I’ve been reflecting on “radical joy” — the meaning, the feeling, and how to awaken it —since I received a shamanic healing from my friend Jill Walton a few days ago. Jill told me, “Go for radical joy.”
So what is radical joy and how do you go for it?
Today, I’ll share the insights that have emerged for me. Perhaps my insights will resonate for you or maybe you’ll want to contemplate the meaning and path to radical joy for yourself. Ready?
1. Radical joy doesn’t depend on external conditions, it comes from within.
But it does dance with external conditions because magic surrounds us. A flower blooms, the wind rustles through trees, the moon rises once again in the night sky. You wake up each morning, until you don’t. A baby emerges into her bright new world. Cars glide along and planes take flight. The colors on your plate delight, if you notice. And, you have food to eat. Even in the worst of times, goodness and beauty peeks through.
You might be able to explain these occurrences via biology, aerodynamics, or another science. But in reality, you’ll never truly know the why of it. The magic and mystery of the universe gives birth to endless miracles each and every day, but often we’re so busy we don’t even see them.
Only you can tune into the wonders around and within you. Radical joy depends on you.
Gratitude is one way to open the door to radical joy. Not just quickly writing a three point gratitude list in a journal each day and then rushing off to what’s next.
You need a felt sense of gratitude, not just a head one. Gradually, you’ll allow more and more radical joy into your life through an embodied practice of gratitude.
2. Radical joy arises when you remain in the present moment with awe and wonder.
I remember another time when I came to Jill’s for a visit, bringing a small chocolate bar to share. I watched as she unhurriedly poured hot water over the loose Genmaicha tea sitting in a silver pot. Then she lovingly unwrapped the chocolate bar with full attention. She broke the rectangle of 8 convex chocolate bubbles in half along an indentation, and carefully placed each piece on a saucer. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed.
In that moment, Jill showed me radical joy. Or at least that’s how I perceived it.
You don’t need to go on an expensive vacation, get a special dress, or buy a hot new car to feel radical joy. In fact, those transitory experiences of joy may only bring suffering when they end or the newness of an object fades away.
In contrast, the opportunity for radical joy awaits you in every moment if you’re willing to notice your inner and outer world with wonder and awe —and with less attachment. And, it’s not just about the outer world. You could also delight at the gift of being alive or the ability to breathe or the capacity to move.
Overthinking blocks you from radical joy because it stops you from being awake to the present moment. Whenever you find yourself lost in thoughts, bring your mind back to the present moment, by noticing what you see, hear, feel through the sense of touch, taste, or smell.
This conscious effort to notice – also known as mindfulness in popular vernacular – is another ingredient in the mix of radical joy.
3. Feel your feelings but don’t attach to them.
Radical joy will not occur as one uninterrupted continuum in your life. All varieties of feelings—sadness, pain, anger and others—will continue to punctuate it from time to time.
Feel your feelings, they contain important messages for you. If you have the readiness to hear, they’ll tell you about the hurts, resentments, and emotional patterns that need healing in your life.
At the same time, learn not to attach to them. See them as clouds floating by in the sky. You are not your emotions, you’re the awareness behind them.
Yes, I know that’s hard to do, but with practice it gets easier.
When you accept your emotions, see them as messengers, and refrain from turning them into a full scale drama, you make more space available for radical joy to arise in your life.
And radical joy remains available even when you feel hurt, angry, sad, jealous or in pain.
Shift your attention for a few seconds at a time from your difficult mind or heart state and let some goodness in. The more you’re able to make these tiny shifts, the less disturbing emotions will rule your life.
Sure, you might get pulled right back in to the emotional vortex at first. But with practice, the swirl will lose it’s strength.
4. Your inner voice will lead you in the direction of radical joy.
Listen to your inner voice. If you listen to others more than yourself, you’ll get pulled further and further away from radical joy. It may be years before you get back.
No one else has the answers for you. Only you know the next step on your path. You might gain inspiration, guidance, and direction from others, like I did from Jill, but it must resonate with your heart, your knowing, your truth.
You won’t get to radical joy if you live to please others, meet their expectations, or gain your self worth through their approval. So listen to and honor your inner voice if you’re truly serious about cultivating radical joy.
5. Adopt the mindset of radical joy.
If you cling to people, possessions, experiences, beliefs, you leave no room for radical joy to manifest in your life. [Read: 12 Things You Cling to That Block Your Inner Peace]
On the other hand, if you understand that everything is impermanent and changing, you won’t be nearly as distressed when the universe, karma, or whatever controls the show, decides unexpectedly to reorder your life.
It may not be easy when these things happen, you may feel hurt, loss, and grief. But it will be easier because you know that radical joy is your birthright, it resides within you. You can call upon it even in what feels like the most painful of times.
When you know you’re here on this earth to learn, evolve, and grow, you also won’t be quite as startled if your life gets turned upside down. It might feel challenging, for sure. But you’ll remember to look for the lessons, allow time to heal, and take your next step forward in a positive direction.
The ability to flow with change and impermanence and to embrace the lessons of life also represent essential components in the formula for radical joy.
6. Eradicate beliefs that block radical joy.
Are any of your beliefs holding you back from radical joy? Investigate!
For example, I learned to win attention and approval through working hard. That left little time to notice and appreciate the magic and mystery in life.
Here are a few other common beliefs that might block your capacity for radical joy.
- I must be perfect.
- No one loves me.
- I know what’s best for everyone.
- I’m not good enough.
- I’m not worthy.
- I must obey.
- I must rebel.
- I’m lazy.
Challenge these negative beliefs about yourself. If you hold onto them, you’ll continue to distance radical joy.
You Deserve Radical Joy
Yes, there is darkness in the world. And it shouldn’t be ignored in favor of cultivating your own slice of radical joy.
But denying your own joy because others suffer won’t bring an end to darkness. In fact, it becomes easier to help others when your own heart fills with gladness.
Radical joy isn’t only for mystics, saints, or sages. You deserve it too.
But it is a practice that requires dedication, persistence, and diligence. Follow the steps above, and you’ll begin to get glimpses of radical joy as you move about your day. And once you spark it, you’ll be able to grow radical joy more and more by learning to pay attention to where you place your focus in life.
I’m grateful to Jill Walton for waking me up to radical joy. A bit of the wisdom she shared in my healing is mixed into my insights here. Thank you, Jill. You are a precious gem.
What did I miss? What awakens radical joy in your life? I would love to hear in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra