Freeing Your Joy: Digging Up Hidden Happiness

Freeing Your Joy: Digging Up Hidden Happiness

The Union Path Podcast

"Freeing Your Joy: Digging Up Hidden Happiness"

Episode Transcript:

It's so easy, especially at mid-age, to take our joy hostage, to lock it down, to lock it away, to come to the conclusion that expressing joys frivolous, dangerous, irresponsible or, the very least, undesirable in some way, come to the conclusion that a lot of the problems in our life have been caused by us not being serious enough, us not being responsible enough, us being too frivolous, too flaky, not being thoughtful, not being intentional. It's the opposite of not being intentional isn't being rigidly serious. Those two are actually in conflict with one another, because as we become more serious, we become more closed off, we become more rigid in the ways that we do things, in the ways that we live, in the ways that we are, and that being closed isn't ideal either. It's one of those circumstances where the opposite of our problem isn't necessarily the ideal solution. In fact, just doing the opposite is often kind of a knee-jerk or clumsy approach to solve what we actually want to solve. Especially around mid-age, I think a lot of us find ourselves in this conflict, at this crossroads, of realize that our lives have become largely joyless, that our lives have redounded to responsibilities, duty, the management of what needs to be done, the checking off of checklists, the accomplishment of whatever task lies in front of us, being the reliable one, being the responsible one, being the one that gets things done, that makes things happen If we rewind the clock a little bit. A lot of times these behaviors are in response to mistakes that we made in our youth mistakes of misjudgment, mistakes of irresponsibility, mistakes of unconsciousness, mistakes of just not being very thoughtful or intentional about what we were doing, just kind of low-fingalong or floating along. And when calamity strikes, under those circumstances, the most obvious response can be to never do that again, to get way more responsible and way more serious. And obviously there's a lot of value in responsibility, there's value in seriousness.

One of the most important things we can ever do in our life is to become intentional, to live our life on purpose. That's why a lot of us start down the spiritual path from the first place, because we not only want to get to the root of what truth is, but we want to feel some amount of intentionality in our life. We want to steer our life in a different direction. We not only want to understand why our life is the way it is, but we want to understand how we can get to where we want to go that just effort alone doesn't seem enough, just hard work alone doesn't seem enough. There's something missing, something more fundamental, and typically that fundamental missing piece is intentionality, is living life with intention and make the argument that intention is at the root of all creativity. I'd also make the argument that creativity and spirituality are two words for the same thing.

But nonetheless, when we've built these habits of discipline, of duty, of seriousness, of rigorousness, a lot of times those habits can crowd out joy, passion, love, laughter. And especially when it comes to joy, I think we can all see, I think we can all acknowledge that joy is a necessary nutrient of a well-lived life. If we live a life short on joy, we live a life malnourished, and if we live in this state long enough, this can really cause us to harden. This can really cause us to double down on this responsibility and this seriousness. It can really cause us to close down even further, live life with more of a clenched fist, with a tighter grasp, with a more sense of urgency, with more of a sense of a direness that ultimately makes our lives pretty bleak. It also sets us up to be a little bit over-dramatic, to over-estimate, to exaggerate the seriousness and the ramifications and the risk of what we're doing, because it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy that the more we grip our life, the tighter we grip our life, the more serious that we take our life and the more serious we assume the ramifications of not doing so are. This is how we rationalize our behavior that whatever we're doing must be worth it. Because we're doing it so much, we're trying so hard, it seems to be just a natural thing that humans do. That's how we sustain and persist with what we're doing, as we rationalize it or justify it in some way. And sometimes, perhaps often, these rationalizations and justifications are true. But if it's just a simple explanation, if it's just one thing, often that truth isn't the whole truth. Life is more complicated than that. Life is more nuanced than that. Life is asking more of us than just to be one-dimensional, to be one-way. But more importantly, if we've decided that the key to a good life is perfect discipline, perfect seriousness, perfect responsibility, then we have crowded out in displaced joy. And I think, if we're honest, no one wants to live a joyless life.

In mid-age or so, I think a lot of us can find ourselves at this crossroads of really realizing what the absence of joy has done, what that approach, what that perspective, what that focus has wrought, and usually it's a life smaller than we'd like, more bleak than we'd like, more negative than we'd like and, more than anything, it just doesn't really feel real. These feel like thoughts, these feel like ideas that we've adopted, but it doesn't actually feel like a full life. And again, this was what can cause us to start walking down the spiritual path to begin with, is that internal feeling that we're missing something, we're missing out on something, we're living a truth that isn't the whole truth. We're living a life that isn't a whole life. There's a missing element, there's something not there. It's kind of like if we're eating food at a restaurant and we take a bite and it just doesn't taste right. It doesn't taste like how it should Like. This dish is missing salt. This dish is missing sugar. This dish is missing something fundamental to what it is, and that's life.

Fundamental to a good life is joy. A good life is meant to be enjoyed, and obviously that's not all life is. But the absence of joy has very specific and profound and affecting ramifications, and one of the most tragic aspects of a joyless life is realizing that we're the ones that have chosen to abandon joy. We're the ones that have chosen to lock our joy away. We are doing this to ourselves. That can be a really difficult realization to come to, really difficult truth to live with, but the beauty or the value of coming to that realization is we can become aware of the next truth that if we're the ones doing this to ourselves, we're the ones who can undo it. If we're the ones who've been holding our own joy captive, we're also the ones who can set our joy free. So if we look out into our life and realize that we live a largely joyless existence, that our life is really more about thought than it is about feeling, this is something we can do something about. This is an aspect to ourselves that we can liberate and express and reintegrate.

In fact, I think, especially in mid-age, the onus is on us to do exactly this. This feels like a part of this journey. It feels like a part of this transition that naturally happens at mid-age Is okay, well, we were one way in our youth. We were another way in our early adulthood. We become yet another way in our mid-adulthood. What's next? How do we integrate all of those three to find an optimal fourth way to be. How do we step in to this fourth cycle? How do we live as the fourth version of ourselves as fully as possible? How do we live our best fourth life?

Well, I would make the argument, I'm of the opinion, that we live our best life wholly, we live our best life and we live with high integrity. And I think it's really interesting to think about the similarity between the word integrity and integrate it. That inherent in the word integrity is an idea of wholeness. I think that's really interesting. That might just be a cheap trick of language, but for me the meaning of that feels deeper, feels more profound. But the very least it's an interesting thought experiment to undertake is what is a high integrity life? Look to me in terms of my own integration, in terms of my own wholeness, not only my own wholeness within myself, but my own wholeness in my expression, in my doing, in my being, in my living of my life. I'd put it another way by looking at my life, and it's not quite what I want If there's just this subtle yet persistent underlying dissatisfaction. But I don't really feel very happy, I don't really feel very good, I don't really feel very secure, I don't really feel very whole.

Well, what's missing, if it's not obvious? Inquire after this. Go into yourself, go into the various aspects of your body and see where you might be out of touch with yourself. You feel completely out of touch and integrated with your mind. How about your heart? How about your solar plexus or your gut? How about your root? Where do you feel disconnected from? Or to put it another way, if you think about exploring down within your body and you imagine a golden light descending down from above your head, down through your skull and into your body and all the way down to the ground, where does that light get stuck? Does it bend, does it refract or does it just stop at certain places? When you feel your insides, all the way down from top to bottom? And if you can't, what have you lost touch with? What aspect of yourself have you abandoned? Have you ignored? Has been orphaned, has been sequestered off, has been sent into exile, has been held captive under lock and key? Is it all useful and worthwhile questions, and if you find that one of those areas is your heart you can't really feel your heart as much as you'd like then I think it's interesting to inquire after that.

How are you not living a heart-centered life? How has your existence, your doing, your being gone away from your heart, been centered too much in your head, too much in thought, too much in logic, too much in habit, too much in routine? Or perhaps you find a disconnection with your gut area, with your solar plexus? How have you gotten disconnected from your own intuition, from your own instincts? Have you been just following what other people do, listening to what other people say, repeating the same habits over and over and over again? Because this is just what you do? In what way is your life in conflict or in ignorance with your own intuition, with your own knowing? Or perhaps you've gotten disconnected with your head, with your mind? Is there irrationality in your life? Is there chaos in your life? Does your life make sense? Do you have thinking? Do you have mind integrated with your life and your life experience? If you explore within, is there another aspect of yourself that's been missing, that's been silenced, that's been ignored, that's not integrated?

It's worthwhile to explore after this and if you find such an aspect of yourself, do something about it, find it back in, reintegrate, become whole, become complete. And if, through this exercise, you realize that you've abandoned joy, that you live a largely joyless existence, with the very least. Joy is at the very very bottom of any priority list. Maybe see what happens if you change that, if you shake that up. What would your life be like if you actually had some joy, if you actually enjoyed your life, if you actually had some fun, if you allowed yourself to have fun, if you allowed yourself to experience joy, how would things be different?

And if you find your life largely joyless, why do you think you packed that away in the first place? Could it be that you've come to some conclusions that aren't necessarily entirely true or correct? Were you coached into doing this by someone else? Perhaps someone who is even well-meaning, trying to protect you from the heartbreak of living a heart-centered life? But a good life is not lived by hiding our hearts away. It's not lived by hiding any fundamental aspect of ourselves away. A good life includes heartbreak, includes disappointment, includes pain, because the more we separate ourselves and try to protect ourselves from pain, the more we separate ourselves from its opposite. Like if we're looking for some sort of investment. There's no such thing as an investment that doesn't require some sort of risk, and it's our job to find the investments that match what risk we can live with with seizing the opportunity to actually have what we want. That's worth it because, ultimately, we're the only ones who can free ourselves.

No matter how much we believe our freedom is predicated on the decisions and actions of someone else or on the alignment of a certain set of circumstances. These are just ideas that we've adopted. These are beliefs that we've had. These are ideas that we've chosen to believe in, and we can choose to believe in something else. We can change our mind. We can prove ourselves wrong, because even if we become liberated by some external circumstance, there's two things wrong with that, or two things faulty with that idea. One, that thing didn't actually free us. We freed ourselves. And two, that was something we chose to believe in, so that freedom we actually created ourselves because of the satisfaction of something we decided to believe. We're the ones doing it. We're the ones drawing these boundaries, we're the ones setting up these expectations. We're the ones setting up these qualifications, these criteria, and we can believe in whatever we want. We can liberate and set ourselves free whenever we want, and one of the best things we can free if we've been holding it hostage or captive is our own joy. It only makes our life better. It makes the lives of people we interact with better too.

Nobody really wants to be in relationship with a sourpus Someone just venting their curmudgeonry, their pessimism, their negativity on anything and anyone around them. Isn't that much of a good time, isn't that fun to be around? Or is it? Someone who's joyous and jubilant and buoyant and positive Is good to be around and we don't have to throw all of our learning, all of our discernment, all of our knowing out the window. We can integrate that as well Our positivity, our jubilance, our luminance. It makes sense, it could be based in reality. We can be happy because we have a lot of things to be happy about. We can be joyous because there's a lot of joy in our life. There's a lot to be joyful about. A dire seriousness is not our most evolved state? Our most evolved state is the most integrated one, that integrates all aspects of ourselves, including and especially joy.

In American culture, joy is something that gets undervalued and thrown away so easily. But what is a good life anyway? Because I think, ultimately, if we've pursued goals and ideas about achievement for ourselves and we accomplished those things, is all of that really as good as we ever thought it was? Or is there always something more? With every goal achieved, there's just another goal beyond that. If we make $100, now we want $1,000. If we make $1,000, now we want $10,000. On and on, and on, and on it goes. There's no end to it, because we've just made this up and a satisfaction is really more about the more than it is about the specific achievement. Is there something deeper, is there something more fundamental going on? Or even if we are satisfied with our achievements? Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. Achieving things is great. But is that satisfaction, joy? Is that what we're experiencing? And how have we limited our life? By only allowing ourselves to experience joy through achievement?

Through our own narrow lanes, we built guard rails on our life saying this joy is good and all other joy is either bad or invalid. Maybe we can question that a bit. Maybe those ideas aren't as factual, as absolutely correct as we think they are. Maybe life gives us more opportunities for joy than we're aware of. Maybe we could be living a more joyful life right now, today, if we allowed ourselves to. Wouldn't that be awesome? What can we? Are we seizing opportunities for joy? Are we expressing joy when we have the opportunity, when life delivers us the opportunity and the privilege, to be joyful. Are we seizing that or do we let it float on by? We can allow ourselves to be joyful when all of our work is done. We can allow ourselves to be joyful when all of our responsibilities are taken care of.

It's important to question our own ideas. It's important to question our own boundaries. It's important to question the limitations that we place on ourselves and ask ourselves does this actually serve me? Are these limitations actually a good idea? Is this actually helpful, or have I just artificially limited my life in some way? That's actually a detriment. We're the only ones who can ever know. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to be aware we have to actually question our own rules. We have to actually question and be critical of our own ways of being, because, ultimately, we're the ones who are responsible. We're the ones who are responsible for our own life and the quality of our own life, and we have the opportunity and the responsibility to choose to choose what matters, to choose what we do, to choose our own expression, to choose our own life.

And we can choose to live a life in wholeness by integrating all aspects of ourselves and if we've jettisoned or sequestered away the joyful part of ourselves, well, now we have the great opportunity to invite that aspect of ourselves back, be able to be more joyful, to experience more joy, to have a more joyful life, because we allow ourselves to, we express joy and thus we experience joy. And we can be joyful while being responsible, we can be joyful while being serious. We can learn to be a more well-rounded, a more whole person by integrating all aspects of ourselves, by using our experience, our discernment, our knowing, our learning, along with the feeling and intuitive aspects of ourselves. Every aspect of ourselves has value, every aspect of ourselves is part of ourselves, and we live the best life when we live it through and with our whole selves, our whole being. And we can choose to be more joyful now. We can choose to value joy, we can choose to be joy. We can choose to live a joyful, heart-centered life whenever we wish.

And if our life has gotten bleak and overly serious, overly disciplined, overly responsible, that could be exactly what we need, that could be exactly what the doctor ordered, that could be how we are out of balance and that the life we're looking for is a life lived in balance that balances all aspects of ourselves, both in our being as well as in our expression, and we're the ones that have to do this work. We're the ones that have to do this integration work. We're the ones who choose our own expression, and so we're the ones who can choose to do this whenever we wish, and we can choose to express and live through our whole selves, to live a high integrity life, to live a highly integrated life.

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