I recently posted about the importance of intentionally seeking out moments to be grateful and extend gratitude. Today, I want to discuss the idea of cultivating joy. What exactly does that mean? Let’s break the words down together…
The Merriam Webster definitions are:
Cultivate: 1: to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops; also: to loosen or break up the soil about (growing plants) 2 a: to foster the growth of b: to improve by labor, care, or study: refine 3: further, encourage 4: to seek the society of: make friends with.
Joy: 1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety 2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss 3 : a source or cause of delight
When I think of gardening or farming, I think about the disruption of stasis that is caused by cultivation. Previously protected, guarded, and hardened by the passing of time or from weathering, the ground is turned upside down. The soft and fertile innards of the soil are left out for all to see. However, this interruption opens the ground to growth and production. The image of my mother planting flowers with my children also comes to mind. Yaya had purchased multiple flats of flowers for her back yard. As they were taking the flowers out of the plastic trays each individual plant was growing in, Yaya explains to them that prior to re-potting they must gently break up the perfect square of soil to which the baby roots are clinging. This is so that the roots can be more open to latching on to the new soil and expanding beyond their previously protected, but limiting, square. The flower would not have chosen the disruption; it would have been content to exist in the small, safe square. But…the fact that this flower was taken from this limiting space and allowed to experience the vastness of the new pot means that the flower will have the chance to achieve a potential that could not have been possible with its previous circumstances.
What if our hearts are wrapped up in a similar manner? We have been nourished enough, adapted to our safe places, and weathered storms. We are fixed and in stasis. We are fine. We are safe. We get by each day. We do not need disruption.
But are we experiencing JOY? Are we delighting in each day? Have we cultivated our hearts, opening them up and preparing them to receive opportunities to find all that we desire?
Mindfulness can be vulnerable. Genuinely becoming aware of our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being (or lack thereof) is daunting and scary. It can feel like we are turned upside down and left opened up for all to see. But, I argue, that just existing is scarier.
Sometimes we have to break up the monotony of our daily routines and to do lists to find a more meaningful existence. Over a year ago, I found myself in a state of mind that allowed me to never check in with my body. I would be experiencing symptoms that could be explained by dehydration or lack of sleep and not even realize that my simple, basic needs were being neglected. I was closed off to new relationships. I was suspicious and guarded. And the most difficult pill to swallow is that I was UNAWARE of that state of being. I was caught up in the rat race of life and numbing with busyness. I was desperate for disruption. I needed to begin to CULTIVATE gratitude, joy, delight, friendships, my marriage, my motherhood. It all needed to be gently opened up to growth. I needed to foster the opportunity to possess the joy that I desired.
Status quo is comfortable…I so get it, but it’s also boring and bland. Life hardens us. I think about how full of bliss babies seem to be and then I think about the reality of life hardening us over time. Heartache, trauma, disappointments, grief, etc. create a durable exterior that feels like it could withstand any storm. But just like the earth, opening up our hearts, minds, and souls encourages and fosters LIFE.
In a previous post, I discussed Shauna Shapiro’s lecture stating “what you practice, grows stronger.” I also (OFTEN) refer to Brene Brown’s ideas of wholehearted living. Research shows that practicing mindfulness and living in gratitude fosters increased joy and compassion. We feel more connected when we open up. We feel in community when we speak up. We are more nourished when we remove the barriers that otherwise smother us. And when we practice this art of opening up often, it becomes more natural and easier…we become stronger despite the initial vulnerability required by this way of living.
Today, I encourage you to take a moment to think about your protective barriers. Are these preventing you from truly experiencing JOY, growing your roots, and embracing the potential that life offers? Loosen these barriers and get out of your limiting, plastic containers. Foster opportunities to breathe in happiness and be nourished by delight.
Mindfulness is a great practice that can aide in your journey towards cultivating joy. Mindfulness can create a level of awareness and understanding that allows you to take steps toward living a more wholehearted and joyful life. And I truly believe that we each deserve more than simply existing.
Peace, Love, and Laughter,