I have always loved the phrase “joie de vivre.” Loved hearing it, loved saying it, and it is probably the closest I will ever get to speaking French. It’s a phrase that was probably used more in the 1940’s and 1950’s than present day, but it’s meaning is timeless: the keen or buoyant enjoyment of life. Who doesn’t want joie de vivre?
Joie de vivre knows no race, ethnicity, religion, gender or socio-economic status. Whether you are a billionaire, or just scraping by, I will venture to guess that you want joie de vivre. We all were borne into this world to enjoy our time on this Earth, purposefully created to live in a state of joy.
Think about how you feel when you’re on your “A” game, when everything just feels right. You might feel a flutter in your heart, or a tingle in your toes. Whatever physical sensation you feel, it is your soul’s way of telling you–through your body–that you are smack dab in the land of joy. You are experiencing joie de vivre.
Conversely, other physical sensations can tell you that you are certainly not experiencing joi de vivre. You may feel a tightness in your chest, constriction in your throat or a feeling that something is just not right. These are ways your soul is telling you that you are doing something, or experiencing events that are out of alignment with your true self.
Call it intuition, call it a gut feeling, or call it soul speak. Whatever moniker you place on these feelings, they all come from Spirit. Spirit is that place inside that is separate from your thinking mind. Cultivating your awareness of and connection to your Spirit is essential to living a life filled with joie de vivre, because you become aware of the sweetness of not only what is, but what is possible.
It is easy to live with joie de vivre when things are going great, but what about when they are not? Can you still enjoy your life? Absolutely. But first, you have to develop an awareness of these shadows and consciously acknowledge them for what they are. The shadow events of your life serve as a reminder, a lesson if you will, that you have strayed and need to reconnect with your true self. Remember, life does not happen to you, it happens for you.
Tame Your Ego
The thinking mind can convince us of all sorts of things if we allow it. Somewhere along the line, our minds got into the habit of focusing on lack, scarcity, competition and “us versus them.” These are the hallmarks of ego, which is our thinking mind’s perception of our reality as being separate and apart from everyone else. When we allow ego to run amok, we constantly compare our looks, our status, our life to others. Depending on how your ego developed from the time you were born, it can tell you either that you are superior to, or less than. Either way, living from the ego is like living on a rollercoaster, the ups and downs being dictated by events outside of you which your ego then characterizes as good or bad.
“Ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel at peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Find your peace, then everything will fall into place.'”~Marianne Williamson
If you can tame your ego, you can truly change your life. Think of all of the trouble your ego has started. Every time you argue with your partner, ego is involved. Every time your blood pressure rises because you are stuck in traffic, ego is involved. Every time you let someone’s expectations or opinions control your life, ego is involved.
So how do you tame your ego? You stop feeding it. You start looking inward instead of outward for your worth, your happiness and your light.
Sit quietly for a moment, close your eyes and think of something for which you are supremely grateful, right at this moment. Visualize what comes to mind and then really feel the gratitude in every cell of your body. In so doing, you are moving the gratitude from your thinking mind to your body. You may feel a tingling on your skin, you may feel the sensation of a warm breeze on your face, or you may smile broadly. There is no right or wrong sensation. Sit in this feeling for several minutes.
In doing this exercise, you have connected to your Spirit; your mind, and more importantly your ego, is not telling your body how to react. You have transcended the ego, if only for several minutes and admit it, it feels pretty good, right? “Great!” you say. “I’m now living in Spirit.” Not so fast! This is not a one-and-done type of exercise. Taming your ego and living from Spirit requires awareness and practice. Lots of practice if you want to get into the habit of taming your ego. You have to learn to become aware of when you are living from the ego and purposefully go within. Your feelings are your awareness.
So how do you get into the habit of taming the ego? Meditation re-adjusts your focus from without to within. From ego to Spirit. As your meditation practice deepens, you will find that your ego is no longer running your life. That is not to say that it won’t show itself now and again, but you will be easier able to recognize ego’s presence, so that you can consciously take the steps necessary to restore your focus. This is living aware, living consciously.
Meditation, particularly when just starting out, is not easy. Our ego, which wants to be first in all things, tries every trick in the book to frustrate you. Many people give up meditation early on because they “just can’t turn off their thoughts” and therefore view it as a waste of time. That is the ego talking. The ego does not want you to meditate because then you will pay less attention to it, which drives the ego absolutely bat crazy. But let me tell you, once you get in the habit of practicing meditation, the ego gradually quiets its voice. And peace you will find.
There are different types of meditation practices out there, so it is important to find one that you are comfortable with and to start slow (even five minutes is beneficial). In addition to the traditional stillness meditations, there are moving meditations such as yoga, tai chi, qigong and labyrinth meditation walks.
Walking in nature, be it along a beach or through a redwood forest, is one of my favorite moving meditations.
The key to any type of meditation is to refocus your mind away from the outside world. In stillness meditation, I typically focus on either my breath, a mantra or a very specific visual such as a beautiful tree. During my moving meditations, I focus, initially, on my steps (similar to focusing on my breath) and then shift my focus to the beauty around me, viewing it with absolute reverence.
No matter what type of meditation you practice, keep at it! You will soon find that the voice of your ego becomes less noticeable.
find that which makes you feel good
Of course, no life lived with joie de vivre would be possible unless it includes things (and/or people) that make you smile, that tickle your heart, that float your boat. The key is to be curious, always on the lookout for that which makes you feel good. Even if you think you’ve found “it,” keep looking because there may be something even better.
“Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls.”~Joseph Cambpell
There is no shame in feeling good and doing what you love. (There’s that darned ego again!) It is neither selfish, nor lazy. To the contrary, it is the ultimate act of love toward yourself and toward your Creator.
You’ve heard of gratitude journals, why not start a happiness journal? Make a date with yourself (I’m talking on the calendar, no other commitments), at least once a week to do something that makes you feel good. Become curious and try new things; who knows what joy you may find there. The point is, live your life and have a blast doing so!
Remember the ‘feeling gratitude’ exercise from earlier? Imagine feeling like you did in that exercise every single day. Granted, life throws us curveballs, but I can tell you that those curveballs are much easier to navigate when “feeling good” is your baseline. Empowering yourself to choose to feel good will improve your life immeasurably and lead you to that keen and buoyant enjoyment of life you are looking for.