Finding joy in the everyday can help us recover and thrive

October is National Mental Health Month, a time to encourage conversations about mental health and wellbeing. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Month is Post Pandemic Recovery – Challenges and Resilience. 

There is no doubt that our communities, our families, our selves will be changed by the current pandemic experience. For some people those changes will be small, while for others their entire lives will look different. 

The good news is that even if we’ve been severely impacted by the pandemic, there are things we can do to help us recover and build resilience. But on the way there, it’s important to allow ourselves space to grieve for what we have lost.

I saw this play out a few weeks ago during the 7 Day Awakening Joy Challenge I held with Katrina Roberg. A group of 12 participants joined us via Zoom twice a day for seven days to share simple practices to nourish the body and open the mind to joy.

The group was very committed to the concepts and practices around cultivating joy. But it was important for us to start the Challenge by acknowledging the context in which we were meeting. We were in the middle of (another) long lockdown in Melbourne, Covid numbers were rising, there had been violent protests in the community, and we even had the shock of an earthquake during the week of the Challenge. 

We talked about our collective experience of disenfranchised grief. About how our lives have fundamentally changed while the world looks the same, which means what we have lost often goes unacknowledged.

We talked about how what we’re experiencing is so much more than stress – it’s sadness, fear, unemployment, disconnection, isolation, loss of eros, the list goes on. 

We acknowledged that the collective experience of the pandemic needs a collective response. It’s important to feel heard and to really listen to others’ experiences without trying to fix anything.

Bringing these issues to light allowed us to look at them, hold them, feel them, but also let them go to some degree. We were not alone in our grief, and there was a lightness in that.

So how did we cultivate joy in the midst of this loss and grief? We worked with the principal that the body will always move towards wellbeing if you provide the right conditions. This is where inclining the mind towards joy is so helpful.

The challenge we posed to everyone was “Can you let in the good?” We looked at a new joy theme each day and provided simple ways to orient towards the good. ‘Gratitude’, ‘joy in difficult times’, ‘letting go’, ‘connection with self’ and ‘connection with others’ were a few topics covered during the week. 

We focused on nourishing and nurturing practices that relieved some of the stresses that were obscuring our natural states of joy (rather than getting things right, or adding to an already over-full plate). Moving towards wellbeing was supported by body-based relaxation practices, what we call ‘presencing’ and ‘noticing’ (mindfulness).

We were lucky enough to welcome James Baraz, the founder of the internationally-recognised Awakening Joy course, as a special guest during the Challenge. James dialled in from California to lead one of the morning sessions. He reinforced that there is ‘no getting it wrong’ when it comes to finding joy. He also highlighted the importance of kindness and patience when changing habits of the mind.

At the end of the Challenge the participants let us know they found the week nourishing and that they had found snippets of joy scattered, like fairy lights, throughout each day. 

Joy in everyday life is always available, no matter what’s happening. Inclining our mind towards joy can feel hard at first, but like with anything, with a set of tools and practise it becomes easier. Being able to find it is an important aspect of recovery and resilience when we experience tough times like these. 

Awakening Joy founder is joining us online!

I’m full of excitement and joy as I write this! James Baraz, founder of Awakening Joy and Senior Insight Meditation Teacher, is joining the upcoming 7 Day Awakening Joy Challenge!

Based in the US, James has been a meditation teacher since 1978. He created the Awakening Joy course in 2003 and co-authored the book Awakening Joy with Shoshana Alexander.

James will lead a session during the 7 Day Awakening Joy Challenge, which I’m delivering over Zoom with fellow Awakening Joy Teacher Katrina Roberg. Starting on 18 September, the Challenge will offer daily practises to help you find joy in the everyday, even while in lockdown.

There’s still time to register for this online course – find out more here!

Online 7 Day Awakening Joy Challenge starts soon!

It’s hard to carve space for joy with all the suffering in the world. You find satisfaction and a sense of purpose in helping your community, your home, the world, but it’s easy to get lost in this important work. 

It’s tempting to give up. Is it possible to have joy in these times?

Yes it is!

Joy is possible despite everything, and you don’t have to make radical changes.

That’s why I’m so excited to join fellow Awakening Joy Teacher Katrina Roberg to deliver the 7 Day Awakening Joy Challenge, an online Zoom course starting 18 September 2021.

The Challenge will offer simple practices each day to nourish your body and mind and open you up to the hidden snippets of joy scattered, like fairy lights, throughout each day.

The Challenge starts 18 September… are you in?

A gift to you in these challenging times

The pandemic is taking a toll on many people, particularly those living in Melbourne. You may be finding it a challenge to find balance and joy while in lockdown.

Practicing Yoga Nidra can make a huge difference in how you feel. This ancient technique from India is a form of meditation that uses the whole body as a focus of awareness.

I have recorded a Yoga Nidra in the hope that it helps you to access a state of deep relaxation. The 20-minute session is best practised lying down in a warm and comfortable position. Choose a time when you won’t be distracted.

Click the link below and enjoy!

https://michelledate.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Yoga-Nidra-with-Michelle-Date.m4a

Reflection on happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. The wish for happiness comes from the most basic motivation of wanting greater wellbeing for ourselves. Everything we do or say is based on a desire deep within to bring relief or improve our internal state.

Even people who tend to be grumpy act that way because they think it makes them feel better. Even misguided actions that lead to more suffering come from an attempt to increase our feelings of wellbeing.

The problem is we often don’t realize what leads to genuine happiness and what leads to suffering. 

This is why it’s so important to understand where true happiness lies, and the conditions that support it. With this understanding we can consciously activate our deep-seated wish to increase our wellbeing, knowing that we are pointing ourselves in the right direction. 

As babies we come into this world with a natural joy. A baby that has her basic needs met – she’s been fed, changed, rested and receives loving attention – often squeals with delight at life. We were all that baby at one time.

We don’t have to look for wellbeing outside of ourselves. It’s right inside us, waiting to be remembered, accessed and awakened!

Start the new decade by awakening your joy!

The first Awakening Joy course for 2020 starts on Thursday 20 February!

The course includes nine face-to-face group sessions, which will conclude on 4 June. Sessions will be held fortnightly on Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm. Groups are limited to 15 people. 

Sessions will be held at Shiatsu College, 103-105 Evans Street, Brunswick East.

If you would like to join this group please register here.

If you have questions or would discuss likely dates for the next course, please contact me on (+61) 0419 239 507 or at hello@michelledate.com.au.