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Joy is a divine quality of our true self, which is inherently lighthearted, playful, and free. You can see the full expression of this joy in young children who haven’t learned to worry or take themselves too seriously. They play and laugh freely, finding wonder in the smallest things. They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions. They are in touch with their intuition, which is a form of intelligence that goes beyond the rational mind. Far from being superficial or trivial, joy is an experience of our deepest spiritual nature.
The path to joy is a return to wholeness. It is about shifting our perspective from ego to spirit. Our ego’s fear and insecurity cause it to puff up with self-importance and attempt to control the uncontrollable, while our spirit, knowing it is eternal and infinite, simply allows life to unfold. This creates a natural state of ease, which predisposes you to lightheartedness, joy, and laughter.
If you want to cultivate more joy, creativity, and love in your life, the principles that follow will help you shift your internal reference point from the limitations of the ego-mind to the freedom of spirit.
While we all experience loss and sorrow, in the end, joy and laughter dispel suffering like so much smoke and dust. When you feel momentary happiness, or you want to burst out laughing, or you smile for no apparent reason, you are glimpsing eternal reality. For a fleeting moment, the curtain parts and you experience something beyond the illusion. In time, these moments of joy will begin to knit together. Instead of being the exception, the primordial state of joy will become the norm.
The purpose of gratitude is to connect yourself to a higher vision of life. You have the power to choose where you focus your attention, and whatever you focus on will grow in your experience. If you pay attention to those aspects of spirit that demonstrate love, truth, beauty, intelligence, and harmony, those aspects will expand in your life. Bit by bit, like a mosaic, disparate fragments of grace will merge to form a complete picture. Eventually this picture will replace the fearful or limited images created by your ego.
Your worth is absolute, and everything that happens to you—whether it feels good at the time or not—is part of a divine plan unfolding from the level of the soul. In the conventional view, self-worth comes down to having a strong ego. People who possess strong egos feel self-confident and enjoy asserting themselves against obstacles. They meet challenges and in return life gives them money, status, and possessions—external rewards for external accomplishments. Yet in reality, your worth is the value of a soul, which is infinite and never varies. Since every event in your life isn't happening just to a person but to a soul, everything in life should be cherished.
Even when you feel lost or confused, your life has a purpose. You determine that purpose at the soul level, and then that purpose unfolds in daily life as part of the divine plan. The more deeply you are connected to the plan, the more powerful it becomes in your life. Ultimately, nothing can stop it. As you spend time meditating and engaging in other practices that expand your awareness, you will become more and more certain of your true purpose.
Many people live in a state of chronic anxiety, feeling isolated and threatened by all the potential threats of modern life. While fear feels very real, our true self can never be hurt or threatened. That’s why the ancient sages said that all fear is born of duality. When we know ourselves to be one with the ground of all existence, then nothing is separate or foreign to our nature and therefore nothing can truly threaten us.
You can gradually begin to let go of unhealthy fear by questioning your thoughts and opening your awareness. When fear arises, just observe yourself. See yourself, notice what your body and breath are doing, watch your behavior, your tone of voice—all of it. Then ask yourself, “Who is it that is observing all this?” The observer is your core self, your quiet center that exists outside of and independent of your fear. Shift your center of identity to that authentic self, and from that place you can be with fear without being in its grip. The fear is then only a disturbance within your larger field. This settled presence of your awareness will allow your fear to dissipate as you experience the joy and peace within.
Obstacles are signals our true self sends us to let us know that we need to change directions or take a new tack. If your mind is open, it will perceive the next opportunity to do so. The secret is to abandon rigidity and trust in spontaneity. You can’t plan in advance how to meet the next challenge, yet most people try to do just that. They cling to a small repertoire of habits and reactions and they narrow their lives.
Sticking to the familiar may feel comforting but it will completely shut out the unknown, which is the same as hiding your potential from yourself. How will you know what you are capable of if you don’t open yourself to life’s mysteries or usher in the new? Whenever you catch yourself reacting in an old, familiar way, simply stop. Don't invent a new reaction; don't fall back on the opposite of what you usually do. Instead, ask for openness. Go inside, be with yourself, and allow your next response to come of its own accord.
Every question includes its own answer. The only reason a problem arises before its solution is that our minds are limited—we think in terms of sequences, of before and after. Outside the narrow boundaries of time, problems and solutions arise at the same instant. While you might think that heroic efforts are required to face the problems that face us and the world, in fact the reverse is true. When you’re living in a state of expanded awareness, you act without effort, you feel joy in what you do, and your actions bring results.
You are a co-creator with the universe and infinite energy is available to you. To claim your creative power, you need only connect with the primal energies that play within you. The kind of energy you can call upon at any given moment depends on your level of consciousness. Most people rely on the superficial energies generated by the ego: anger, fear, competitive drive, the desire to achieve, and the yearning for approval. There is no right or wrong in the domain of energy, but the ego falls prey to the illusion that only anger fear, the drive to achieve, and so on are real. It ignores the higher energies of love, compassion, truth.
On the path to joy, we proceed to subtler and subtler realms of the mind, and with each step, new levels of energy become available. At the highest levels of consciousness, all energy becomes available. At that point, all of your wishes and desires are in alignment with the universe, God, or spirit. You are able to create with effortless ease and you experience the spontaneous fulfillment of your desires.
For more tools to create a limitless life, join Deepak and Oprah for the 21-Day Meditation Experience: Getting Unstuck, available now in the Chopra App.