We do not have to die to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In fact we have to be fully alive.
Thich Naht Hahn, Touching Peace, 8
Joy: A Continual Feast
One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chödrön, writes:
Authentic joy is not a euphoric state or a feeling of being high.
Rather, it is a state of appreciation that allows us to participate fully in our lives.
The Places that Scare You, 79
Paul made this same connection. Most people are familiar with the line “the peace of God will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” but we should take a look at what surrounds that passage:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul connects the practice of living gently – with thanksgiving and peacefulness – with being joyful!
When you are filling your life with rejoicing, there’s no room left for worry or anxiety. You empty your life of that worry and anxiety in order to make room for gentleness and joy to fill your life, buoyed by thankful prayer.
And the result of living this kind of life? Deep, abiding peace moves in to guard your very soul.
Proverbs 15 declares that a “joyful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15b). A continual feast! That bounty is already all around us: in God’s presence, in the beauty of our world, in the pleasures of living. It is joy that opens up our eyes to live fully into that goodness.
Practices of Fullness
So how do we actually bring this kind of authentic presence into our daily lives?
Here are five practices I use to participate fully in my life. (Note: None of these will be surprising or at all original. But these are often suggested because they are indeed effective and helpful.)
Mindfulness – I took a mindfulness course recently, and I’ve been using some of the really basic practices learned there: a daily practice of mindful breathing, fostering compassion for myself and those around me, bringing awareness into my body and present experience, etc.
Running – Running has always been an important practice for me. It gives my brain time and space to relax, to just kind of float with me while I run the beautiful neighborhoods of the East Bay. Running also helps me balance my health and sleep better.
Journaling – I write, a lot. I try to also let myself draw when I feel led to, even though I’m not a very gifted visual artist. I write a lot of poetry, just to be able to express emotions that are holding me, so I can better move through them.
Gratitude – Nothing kills anxiety like a good gratitude list. This is a practice I’d like to grow more. Listing things – small or significant – for which I’m grateful is always calming and healing for me. (If you want to develop a practice of gratitude, check out Ann’s resources.)
Solitude – Because I’m someone who can easily fill up my life with other people’s feelings and words, I need to be sure to practice aloneness, so I become familiar with the ground of my own experience. Usually, this means prayer, worship, or hiking for me. I take the time to really ask myself what I need to relax, and then I make space for that activity to happen.
Share with us: what practices help you cultivate joy? How do you empty your life of anxiety and worry to make room for gentleness and joy? What does it mean to you to live fully?