I just came back home from a lovely trip out to visit a dear friend in Colorado last night. Walking into the house I could smell the distinct dog odor from our resident pug, Charlie. That was my first impression of our home and then I was hit by: “Mom, could you clean my running shoes for tomorrow?” and “Mom, I need a check for school”. I was instantly reminded of how different everything was compared to the last 4 days in Colorado.
I tried to stop myself from the comparisons to what my days were like when I was away, until I realized that it was impossible. Our brains are designed to compare, contrast, and evaluate. We do this consciously and unconsciously. Even our sense of smell involuntarily compares something to another, reminds us of a good or not-so-good memory associated with the smell. We live in a web of associations and comparisons. If we have a negative memory, then we judge a certain sound, smell or sight to be bad and have an emotional reaction to something in the present based on something from the past. We are constantly going in and out of our thoughts and memories.
Sometimes we even get stuck in our thoughts like a mouse in a maze. Even if our thoughts are not negative or positive, we can get stuck, not knowing how to get out. I work with people who have thought themselves into corners they can’t get out of. They often complain about not being joyful or having lost touch with what matters to them.
Joy, I am convinced has nothing to do with thoughts. Joy is not associated with anything, it just is. I am writing about the kind of joy you feel when you are out in nature, hanging out by rocks that have been around some 10 million years or so. Your mind cannot compare and contrast on the mountains. It just absorbs the beauty and gets really quiet.
Joy in fact, cannot emerge from the mind and its incessant categorizing. One of the scenes that I am reminded of is when you are faced with something beautiful or awe inspiring from a distant past that you were not a part of, in the middle of everyday life. Walking on one of the side streets in Rome and unexpectedly seeing a slice of the Coliseum through the opening ahead as the motorcycles whiz by on the cobblestones for example is one of those moments. Time stops, because you are not capable of thinking your way back to a time thousands of years ago. Your mind is not working overtime. The chatter stops briefly as you gather yourself, until you start again remembering the first time you saw the image, or another time you saw something similar, and off you go back to your evaluating business. The chatter picks up and joy evaporates.
Living the mundane moments of everyday life are joyless for the most part because of the constant chatter in our heads. That is why Buddhist thought reminds us to welcome each day and activity as if it is the first time we are doing it. Staying present helps stop the chatter, slow down the evaluations, and bring back a bit of joy. This is how meditation works. It’s all about slowing down our thinking so we can be, just be.
If you find yourself lost in thinking and evaluating and want to be able to plug into joy, you might want to consider working with a spiritual life coach. Joy comes from spirit, something we lose touch with when we get lost in our thoughts. If you are interested in pursuing spiritual life coaching, contact me for a complimentary 30 minute coaching conversation.