Increase your Capacity for Joy

It was one of those days when I woke up feeling fantastic. Nothing in my body hurt, my energy was good. I was grateful for so much in my life. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day. Dolphins greeted me on my beach walk.

Then my husband got some great news about a project he’s been working on for many years. I happy danced my way through the morning. That afternoon a client had an amazing breakthrough of a pattern that had been holding her back. I was so excited I could barely contain it.

After getting my notes out to my client I went Home Depot. It’s rare in my life that I have to drive, but I had to use the car for this errand. While driving to HD I was overwhelmed with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. Not just warm, chewy, fresh baked goodness. Any crappy store bought junk would be my fix. I fantasized about eating a whole bag.

As soon as I noticed this craving I breathed deeply and slowly. Then I became curious about the addictive monster threatening to take over my body and mind, on a day when things were going so well. And that’s when it hit me. I had maxed out my capacity for joy. I was holding it in as best I could, but something had to give. I was a dam about to burst. A good dose of sugar would have taken me higher, making me feel like a superhero, invincible. The craving came from an internal cry – “Gimme more… gimme more.” But that kind of high is the booby prize, a poor substitute for divine pleasure, and it’s always followed by a crash.

You see sugar does a real number on me. I’ll spare you the details but trust me that it ain’t pretty. It wrecks my body… for days. By craving sugar my body was unconsciously bringing me back down from the high I was on. A high that I couldn’t sustain. If I’d followed through on that craving I’d have soared like Icarus only to crash and burn ~ in bed for a few days, depleted, sick and sore.

Instead I witnessed what was going on and stopped myself. I got out of the car, planted my feet on the ground and started breathing deeply. By grounding myself I allowed all the good feelings to flow through my body. As I did this the craving for sugar completely disappeared, effortlessly. I wasn’t even thinking about cookies. I was just grounding and breathing, and the craving vanished. I felt myself get bigger, not physically, but energetically. Grounding and breathing had increased my capacity for joy. I could contain all the goodness of this day, let it flow through me and make room for more.

Later that evening I had a wonderful visit with a friend. I was elated. I noticed the energy building inside and I let it express itself. I danced around, letting this joy move my body. It was easy and took only a few minutes. Throughout the day I’d been riding the waves of joy, with a near crash safely averted, living to surf another day.

This all happened quite naturally because I’ve been moving energy through my body for years, I’ve been listening to the signals of my body the way one might listen at the feet of a guru. I have been willing to be too loud, too angry, too quiet, too much, to honour my authentic self.  I still make mistakes, override my body’s wisdom and find myself in old patterns, but when I have experiences like this I want to share them with you so that you can learn from my mistakes and lessons and have a more pleasurable ride.

Four Steps to Increase your Capacity for Joy. 

1. Ground yourself. Though it seems counter-intuitive, you’ll soar higher by dropping into the ground. Your connection to the earth will expand your capacity for all feeling, including joy.

2. Breathe. Breathe deeply, slowly and easily. As you breathe your body relaxes. Breathing enables you to feel your feelings. Breathing brings you out of your head, the future, the past and into the present where Joy resides.

(I feel so strongly about breathing and grounding that they are the first practices of Pleasure As a Spiritual Path.)

3. Be aware of your body.  For years I was disconnected from my body. I was happy enough but I couldn’t sustain true joy. We have to drop back in to our skin to increase our capacity. Start by noticing sensations. You don’t have to understand them or create a story to go with them. Just start by noticing ~ tightness, quickness, buzzing, pulsing, expansion, contraction ~ what is happening inside you. Stop reading right now and just notice what’s going on in your body.

4. Allow emotions and energies to move through your body. Not just the happy dances of joy, but the punching and raging of anger and hurt, the sobbing and trembling of sorrow and grief. 

Here’s to your joy ~ ever increasing, expanding and touching us all!

How Much Is Enough?

Growing up I never got the concept of enough. As a toddler I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning, out lasting many of the grown ups because I didn’t want to miss a thing.

As a young adult I said YES to everything, was constantly over-booked, running from one project to the next, pushing myself in workouts, going hours and hours without eating only to finally realize I was starving and then eat tons to keep me fueled, sleeping very little and always feeling there was more to do.

The root of my pushing and striving and over-booking was that I didn’t feel I was enough. No matter how good a job I did, I saw ways I could have done better. I believed I could have worked harder, loved more, and been more. Though my life’s work was committed to sustainability, my life was anything but that, all because I didn’t know in my bones that I am enough.

It took a debilitating illness, when I could no longer do all the things I thought made my life worthwhile. When I could no longer give and serve and be there for others, when I was stripped of my ability to do, and caused to finally be, I discovered the feeling of enough.  Not as a concept or theory, but a sensation in my body. I started to notice, ever so slightly at first, a sense of peace and wholeness in my cells, even when my body was wracked in pain. I realized contentment and joy even in deep exhaustion. I discovered life’s abundance as my finances dwindled while I was unable to work. I knew finally that I am enough, that this life with illness, as limited as it seemed compared to my old life, was enough.

As my health improved I had no desire to return to my old ways. The pattern was pretty deeply engrained in my neuropathways so I would (and still can) slip into it from time to time, but there’s no real desire for it. The moment I catch it I can get back on a healthier track quickly.

I’ve learned that 4 hours is not enough sleep for me. That some days I need 5 or 6 meals to feel satisfied and other days I barely eat at all. That I am comfortable living in far fewer square feet than most people I know, but I need more time outdoors and  alone.

I’ve learned that enough feels like a gentle fullness, with lots of space to breathe. Enough feels like energy pulsing through my body like a jewel-toned jelly fish. Enough feels complete. I can give from a well that won’t run dry, while being completely comfortable saying No.

My relationship with Enough is a moment to moment practice of paying attention to how I feel, and for me that requires slowing down enough to notice.

One of my favourite artists is Daniel Peacock. Some of his paintings are wildly chaotic, like the one above – full of so many images and messages you find something new every time you look at them. Others are simple solitary figures – like this one here.

Whether complex or sparse, each on is an expression of love. With such a vast range, how does he know when he’s painted enough?

He told me he’s sure a piece is finished when he gets the urge to pull out his guitar and play it a love song. And he does just that. When it comes to his art, Daniel knows how much is enough. He feels it.

This is my offering to you:

Explore how much is enough.

  • What does enough feel like in your body?
  • What sensations do you experience?
  • What does not enough feel like?
  • How do you feel with too much?

You don’t have to do anything with what you discover. You don’t have to judge yourself or compare. Your enough and my enough will be different. Your enough today will be different from your enough tomorrow.

For now, just noticing … is enough.

*All of these paintings are by Daniel Peacock. To see them live is a real treat. I’ll let you know when his next show will be.