Joy To Your World!

Very few people see wonders in their workplace. This is a strange and sad circumstance because we can see them elsewhere. The truth is that the world is wonders-full - if only we would learn to see them.

Here's a scene for you. An executive who appeared so uncaring and tough at work actually managed to attend his daughter Melissa's grade four play, "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed." Melissa was Mrs. Johnny Appleseed and she insisted that her dad and mom sit in the second row (the first one being "Reserved") right near the center aisle. They could see her white bonnet as she peered through the curtains to be sure they were still there and ready for the wonders they were about to see. And wonders there were! It went the way grade four plays are supposed to go, with kids forgetting their lines or saying them either too quietly or too loud, the teacher's constant prompts from backstage, the miscued curtains. Each one was a wonder. And then the wonder of all wonders - Melissa's only line rehearsed a thousand times at dinner, in the bathtub and the last thing before sleep: "Oh my dear husband (that part always made the other kids laugh and it did this time, too) do not be discouraged, for people around the world will eat from the orchards you have planted." I do not even want to meet the parent whose eyes are not filled with tears of wonder in such a situation.

There are many wonders on which we could focus, but at this time of the year I offer a few comments on the wonder of Joy. Joy is the evidence that life makes sense, if even for just a moment.

Experience enough joy-full moments and you'll have a whole day full of joy. String enough days together and you'll have one joy-full week. A joy-full year? One can barely imagine it.

I really don't know why joy is so illusive today. Is it not something we all long for? Is it possible that someone would not want joy? If having joy means that our life is making sense, then surely we want all we can get.

So how come, in her wonderful book Light Dances, Shirley Trout sadly comments that, "youth appear to find woefully few adults who demonstrate any joy in being alive?" How come poet David Whyte, in his spiritually rich book, The Heart Aroused, insists that the experience of joy is incredibly rare, particularly in the workplace?Whyte seems to suggest that our problem with joy is that we see joy coming toward us and we do something that allows us to escape from its embrace. It is like the crotchety pessimist who is finally talked into going to a New Year's Eve party, almost starts to have a truly good time, and then catches himself.

We all know the person who seems to have dedicated his life to misery. If one could become joyful by breathing, he would hold his breath. Here is how Whyte puts it: "…we may actually experience joy as a moment of terror. It opens to us all our possibilities and yet casts a shadow of comparison across all our other moments. Joy brings an intimation of death and mortality. This joy will pass as all others have before them." Does this mean that we don't dare make our workplaces joy-full for fear that something terrifying will happen? How did we get into such an attitude? Every parent has, at some point, given their children the warning: "Don't get your hopes up too high!" I guess if your hopes are too high there is more potential for disappointment.

Of course that begs the question about what altitude hopes should be set at so as to avoid the pain of a fall. After all you can hurt yourself stepping off a curb. You are reveling in the loving joy of a new German Shepherd puppy, given to you as a Christmas gift, and your neighbor tells you about an adult dog that tore apart the entire house and all who lived within it. You win a million dollars in a lottery drawing and can now pay for your mother's heart transplant when a friend (mis)informs you that 43% of all lottery winners commit suicide. Even the television weather person gets into the act. "Most of the nation can expect beautiful weather at the start of the week," she'll say, and then adds - in case you were starting to pack a picnic - "let's hope it lasts." The intimation, of course, is that it won't and you will probably spread your picnic blanket over a patch of poison ivy. Why couldn't she have said, "The weather for most of the nation is beautiful "How can we learn to in-joy or joy-in the experiences of life?

Here is how I think joy works. When we sit down to eat an absolutely incredible meal - one that sparkles in our eyes, flirts with our nostrils, rumbas with our tongues - we experience the joyous stimulation of all our senses. Following along with the joy of taste, smell and so on, comes the strengthening assimilation of that food into our body. What began as sheer sensual joy now nourishes us. It literally becomes part of who we are.

Likewise, when we go through an experience that affirms our worth as a unique and royal creation, one that brings delight to our path, we are strengthened in our soul. If our food shapes us physically, our joy shapes us spiritually. Now here is where the metaphor becomes a little more complicated. When we eat, the consumption and digestive process has many components to it, each essential to the value and purpose of eating. However, some of these components are highlighted for our undivided and joyful attention while others are just there and we don't even think about them, let alone rejoice in them. At the restaurant I doubt that any of your dinner companions will sigh, "Oooo I just love it when my food goes into my intestines!" or "There is nothing more wonderful than when my stomach acid begins to decompose my food." (If they do, you need to get some new friends - and I mean now!)

Some aspects of our experiences we label "joyful" and other aspects we don't label at all; they are just there. We label the sizzle of the steak but we don't label its decomposition in our stomachs. Still it is important to remember that all aspects are essential to the whole experience of joy. When we don't see it this way there is the tendency to denigrate the more mundane and less exciting aspects, or even become angry at them. The point is, not all parts of joy need to be euphoric in order to be part of joy. Not everything at work has to be ideal for you to experience joy.

Finally, let's go back to the point Whyte makes, that we reject joy because we are afraid we will lose it. If you never fall in love you don't run the risk of having your heart broken. Of course you do run the risk of having no heart at all. This is common thinking. If you can avoid joy, you will avoid the pain of losing joy. But, I can't imagine sitting at a restaurant table and saying, "I don't think I'll eat this incredible meal because tomorrow's dinner may not be as good." The secret to full life is Carpe Joy! Eat while it's hot! Be nourished now - it will make you stronger for whatever tomorrow brings.


I am suggesting that evidence of joy is an indicator that you are on track to finding a life of meaning and that you see the divine purpose of your work. I am not suggesting that just because every single thing doesn't bring ecstasy you are off track. The wonder of joy points to an emerging congruence between your life and your work. When we learn to joy-in the choices that make up our lives, we will also have the wisdom to know with which of the options available to us we are to joyn. Let's make "joyn" a new word that means to become part of something with enthusiasm, energy, zest and celebration. My wish and prayer for you during this holiday season is that you will find in your workplace the wonder of joy. And to ensure that joy will indeed be there, take some with you when you go. Joy to your world and may your heaven and nature sing!

The following quotation must be printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.

Ian Percy is an international speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com

 
 

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