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open joy

I recently came across the idea that we move through life being either open or closed. I love this idea. Perhaps since it’s so real and visual. We’ve all seen closed people. They tend to roll their shoulders into a stoop with a slumped back, making no eye contact. And of course, you can spot an open person straight away. They have an erect posture, a natural ease about their body and movements and are happy to make eye contact.

For most of life, I think I move through in quite an open fashion. I frequently not only make eye contact with strangers but actually chat with them, I notice the environment around me versus rushing through to a destination and I still get frequent comments about my posture, which is always amusing. Since the notion of being open or closed has been front of mind, I found an area where I’m absolutely lacking in remaining open. The trying environment for me isn’t cueing up for the ATM, dealing with an aggressive situation or even trying to keep focus while desperately wanting to sleep. Instead, it’s the dreaded work meeting!

As my calendar starts to fill up with meetings I can already feel myself get a little anxious. And once a meeting has started, I’m on high alert for casual chit chat versus getting down to the business at hand. As people talk I find myself trying to summarize their point in order to move along towards the finish line. A colleague recently observed, “Julie, you’re a closer. You like to wrap things up and stay on task.” Truer words have never been spoken.

So, my challenge is to stay open during meetings. Remain curious, engaged and not worried about the time ticking away or lack of any clear resolutions. Fortunately, I have plenty of opportunities to put this into practice as I look at my calendar for the week ahead. Wish me luck! Surely remaining open will allow for even more JOY to enter.

re-friending joy

Facebook is interesting for me. Out of the social networks, it feels the most personal. I think it’s because, in my limited circle, I’m only connected with family or quite close friends. This has been deliberate and I’ll often let new friend requests linger inappropriately if I’m not actively connected to them in the ‘real’ world.

Recently I realized that one of my facebook friends had also become a very close and important work colleague. This was troubling as I had always declined friend requests from people I was actively working with. It felt important to me to have some distinction between work life and play life. Perhaps I didn’t think it through fully, but the next time I saw this colleague I let her know that a ‘defriending’ was on the horizon and shared my reasoning. I was really shocked and saddened that her reaction showed that this had come as a bit of a blow! In hindsight, I completely understand. After all, it’s a brutal choice of online vocabulary – you friend someone, like someone repeatedly, and then the only option for separation is to suddenly de-friend them. This is starting to bring up flashbacks from 8-year-old playground memories . . .

As I wrestled with this entanglement, a stroke of luck occurred. My colleagued was moving on to a new fabulous role with another company. So we were once again, old versus current colleagues. The question remained . . . would she rise above the limitations of social media and once again accept my friend request? I’m happy to report that she did, even without making me suffer in unknowing virtual limbo. In the end, I reckon re-friending is even more JOYous than friending in the first place.

patient joy

The notion of patience is a tricky one, and we’re given endless opportunities to confront and explore our emotions surrounding it. In the broadest sense, or perhaps on a good day, I consider myself the patient sort. I don’t generally start to get agitated in cues, looking for an alternative path or finding fault in the speed of those before me. And yet sometimes . . . these less than generous impulses arise.

I was at an airport recent that was being suddenly evacuated. The entire airport was pushed out into the carpark instead of onto our waiting and empty airplanes. Not being a fan of crushing or panicked crowds, I hung back a bit and made it outside without any hassle or drama. An hour later as the siren was silenced, folks started moving towards the opened airport doors. A queue of thousands was rather haphazardly formed, and then didn’t move. The airport security screening line (yes, one) had to be activated and staffed.

For the first 30 minutes or so I entertained myself with the conversations surrounding me, random birds alighting and then, with a great playlist thru my earbuds. However, I found myself starting to get a bit annoyed with someone’s perfume so I moved forward slightly. And then I noticed the sun really start to heat up so I moved around the crowd again, in a forward direction, and into a bit of shade. Of course this put me next to a crying toddler, so I had no choice but to move forward and out of ear shot. The crowd was still at a stand still, yet somehow I had managed to move from the very back of the pack into the front 1/3. This gradual progression of mine continued until I found myself near the very front of hopeful passengers.

Once onboard I reflected on the situation and my behavior and truly had to laugh. My mind had almost sought out random bits in the crowd that were then turned into annoyances to be avoided.

The very next day I was traveling along a very crowded footpath with a bottle neck leading to a set of stairs. An eager surfer was running towards the stairs and stopped just short to let several people in front of him pass first. He was happy to let me pass, but I stopped, made eye contact, and motioned for him to move forward instead. It was an incredibly small and fleeting moment, but JOY shined through.

So, when was the last time you felt JOY alongside being impatient, feeling rushed or slightly annoyed? Can you flip it? Can you catch yourself in those tiny moments of being impatient and just stop? I reckon patience might just be another little path to JOY.

healthy joy

During a recent two-week period, I had six separate visits to various health practitioners. My right hip and left foot teamed up to make walking painful, not to mention running, practicing yoga and turning the random cartwheel. I generally consider myself to be in good health. These injuries, MRIs and X-rays put me into a tail spin.

I’ve been reflecting on the messages of this broken down body and frankly, reading a lot since static positions work best. I’ve come across the notion that ‘health is our real wealth’. This resonates with me as I’m often dumbfounded with the amount of money people spend on crazy fashion items, miracle facial treatments, and overpriced autos. There’s an obsession for outward appearances to reflect some sort of financial stature. What if that obsession turned inward and ultimate health was a reflection of our wealth?

While movements for the last month have come to a grinding halt, I’m lucky as my injuries are already mending and they’re temporary in nature. The JOY of a healthy body is incomparable and not to be taken for granted. Watch out 2017 – my health machine is going to reach new limits!!

vain joy

On a recent commute I was one of the last lucky passengers to squeeze into an already heaving public bus. As I squirmed my way down the aisle with as much grace as possible (elbows tucked in, backpack removed) I found a few inches of clear floor space. Just as I was resigning myself to a somewhat perilous perch, a lovely 20-something year old beach babe kindly offered me her seat. I immediately smiled in gratitude but politely declined.

As the bus accelerated with a sudden jerk, I noticed a sign behind her seat, reminding people to offer this space to those in greater need. I’m sure you’ve seen these signs on most modes of public transport. They depict an elderly person with stooped posture, an overly pregnant woman, and a stumbling person on crutches. I quickly performed a self-scan – to the best my ego soaked persona would allow – and found I couldn’t personally identify with any of the images. My belly wasn’t inflated, I was able bodied and my posture was quite erect considering the unpredictable movements of the bus. Did this lovely lass intend to give her seat to me as I was in ‘greater need’? Did this supple skinned beauty recognize me as someone elderly – even without the illustrated stoop?!

Before I could dwell any further into certain dark judgement and  self-recriminations, my humour got the best of me and I sought out her eye line and suggested that “in fact, I would love your seat!”

Just as I settled into my comfy and secure spot, the bus violently lurched around a corner and several travelers became a bit unstuck. Perhaps its true what they say . . . wisdom does come with age. And surely, JOY follows wisdom.

feathered joy

There’s something about interactions with wild creatures that never ceases to lead my feet to skip and overwhelms my whole being with a smile. Maybe it’s a nod to my simple childhood – surrounded by animals that were consistent with their presence and love, never demanding much in return. And me, eager to bring the injured ones home to nurse and rescue – be they rabid or not. Or perhaps it’s just a fleeting glimpse of something so free and primitive that sets me aflutter.

I remember asking J on a cycle trip through the mountains ‘what sort of animal would you be you if you could be anything?’ We tossed around various fantasies – from dolphins to cheetahs and dogs. Each option helping us shift focus from the ever climbing altitude. But for me, I couldn’t get past the bird. To experience the Joy of flight – swooping with grace, dancing with the wind and  landing with ease – it feels like a dream I wouldn’t want to end.

And of course, one bird in particular lands above all others. A kingfisher with a  name that gives away her joyful spirit. How could you not laugh along with JOY?!

the joy of knowing

None of us are immortal but a group of us have a bit more detail surrounding the likely cause and timing of our death. Today I spent the day with people who are facing their own terminal illnesses. And their clarity regarding life was inspiring. NIKE has nothing on the gorgeous man urging us to “DO IT!” Have that adventure, take that holiday, make memories, today! Why delay joy? He was convincing in not wanting us to wait for a disaster to spur us into positive action.

There seemed to be lightness that flowed from their knowing. Removing the overwhelming, and now trivial, daily stresses and instead, being able to fully embrace the richness of a walk with a friend, a chat with your son during halftime at the footy, or the simple pleasure of meal with good friends. Their perspective  was one of living with levity amongst the heaviness of a shortened life.

So much wisdom was offered to digest. The reality, of course, is that we’re all terminal. So why not loosen the grip of stress and your ‘to do’ list. Remember to know we only have one go at this sweet life. And maybe, just spend time in love. In doing the things we love and loving each other fully. What good reason could you possibly have to delay joy?

the joy of dreams

Moving house has the specific advantage of encouraging you to sift, toss, sell, donate and general de-clutter your belongings. I like to think I travel light and live in a space with minimal clutter. However, it appears I’ve been clinging onto random flotsam and jetsam, some bits for many decades and across continents.

Do I really need those heavy trekking boots, tundra-ready ski coat, broken helmet, or 4 inch studded suede shoes? Probably not. Downsizing can be quite joyful in itself, and there is a momentum that starts to build, allowing you tackle the trickier bits. For me, I was able to move through 8 massive photo albums detailing spectacular (and not so spectacular) chapters of my life. I’m now the proud owner of 3 albums, each one bursting full of memories and laughter. Feeling chuffed with this accomplishment I moved on to my journals.

Writing has been a bit of therapy for me for most of my life. And yes, I’ve held onto the words over time. Paging through a few older books I felt my soul offering compassion to my younger self and almost wanting to intersect moments of doubt with positive reassurance that things turn out well. The journey back in time was both hilarious and at times sad, but overall, truly enlightening. The amazing thing I started to realise was just how many of my dreams – sometimes hastily scribbled – had become reality. Perhaps the power of manifestation is accelerated when we put pen to paper. For me, it seems to be working. So while I’m letting go of tattered journals, I’m facing the future emboldened to dream even bigger, capture it in writing, and soak up the JOY that follows.

 

the joy of further

Have you ever noticed when preparing for some sort of physical activity that your mind can either predetermine that you’re going to be super human or, conversely, that your attempt will be limited by any number of quick mental defenses?

Our minds are masters at both allowing us to achieve greatness, and introducing a staggering number of excuses regarding why we won’t be able to perform.

Recently, when going for a swim, a run, or pulling out my yoga mat, my mind can kick in with mental chatter about being a bit tired; having eaten a little too much; or maybe I should just take it easy today given my recent flu. However, as soon as the body warms up – it seems to come alive and overtake the limiting thoughts that are trying to win out. More often than not, when I feel convinced that I’ll have a short practice or run just one lap on the beach, the body magically powers through to a full, longer distance.

I reckon we all have the ability to quiet the mind and tune in more fully to our body. Perhpas our brains and capacity for thought are overrated. Maybe true wisdom (and the JOY that follows) are found in the body, not the mind. What will you listen to?

joy of the unknown

At a conference recently a speaker talked about trust. She pulled apart various layers and hypotheses and landed on the notion that trust is confidence in the unknown. This sentiment really connected with me. I can vividly remember different times in my life when the unknown was simply too vast, too frightening, or too far into the future. These moments brought about anguish and more than once, an ending of sorts. Reflecting back, it’s easy to see that trust, or lack thereof, was at the heart of these situations. Trust runs through so many layers of our lives – trust in your colleagues and workplace; trust in the government and infrastructure; trust in personal relationships; trust in our bodies; and even trust in the weather!

Perhaps the opposite of trust is control. But what’s really within our control? What we expect to happen often times lands with disappointment. It’s fair to suggest that the future is never truly known, but instead full of surprises. We can’t control an outcome or even what happens in the very next moment. We can influence perhaps and certainly barter, but ultimately, we don’t get to decide.

So, can we trust the unfolding? Are we able to relish in the unknown? I know when I have, I’ve been rewarded with far more than a fleeting sense of control. And it’s more than positivity or optimism. I think a key tool in our trust arsenal is to embrace the unknown with curiosity – what’s out there? What will happen today? Who might I meet? To me, this questioning spirit is the path to adventure and certainly more JOY.