A few things have come together for me this past month and created the deepest sense of peace and contentment that I have felt for some time. I'll be honest I've felt fucking amazing. To the point that I started to feel like a bit of a twat when people asked me how I was.
The British part of me felt I was breaking the code of conduct if I didn't add a bit of a moan onto the end or minimise my joy with a 'but...' and not in the Kiwi sense of the word.
What a strange fucking culture we live in, a culture whose entire social etiquette is built on the foundations of moaning, groaning and practicing the pathway to sadness and apathy. Of course not everyone joins in with this but it's kind of expected. And I'll be honest sometimes it feels bloody good and can be bonding (misery loves company and all that).
So I caught myself and I let myself have and express the joy I was experiencing. I started practicing the pathways of joy.
And this idea is something that seeped into my mind in the forest a few weeks ago now. I was reminded of the importance of practicing joy as a nervous system support and a medicine.
Yes, it's important to feel all the feels but there's a line to tread. That of letting feelings flow but knowing when it's a helpful release and when it's an unhelpful reinforcement.
Our problem solving animal minds are well adapted to seeking out solutions to problems and this has given us the negative bias we're all familiar with which means that it takes work to notice the joy over the sadness, it takes work to see the beauty and the goodness in the world and somedays it's easier than others (hello day 9 rose tinted oestrogen glasses!).
I know I can definitely find myself slipping into a reinforcement of learned patterns of depression, melancholy and trauma responses (Kurt Cobain's words ring loudly in my ears whenever I catch myself doing this - 'I miss the comfort in being sad') and I have to work to switch rails and consciously take the train to joy town. I might not get to the final destination but I'll ride the rails as far as they take me and learn the route along the way
'I miss the comfort in being sad' ~ Kurt Cobain
I feel a lot of joy sure but I'm not as highly trained at staying with it as I am with sadness or depression. So interesting that we use the term 'wallowing' when speaking of being low yet I'm not sure we have an opposite when speaking of being good. This came up in one of my Menstrual Mentoring sessions recently with one of my favourite wise wild women and she suggested 'bathing' in joy and THIS I love!
Bathing in joy is a medicine, not an easy and effortless one sure, but medicine nonetheless.
Joy is a nervous system support, a medicine and a healer. It helps us to stop practicing hopelessness, reinforcement and re-traumatisation as we uncover and integrate our traumas and life experiences and keeps us bolstered and resilient.
'Sometimes it's not about breaking down walls but standing before them with wildflowers, a breathless payer and a sweaty dance.' ~ Tanya Markul
But this process can't be forced or rushed. That would be the equivalent of the MOST ANNOYING THING IN THE WORLD:
'Smile love, it might never happen'
We've all been on the receiving end of that and it does NOTHING to support a smile and everything to support a burning rage.
But there's for sure something in the Thich Nhat Hanh line:
'Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy'. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
And it's important to remember that it's possible to feel joy even in the depths of grief.
‘The practice of Yoga Nidra will not create joy. Joy is already inside you, waiting to be released. Joy exists independently from any other state of your mind or body. Joy exists without a reason. Joy just is. Like your ability to learn a language or to love another human being, joy is a natural capacity that’s yours at birth. That joy is your birth rite explains why, even in the midst of pain and suffering, loss and grief, sadness and depression, you can still feel joy. Joy is always present, waiting to be experienced in the midst of what is, no matter what is.’ ~ Richard Miller
It's a thin line though, like most things in life. I remember being told to smile in a yoga class once, as a way of indicating to my nervous system that I was having a good time. It makes logical sense but I was in a bad place at the time and I was like, do you even KNOW how I feel right now?! Haha.
Always defiant and rebellious (and a bit dramatic). And if you're here, you're probably a bit defiant and rebellious too. We disobedient types tend to find each other. So know, I'm never telling you to do anything. I'm only ever sharing my experience. So if you don't feel like smiling... don't do it.
JOY AS A PRACTICE
I first learned about 'bathing' in joy when I started practicing Yoga Nidra and was introduced to the 'joy' or 'bliss' stage. I remember balling my eyes out as I remembered what it was to feel joy and as I discovered that I could feel joy in the midst of grief and depression that had previously felt all prevailing and all encompassing.
And that is (amongst other things) why the practice of Yoga Nidra (in the form of iRest) has been SO successful at integrating trauma.
I have crafted a practice for you to support your 'bathing' in joy, which explores this stage in a little more depth than usual. You can access this practice on my Patreon.
Joy is our birth rite and we deserve to feel it, express it and bathe in it as it arises and to learn to cultivate it by regularly heading towards our particular flavour of joy and building the robust neural pathways to take us there.
Lots of love,