Joy is an inherent part of our basic nature. We all have it, but many of us have lost touch with it over the years. We formed identities in response to what was happening around us and forgot the truth of who we were.
How can we get back in touch with our joyful selves? Mindfulness helps us live in the present moment where we can find our joy. The secret to recovery is realizing that we have already survived everything that has ever happened to us. Our negative beliefs and feelings about ourselves come from the past. The healing we are seeking can only be found now in the present moment.
As we set out on our healing journey the most important skill to train in is mindfulness. Mindfulness means learning to stay with ourselves in the present moment, and not losing sight of where our attention is placed. It means bringing ourselves back to the present moment repeatedly through the day. We bring ourselves back, notice when we’ve drifted away, and bring ourselves back again. It is the opposite of distraction and dissociation. Mindfulness is our greatest support and will come in handy every step of the way as we traverse the healing journey.
The Buddhist term for strengthening our mindfulness is “taming the mind.” When we say, “taming our minds,” it means that we are training and building up our mindful muscles to directly work with our mental confusion and difficult emotions. Training here does not mean meditation boot camp. It means developing an openness and care towards our mind, reminding ourselves that our situation is workable. Even if we need “to fake it until we make it,” it is important to trust ourselves, take a seat of authority inside ourselves, and learn to listen to our inner guide.
As long as we can imagine the possibility of change and we have the willingness to try, our spiritual practice is off to a good start. We can heal and find our innate joy and happiness. When I first started sitting practice I could barely sit still for one second. My meditation teacher always said, “Not a problem! Appreciate the richness in all that activity.” It does not help to think about what other people are experiencing when they sit on their cushions or wonder if we’re supposed to be having some different kind of experience. That kind of thinking always brings us down. We can appreciate our own unique, naked, and beautiful mind.
As we work on developing our daily practice, it’s important to understand what it means to be disciplined. Discipline on the spiritual journey is not about following a set of rules. It is about getting in touch with our desire and determination to feel better. We learn to listen to our own inner knowing rather than trusting some outer figure. It is about taking responsibility for ourselves, standing on our own two feet, noticing when we make mistakes, and learning how to self correct. Many of us learned some version of self discipline from our parents. This may have been overly rigid or lacking altogether. Mindful discipline is not fear based. It comes from self love and our own internal wish to be happy. We work on correcting our patterns of behavior that we know are not good for us, replacing old habits with new ones. We are doing it because we want to and we know it will make us happy. This is a self strength that comes from our own trust in ourselves. We are moving toward our vision of wholeness and peace.
I can’t say enough about mindful discipline as I have worked with enough people to feel certain that change does not come about from talking about how much we want to be different. It comes from loving ourselves so much that we get very interested in going about life in a different way. This includes how we are working on our recovery. We can continue to treat ourselves poorly or begin taking care of ourselves, talking to ourselves in a kind voice, soothing those scared inner children. It’s not about following a list of rules, but rather working with our own mind. It has to come from our own heart.
Mindfulness is the key to unlocking our innate joyfulness. It is about learning to be present with ourselves in our life. The actual practice takes place moment by moment throughout the day and influences everything we do. When we experience life through mindfulness of the present moment, we naturally experience more joy. I have been practicing meditation for over fifteen years now. Even though the sitting practice is still a challenge, I noticed right away how joy started popping up all over the place! Learning to stay present with the flow of life is the key to getting back in touch with our innate and precious joyful nature.