Instead of leaving the arising of joy to chance, an important piece in this process is to recognize what evokes it. This exercise is based on How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks. Once again, use your journal.
In a few minutes, write down a list of everything that triggers the feeling of joy or gladness in you. It can be the simplest thing, like eating a peach, or doing something extraordinary, like diving – or anything in between (stroking a pet, dancing, singing and so on). When you have completed this, check out the points that you already engage in regularly in your life. Then circle other things that it is realistic to include from now on in your life. You will use this list in the meditation below. It will be helpful to practise this meditation for several days in a row, until finally you only need to visualize the image or the memory, and gladness will immediately permeate your whole being.
Duration: 5–10 minutes
1. Sit down in a comfortable but upright posture. Make sure you won’t be disturbed, and that you are warm (perhaps wrap a shawl or blanket around your shoulders). Now reread your list a few times.
2. Then focus on your breathing for a while and close your eyes. Move your awareness toward the area of your heart. If you like, you can put your hand over your heart. If your mind wanders, gently return it to the area of your heart.
3. Now imagine your list like a long, ancient scroll slowly appearing on a big blue screen.
4. Allow yourself to really connect deeply to every single item on the list. Pick one item – perhaps the one that twinkles, or the one that triggered the deepest lasting memory of joy in your awareness. Now, as best as you can, re-experience the situation. Let your awareness register the abundance of joy deeply in your body, breathing in and out this feeling of wellbeing. See whether you can get a smile appearing on your face; maybe you feel lighter and want to sigh or yawn; maybe there are sensations of tingling, warmth and so on in your body.
5. When you have a sense of completion or of “reaching saturation”, let the image disappear. Finish the practice with a few rounds of breathing. See whether you can continue breathing in and out from your heart and allow the pure sense of joy to remain there.