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Make Room for Joy
by Susan L. Colantuono

"I believe time can expand to an extraordinary degree in extraordinary circumstances...
And if we can cram enough living and loving and joy and excitement into a few days,
they will expand into a month of ordinary time."
Nancy Cato

Have you ever felt that the busyness of your life gets in the way of really living?

Have you ever felt that even as you are "hooked up" online and "tuned in" with cell phones, tablets, laptops, e-mail, voicemail, you are less connected with others?

Have you ever felt that you live each day on auto pilot plowing through your to-do lists, passing the same routes, seeing the same people?

Today, all too many of us feel these things and make it through days that fly by, but seem to drag on forever. Why? Because we have subscribed to definitions of success and happiness that have nothing to do with the nourishment that our souls truly need in order to joyfully thrive.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Within our everyday lives we CAN experience joy on a daily basis. But not if we strive for joy through the acquisition of material things or fancy titles. Striving in these ways drives joy away as surely as squeezing a handful of water leaves us empty-handed.

If we want to find magical moments in our everyday lives, we have to make room for JOY! Joy requires emptiness -- space and inattention. There is no room for joy when we are striving, collecting and hoarding things. There is no room for joy when we are full of anger, cynicism, or despair. There is no room for joy when we are worrying about the future or complaining about past events. As Susanna Tamaro writes in her gem of a book, Follow Your Heart, "Joy… has no object. It seizes you for no apparent reason, it’s like the sun, its burning is fueled by its own heat."

To be seized with joy we have to be open to it. This is why I hold a beautifully hand-painted broom when I speak to groups. The broom is important because it symbolizes three things.

Joy as a Daily Companion

First the broom symbolizes that joy can be with us on a daily basis, just like the chores around the home or office. Why? The answer lies in defining what joy is. Oxford’s defines joy as, " A vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well-being."

I LOVE this definition because it roots joy in a sense of well-being. We can have a sense of well-being every day of our lives. This means that there is no reason why each and every one of us can’t experience joy on a daily basis. This means that we can find joy not only in the quiet of a life going well, but also in a life full of turmoil and even pain. This means that we can live more joy-full lives without making major changes in the external aspects of our lives, but by making minor changes in the centers of our beings.

This means that by letting go of the importance of external validation of our worth we can begin to nurture the internal sense of wellbeing that is the wellspring of joy.

We are born for joy and magical moments. When we are expecting them, we discover that magical moments already sparkle in our everyday lives.

Making Room for JOY!

This leads to the second symbolism in the broom. It’s not enough to expect magical moments, we must learn to actively make room for them. We must sweep away the clutter that clogs our homes, our hearts and our minds.

  • Sweep away material things. Remove from our living spaces the things that bind us to them, that conjure up negative experiences, or that remind us of the ways we aren’t. We are left with simpler living spaces graced with a few things that have significance and meaning to us. Then we are free to experience the joyous freedom of nourishing memories and pleasing surroundings.
  • Sweep away anger, resentment, and bitterness. Apply the greatest gift of all - forgiveness. By living lives of conscious self-acceptance and learning to forgive ourselves we become more able to forgive others. This loosens the debilitating constraints of anger, resentment, cynicism and despair and frees our hearts to swell with joy.
  • Sweep away the busyness and mental chatter of lives lived in the possible future or buried past. When we second-guess what we "should have done" or anticipate what we are going to do, we become oblivious to the magic in the moment we are living. By learning to be present in the current moment we open to the treasures that it offers.
  • Sweep away taking for granted – and walk with an appreciative heart. We dance with joy when counting our blessings – those that float unnoticed in our existing lives and those that cascade in unexpectedly. It’s nearly impossible to be gloomy when acknowledging the gifts that are present in our lives.
  • Sweep away self-limitations – face each day with a CAN DO attitude. When we start each day with an indomitable CAN DO attitude, we invite ourselves to learn new things, tackle seemingly difficult challenges. We then experience the joyfulness of self-discovery and accomplishment.
  • Sweep away worry – explore the paradoxical power of surrender. Worry serves as a signal that we must tend to something, but when we have done all that can be done for the moment, it’s time to let go of worry and surrender to the joyous support of people and possibilities.

In Make Room for JOY!, I delve more deeply into each of these strategies for making room for joy and offer activities that help you personalize each of them. This raises the final significance of my broom.

Creating Your Personal Recipe for JOY!

The broom symbolizes the walking staff of a guide. Because no one can tell you what will bring joy to your life, I act as a guide. I call attention to ingredients that will invite joy into your life, but the final recipe is up to you. While the experience of joy is universal, it is also fundamentally personal.

I can’t tell you that if you take a bubble bath, go for a walk, or sniff your infant’s hair you will feel joy. These might work for me, but not necessarily for you. But I CAN guide you toward four ingredients common to many different recipes for joy.

  • Surprise Your Life: Waken your five senses, practice harmless and minor outrages and seek a larger freedom in your life.
  • Cultivate Beauty: Create beauty in your everyday activities and celebrate beauty in your everyday surroundings.
  • Embrace Laughter: Laughter is good for our health, and as Marilyn Fergusan notes, "At the height of laughter the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities."
  • Give yourself Simple Extravagances and Healthy Indulgences: Garnish your life with little pleasures that don’t destroy your pocketbook…or your health.

When you create your personal recipe for joy-full living, when you sweep away the clutter that keeps joy at arm’s length, and when you come to believe that magical moments are awaiting you in your everyday life you will discover that each joyfully crafted day lasts an extraordinarily long time.

©Susan L. Colantuono. All Rights Reserved.  Adapted from "Make Room for JOY!: Finding Magical Moments in Your Everyday Life."

The question, "How does she do it?" seems to float spiritedly around author Susan L. Colantuono. Since 1979 when she left her management position with one of the country’s most progressive insurance companies, Susan has followed a risk-taking (and sometimes tumultuous) path that has included roles as: writer, management consultant, speaker, single parent, horse breeder and trainer, website designer; marketing guru, entrepreneur, international traveler and training designer. Her experiences give life to her new book Make Room for JOY! and anchor the advice in her acclaimed book, Build Your Career. Her Make Room for JOY!™ and Women’s Time-Out™ workshops have been described as "life-changing experiences". Her own life continues to change and unfold as she and her son, Justin, grow, learn and play along the Rhode Island shore.



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