Where's the Joy?

Two weeks ago I went to a silent meditation retreat. During a group interview, one student asked the teacher, "I see all these stern faces and I wonder, where's the joy?" I loved his question. Meditation can seem so serious: turning inward, facing our hidden places, and staying no matter what. This is serious business. And it's also a pathway to joy.

Moments of wonder, joy, and awe cannot be manufactured. They occur spontaneously. And they're easy to miss. If I'm lost in thoughts, I don't feel wonder as I view the evening sky. If my heart is armored, I don't feel joy as I witness an act of kindness. If my mind is closed, I don't feel awe when I experience something new.

To feel joy, I must be aware and non-judgmental; I must pay attention. If I cram my schedule, limit meditation, and disconnect from myself, there's no space for joy. Where's the joy? It's in little moments when I'm fully present; it's in daily life when my heart is wide open; it's in raw places when I feel the preciousness of human life.

Joy isn't forced laughter or planned fun. Joy isn't having things exactly as we want them to be. Joy happens in spacious awareness--when we're cracked open with grief or when we walk silently in nature. It's all around us, if we really pay attention; if we allow for our experience to be just as it is.