Joy is our birthright

Dear Ones,

Hello.  This week I looked at the description of the Esalen workshop I’ll take with Andrea Juhan in a couple of weeks. 

Joy is our birthright. We are designed to experience pleasure. However, have you ever noticed how easy it is to drift to the one negative comment in a sea of positive responses? To dwell on one doubt in the face of overwhelming support? Yes, we are designed to experience pleasure but our brains have what neuropsychologist call a negativity bias. Therefore, we need to practice embodying the full spectrum of human joy, teaching ourselves happiness to counterbalance evolution's survival directive.

In Open Floor movement practice, we investigate embodied joy — the kind of joy that transcends one’s own personal gain, like generosity, compassion, peace and benevolence. Dancing is the perfect medium for developing our capacity to tolerate the “big hits” of rapture or ecstasy, and noticing the quieter forms of joy such as presence, health, connection, belonging, kindness, ease and well-being. All of these particular qualities of joy have had imprints within our being. We can strengthen these neural pathways — we can dance ourselves into being happier people — at least more of the time.

There’s so much to love in that description.  “Joy is our birthright,” for instance.

After reading that, I assigned more attention to really noticing what brought me joy. . . .and then noticing how joy felt in my body. . . the yummy sensation of rolling around with joy in my being.

Blueberries give me joy.  Yes, it’s those little blue taste-bud love bombs that make me tingle.My hospice shift gives me joy.  On Tuesday nights I pretty much float out the door at the end of the night after sitting at the bedside with people like Charlie, who likes to playfully argue with me about the color of my eyes (I say hazel, he says green).The NYTBR’s By the Book column gives me joy.  Because reading lines like this make me giggle, “I don’t keep books on my bedside table.  If I love a book, I drag it around with me like a subway rat with a slice of pizza.”  I can relate.

It gives me joy to write this little missive to you.

It gives me joy to anticipate dancing with you tomorrow morning in Sausalito.

What brings you joy?

It gives me joy to tell you that the wonderfully warm and talented Sarah Davies is visiting us from the UK and she will be holding space for us, creating the soundscape we need to find our own joy, or move through whatever emotion might be dancing within our being.

A Blessing

By James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,

Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.

And the eyes of those two Indian ponies

Darken with kindness.

They have come gladly out of the willows

To welcome my friend and me.

We step over the barbed wire into the pasture

Where they have been grazing all day, alone.

They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness

That we have come.

They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.

There is no loneliness like theirs.

At home once more,

They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.

I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,

For she has walked over to me

And nuzzled my left hand.

She is black and white,

Her mane falls wild on her forehead,

And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear

That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

Into blossom.

May it be so.

May we all imagine the felt sensation in the body that if we “stepped out of the body, we would break into blossom.”  What a great line! And those glorious ponies! 

Love you so,


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