"Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation." ~Andre Gide
Joy is, in many ways, love’s twin flame. It occurs on the receiving side of love, whether it be romantic intrigue, family relations or just the full body experience of loving life. Joy is the byproduct of feeling loved and lovable that lifts us out of the daily conundrum, making us more resilient and hopeful. And yet, joy remains one of the most rare and difficult emotions for most of us, in part because we are trained givers, but inexperienced receivers. Like good sex, we think that joy is something that just happens, something that we should be swept up in, something beyond our control. Or somehow if we work towards it, planning time and strategizing to make it happen, it is somehow a less worthy experience.
In fact, joy, like love, is the grace that follows the hard work of opening our hearts. Which incidentally is also true about consistently good sex; it’s not an accident, it is the reward for work well done. Here is a short list that has taught me about the work of receiving, which is the necessary preparation for our highest emotions. We should feel obliged to belong to these emotional states, as these higher emotions are the ones that help us evolve into our best selves. While, sadness, anger and fear have a lot to teach, it is easy for these emotions to become imprinted on us, becoming our first and primary filter of our awareness. That is one of the reasons it takes so much effort to open to joy, for many of us, it is unfamiliar territory.
Here is a short list to the 3-step process for embracing more joy, love, and great sex:
1. Reconcile yourself to your own intrinsic worthiness. I had a friend for a long time who often drove me to serious bouts of envy. At first glance it might have been her wealthy lifestyle, or seemingly effortless marriage, or her devoted loving mother and sister… There were a lot of stories I told to justify my feelings of jealousy that poisoned our relationship and made it difficult for me to feel happy for her happiness. But in retrospect, what I was most envious about was her remarkable capacity for joy. She saw goodness everywhere around her. Wild animals were drawn to her side. She laughed and snorted freely at things that I barely perceived. She was a great teacher to me because she was miles ahead of me in understanding her intrinsic worthiness in life. At the time, I attributed all of her joy to the happy circumstances of her life, but I didn’t understand how the joy was actually generating the gifts life kept sending her way.
“Joy remains one of the most rare and difficult emotions for most of us, in part because we are trained givers, but inexperienced receivers.”
I share this story because unworthiness often shows up masquerading as judgment and jealousy over someone else’s good fortune. Having spent years in that misperception I just want to say two things: it doesn’t get you closer to what you want most, which is the joy of knowing your own worth; and it is a potent poison for the relationships you care about.
2. Build a visceral vocabulary of gratitude. I have been dedicating a lot of my time in 2015 to training in a variety of spiritual healing techniques and, perhaps the most important lesson I have learned throughout, is how many forms of healing are actually prayers (asking) to channel gratitude.
The experience of gratefulness is actually a visceral one, it isn’t just something you think, and it is a feeling as distinct as sadness. And yet, not growing up with this most essential aspect of receiving, I had no idea what it felt like or even how to conjure it. Even vocalizing thank you's often left me feeling hollow. Healing yourself or anyone else is a form of gratitude. It recognizes all the energetic forces continuously at work on your behalf to both release old painful programs and to generate a life of your dreams. Gratitude is there for the asking, and the more you do it, the more ways you learn to do it, the wider your capacity to ask and receive becomes. It gets so easy that every thought could begin with thanks. I heard a story about a woman who was being trained as a healer who disparagingly exclaimed, "This is nothing more than prayer!" Indeed, asking to gratefully receive is the prayer that opens the door to joy.
“Surrendering our control over the outcome is at once an act of faith and a burden lifted.”
Surrender control over outcomes. I am all about to-do lists and having a clear vision for the future I am working towards creating. These are powerful practices that guide our daily, even hourly choices, helping to stay focused on where we are headed. Yet, it is easy and all too frequent to confuse this work of self-direction and accountability with the nervous habit of trying to make things turn out the way you want. Offering your efforts to your work, your relationships and your goals is an act of generosity. It doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles and detours; in fact, working out the problems and the kinks is the active part of setting goals.
Getting hung up on controlling how things work out or, worse still, how other people feel about how things are working out, is a dead end to joy. It moves you further away from the things you are trying to get done, as well as the people you are doing it with. Surrendering our control over the outcome is at once an act of faith and a burden lifted. It might not work, or at least maybe not the way you thought it would. Joy is there when it doesn’t matter how it works.
By the way, all of these steps can easily be applied to a stalled sex life. Joy in sexual form is orgasm, so it is very easy to spot.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can follow her on Google+