Joy: Cultivating Delight During Advent
This week, in practicing hope, the longing or desire for something –accompanied by the belief in the possibility that it will actually occur, I noticed something happening: during moments of frustration and discouragement, a sense of hope arose unbidden. Reflecting on this, something else surfaced: joy.
Joy is the sensation of great pleasure, true happiness, delight.
What brings you joy? Is joy easily found in all the hubbub of the advent season?
So, apparently, when merchandise is advertised as “on sale,” consumers are more likely to actually spend more. Advertisers allocate a significant percentage of their budgets to the study of human behavior in relationship to the psychology of spending. The research informs how merchandise is advertised and priced, an extravagant manipulation to garner business. It is not evil. We all need to earn enough to support us, and we are more likely to purchase an item or service if we are persuaded that it is worth the price.
The problem comes when, in the overstuffed schedule of the holiday season I do not take sufficient time to practice presence, train in habits of mindful attention, I make more impulsive decisions based on superficial criteria. When I am despairing about last minute gifts and whether we can afford these things and if the recipients will even appreciate them, Hope does not immediately well up within. So there definitely is no room for joy.
When I asked my daughter, What first comes to mind when you think about joy. She replied, A big smile, The sun. I thought about the supremely innocent delight in a baby’s grin, and the warm sense of well-being when I turn my face up to the sun and feel its warmth and light.
What brings you joy?
It isn’t as if we can expect joy to just appear. It is true that some circumstances we find ourselves in might occasionally bring unexpected joy. But most of us cannot conjure a grinning baby at a moment’s notice, or live in Chicago in the wintertime and expect the sun to shine that day.
And during Advent, it is more likely that crowded stores and slow internet and crazy drivers and the kids whom we love so very much want something we cannot really afford – it is more likely joy will be in short supply.
So, one practice I found enormously helpful in cultivating delight in even those people who irritate me, or whom I do not understand, is a practice of loving kindness. It is a beautiful reminder that every person around me has the same desires and needs that I do. And praying for their well-being shifts my perspective. And maybe I can appreciate them. Perhaps, even delight in them.
Practice with me this week. I will read the prayer (a modification on Mirabai Bush’s, “Just Like Me”) Will you commit with me to practice joy by practicing loving kindness toward others this week?
Breathe deeply. Settle as you hear. Exhale the urge to rush. Inhale the hope of expectation. Exhale agitation and unrest.
She is just like me, in a body, going through life.
He was once a little child, a little vulnerable child, just like me.
She has had happy times in her life, just like me.
This person has loved someone, just like me.
His heart has been broken, just like mine.
They have also been sad in their life, just like me;
and been disappointed by life, just like me.
This person has been hurt by someone, just like me.
She has been confused by life, just like me.
He has done some things that he regrets, just like me.
She has known physical pain and suffering, just like me.
You wish to be safe, and healthy, and loved, just like me.
I wish you strength and support in your life, so that you can do the things
that you are made and gifted to do.
I pray that you delight in life, because I know you want to be delighted, just like me.
I pray that you may know God’s healing presence in pain and suffering, because I know that you are a fellow human being, just like me.
Be thankful. Be joyful.
Special thanks to my lovely nephew, Ethan Oliver, who gifted me with his piano skills.
As always, you can find a transcript of this podcast episode on my website, eirenicole.com.
And today, may you walk at the pace of grace.