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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Radical Joy

Last night, my husband picked up our 6-month old son Sammy. He tilted him vertically while pushing him up into the air. This is the evening ritual they share. The whole time he pushes him, he makes swooshing noises that sound like a high-pressure hydraulic machine is lifting. Then just as Sammy reaches the highest point, he teeters atop my husband’s arms and lets out an earsplitting squeal of glee. His dimpled, little hands open and tremble in the air, exposing his unabashed excitement. That’s my husband’s cue to lower him in slow motion with the same sound effect used to go up and start all over.

I always watch this ritual of fun in stunned amazement not believing that this animated, delightful little human came from us. Since he first started to discover laughter, I hate to admit that his uninhibited joy has slowly been unlocking something shadowy deep in me. It occurred to me that his exuberance was making me aware of my serious lack of it. Of course, I feel joy when I look at my son and my life is certainly not void of true moments of happiness. But somewhere along the road to adulthood I lost the feeling that I was allowed to feel joy every moment of every day. When I speak of joy, I don’t mean the high point of a bipolar episode. Nor do I mean, the contrived joy some adults have gotten so good at emulating. What I am talking about is that primal, pure, and crystalline moment when the human soul yells out: Yes! Yes!! This is exactly what I’ve been asking for and you haven’t been listening! It is the kind of simple, undiluted joy that catches you by surprise. A moment in time, in our crazy, overbooked lives, when we are tuned in to good vibrations. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s usually when we are being true to ourselves and following our bliss. Our bodies need joy as nourishment. When we don’t receive a regular diet of true, uninhibited joy, our bodies and hearts can’t heal. The key to our healing lies in remembering that it is ok to feel good and that feeling good is the essence of our true nature. When we are receiving and sending out good vibrations, we are in the flow.

At what point do most adults become banal, jaded or worn out? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Even the most unconventional among us knows that cynicism is rewarded in our society. Self-consciousness & social anxiety plagues even the most confident among us. Joy is not something to be saved for special occasions it is something that should be savored everyday. Striving to be joyful is a fulltime job for most adults. Buddhists believe that the “habit of fear” needs to be unlearned. How do we reconstruct ourselves to be like children again? How do we rediscover ourselves as fearless, clean slates living in the present with bright futures?

We as mothers owe it to ourselves and our children to nurture the quality of joy in our kids and ourselves. Too often we like to wear the badge of skeptical, sophisticated urbanite. It’s no wonder so many young kids these days act like little adults. Their over-scheduled and overworked lives force them to be competitive and cynical by default. Their natural spontaneity and creativity are extinguished and replaced with fear or exhaustion. One way mothers can help kids honor their innate joy is to begin to raise their own vibration by seeking out people, places, and situations that vibrate at a higher frequency. Whether that means going to a spa or just calling a friend who makes us laugh. Avoiding toxic situations, seeking out those good vibrations and basking in them is a practice that returns us, time and again, to the joyful flow of the universe.

My baby’s untainted happiness reminds me everyday that children are here to teach us that it is our birthright to be joyful. We in return should set an example of spontaneity and positive energy, so that our kids can feel guided, protected, and nourished within their joyful flow.