The Joy Project
I want to spark a radically new approach to that experience known as joy. And to start a project with you that will give us all the best -- and surest -- ways to get high.
Are you with me so far?
What if we view joy as an imperative? What if, in these dire times, it is an imperative? What if it's essential for our survival? A path that can bring immediate awakening from the greed-hate-sad-scared-trance our species is trapped in?
Play with me for a moment: If this were true, what, then, would be required of us? Well, to learn to be joyful, of course, employing any and all ways that work!
And what works? This is where I would like your input.
But first allow me to share with you what I've come to about this: I'm starting to realize that the genesis of joy is generosity.
When you give to another, you give to yourself. Giving gives the giver. And this is evidence that we're all connected.
For example, when I recently pulled out my records for the first time in 20 years, and played them on the new records-to-CDs toy my wife bought me, I was thrilled. Especially upon rediscovering old rock songs that hold up so well! But on my first day with this machine there was one thing missing: someone else. I had no one to share this with, no one to turn on to my new musio-archeological discoveries. That would have completed the circle of joy for me.
Here's a radical example of what I'm talking about. In the 80's there was a workshop called The Six Day (you can guess why). It was supposed to transform you by exposing the games you played and shaking you free of them. Sometimes, it wasn't pleasant. What was most memorable to me was being awakened each morning and, before breakfast, made to run up a long, steep hill. (We were allowed to run...or stand and pant; no walking!)
Ever run up a steep hill? We all ran together, but the race was not against each other, but to beat your own time from the morning before. Also, as a rule, you were supposed to support those around you.
The real purpose of the exercise was to plainly reveal to you your mind and all its tricks. Well, have you ever run up a steep hill? Try it sometime! The first thing you'll notice is -- unless you're in great aerobic shape -- you get completely winded almost immediately! And that's what happened to me. After around 20 or 30 seconds, I found myself bent over, my hands on my knees, wheezing and gasping for breath. My mind kicked in big time. I heard it saying, "I CAN'T DO THIS! STOP!" I started again. Then my lungs start to burn. And I mean BURN!! And my mind was yelling at me -- "You are going to DIE! Fuck this! PLEASE STOP!!"
That's when that rule kicks in: Support the others. And that's when I made a remarkable discovery: If I just listened to my mind, I was screwed, and miserable, and I stopped running. But when I focused on someone around me who had also stopped, and I called out -- "Come on! You can do it! Let's GO!" -- I stopped listening to the voice in my head, and I started running again. I forgot about me! I became about someone else, and I, for a moment, disappeared: my burning, suffering body, my screaming brain, gone! Obliterated! All that was left of me was the shouting of support to the next person, movement, and breathing. Time, me, everything else, evaporated. It was scary and exhilarating all at once. And a kind of dying, for the moment. But what came alive was what lifted my legs and lurched me forward and had me smash my time from the morning before!
That was my spirit (what some refer to as the Self) taking over. It required me to disappear awhile so that joy could emerge.
Of course this is a pretty severe example of generosity. Obviously there are easier and more pleasant ways available to us!
But what I learned that moment is this:
The best way to get high is to give it.
Getting high alone can be lonely; giving high is communion. Getting high is for getting (forgetting we're all connected and meant to serve each other). Giving high is for giving. That‘s one reason I value our community: we share. If someone has something to spare, and you could use it, it's yours. Our communication is high tech and high touch. Our loving goes beyond self-love. Our dancing is tribal. Our explorations are best done together. Oh we get value out of exploring in solitary ways! But what's better, and more satisfying, than gathering, giving high and getting down all at once?
Joy is about connection, and about generosity (which is really another word for loving, isn't it?) This entails connecting to yourself first. Because, if you don't, you won't know who you are -- who this precious person is who's attempting to connect to another. After you, you can then connect to someone else...and others. And others still. And, yeah, even those people over there we don't like!
When it comes to connecting, I for one am really still a kid at heart. I basically am here to play, and hope you are too. Oh, I like my own company, but after a while it gets lonely in the sandbox all by myself. I stay late at a party, and often I'm the last to leave, because I don't want it to end. It can't end if I'm still there, right? Wrong: The moment I'm the last one there, it's over. Parties take partners.
Imagine my joy, half a century after my first childhood, at finding others in our own kind of sandbox, frolicking about, giggling and getting dirty, and happy to play patty-cake with me! Our community is a miracle.
I also notice I really get shy around connecting. When speaking to another, I often avert my eyes before they do. Why? I'm not sure. I call it shyness. Or maybe it's embarrassment. (I'm a Gestalt therapist. One therapist in that community once notably described embarrassment as "curdled delight," as in -- Wo! You're looking at me?! Oh oh! And -- Ooo! -- exciting! Would you like to play?!)
Because deep down I'm really a little boy who just wants to giggle with you and roll all over you in the mud and play silly poopy and doopy games, and -- Look at those kids over there! Maybe they want to play too! Then we can form Poopy and Doopy teams and see who can get muddier faster!
I'd love to create an adult camp where we spend weeks on end giving high and creating games and celebrating and dancing (a young friend calls dancing "the body's way of laughing") with each other: Learning the Ecstatic Arts. And the core curriculum would be The Art of Connection.
...And how to tap into the following equation:
I love myself so much
That I can love you so much
That you can love you so much
That you can start loving me!
Where do you fit into this delicious circle?
And speaking of you, this is where I'd like your help with this Joy Project. I'd like to know how you generate joy in your life and in those whose lives you touch! How do you give high?
I've described one way -- generosity. I can think of others, but I don't want to play alone. So feel free to share your thoughts and ideas here, and tell us --What's the shortest distance between you and joy?
Image by Tigr, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet