The Skill of Joy

After posting about positivity the other day, I went into a yoga class themed around joy. We read a passage about joy from Barbara Kingsolver, and then Keith, the teacher, talked about how joy is a skill. We practiced the skill in yoga by attempting to notice three things in 90 minutes that we thought glorious. At the end of the class we shared those “finds” with each other.

Another thing we did in class to discover joy was partner assists in different poses. We gave our partner a quick massage, but before we began, we silently said to ourselves, “I come in peace.” We also briefly meditated across from our partner, and were encouraged to notice something beautiful about them.

Once I got going, I noticed a lot of glorious things: the rich tones of Keith’s “om,” the clean wooden floor, the red curls of a woman named Anna, my own ability to put my foot in my hand and extend my leg (almost) all the way out, the excitement of discussing Kingsolver’s books with my classmates before we left to go home, and the beautiful skin of my partner.

Here is the Kingsolver passage, from High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never:

In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: a perfect outline of a dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with life again, like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.

I try to shut off the part of my mind that objects to the corniness of this passage and the practices in yoga, and keep looking for the joy. And as I sit down to my computer to start work for the day, I try to say I come in peace.

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2 responses to “The Skill of Joy

  1. What a thoughtful post. And way to relate yoga to your dissertation! And I am totally pumped that you can put your foot in your hand and almost extend your leg all the way out. (I know a special trick I can show you sometime to get your leg straight if you want.)

    Your post reminds me too of some of the anusara yoga philosophy I’ve been learning over the past few weeks in my yoga immersion. How dissatisfaction, fear, anger, boredom are all dust on the heart. But in order to clean the dust off our heart, we have to move closer to the dust. If we push away the dust, we also push away our heart, because the dust is *on* our heart.

    Another anusara yoga philosophy idea is that our nature is intrinsically good, but we are so free, we can choose to be out of alignment. So we have to practice realigning over and over so we can experience the *joy* of being in good alignment. Kind of sounds like practicing the skill of joy!

    I guess you could say that practicing joy sounds cheesy, but why do we think it isn’t cheesy to practice dissatisfaction or frustration? My experience is that the larger the project, the more we are forced to confront our own strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears. And to confront our own practice of dissatisfaction or frustration. The more need there is for us to mobilize the absolute best in us to bring it out into the world. And the greater the potential is for transformation. Even when feel like you’ve been grinding it out for-eh-vah.

    Basically, I think it’s really awesome that you are using your thesis to examine your own work habits on the deepest level.

  2. becomingdoctorjones

    Thanks for these thoughts. I am particularly struck by this one: “My experience is that the larger the project, the more we are forced to confront our own strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears. And to confront our own practice of dissatisfaction or frustration. ” So true!

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