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Opening to Joy

We each have the capacity to experience joy. Opening to the full range of possibility in each moment of our lives allows us to relate to the joy that is already here with a present, open, accepting attitude.

Have you ever experienced two days that were much the same, but perhaps one day your mood was sour and everything seemed to rub you rough -- while on the other day you experienced ease, laughter and delight in the small moments? Perhaps there were small conditions present on those days that shifted your experience, but all in all many of our days are similar in weight of stress, stimuli and interaction. What most likely was different on those days was your attention.

To experience the joy and light in our lives, we have to be open to seeing it. Our experience is filtered through our perception - and mindfulness is the best way to zoom through the commentary, judgement and gunk that clouds up that filter and makes it challenging to open to the good that is here right now.

When we train our minds to notice all that a moment has to offer we begin to see and understand that life is full of joy - as much as it is full of suffering. Our brains are wired to notice the parts of life that might threaten our survival - it's called the negativity bias (and it's not personal). We focus on threats to our physical health, emotional well-being and social connectivity because surviving is key in this human experience. And... that isn't the full story of our experience. We can exercise our brains to also notice and install the good in life to help tame the focus on the negative and orient ourselves toward noticing the positive.

The best way to do this is through cultivating a mindfulness practice. To be joyful, we have to be in contact with reality... the full possibility of reality. No joy is too small, too insignificant or too fleeting to pay attention to in our daily lives. Mindfulness author Tara Brach once said,

In order to be free, we have to open to reality.

Freedom, happiness, laughter -- joy... what would life be like if we didn't miss the full range of possibility in each moment of our lives? We don't have control over many things - this is true. We do have some agency when it comes to what we pay attention to in our lives.

How has mindfulness changed how you relate to joy in your life? I'd love to hear in the comments below.


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