There has been a crushing amount of loss these past weeks. Some very personal, like the death of my mother-in-law after a two-year journey with cancer. Others tearing through our larger community, like the heart-wrenching tragedies in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy.
We plan a memorial service, sob in the privacy of our bedrooms, join our local gun-safety movements, rise up in righteous anger, hug our loved ones close, worry about our children’s future.
Is there room for living in the midst of so much suffering? How can we feel joy in times like this? Or maybe the question is: How can we not?
The Yoga of Joy
Writer and professor Ross Gay explores this in a recent On Being podcast, “Tending Joy and Practicing Delight.” He discusses a misconception about joy, that people think it’s easy. In truth, it has nothing to do with ease. Instead, it’s “a labor that will make the life that [we] want possible,” even in the face of great difficulty.
With a practice of joy, Gay shares, there are moments when alienation from people and wholeness disappears.
In other words, joy softens the illusion of separateness. Joy-ness can join us. This joining, this remembering…this is yoga. And it feels so important, urgent even, as we suffer in our individual and collective human lives.
The Power of Now
Joy emerges through connection—with the people and world around us, and with our true self. With the ocean of consciousness that runs through us all. And, it’s experienced in the present moment. In, as Eckhart Tolle might say, the power of now.
The body knows grief, the mind struggles to understand, and the spirit knows no loss. I first heard this from Antonio Sausys, a yoga therapist and psychotherapist who specializes in grief. It’s worth repeating that last part: the spirit knows no loss.
It’s this connection with spirit that allows us to experience joy-filled moments. Even when we’re wading through a sea of pain.
These moments of joy may feel like a lightness. A stillness. A glimpse of peace. A whole-body shimmer. A heart-felt resonance. A gasp of delight. An expansion.
The Practice of Moments
How do we experience these moments of joy-ness that join us? We practice. We practice remembering that part of us that is always love, peace, and joy. We practice, and we begin to notice the joy-filled moments in the most difficult times.
Here are five yogic tools that open us up to joy:
We can tend to ourselves with—to use yoga therapist and yoga of recovery expert Durga Leela’s term—Ayurvedic sweetness therapies. We might bring in delight through our senses with the taste of honey, smell of roses, feel of sunshine, sound of music, and richly colored sunsets.
In yoga nidra, we rest in our wholeness. We notice our bodies, feelings, and thoughts. Become aware of our sensations, and welcome in their opposites. Invite in the experience of joy and wellbeing. Appreciate the peace and inner sanctuary that is ever present.
With a mantra-based meditation, we can slip into present moment awareness. By inhaling so, and exhaling hum we remember “I am that.” I am that spiritual being having a human experience. I am connected to that universal essence that is nourishing and supporting me, always.
Bhakti yoga is the yoga of love. In the bhakti technique of kirtan, we join together in song and melody to connect to and sing from the heart. Surrounded by community and support, space expands to dip into the ocean of consciousness.
We can become more mindful of our language. Use more ands and less buts, in both our self talk and in communication with others. In doing so, we connect with that part of us that isn’t dualistic. We acknowledge that joy and suffering can coexist.
In the words of Mary Oliver: “We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two, housed as they are in the same body.”
There has been a crushing amount of loss these past weeks. And. And, the calm surface of a mountain lake. The coolness of a morning breeze. The honey bee sprinkled with pollen. The baby bird taking her first flight. The child’s contagious belly laugh. The neighbor’s kindness. The stranger’s face lighting up with delight. The community coming together in loving support. The joy-ness that joins us.
Megan DeRosa, MA, C-IAYT, RYT-500 is a certified yoga therapist with a knack for sharing both ancient truths and research-backed tools in an approachable way. Many years of yoga practice, training, and teaching support her work. Her approach is also influenced by a graduate degree in holistic health and healing, certifications in life coaching and Reiki, a background in science, and her life as a mom and human. Learn more about her writings, private sessions, and group gatherings at www.meganderosa.com.