I was lucky to be raised with a healthy sense of humor. I thank my parents for that. I have also spent years cultivating playfulness and expressing myself creatively as a visual and performing artist. These activities genuinely give me joy even when I may be in a dark mood. I think of engaging with them as a way to give me naturally-resilient joy. And it is not fake. I don’t force it or consciously try to make it happen.
I think the joy arises when I interrupt my habit of listening to my inner critic, let go of my worries, stop trying to figure out how to solve my perceived problems, and so forth. There is a sense of getting out of the way of a solid, fixed idea of who I am and opening myself fully to experience the present moment. By simply taking one or more deep breaths, I can relax into “nowness” and ground myself in sensation and what it feels like to be embodied. I can momentarily let go of struggling and rest in a natural gap moment between breaths.
I also have a practice of daily laughter. It is another source of resilient joy for me. Funny animal videos, cartoons, comic situations and word play can make me laugh. If I am feeling grumpy or blue, I often practice “fake laughter.” I could be stuck in traffic or driving home from work. I could be struggling to wake up in the morning, so I fake laugh at myself in the mirror. There are scientific studies that prove even fake laughing creates endorphins and makes you feel better. And fake laughter often leads to natural laughter. Give it a shot!
I have had training in connecting with my inner clown and once took a transformational weekend seminar on Finding Your Clown Chakra. Like the happy clown, humor, laughter and creative expression are a continual source of resilient joy for me. No matter how many times I feel knocked down, rejected, ignored or simply passed over, I manage to dust myself off and begin again. The past is gone like a dream. I can’t change what has happened, but I can commit to meet the next moment without judgment.
I long to embody the profound and deeply challenging Zen statement, “I have no complaints.” Anyone who knows me well will tell you that is a HUGE challenge. My Zen teacher, John Tarrant Roshi, recently gave a teaching on Unexpected Help on the Way and greeting everything that comes to us with curiosity and openness. Simply hearing his voice and infectious laughter gave me resilient joy. I believe it is important to remember that every situation is workable and that I can even invite discomfort to be my teacher, to remind me that I can feel the complexity and impossibility of getting it all right.
I am a people person who delights in making myself and others smile and laugh. I like to remind friends, colleagues and acquaintances of their gifts that bring me joy like my new workplace colleague who bowed and playfully walked backwards as I respectfully offered to open the office door for her on her way out. It is often the unexpected little things — the sound of a child laughing, a stranger smiling at you, a hummingbird dancing across your line of vision that bring a moment of delight. There are simple wonders all around us. Take a look, open your heart, laugh and smile.