grows like a ripple within us and out into the world.”
Holly Richelle, VeraVia’s Yoga and Mindfulness Instructor, shared more about our emotional response to stress, which could hinder reconnecting with our inner spirit and joy.
According to Holly, “The fight or flight function of the nervous system dates back to our early ancestors. Sensitivity to stress responses, like worry, anxiety or fear, was essential for responding to real, immediate threats to survival.
Today, emotional stress responses still enter the physical realm through the release of hormones, like adrenaline, and the other systems of the body respond the same way they did for early humans. The heart rate speeds to direct circulation to the extremities. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow in preparation to engage with a threat or flee. The difference is that the modern human body may not be reacting to real, imminent threats, but to an overstimulating environment. We can become “stuck” in fight or flight mode.”
Here is Holly’s Breathwork Practice for reconnecting with your inner spirit during stressful times:
Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit.
Close your eyes. Begin to observe your breathing. If it helps, place both hands on the lower abdomen or one on the belly and one on the chest. Observe the rise and fall of the belly and the expansion in all four directions of the rib cage. Allow the breathing to slow and deepen in its own time. The shift from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system begins in less than 10 breaths.
A sigh is generally not an instinctive human response to a genuine fight or flight situation. Rather, a long, full exhale like that signals safety and contentment. Count the length of a full, comfortable inhale for you, still breathing to the belly (actually to the diaphragm). Now, make the exhale one count longer. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths or as long as you like. To conclude, allow the breathing to return to its natural rhythm, keeping the eyes closed.
Pause to notice how you feel. More content. Peaceful. Joyful.
In addition to Anne, Stephanie, and Holly, I also connected with Eileen Patra. Eileen is an ordained Unity minister, inspirational speaker, and the author of The Mystical Ark: A Vessel of Blessings, released in July 2019.
I seek Rev. Eileen’s counsel from time to time because of her calming and spiritual nature and she shared the following.
Joy is like a fountain. It is not something we receive, but something we stand in that flows continuously through us. It is best experienced by releasing, allowing, and sharing.”
– Rev. Eileen Patra
Let that sink in. Feel the emotion of standing in the flow of joy.
In conclusion, my hope is that you will explore and practice some of these tips to reconnect to your inner spirit and joy. As a side note, I was also mindful of several tips in this piece. For example, I found joy while baking. It isn’t something I typically do, but I made a greater effort to reconnect with a part of me that had been dormant and I found joy in baking and giving to others.
I will leave you with this final mindful message from Eileen Patra.
“One way to live more fully in the flow of joy is to bring one’s attention inward. Then, release thoughts of anything that inhibits the flow, allow the energy of joy to expand within you, and then share that joy with others – either energetically or through the act of giving.”
May you reconnect with your inner spirit this holiday season and always be mindful of cultivating joy. ✨