There is a lot written on these pages about our pain and its examination. The process of becoming aware of and grappling with our wound is not pleasant business. There are the steps of befriending of it, sometimes healing it, and sometimes just learning better ways to endure it. The part that we can easily forget is the whole reason we undertake such a momentous task: to feel some peace, serenity, and joy. Yes that overused word, but rarely felt feeling: joy. It is not that we need to complete all our inner work before we can access joy. But it is something that we need to open up to.

The joy piece can be tricky for some of us. In an addictive culture like ours, it is easy to confuse getting high or numbing with the experience of joy. We are so overstimulated, both internally from overthinking as well as externally, that our nervous systems are frayed. We are used to being in an anxious state. This state unconsciously keeps us ready for anything that might come our way. But it has a high price and it makes us miss much in our daily life. Things move so fast in our days that it takes effort to have a moment and slow things down. But it is in the slowing down that we can have a taste of joy. 

Attention is the tool that can give us access to that space. To slow down, we have to become aware of how fast we are actually moving even when standing still. This is not some esoteric exercise. It is not about shaving our head and moving to Tibet. This can be done several times a day, for a moment here or there. To steal a couple of minutes and have a date with our self. As we would for a lover. It can include feeling our feet on the ground and allowing a couple of gaps between the incessant thoughts. To glance at our favorite plant, pet, friend, or picture, and put a little grin on our face. Not gratitude as some formal penance, but gratitude for the simple beauty that surrounds us amidst all the pain of this realm. Even while we are toiling with the task at hand, whatever that might be.

Right now, look up from this screen. Hold your gaze on something that you love. If at home, scan the room. If in a public space, do the same. What opens your heart? Pick something that you find beautiful and look at it. Really breathe it into your pores. It can be a smell, a color, an object, or a person. Sit with it. Experience it directly and do not allow your mind to kick in for a moment. How does that feel?

This is a game I play from time to time. I look around my room at work or home, and take in all that is there. All the conscious intent I have put into my space, animate and inanimate. To take in what is beautiful to me and to let it feed me. In my office, there is a lovely light that comes in through a window at specific times of the day. It has become a friend that I acknowledge every day I am there. It is such a simple pleasure, and I feel like a little kid basking in it. Sometimes, on even the most intense of days, this simple act of slowing down does wonders. It helps me smell the roses for a moment or two before I get back to shoveling the shit.