Within you is a fountain of joy, within you is an ocean of bliss! – Swami Sivananda
While in Greece, we were invited to a local village dance. It was to be held in a nearby field, and we were fascinated to discover it started very late, about 11 p.m., lasting until the early hours of the morning. It was a beautiful moonlit night. The entire village was present: small children, lanky teenagers, grannies and old men clinging to walking sticks. What a wonderful sight! The violins played and the villagers danced. Joining together in circles or winding lines they danced, their voices merging together as they sang in response to the music. We were mesmerized, most especially when one of the teenagers, dressed in tight jeans with slicked back hair who had appeared completely disinterested, suddenly stepped into the middle and led one of the snake-like dances around the field, his eyes alight with great joy and laughter.
Beneath layers of insecurity, doubt, guilt, shame or fear, there is a natural reservoir of unconditional happiness
Joy is a beautiful word! It describes it exactly: delight, smiles, radiance, happiness! We feel joy when a baby smiles, when the sun shines after a rain, when we fulfill a passion such as playing music or, as Deb’s mother remembers, hear a wild bird sing. But there’s another, more profound and deeper joy that arises when we meditate. This joy isn’t something that comes through ideal circumstances, but occurs at a time of quiet and stillness. It arises from within us, which means it’s always there, albeit untapped. Beneath layers of uncertainty, insecurity, doubt, guilt, shame or fear, there is a natural reservoir of unconditional happiness; we discover that who we truly are inside is pure joy. It is awesome, even mind blowing, to realize that our authentic self is joyful, compassionate, loving, forgiving; that this is who we really are, and that these qualities arise naturally when we are in deep stillness.
Meditation has been researched extensively to show that it stimulates the part of our brain that responds compassionately to others, increasing kindness, generosity, and forgiveness, and that states are the outward expressions of our inner joy. Yet how often are we aware that we meditate in order to be happier and more joyful? Who would have believed this connection and yet there it is! Do you ever soften, surrender, get gentle and tender with yourself? Or do you grit your teeth with impatience and only sit as long as you can without moving, despite shoulders aching or feet going to sleep? Do you take time to be gentle and kind to yourself so that joy can show its smiling face? Joy is here, in every moment when we relax and breathe, available from the early morning to the middle of the night, no restrictions, no closing time, no sell-by date. Joy comes the moment you let go of resistance and open wide.
Can you tap into that source of joy deep inside?
By Ed & Deb Shapiro
Co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com