My family has chosen “Joy” as the theme of our last week of Advent (even though it really doesn’t matter). For years my intention in practicing Yoga was to find, manifest, exude, realize “my true nature,” Contentment. And then one day on my first silent retreat, which happened to fall into the virtual zoom world of the 2020 pandemic lockdown, I had a realization – maybe I should be going for Joy. Seems crazy, but in my efforts toward living a contented life, I had employed non-attachment to the degree that (maybe) I had (unwittingly) crossed joy off the list.
Joy Isn’t Bad
Not that I had already experienced enough joy and so I didn’t need to experience it anymore, but that it had become a thing I thought I didn’t need because I was content. (Such an interesting turn of events!) It’s possible that aspiring to a joyful life can seem indulgent, privileged, or naïve, so, not necessarily a “good thing.” However, during a period of journaling on that silent retreat, it occurred to me that perhaps I was selling myself short, barring myself from some real sweet moments. It was like – Hey, why not Joy?!
I think it’s in the striving that I get caught. When I effort after everything, that’s when I get tired. This includes the “good stuff,” like contentment, children laughing, time for rest and being together. When I allow life’s moments to come to me, and I experience them without judgement to the degree that I’m able, there’s a peacefulness present regardless of the negative or positive flavor of what’s happening. The peace is there because I’m not striving or “efforting,” willing everything to go the way I think I want it to go.
A Spectrum of Emotion
As an observation, I don’t strive toward despair or “alone-ness,” and yet these emotions come my way. I practice non-attachment for a little space between myself and them and as a way back toward balance. So, why don’t I let joy come the same way, and instead of using non-attachment to create separation, I use a little savoring to create union? As human beings we are able to experience a full range of emotions to varying degrees, so I might as well embrace the good ones and let them make a lasting imprint. I can choose when to employ non-attachment and when not to, right?
To round out this Advent season (though I feel myself wishing for just a few more days, just a few more days!), and to usher in a celebration of our divine-human nature, consider being “extravagant.” Here are some questions for self-inquiry. Use them if they seem supportive. Skip them if not!
- What positive emotions seem elusive?
- Which do you shy away from?
- Has your focus been on contentment or somewhere else?
- What are you tired of striving after?
The “Yoga” Practice Part
- How does this show up in your yoga practice?
- What are you tired of practicing?
- Are there postures you don’t spend time in even though you’d love to savor them?
- Are there breathing practices that really feel sweet but you don’t make them a priority?
Note what your inquiry reveals to you; then, instead of striving after whatever you’ve noticed, let it come to you with any amount of peacefulness.
Happy Practicing (a little, a lot, in new ways, and in old),
The Universal Yogi