I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's February 11, 2021, and on today's episode we'll be discussing the role of joy in our spiritual lives as part 2 of our 7 episode series on emotions in spirituality. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome to episode two of seven in my series on emotions in spirituality. We dove right into fear last time, so I wanted to go a little less hard and pick something lighter this time. So let’s jump right in and talk about joy.
Like I said last episode, one of the really important things to keep in mind here is that we’re not just talking about emotions, we’re talking about energy. Emotional energy. And spirituality is all about energy. Our emotions are energetic reactions, and what we funnel that energy into is important, as well as what we do to try and cause certain emotions, those energetic reactions, more frequently.
I hate categorizing emotions as good and bad or positive and negative, but there is a difference between things like fear, which are emotional energetic reactions that we put in effort to experience less of, and things like joy, which we tend to seek more of. I think for most of us more joy in general, of course, but definitely more joy in our spiritual life is a good thing, an important thing. But even more important is that we should be getting more joy FROM our spiritual lives.
Not in the sense that everything in our spiritual lives should be joyful. This isn’t positive-vibes-only spirituality I’m talking about because that’s avoidant and unhealthy and completely contrary to things like growth and evolution and enlightenment.
And it’s not about manifesting everything you want, either. Even if that were possible, the idea that any of us should have anything and everything we think would make us happy is, frankly, dangerous. We all want things we wouldn’t actually benefit from having.
The thing about joy in spirituality, or joy in general, is that it doesn’t function very well as an end goal. In a lot of ways, it’s like money. Dealing with emotional energy is a lot like dealing with money. Because they’re both a form of energy, in a way. Money and joy are not good end goals. They’re barometers. They’re tools. They’re resources. They enable us to get to other goals. If you only focus on getting more money, getting more joy, the whole endeavor turns into a mess of self-serving urges and, since it’s just energy, it’s fleeting.
But anyway, just like I talked about last week about not wanting to enshrine your fears as the central focus of your spirituality, putting joy in that place isn’t a super great idea, either. But in this sense that emotions are energy, and energy is the stuff of spirituality, joy serves really well as a driving force, a fuel for our spiritual endeavors.
When we feel joy, we’re motivated to keep doing whatever it is that brings us joy.
When we feel joy, we feel rewarded.
When we feel joy, we feel safer and more capable and more open.Tweet
So if there’s not enough joy in our spiritual lives, if the things we do in our practice don’t bring us joy with any kind of regularity, not only is something probably missing from our practice, but we’re not going to feel particularly excited about it. Of course, what we each find to be a source of joy can vary widely. And I’m sure we all know of someone whose spiritual life doesn’t seem very enjoyable to us, where we wonder why they would endure restrictions on their lives or super regimented, demanding practices or whatever, but we can kind of see that they find some sort of joy in it. That it’s rewarding for them in some way. So when I say we should get joy from our spiritual lives, that doesn’t have to look like every observance is a party and all the stuff we do is the epitome of fun times.
But it bears thinking about whether we feel a sense of joy as we go about our practices, whether the things we do make us feel joyful, rewarded, happy, fulfilled in the end. What it means to us to feel joy, what causes us to feel joy in life.
Not to please others, and this is important. If you can’t put your finger on what makes you feel joy outside of the expectations or approval of people around you, then there’s some big time shadow work that needs to be done.
But getting down to what it is that brings you joy and making sure those things are part of your spiritual life is super important. I talked about this some in the episode a while back on awe and wonder in terms of tapping into those things that flip your switches, make you excited and fascinated and totally caught up. That’s a form of joy, but there’s lots of others, and all of them deserve space in our spirituality. We deserve to get all the forms of joy from our spirituality.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode for the first episode of this series on emotions in spiritual life where we talked about fear. And come back next week when we'll talk about anger in part 3 of the series.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is to think of joy as something we have to work for, something that exists in the future more than the present. And it’s kind of easy to see why we do that, right? It’s super easy to focus on the things which detract from our joy or stand in contrast to it in the moment. Those things have our attention right now.
But when we think of the future, we don’t count those things into the equation. Or sometimes we focus our future plans specifically on ways to remove those joy-sucking things from our lives, but even so we don’t factor in the day to day stuff that makes it really easy to feel less joyful moment to moment.
And if you’re the kind of person whose experiences rarely live up to the expectation when you’re going into something you anticipate to be a really great thing, it’s probably because you take this stuff to a bit of extreme. I’ll admit to sometimes being that person. I’ll plan something out in my head, a big event or a big project or something, grand visions for how it’s going to turn out and really anticipating how much happiness and satisfaction and joy I’m going to get from it. Then as things don’t turn out exactly as I’d planned – maybe people don’t come to my event or there’s some unforeseen problem or just things just aren’t this drastically wonderful, shiny, rainbows and kittens and fireworks kind of thing in the end – I get a little disappointed in the moment. The joy is less.
In a lot of cases, there’s some tendency to look at our spiritual ideals, our spiritual futures in the same way. And to look at spirituality as – even if it doesn’t have an end goal – as something that’s focused on some kind of future, specifically some kind of better future, idealized future, where it’s obviously implied that you’ll have more joy. Because no matter what the details are, that’s what we want for ourselves in the future, right? Even beyond our visions of this life, this reality, if your spiritual tradition or beliefs include some kind of afterlife, that involves more joy too, yeah? At least, that’s the hope. That’s the goal.
But what that doesn’t do is help us get more joy in our lives and specifically more joy in our spirituality in the present.
Guys, why do we treat joy as something for future us more than present us? Bottom line, shouldn’t our spirituality be a part of our lives which we can look to as a source of joy? Reliably?
Let’s all take a moment and just think about the ways we usually talk about our spiritual practice. Not our beliefs, our practices. If we were not ourselves, if we were someone else listening to ourselves talk about our spiritual practice, would we get the sense that it’s a source of joy? Or is it more of a source of frustration? Guilt? Confusion? Stress?
There’s all sorts of reasons for our spirituality to be those things, and I’m certainly not going to say that if you feel those things in the context of your spirituality that it’s a bad thing, but if that’s the prevailing feeling around your practice, then yeah, kind of a bad thing, I think.
Why would we keep going at a practice which doesn’t bring joy?Tweet
The reality is that we wouldn’t. We’d fall away. We’d do the bare minimum. We’d look elsewhere. It’s crucial to our spiritual engagement that we find joy in our spiritual activities. Because, like we were talking about emotional energy and it not being a goal, joy isn’t the end goal per se of our spiritual activities. But our spiritual activities do have a purpose – not a goal, so much, necessarily, but definitely a purpose – and getting joy from those activities enables us to fulfill that purpose. Not future joy, present joy.
But it’s not just about putting joy energy to use. The things in life which bring us joy, not just in spiritual life but in our lives as a whole, sources of joy in general, deserve a place in our spiritual lives in some way. Secular joy and religious joy aren’t two different emotions. Our spiritual lives are not separate from the rest of our existence, they tie directly into each other. So it shouldn’t be true that your main sources of joy are mostly outside of your spirituality.
I think we can almost measure or describe or pin down who we are in terms of what makes us happy. It’s not all of who we are, but it goes a long way to describing us. So if we aren’t fully embracing those things in general, but definitely if we aren’t fully embracing those things and giving them a space, celebrating those things within our spiritual lives, then there’s a good chance that our spiritual lives aren’t really authentic to us. And we’re not going to get more joy out of our spirituality if that’s the case.
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I think most of us could use more joy in our lives, just in general. It’s a thing in modern society. The way our lives are structured in a societal sense doesn’t really support a lot of joy. So if we think much about the things we do day to day, the things we seek to do with our time and energy and money and resources, we spend a lot of ourselves in search of joy, or at the very least in efforts to reduce the impact of the things that stand between us and joy.
And I think that’s what most of us think of when it comes to using our spiritual tools, our spiritual resources, to improve our lives. Because that’s really what it comes down to, right? More happiness? Creating a life we enjoy? That feels fulfilling?
We may all find joy in different things, in different ways, but what it all really boils down to is wanting to have a joyful life, feeling fulfilled, feeling happy, feeling free, whatever it is for you. So when it comes to our magical and spiritual lives and practices, what we tend to do is try and get the things that we think bring joy, and rid ourselves or protect ourselves from the things we think detract from our joy.
Because, like I said earlier, we tend to focus our attention in the present on the things that we want less of, the things that are frustrating us, angering us, whatever.
It’s so much easier to look at the future as a time of joy while the present is a time of frustration. So the result of all that is that we focus our efforts on creating future joy, reducing current frustration. And if this isn’t you, kudos. But most of us, and I know from all the questions I’ve really ever been asked about spellwork and stuff, we approach magic kind of like first aid for our lives. How can we get rid of this problem, this source of pain? How can we make this negative thing less or prevent it from happening?
Which is fine, that’s a totally acceptable and valuable use for the things in our toolbox, our spiritual toolbox, and in the downloads I have for all of these episodes, when we talk about things like fear, anger, guilt, that’s part of what those bits of the toolkit are about. But when it comes to emotions like joy, we should have as many things in our tool kit that serve to increase joy now and not just treat it as something we can have in the future.
What does that look like?
Well, aside from actual magical workings, spells, that kind of thing that we can use to attract and manifest and help us focus on the things we want, the things that will make us happy in the moment, aside from that it looks like creating a spiritual practice, a spiritual life, that we enjoy for what it is. Which brings us joy not because of the stuff, the things we can manifest with it, build with it, but because we enjoy the spiritual activities themselves. Like playing sports because it’s fun even when you don’t win, or taking up a craft as a hobby without any concern for whether you can make money or be really good at it.
So more joy in spirituality looks like including activities in your day to day spirituality that are enjoyable to you, that make you happy.
And I mean that in two ways.
That can mean activities like meditation or whatever that are intended to bring on a state that feels joyful. That create a feeling of happiness.
But that can also mean activities you find fun and enjoyable in and of themselves. Growing your own herbs because you enjoy gardening, not just because you want the herbs. Seeking out ways that you can incorporate movement into your spirituality, researching traditions involving dance and rhythm if that’s something you love. Whatever it is that makes the things you do, the actions you turn to in your spiritual life in all aspects – prayer, self-development, magic practice, enrichment, cultural traditions, whatever – making those things something you look forward to, a source of happiness and fulfillment and joy in themselves.
And the final piece of the puzzle comes down to gratitude. Recognizing the joy we have that can be super easy to overlook if we’re focused on the things that don’t. Including gratitude in your spiritual practice is something we’re maybe slightly better at on average than we are including it in our lives in general, but I’d say not by much. Not letting us only look towards future joy is maybe the biggest part of the equation, stopping to look around at our lives and acknowledge how much good there is right now.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.