I have come to a brief and natural pause in the intense work of the last few months.  Two enormous and important projects that have occupied my desk have finally been completed.  Art & Soul in Portland beckons in a couple of days.  For a moment, I am resting back in my chair, a sense of intense satisfaction filling me.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

I have been toying with two or three different blog posts for this week and find my thoughts returning again and again to one subject:  Joy.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘joy’ as:

a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight
b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety
c : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
d : a source or cause of delight
I have had an opportunity to observe the course of joy through my life and through my spirit of late.  I wrote recently about an important process of change I had undergone, or rather a transformation of thoughts that freed me from alot of expectation, both from others’ and from my own.  In preparation for writing today’s blog post, I took some time to revisit my posts of the last year or so.  An unexpected pattern jumps out at me and confirms my suspicions.  What I can see with clear hindsight is an emergence of joy.  Joy of life.  Joy of spirit.  Joy in living.  Joy in relationships.  Joy in the work of my hands.  Joy in the service to my community.  Joy in the work of my spirit.  Setbacks seem often to be transmuted into joy in my mind.  How did this come about?
We all have periods of trial in our lives, some thankfully brief, others deeper or more intense or requiring more healing.  I have experienced my share of those, and the last six years have been some of the most trying I have ever experienced.  I have at times over those years felt lost in a foggy world.  Emergence took longer, but it still came.  And with emergence came a return of joy.
I must admit, I have not tended to see myself this way, and so this has come as something of a surprise to me.  I mean that I have not recognised my own propensity for joyousness.  I have always put my ability to ‘bounce back’ down to resilience and doggedness, the terrier strain in me.  And yet, in recent times, a dawning awareness has crept upon me, and I have begun to recognise the underlying emotion beneath the resilience.  It is a deep well of joyousness.  And it has always been there.   And I have begun to see that it is my natural state of being.
When I wrote about the thought transformation I had recently undergone, the firming of boundaries and the release from expectation, I had no idea then quite how profound the effect of that transformation would be.  Eckhart Tolle spoke about this in his book, “The Power of Now”:
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thought about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.
Looking beyond myself and my own surprise, I see that the release from expectation has been a complete release.  Not just from their expectations of me, or from my expectations of myself, but fundamentally and primally – a release from my expectations of them.   That is the tie that has bound me.  By relinquishing at last all of the ‘shoulds’ from my own mind, the fog has lifted perhaps genuinely for the first time in my life.  It has cleared my vision and opened my eyes and my heart to the joy that resides there, and to the joy in others there is to respond to.

And so, I turned my eyes toward the presence of joy in the wider world.  I look at the people I am so lucky to have in my life, and I can suddenly and clearly see the glow within them that is their own capacity for joy.  And I can just as suddenly see how fundamentally I respond to the presence of a corresponding wellspring in them.  What a wonderful foundation for friendship!  One of the greatest and most lasting gifts this life has given has been the opportunity to connect on a deeply meaningful level with the friends, family, colleagues, students, teachers, artists who fill my life.  I see these relationships differently now.  I can see so clearly the common thing that bonds us.  I look at the work I do in my community, and how continually my passion for the work is fed by this wellspring of joy within myself.
What you react to in others, you strengthen in yourself.   ~ Eckhart Tolle
I open my arms wide and breathe deeply, draw the joy deep within my lungs.  It has always been there.  It always will be, if I only have the eyes to see it for what it is.  I am grateful for this understanding.