I spent some time with my mom today. It had been a long while. She has Alzheimer’s disease and thankfully still remembers who I am. Though most of the time she doesn’t know where she is, never knows the date, and often thinks she is returning to the home where she raised my sister and I after our visits. In actuality, she has been living in a structured setting for several years.
“Mom seems to be the definition of living in the moment”, I think to myself as she chats away cheerfully with the salon technician who is trimming her notably overgrown nails. Each moment new – each an opportunity to choose, again and again, how to see what is right in front of her, and how to respond. Each moment a chance to find joy in the simple things in life – a kind word, a smile, a simple classic shade of pink polish.
I wonder to myself if this is actually how she experiences life now – without short term memory of the past or future as I overhear her validating the nail technician about how difficult it must be to have grouchy clients. “…Some people can be so demanding. Isn’t it so much simpler to be kind?” she says. And then she chuckles, commenting for the fourth time today about her crooked second toe, looking at me with smiling eyes.
American religious leader Russell Nelson once said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” What if we all took each moment as all that there is, and used it as a chance to cultivate joy? What if happiness is as simple as allowing our focus to rest upon that which brings us contentment, appreciation and gratitude? Could living more joyfully actually be that simple?
Often when I teach, I refer to mindfulness as a simple practice, but not an easy one. And cultivating joy, I imagine, is similar. I know (as a psychologist and as a human being) that sometimes our attention will be pulled away to what is scary, painful or just plan hard. We are wired to notice the negative, and having an accepting awareness of pain in all of its iterations is not just inevitable, but also offers wisdom and a balanced perspective on our lives. Nonetheless, I am here to tell you this – yes, we can foster an ability to experience more joy! With a little bit of willingness and intentional attention, we can find pleasure and happiness even in the most ordinary of moments. And we can train our brains to be attuned to what sparks joy in every moment as it arises.
It really only takes a bit of mindfulness to notice the elegant simplicity of the veining in a leaf on the tree outside. Or to fully embrace your favorite song with your ears, your body and your heart. A delicious meal, a conversation with a friend, a pleasant sensation in your body…these experiences are available to attend to anytime. By stepping out of autopilot and tuning into the full experience of the now, we get a glimpse into what can ultimately turn into a more enduring happiness, should we practice noticing these sweet facets of moments as they arise.
So, for the month of March (which I have fondly been referring to as “March Gladness” for the basketball fans in the room), I invite you to join me here on the Sacred Treehouse 52 Weeks of Mindfulness blog in exploring ways to cultivate joy in our daily lives. By finding the remarkable in what seems unremarkable. By savoring. And by being kind (thanks, Mom).
I invite you to join our Sacred Treehouse community in reflecting on these questions:
1. What brings you joy?
2. What are you doing, or can you do more of, to cultivate joy in your life?
3. What gets in the way of your ability to tune into joyful experiences?
Journal your thoughts as you reflect and share with us as you go through the process.
Do you need support returning to Sangha on Tuesday evenings? Are you out of your mindfulness practice? Join one of our groups during the week, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up individualized mindfulness coaching to get back in the routine!
Sending love and kindness,
Nikki and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty
Nicole Davis is a licensed psychologist practicing at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Davis starts with the core belief that each person already has everything they need to live a life of joy and fulfillment, and that therapy is just a process of uncovering their inherent wholeness. Dr. Davis gently invites her clients to uncover their strengths in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Dr. Davis completed MBSR facilitator training through the Center for Mindfulness at UCSD. Dr. Davis is also a 200-hour trained yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance.