“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
After quite an intense month of introspection, hard decisions and transition, I am pleased to say that I feel that intensity slipping away while my more joyful self is dancing her way back up to the surface. The change of late has been really positive, just fairly intense, and I feel like I have been very serious (aka boring) as I do this dedicated and somewhat solitary “self-work.”
Part of the reason I have taken up yoga and meditation again is to allow myself a break from all the mind’s noise and try to center myself a bit. I am pretty crap at meditation, I must admit. I can last about 20 seconds before a thousand thoughts swirl through my head. I try the cloud theory that people keep telling me about, where you focus on an imaginary sky and whenever a thought happens, rather than try to escape it, you see it as a cloud floating by and then return to an empty canvas again. This unfortunately does not work for me. The clouds take shapes and remind me of more thoughts and stories. What does seem to work, however, are mantras. I do not have a great memory for Sanskrit, so I usually make up simple words or phrases in English and just repeat those over and over again, silently to myself. I find I can ignore my thoughts longer doing that.
After writing the post about my gut feelings last week, and subsequent belly and heart issues which led me to go to the doctor to make sure there was not actually something wrong with me, I took a week off of all exercise and yoga. I was afraid of making my oddly palpating heart overwork in an already irregular state. But once I realized that it was probably my nerves making me feel bad, I decided that yoga would probably help and decided to go to class. And I am so glad that I did.
Often at the beginning of class my yoga teacher asks us to make dedications of that day’s practice to someone we know. I sometimes pick family or friends randomly, but last Thursday it was a purposeful decision to dedicate the class to my good friend’s mom who passed away the day before. Her name was Joy. I have such fond and silly memories of her growing up, she was such a sweet and generous woman.
Inspired by the dedication to her during that class, I naturally and somewhat organically began chanting her name in my mind throughout the class. As the breathing was long and slow and calm, so was her named stretched and emphasized. Jooooooooooy. Jooooooooooy.
By the time class was over, all I felt was pure, genuine joy.
Later in the evening I was blasting music and dancing around my house cleaning, in my underwear. Which is usually what I do when I am feeling pretty good. I was hungry, and made a big meal – no belly ache or heart burn. And when it was time to go to bed, I found that my irregular breathing and heartbeats were steady, and well, just back to normal. And I slept through the night like a baby.
The following day at work I could not stop giggling, and in the evening I went out with some girlfriends for dinner. After making some inappropriate remarks, Natascha rejoiced and sang out, “Yes! Regan is back!” Following dinner, after getting denied entrance to a concert for lack of proper identification, the idea to funky chicken dance bomb some posh clubs came to mind, and we spent the rest of the night trying to make very serious people laugh along with us.
Days later, I am still feeling back to my normal self. Full of joy. Pure silliness. I really think that the dedication to my friend’s mom made some radical change inside of me. Perhaps it resonated, as I too lost a parent too early to cancer. And when this happened, at least for me, I really learned the fragility of life, the beauty of actually being alive. It is certainly a cause for joy and I want to make the most of it. I think there was also something about spending an hour and a half chanting the name “Joy” over and over again that seeped into my bones and shook me.
I enjoy my moments of reflection, and I think it is important to have these quieter moments from time to time. But when my body’s response tells me it is time to lighten up, then I need to. The past few days I have felt great, I am completely back to my silly, giggly self. It is all about balance, finding that healthy space between taking yourself seriously and at the same time realizing that life is just too precious to not live in silly fits of joy.
Thank you, Joy. For the generosity you shared with all of us during your life. And for reminding me to keep the joy alive.