The Scene: Riding around Bali at sunset on her bicycle, Liz Gilbert recalls her Guru's teachings about happiness: it isn't about luck, but the consequence of personal effort. You have to fight for it, insist upon it, and, as Liz writes, "participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings." Then, once you attain happiness, you have to maintain it. When Liz finds herself happy in Bali, she offers up a prayer and a vow to hold on to her state of harmony: "Please help me memorize this feeling of contentment and help me always support it." She calls this practice "Diligent Joy."
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The Reality: Even after a perfect yoga class there can be traffic; after a spa vacation you can come back and be downsized. How can you bliss out when real life delivers everyday blows? Anyone can change their name and zip code but what about being your best, blissful self in the face of conflict, injury and adversity? Ah, yes. This is the real Eat, Pray, Love project.
Attraversiamo! Let's cross over--to joy.
Emotional intelligence expert Cat Thompson (emotionaltechnologies.com) says joy is all about finding sacred meaning in the things we do. We might feel it in a passionate, ecstatic experience like summiting Everest (which is a little different than, say, submitting taxes, though that can bring the joy of relief). Or we might feel it while hanging out barefoot in the backyard eating a peach. We'll take joy however we can get it! So how do we get there?
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1. Don't outsource joy. "We often look for an external reason to feel joy," says Thompson. We think we'll feel it when we go on the ideal vacation, land the dream job, or find the perfect lover or friend. "We've forgotten joy is our birthright. It isn't somebody else's responsibility."
2. Feel all your emotions. "People want to turn off their emotions unless it's joy," says Thompson. "But your ability to feel joy is directly and proportionately related to your ability to feel anything else in your life." So, feel the sadness and grief, the fear and excitement--it will allow you to recognize joy when it shows up.
3. Acknowledge abundance. Feeling a lack of joy? Thompson recommends making a list of every abundant thing in your life: your family, friends, beautiful items, your CD collection, furniture, your Grandmother's brooch... everything. "So many of us are surrounded by abundance yet we act like we're starving," Thompson says. "Joy lives in appreciation."
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4. Be who you want to be. "A big part of joy is liking who you are," says Thompson. Not digging aspects of yourself lately? "Make one list of the things you do that make you like yourself--and one list of the things you do that make you dislike yourself. On the days you're not liking yourself so much, pick something out of the like column and do it. That moves you closer to joy because the more you like yourself, the more you appreciate yourself--and the more appreciate anything, the more you live in joy."
The Mantra: Thank you.
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That phrase doesn't have to be relegated to mere politeness. It has more power than that! "When you feel a juicy moment in life (like hearing a song you love or biting into that delicious peach), thank everything and everybody," says Thompson. "When you reverently say thank you and mean it in every cell of your body, that to me is joy."
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio