(Excerpted from One Humanity, Many Stories)
Affirmation: I am a perfect child of God, filled with wisdom, peace, joy, and light.
Joy Comes from Divine Connection
When we moved from the city to the country, we were delighted by two mother deer and their fawns ambling through our property. During a drought, we provided water and a few carrots.
Word spread through the deer community, and we eventually kept a big bowl of sliced carrots to toss out to an ever-increasing herd. One deer kept coming closer until she looked into my eyes and took a carrot from my hand. Wow! I felt sheer joy in that moment of connection and trust.
We no longer feed them, but my joy of connecting with a wild deer stays with me. Happiness can fade, but joy does not. Joy comes from a deeper, more profound place of connection with the Divine in all its expressions.
Most of us want more joy and happiness and, in our humanness, we are often deluded into looking for it from things outside of us.
The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke15:11-32) is, in one sense, about discovering joy. The younger son asked for his inheritance and—blinded by his ego and disconnection from “the father”—lost it all in worldly pursuits. His return home was joyous because he was reunited with his father (God/Source), who rejoiced without judgment or recrimination that his son was alive.
Coming home to God is our deepest joy. When we open our hearts, minds, and eyes to see God everywhere and in all creation, we find joy.
How to Bring Forth the Joy Within
Gratitude brings us joy because we are choosing to see and appreciate what has been given to us and the beauty that surrounds us. The gift we all share is life.
More than 30 years ago I was faced with dying or making a drastic change in my life. I had renounced God and had no spiritual life but being near death brought about a shift in my being.
Like a deathbed conversion, I prayed for help and I got it. To stay alive, I needed to continue making changes in my life. I needed guidance and a new relationship to the Divine. Ideas of God from my family’s religion no longer worked. That god was angry, untrustworthy, and fickle.
I opened my heart and mind to discovering different ways of understanding God. Divine guidance led me to Unity and eternal gratitude.
I found joy in discovering I am loved beyond measure. I began to remember that God is love, wisdom, understanding, and power, residing within and all around me.
“Joy comes from our inner awareness of divine love’s presence and connection to God and each other. Joy embodies great-fullness,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast, the Benedictine monk who has made a life study of gratitude.
How to Cultivate More Joy
In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama explains how to cultivate joy.
“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another.”
Joy can be a connection with other people, with nature, and with other beings. It is the wonder, the delight, the welling up of loving energy—so that we feel our connection to God in all its forms—that brings forth the light of the soul as joy. It can be the joy of the first snowfall, the first signs of spring, the birth of a child, the stars at night. It is seeing the miracle of life and celebrating it.
Ideas for Creating Joy
Focus on qualities of God and emulate them. God is love, be loving; God is wisdom, be wise; God is mercy, be merciful and forgiving.
Monitor troubling thoughts and feelings and ask whether these things are really true. Forgive yourself for thinking those thoughts.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Mindfully walk in nature.
Pray and meditate on one aspect of creation.
Be generous with time, talent, and treasure.
Remember, joy is your connection with the Divine and all creation, and it is eternal. We cannot be separate from God in all its manifestations. Anything that heightens our awareness of the One will stir up the joy that is our divine nature.