Two weeks ago I was out walking our dog Cheerios on a typical San Francisco winter day, clear and sunny, yet at the same time cold and windy. Off the leash in a park and eagerly chasing her ball, Cheerios was full of life and energy. As she dropped the ball at my feet her eyes remained glued to it. But she could barely contain her energy. As I reached down to pick up the ball, rather than bark as she often does to hurry me up, she actually leaped in the air while keeping her attention laser-like on the ball. I had to laugh at her focus, excitement and un-contained energy.
It got me to wonder how long had it been since I expressed that much exuberance. Don’t misunderstand me. There is much in life I enjoy and appreciate…but that much unbridled, explosive excitement? Young children easily go there, but as we age that sort of aliveness usually gets inhibited. We may have been told early in life to ‘be quiet and sit still.’ I learned through being around so many adults who rarely cut loose, not to fully express my own joy.
Moments of awe remained possible, especially since they usually sneak up on us. But that energy is quieter, more of a stunned stillness than the explosiveness that joy can have. Being still we may feel less exposed so safer to be with and in moments of awe.
When we allow ourselves, joy can emerge from its more refined closets through music and dance. Sexual expression is another place we sometimes overflow with joy. One powerful place I find joy is being in touch with God or Spirit. There are the sudden moments when my faith in seeking the good in each experience is surprisingly rewarded. Usually when I attend Unity and greet people coming there is joy in our embraces. A recent Sunday after hugging a few people I know, someone new had just entered. Noticing us she asked, “Can I have some of that too!” Of course we laughed and hugged, a simple joyous expression in the moment, an affirmation of good in and between us.
As much as I delight in moments of joy, I don’t find life to be a continuous stream of them. I am learning to express the joy that is available more often. It does not have to be loud. When I let go of concerns about how others perceive me and feel good about recognizing and expressing the joy of the moment, it naturally happens.
Ultimately unless we allow ourselves to feel and express awe, joy and gratitude, life becomes at best a dull passing of time. Yes, sadness, grief and anger are also important parts of human expression that come with their more uplifting cousins. We need to feel all of it. The alternative is a zombie like existence that seems hardly worth the effort.
So I continue to be reminded by Cheerios to jump for joy and feel the fullness of being. We may well be “spiritual beings having a human experience.” But if we restrict our joy and aliveness we are NOT fully having that human experience. Since the Divine is often expressed in joy, such restrictions also limit our spiritual nature.