Incline the Mind Towards Joy
It is so nice to see the sun shine today. Especially welcome after a few weeks of very difficult news about the devastating war on Ukraine. At times like these it can be so easy to focus on what is wrong in the world, it is natural as we are deeply interconnected and are affected by the suffering that we see. However to focus only on what is difficult, distressing or negative can send us into a spiral of low mood, tension and overwhelm. I noticed over the past week that I was finding it difficult to connect with joy, guilt was very firmly sitting on my shoulder - "What right did I have to be happy when so many others are suffering?". But then I remembered that joy is essential for our resilience and wellbeing and counteracts the negativity bias of our brain. Also, joy, like any other mind state, is like a muscle in our brain, it needs strengthened just like our biceps! It is a practice not a personality trait and in difficult times this is where our practice bares fruit. So on the advice of a friend I began to cultivate just 1% more joy and once the door opened it was much more easy to access. Simple things, like sitting in the sun today, stroking my dog, watching the bees in the heather. With understanding and mindful attention we can all learn to incline our minds towards joy, all it needs is a strong intention to stop and notice what is going on around you. It can even be as simple as taking a few deep breaths. What I am talking about here is quiet joy, not the all-singing all-dancing ecstatic joy but a quiet inner smile when you connect with something that brings you pleasure. And to "incline" means to give yourself space to savour it, to allow that neural pathway to grow. So the next time you see that spring flower, instead of smiling and rushing past, give yourself a moment to stop, to take in its beautiful colours and shapes, stay awhile appreciating its beauty and watch your joy muscle grow. As Mary Oliver says in her poem "Don't Hesitate" - joy is not meant to be a crumb!