Life as a path of joy. “The What? How do I stop the damned thinking”
I think too much. At least, I think… I think too much. When I think of my childhood, I am saddened at the current state of my own internal affairs. I remember riding my bike, the wind blowing cool in my face, and pure adrenalin excitement pumping through my veins. I didn’t stress over the height of the curb. I didn’t give a thought to my physical condition and how I would make it all the way to the grocery store and back. I never considered the possibility of a car wiping me out. Truly, as I look back, given all the amazing and often life threatening experiences I had, I must have been doubly blessed by angels. Where did the angels go? Where did those experiences go? Where did I go?
It is an impressive accomplishment, and even more so for men, to retain our childlike qualities. Wonderful timeless qualities such as curiosity, wonder, innocence, and passion in the moment come to mind. I recently saw an interview of the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered the greatest photographer of the twentieth century. What a life he led! He spoke about his experiences traveling the world, engaging in conversations with Henri Matisse and Picasso. I particularly noticed one statement he made. Twice, during the interview, he said:
“Thinking can be a dangerous thing.”
Not once, but twice! This concept was something he had obviously come to grips with early on in his life. He kept talking about the subtle textures of the life experience, and how his job as photographer was to feel when the moment was right to click his camera. He repeatedly said it was all about feel as he gently rubbed his fingers together. I began to think (there I go again) about how this concept could apply to my life.
If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is. Joy. Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is!
Can I live with less thinking and more joy? Ah yes, Joy. Having a good time. Enjoying myself. Bringing a smile to the face of others. Feeling a lightness of being. While this is not my normal operating system, I do know joy. I have experienced its elusive and always glorious nature. Still, joy feels like a foreigner in a foreign land.
Take a deep breath here Mr. Jay. You may actually enjoy this.
Where is the Joy?
If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is. Joy. Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is! If I remember the birth of any of my children, there it is. If I remember how I feel after an initiation ritual, there it is. If I remember how I feel after making a big sale, there it is. If I remember sitting around a campfire with my close friends, there it is. If I remember how I felt when I looked at the scale, and I had achieved my 3-month weight loss goal, there it is again.
Now it is the time for joy in all it’s glory: ongoing, ever lasting, and full on.
Memories of Joy
I notice that all my joy comes as a result of an experience, and more specifically the memory of those experiences. In the moment, I think. How do I stop the damned thinking? Seems I have never been much of a “smell the roses” kind of guy. Growing up as a male in America, I was taught to have goals, work hard, achieve great things, and then take on the next project. There was never much emphasis (actually none) on joy. And I know I am not alone. Having spent 15 years of my life in men’s transformational weekend events, I can tell you there is not much joy among the brothers.
Calling in Joy
I call in joy. I call in my joy. I am too old to do things I do not want to do. If I want to do something, then I will do it with joy in my heart. I call in joy that is not dependent on a situation, an accomplishment, nor another. I call in joy as my way of being. Today I say to myself: “I am joy!” While this will no doubt make some of my buddies want to vomit, I am too old and too tired to keep pushing a boulder up a hill. Rather, I will follow the boulder down the other side of the hill, and smile all the way to the end.
Embrace The Unknown
So what do you do with an over active thinking mechanism? I believe we all have to sort that one out for ourselves. It would seem that recognizing my left brain dominant situation and committing to a life of more feeling is the first step. I find myself increasingly drawn to situations that I can’t figure out. I am drawn to matters of the spirit and the lives of mystics. I participate in group events that produce a tangible energy I can feel. Then I remember, bit by bit, what I am here to do. I keep jumping back into the fire, to feel the fire, and keep some of the fire in my heart. And if I see you on my path (which is your path), and we feel the same thing together, truly it is a most glorious heartfelt connection. I live for those moments. We are all teachers for each other. If only we can stop thinking about how to get more than we give. Thinking can be a dangerous thing, even in the ditches and on the side roads of life.
Dare to be Happy
Taking a stand for joy requires some courage. Dare to be happy. This affirmation will require discipline. This way of being is not for the dramatic, the emotional, nor the weak. It takes some balls to say “I choose joy.” Try it out and really mean it. Just for today, greet every experience with joy. When your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend does that thing they do that you hate so much, greet it with joy. Transform your experience. When you lose that sale that you were counting on, bring joy rather than disappointment. When the waiter brings you a cold hamburger, can you experience joy rather than anger? When you realize this life, this one glorious life that you have, when you realize it is all going to come to an end, can you still greet each day with joy? Through heartache and betrayal, through hurt and failure, will you chose joy?
There was a time when I thought talk of joy was utter bullshit. I would say to my brothers, life is about challenge, life is about burning, and unearthing those searing bits of my unconscious, and reliving past painful events, so as to become the hollow bone through which spirit may freely flow. I have done all that. It was hard, and at times, brutally painful, and it required a powerful vision to stay the path. Occasional exuberance was a welcome by product of the work. However, as one who has walked the path for three decades, I can now say there could have been more joy. Hell, there could have been a whole bunch more joy. I am not one to lament the past, but there is a truth to be gleaned from my own experiences. I never chose joy in the past. Today I choose joy.
I tell you, I hear you snickering on the sidelines. I know well of your feelings of derision. “Has he lost his mind?”
Yes I have.
It is about time!
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.