What images stir in you when you consider the word “joy”? Have you ever been surprised by joy? Can it be a pathway to wholeness, inner peace, and deeper connection with God and your True Self? If so, are there certain practices you can incorporate into your life to grow the seeds of joy?
The Wisdom of CS Lewis
The once self-proclaimed atheist CS Lewis pondered these questions—and found his search for joy guided him to God.
In the movie, The Reluctant Convert, about the life of CS Lewis, and in Lewis’ book, Surprised by Joy, we discover how this one word—and Lewis’ desire to experience its alluring presence and transforming power—became a driving force in his life.
Here’s how Lewis described his experience of joy:
“[Joy] was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, ‘in another dimension’….Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only…the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”
Lewis has much to teach us about joy and how we can find it in our own lives.
Joy was an elusive mystery that drew Lewis like a soothing ointment. When he experienced it, he wanted more.
But joy was not something he could touch or grasp. It was something he had to wait for.
It fell upon him with surprise when, at age twelve, his brother brought him a bird nest filled with three tiny white eggs. The beauty captivated Lewis. He felt it in his heart and bones. But when he tried to capture the moment with his intellect, it left him. It was an unspeakable joy his mind and mere words couldn’t describe or sustain—but his heart knew joy had brushed his soul.
Lewis’ quest reminds me of Jesus’ words: “I have told you these things so that my joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing” John 15:11.
Like Lewis, we are living in chaotic times. War and rumors of war fill our airwaves. The economy is on the brink of recession. Gasoline prices continue to skyrocket out of our pocketbooks’ grasp, and mothers struggle to find baby formula to feed their infants.
During these troubled days, it’s sometimes hard to find joy.
What Are the Roots of Joy?
Like Lewis, we want to experience joy-filled lives. We want our joy to be complete and overflowing like Jesus promised.
But the joy we seek is not found in material or physical happiness. It’s beyond fleeting moments of getting a new cell phone, winning a marathon, or feasting on ice cream.
Joy is unshakeable. It’s heart-felt trust that God’s loving and living presence is guiding us to our greatest good despite the circumstances around us. It’s the solution to our problems as we become certain God’s power in and around us will and is bringing heaven’s divine love and incarnate wisdom to earth.
But how do we free our minds when they are filled with worry and negativity? How do we open the overflowing joy valve in our hearts?
Seven Ways to Develop the Fruit of Joy in Your Life
Like soil that needs fertilizer and loving care to grow healthy plants, we have to till our souls with spiritual practices that make the ground of our hearts soft and open to receiving joy.
Over the years, our spiritual teachers have invited us to adopt the following practices as a way of tending the garden of our souls, so it becomes good soil for God to grow the fruit of unspeakable joy in our lives
Set an intention to choose joy
First, we have to choose joy. We have to tell ourselves that no matter the circumstances, we have a choice. We can grumble about all the problems around us and let worry carry us to dark places, or we can focus on what we are grateful for and let the beauty of our blessings remind us we are safe. We are loved. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need,” Psalm 23 in The Message, reminds us.
Greet the day with gratitude
Each morning before getting out of bed, my teachers told me to lie awake for a few moments and name a handful of people and things for which I’m grateful. My wife, our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren; my best friend; my dog; my body; the air in my lungs. My ability to see and hear the world around me. This morning gratitude list reminds me of what is good in life.
Have coffee with the Creator
Years ago, a wise friend told me to begin the day with quiet time. Start the day sipping coffee with the Creator. In that place of solitude, we can bring our worries and problems to God and seek divine wisdom. We can close our eyes and feel the flow of Divine Presence holding us in a warm embrace. And because it is a gift from the Holy Spirit, we can ask God for the flowing grace of joy.
Talk and listen to God throughout the day
When the clamor of the world and anxious thoughts rob us of joy, my teachers told me to pause for a moment and talk to the Creator as if he’s right there with us—because he is—his Spirit dwells within us. All we need do is become aware of it and tap into divine lifegiving water.
Sing like a child
Singing praises and fun songs in our heads are another way God graces the day with joy. As songs of praise and requests flow from our hearts, we return to our child-like spirits, letting our minds replace worried thoughts with the words and rhythm of simple joy and love.
Notice where you experience joy in your body
When we engage in a physical action repeatedly, our bodies eventually develop muscle memory. They naturally recall how to perform the action without having to think about it.
Our bodies also have a spiritual memory. When we experience joy, notice how it feels in your body. Notice where you feel it. Then come back to that place in your body whenever you desire to draw yourself to the sensations of joy.
Lately, I’ve been experiencing joy through tears that come from nowhere. I’m not sad. Instead, I’m realizing these tears are a gift God offers as a way of cleansing and softening my heart. They bring me unspeakable joy. I receive them with unspeakable gratitude.
Recall where you experienced God during the day
Before you close your eyes, look back over the day and name the God-sightings you experienced. Where do you recall God showing up in simple ways, like the kind words of a loved one, the beauty of the sun, a hearty workout at the gym, or the warm lick of your pet’s tongue giving your ear a wet willie?
Growing Unspeakable Joy
Joy must be cultivated, it seems. It’s a grace that flows from the Creator, but we must till the soil of our sacred hearts to create a place for the seeds of joy to grow. It’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment practice.
In the last scene of The Reluctant Convert, after years of struggling to find joy and understand who or what God is, Lewis is in church kneeling at the altar waiting to receive communion. As the minister places the wafer on his tongue, Lewis’ eyes sparkle as he proclaims that, for the first time, he believes God is real.
A tear rolled down my cheek as I sat enthralled by the moment. I dabbed the tear, brought it to my lips and tasted joy. Joy had found me.
As I entered quiet time the next morning, I opened the Journey to the Heart daily meditation book. The reflection for the day was titled “Let Joy Find You.”
I looked up at the sky and laughed with the Creator. I knew unspeakable joy had found me once again.
A Prayer for Joy
Consider reciting the following prayer as you seek more joy in your life. Then notice when unspeakable joy surprises you.
Thank you, God, for the gift of joy. May it continue to draw me closer to you and to my True Self in You.
—brian j plachta
June Finding Flow Workshops
Join me for the June 24-25 Workshops:
Finding Flow and Deepening Finding Flow
the Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas
Together we’ll unpack the four questions below and discover a pathway to your Inner Self and God.
- What does inner peace look like to you?
- What does it mean for your life to be balanced?
- How do you feel when you sense wholeness?
- What are the spiritual tools and practices that allow us to discover and sustain the flow of inner peace, balance, and wholeness?
You have two options to join the Workshop:
Option 1: You can attend the Friday evening session on-line via Zoom; or
Option 2: You can attend both the Friday evening on-line session, and Saturday in-person workshop at Dominican Center.
Click the links below to learn more and register:
Friday Night Zoom Session On-line
Friday Night Zoom Session On-line and Saturday morning in-person session at DCM
Together, let’s continue to Find the Divine Flow within us!
Click on the link below and check out this 3-Minute video to learn about the concept of “Finding Flow” so you can get into “Divine Flow” and reclaim inner peace, joy, and happiness.