Just before she died, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was interviewed for National Public Radio. She said she was at peace with herself. Her body had worn out and she was ready for death. I was struck by one remark she made, “I’ll dance among the stars, but I wish I had danced more down below”.
We all underestimate our need for joy. If we aren’t careful, we live our lives as if our schedules are our lives. We cross one thing after another off our list. At the end of the day we’ve completed out chores, but we haven’t necessarily been present for our own experiences. So often we focus on what is wrong and what we don’t have, and we let that determine the course of our lives. What if we choose instead to focus on what is right, on what brings us joy, on what fulfills us? What if we choose instead to be joyfully determined?
Boundless joy is natural to infants who smile for no reason, laugh for fun, and play for play’s sake. This joy is also natural to our unconditioned self. It needs no reason, no special equipment, no money, no perfect moment, no permission, no justification, and no ideal circumstance. Being joyful is about folding back into something already innate in us.
To answer the call to joy means that, in the midst of grief, despite uncertainty, and our reluctance to challenge the status quo, we still choose to respond to our soul’s stirring. Joy calls to us in our uncertainty and bears its fruit in the very garden of our limitation. It emerges when we risk revealing ourselves. The path to joy relies on our capacity to connect with what matters, to feel the pulse of life that ties us to all that is.