Learning & Unlearning through eyes of Inner Child

True joy bubbles up from the inside out. Sometimes it’s a result of getting present in the moment and simply paying attention to the miracle of nature and life around you: the clouds that change from white to pink to golden with the sun setting over the mountains, a pet who stares at you adoringly and nudges your arm to pet her, or a baby sleeping quietly in his crib. Gifts of Inner Joy releases the child-like perspective of being awed and wowed, free and unburdenful yet full of potential.

Other times, it’s a result of conscious thoughts: a joyful memory, anticipation of reconnecting with someone you deeply care about, or quite purely feeling gratitude for simply being alive. One thing that we know about joy is that it doesn’t depend on outside circumstances as much as it depends upon your thoughts and outlook on life.

So, do you wait for joy to come to you, or do you consciously look for ways to cultivate it?

We can learn a lot about joy from children and it’s not so much that we need to learn how to cultivate joy but that we need to unlearn the conditioning we’ve been exposed to over the years that has gotten in the way of us naturally experiencing it.

Think about some of the thoughts that were pounded into our brains when we were growing up:

  • Don’t be selfish!

  • Don’t brag!

  • Don’t make a mess or get dirty!

  • Settle down!

  • Be quiet!

  • Hold still!

  • Don’t feel that way!

True, in adulthood it serves us to learn to discern when to be quiet—and when to sing and dance and shout with abandon. For too many of us, we’ve been “shielded” and “guilted” into turning off our feelings altogether. When we turn off the spontaneity of the present moment too often, we lose our capacity to experience true joy.

I invite you to say YES to joy. Say YES to spontaneity. Say YES to more of what you want to do and less of what you think you should do. Say YES to living more in the present moment and less in the past or the future. Say YES to paying attention and getting real and honest with what brings you true joy… and doing these things more often.

Think about your childhood (and adulthood!) and what has brought you the most joy. We’re all different and yet the same: we all want more joy. What brings me joy may be different than what brings you joy, but in the end, I believe it all has to do with authenticity (getting real with ourselves), courage (feeling the fear and doing it any way), gratitude (no matter the circumstances), and love (connection and compassion for self and others).

Check out the list below for some ideas on how to cultivate more joy in your life. Pay attention to what resonates for you and make a commitment to do something daily to return to your natural state of wonder and joy:

  • Dance like no one is watching

  • Be curious and experience the wonder of nature all around you

  • Sing like no one is listening

  • Say “no” to “should” and “yes” to your body, mind, heart and soul

  • Pay attention to (and be patient with) what your body, mind, heart and soul are telling you

  • Do what you can to serve another

  • Hang out with children

  • Go out of your way to make another person smile

  • Look someone—anyone—in the eyes and repeat to yourself, “I am not alone”

  • Do something that is a little scary and intimidating to you but that you’ve been wanting to do!

  • Reach out to someone you’ve been thinking about but haven’t connected with lately

  • Get dirty! Get messy!

  • Feel what you feel!

  • Write a love letter and send it (or a letter of gratitude to someone you care about)

  • Take a little time to be selfish and brag!

  • Think about and write down 10 things you’re grateful for

  • Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child, and make time to do it as an adult: draw, paint, collect bugs, play the piano, sing, dance, practice calligraphy, play with clay, Laugh!

Life has a way, sometimes, of allowing us to get caught in heaviness, responsibility, worry, anxiety, and pessimism. We can’t always control our outer circumstances. However, our true nature is joy. And, we can choose to practice joy on a consistent basis. We can choose to be patient and kind to ourselves and others, knowing we are all a work in progress. We can choose to unlearn the conditioning that keeps us from experiencing the joy that is our birthright.

By committing to practice joy daily, not only will you experience more joy and fulfillment in your own life, you will also be like a pebble, thrown in a pond, sending a ripple of joy throughout your world. Be a joy and a light. You will make a difference in the lives of others. You will make a difference in the world. 

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