“Joy to the World”.
It’s a phrase that gets a lot of play this time of year, but what does it really mean? From the way it’s represented in popular culture, “joy” seems to be referring to a kind of giddy, superficial happiness that comes from buying a new sweater at the Gap or wrapping your hands around a single-use 20oz. disposable cup of Ginger Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks.
I’ve been contemplating the word joy lately and I’ve come to understand it as a kind of undifferentiated love — one that isn’t specific to any particular individual, thing or deity, but rather a whole-hearted love of Life itself that includes all aspects of existence — including all the less loveable bits like death, taxes and Donald Trump.
We can connect to this all-encompassing joy by connecting to our own feeling of “aliveness” by engaging in a breath-centered yoga practice. The enhanced feeling of vitality that deep, conscious breathing and slow, mindful movement cultivates delivers us to the very essence of being alive in this body.
On those mornings where everything comes together in just the right way in my practice, I’m often overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for this body, breath and mind that allows me to experience all that life has to offer, whether it’s “good” or “bad”.
When I touch this deep joy that arises from the heart, I can see that even the hard-to-love stuff is an essential part of this beautiful, crazy life because it helps me appreciate the easy-to-love stuff and not take it for granted, and it helps me take it all with a greater sense of equanimity. The outward expression is that staying connected to joy grounds all my actions and interactions in love and compassion and promotes peace.
When we chant “OM shanti, shanti, shanti”, it reminds us that when we connect with our sense of inner peace, it naturally leads to more peace in our relationships with our immediate family and community which leads to a more peaceful world. This is very much the spirit of what Jesus meant when he implored us to love our neighbour as our self. If we’re to truly love another we need to first love ourselves, and for that we need to accept and embrace the easily loveable and not-so-easily loveable parts of our self.
So, this holiday season I wish you much Joy and Peace, and may it begin with loving your self.
Om shanti, shanti, shantihi!