Joy in Every Moment author Tzivia Gover reflects on a memorable conversation with her mother and offers mindful exercises for discovering your own happiness.
I can’t remember what prompted me to ask the question, but I’ll never forget the answer. Several years back, I asked my mother, “What was I like as a small child?”
She could have answered in any number of ways. For example, I remember my siblings called me a crybaby. My father, with a mix of love and impatience in his voice, used to call me a pest. I once overheard a family friend describe me as a nervous kid. I remember being bossy, moody, friendly, and studious.
So my mother’s answer took me by surprise. Without hesitation she replied, “You were a joy.”
A joy? This was not even in the ballpark of what I’d been anticipating. I’d done years of therapy, read dozens of self-help books, and participated in numerous self-growth classes, all of which I believed had made me into a happier person, the underlying assumption being I’d been a bit gloomy before.
But after my mother’s pronouncement, that at age 4, or 5, or 6, I was already “a joy,” I had an epiphany. Despite all my earnest striving toward becoming a better person, I now realized that I didn’t need to work so hard. What I really had to do instead was, well, be myself; be my true self, that is. Underneath all of my labels, stories, selective memories, and assumptions about how others saw me, I already was the person I’d been trying so diligently to become. I was joy.
This is an example of waking up to truth. Instead of signing up for one more workshop, buying one more transformational CD or how-to book, I simply had to embrace my joyful nature.
It is easy to imagine my own daughter, grown now, asking me the same question someday. And if she does, I won’t hesitate. I remember the first moment I laid eyes on her. I saw in her newborn self a light glowing as if from within. I saw her radiant joy as plainly as I saw her little potato-shaped nose and pink newborn body.
But with all she has gone through in the intervening years — the struggles, disappointments, and challenges, along with the triumphs and shining moments — I imagine she’d be as surprised by my answer as I was by my mother’s.
So many of us believe that to be joyous we need to do a lot of work. But the truth is, our essence is already sparkling with happiness and bliss. All we really need to do is cultivate good internal habits to allow our divine spark to be revealed.
My mother knew this about me all along, and I know it about my daughter.
It is true of you, too.
When life presents challenges, it’s easy to lose connection to your inner spark of happiness and gratitude. Try using the following mindful exercises to help you uncover moments of joy in your daily life:
Wake to the idea that you are joy. Use this phrase today as an affirmation: “I am joy.” Each time you repeat the words inwardly to yourself, feel a spark deep inside you growing into a bright star, then a bold sun.
Up in the Sky
Step outside or look out the window. No matter what the weather — clouds, snow, rain, storm, fog, or clear — remind yourself that the sun and stars are always shining, whether you can see them in that moment or not.
Watch children playing, and notice how quickly they find a reason to dance, wonder, or laugh. Tear storms come and go; smiles are never far behind. Now it’s your turn. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings without judging them or assigning too much weight to them. Can you have a good cry, then turn up the music and dance in the living room?