The Single Most Important Factor In Creating Joy

mbg Contributor By Sheryl Paul, M.A.
mbg Contributor
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has guided thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her best-selling books, her e-courses, and her website. She has her master's in Psychology Counseling from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is the author of The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts Are Gifts to Help You Heal.

There are so many ways to heal, and the miracle of the Internet brings them all to our fingertips. Whether it's meditation, journaling, or yoga, we know what it takes to feel better and we can easily sign up for a course to help us learn to implement these time-honored tools.

Yet the accessibility of information and tools comes at a price that we all have to fight against. The Internet is a great magnetic force that lures us into its endless labyrinth of possibilities. This pull — this torrential wave of ways to distract and avoid — is the polar opposite of the energy we need in order to heal.

The first step of all of these tools is to slow down and turn inward. You can't meditate while zipping around your life at light speed. You can't journal if every free moment is spent clicking on news feeds. You can't slow down into yoga if you're filling every time slot with social media.

The single most important step to finding joy is to stop. And yet this is what most people resist like the plague.

When we slow down, we have to feel the pain that we may be avoiding. We have to confront the demons that we think we're keeping at bay through the addiction of busyness. The illusion is that we can avoid feeling our life. But the reality is that when we don't slow down, turn inward, and spend time walking the landscapes of the inner world, the inner world finds us through anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, insomnia and somatic ailments.

It's astonishing how profoundly we resist turning inward. Our externalized, rationalist culture judges time turned inward in quiet reflection as a frivolous and selfish waste of time. We value efficiency, achievement and productivity, so any endeavor that doesn't result in a tangible product is deemed unworthy.

But all habits can be changed. If you want to find more joy, take these steps to help create a new habit of slowing down and doing inner work:

1. Remind yourself that you can handle your pain.

When you stop, the lava of emotions that you've been staving off will come bubbling to the surface, and the only way you will allow this is if you know that you're strong enough to handle big feelings. It's the child-self that believes you can't handle it. Your inner adult knows otherwise.

2. Ask yourself on a daily, and even hourly basis if the way you're living your life is bringing fulfillment, meaning and joy.

We tend to operate on autopilot, going about our days in the fog of habit. When you stop and ask yourself if what you're doing is bringing joy, you're already creating the new habit of punctuating your days with potent pauses.

3. Pause morning and night.

Waking up and getting into bed are liminal zones, times when the rigidity of our conscious, ego-minds loosens up and we're more primed to be able to change a habit. If you turn inward during these times instead of reaching for your phone, you'll be more likely to create a new habit.

4. Remind yourself that turning inward is a gift to the world.

To challenge the belief that turning inward is a selfish waste of time, trust that in order to be of service and live a meaningful life you need to find out who you are and fill your well of Self. This is not a luxury; it's a necessity.

5. Stop and stay still.

Stop in the shower. Stop at the light (resist the urge to reach for your phone). Stop at work. But don't just stop; initiate what Tara Brach calls "a sacred pause." Close your eyes (if you can) and turn inward. Take one full, conscious breath. Notice what's happening inside.

Simone Weil said, "Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer." When you pay attention to what's happening inside — which can only happen when you slow down and turn inward — small miracles bloom like flowers beneath your gaze.

Sheryl Paul, M.A.
Sheryl Paul, M.A.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has guided thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her...
Read More
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Sheryl Paul, M.A.
Sheryl Paul, M.A.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has guided thousands of people worldwide through...
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