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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. May's Theme: "Appreciation"
Volume 5 Issue 4 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Destination Sun: The Road to Pure Joy
by Victoria Christian

When was the last time you did cartwheels in a field of sunflowers or rode your bike barefoot through rolling green hills? How about stomping through mud puddles after a summer rainstorm? Some of you may be thinking to yourself "that's child's play" and my response would be "you're right, it most definitely is and Alleluia for the child-like spirit that exists within each of us." What a joy it is to be a kooky kid in a overly serious, stressed out society." If you haven't done anything silly lately and/or you have no concept of your inner child, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to absorb the words of glee in this article. Trust me, you won't be sorry.

The cultivation of joy in one's personal life, amidst all of the human suffering in this world, couldn't be a more important topic in this day and age. With the incessant bombardment of fear in the media, war and environmental degradation, I highly doubt feelings of pure joy and magic are experienced as much as they should be. Yet isn't it our birthright to feel Joy? It seems to me that joy is something we should be feeling most of the time as opposed to feeding the ugly monster of fear. In our workaholic society, people are so exhausted just making ends meet that they may have entirely forgotten what authentic joy even feels like. Furthermore, for those who have internalized the Judeo-Christian notion of suffering, experiencing too much joy may conjure up feelings of guilt, as if feeling good while others are still suffering is somehow a sin. Yet, without joy and magic, we all might as well commit suicide tomorrow because wouldn't that make life on earth a living hell? While I know humans are on a suicide mission, I also know that evolution is occurring at the same time as de-evolution. Thus, I refuse to fall prey to a fatalistic and nihilistic view of life because it is this type of thinking that sucks the joy and magic out of life like a vampire preying on it's next victim.

At some point in our lives, each of us eventually comes to the realization that dualism is an inevitable part of life. Ecstasy and human suffering exist side by side. Joy and pain are inevitable human qualities that all of us are required to accept. Some people have even gone so far as to conclude that the experience of pure joy occurs only because we also experience pain. In other words, just like two sides of the same coin, you can't experience one without the other. However, we were never meant to remain stuck in either polarity for too long. While an overemphasis on joy or seeking pleasure would make one out to be a hedonist, an obsession with pain and suffering would be a sign of clinical depression. The fact so many Americans are on some form of anti-depressants is a blatant sign that a large population of people aren't allowing themselves the experience of authentic joy, much less feeling it at all. Some would much rather stay emotionally numb as opposed to empowering themselves through healing of their hearts.

As a writer and an artist, my life path has indeed been a difficult one. There are times when I get down on myself for choosing what seems to be a very steep and arduous path. While I have experienced times of utter despair and continue to become overwhelmed by fear from time to time, I've come to realize I have the personal choice to see the glass as half empty or half full. Becoming more aware of scarcity, victim thinking and replacing it with abundance thinking has been a huge step for me in my process of empowerment. While I am the first to admit that I am far from enlightenment, I have made it my mission to cultivate joy in my life as much as possible. When thinking about some important factors in the cultivation of joy, I realized there are many facets that one could write an entire book on. However, for the purpose of this article, I've identified five key ingredients to achieving authentic joy: 1) making time for play in nature, 2) being in the moment, 3) embracing your inner child, 4) allowing yourself to express the full continuum of emotions, and 5) cultivating authentic self confidence.

Making Time for Play in Nature:

Too much work and no play is entirely inhumane, yet it is something Protestants have consciously chosen for America. We were never meant to work our lives away and not have any down time for self-reflection. If we look at natural rhythms in nature, we see that bearing fruit all the time simply doesn't occur. While we like to think that we can produce, produce, produce, it just isn't happening. In fact, studies have shown that humans are much more effective when they take time for rest and recovery as opposed to falling into the illusion of the work marathon. Time for play, especially play in nature, is essential to healthy living, yet I am amazed at how many people fear nature. For over ten years, I have been riding my bike all over the United States and not once have I been accosted by bears, mountain lions or weird humans for that matter. On the contrary, I feel safer in nature than I've ever felt in my entire life. The Great Mother has so graciously shared her love and beauty with humans, yet so many would much rather hang out in a shopping mall as opposed to sitting in a high mountain meadow, under the aspens with scents of wild flowers blowing about in the soft breeze. If you've been to the same park on your lunch break for several years and you're bored with your environment, break out of your routine and seek out a quiet nook under an old oak tree. Remember that you have the power to choose happiness in your life, so make it happen by making time for play in nature.

Being in the Moment:

Being in the moment sounds like a very simple thing to do, but it is actually one of the hardest things I have ever done. More often than not, I find I am a prisoner of my own mind, which makes it extremely difficult to truly be in the moment. In fact, I've been on hikes in the most pristine forests only to realize that I did the entire hike without tapping into the magic of the Goddess. What a waste—I could have been at work the entire time. Funny thing is, so many people suffer from what Max Weber called "the iron cage of rationality." The over-emphasis on rationality in our society has in many respects led to the disconnection between our mind and bodies as well as a disconnection from emotion and nature, all of which are associated with the denial of the feminine principal. For those who have yet to see through the illusion of patriarchy and a materialistic worldview, their heads are so disconnected from their hearts and bodies that they aren't fully present and aware. In order to avoid the fragmentation rampant in our contemporary society, choosing to be more present is an important tool to remaining sane. Eckhart Tolle wrote a fabulous book titled "The Power of Now" (1999) which goes into great detail about the importance of being in the moment and how practicing "conscious attention" literally changes your life.

Embracing Your Inner Child:

Most of us, on a day-to-day basis are required to be adults in order to survive in this world. However, we are also required to cut loose and be kids once and awhile. I understand that this may be difficult for those who fear that others will judge them for acting "childish." However, if you are so caught up in appearances that you can't allow yourself to play, you will most likely never truly experience authentic joy. Several psychologists have expressed the importance of getting in touch with one's inner child. Embracing your inner child not only aids in your ability to feel magic and enthusiasm, it brings a refreshing and hopeful perspective to life.

Before coming into adulthood, we had yet to fully internalize culture and were less inhibited by an assortment of conflicting belief systems and ideologies. There was a certain amount of freedom, beauty and innocence that was experienced as a child. This inner child part of yourself still exists, but it is up to you to draw it out. Unfortunately, few people have come to see the importance of expressing this part of themselves. As an artist, feeling into my inner child is an essential part of my ability to see magic and regain a sense of awe and reverence for life and nature. Riding my bike and creating art gives me an outlet for my inner child to express. Without these outlets, I wouldn't be able to tap into the magical element in my paintings. Each day of life, my "little Victoria" guides me along the path of authentic joy.

Cultivating Authentic Self Confidence:

Throughout our socialization process we internalize false beliefs about love that keep us from attaining authentic self-confidence. We are all born with a certain degree of trust and confidence, but eventually lose it as we age. At some point in our lives, we have to consciously choose to cultivate more self-love if we want to experience more joy. While learning to love oneself is definitely a process and varies for each individual, there isn't a single person who is exempt from the critical voices of the self-hater. Consciously choosing to become more aware of the critical voices in your head and possibly working to heal your emotional wounds with a counsellor or spiritual teachers is an essential part of learning to love yourself, which is essential to experiencing authentic joy. When I look at the sunflowers in my back yard, I think to myself "wouldn't it be lovely if all humans could raise their heads to the sun, with complete self-love and feel gratitude for the unique gift that they are?" Isn't this the kind of authentic self-confidence that we are all seeking? In more ways than one, the sunflower goddess has been my most powerful teacher. She doesn't give in to the illusion of competition, arrogance or self pity; rather she is confident in her own beauty and because of this radiates pure joy. She takes pride in the beauty of other flowers, but isn't diminished in the process because every cell in her body knows she is a reflection of the divine God/Goddess. It doesn't get any better than that people.

Victoria Christian is a self-taught oil painter whose mission is to create images that deeply move her audience on emotional and spiritual levels. Through her paintings she is attempting to tap into the mystical sensation of "awe" aroused in her while in nature. She presently resides in Ashland, Oregon and is pursuing a diverse career as an artist, writer and sociologist. Look for her book "Artists Envisioning the Divine," which features the work of contemporary mystics and visionary artists. You can learn more about her art and book on her website.

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