“If we keep a green bough alive in our hearts, the singing bird will come.”
The 2017 Summer Edition of Parabola Magazine has a lovely article titled “Joy” by Christina Feldman that begins with the quote above. In it, Feldman writes: “Joy, it seems, mostly comes unbidden. We cannot plan or contrive joy, yet it touches our lives. Joy gladdens our hearts, it eases the mind; it has the taste of delight and happiness.”
For most of my life, I had no expectation of joy; in fact, I believed it to be a fleeting thing at best. That singing bird perches on the green bough, trills for a moment and then flies away. According to the Galatians 5:22, joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I don't know about you, but I don't have a lock on that list just yet.
What I have found, however, is that as I have done my psychological work—and by that I mean look deeply and honestly at myself, my life, my relationships, and my role in all I have lived through—joy seems to be a by-product. It's not the Hallmark sort of joy, with balloons and parades, but quiet contentment. I can tell you this: it feels good.
Feldman makes the case that mindfulness plays an essential role in joy. Being awake and aware of the world around you, taking note of simple pleasures like a good cup of coffee, a sunny day, the leafing out of the trees as spring settles in. All of this requires being present in the moment; being in your body and not just in your head. I confess to being a “heady” person—my imagination, my thoughts, my mental planning and arranging are a great distraction from being present in my body and aware through all of my senses. I wonder whether you are like that, too. I can spend an entire day inside my thoughts, and completely oblivious to my surroundings. Sometimes that is necessary, but it limits the possibilities for experiencing joy and contentment.
To allow Spirit to lead, we must first be awake to her presence, and aware that she works through serendipity and synchronicity; through small, everyday miracles. When we are present and mindful, we become aware of the beauty of Spring all around us. We see the greening and blooming of the plant world, we feel the sun on our shoulders, and hear breezes and birdsong. We actually taste whatever goes into our mouths, and smell the fragrances of newly mowed grass, jasmine and honeysuckle wafting in the air. When the senses come alive in springtime, joy cannot be far behind. I wish you some today.
In the Spirit,