Farm News

A Journal of Joy

four blue robins eggs in a nest

Each day, I honor a simple writing practice. In the early morning, I sit down to unwind my yesterday and mindfully plan my today. One breath at a time, I listen for the thrumming in the symphony of my own life. Out of my heart and through my pen, I carry the tiniest beakful of spent straw and common mud onto the page before me.

Metaphorically, each day I venture away from my rote and trodden footpath, away from the raucous rushing river of ordinary time that keeps flying, flying, flying away too quickly. I pick up my pen, take a breath, and meander down a quiet side channel. I sit down on the proverbial rock at water’s edge. I cool my weary feet in stillness and gift myself the opportunity to look skyward.

Some days I write just a few lines. Some days, the page fills. The notes I jot down fall under three simple headings:

  • Yesterday’s Joy
  • Yesterday’s Gratitude
  • Yesterday’s Discovery

First and foremost, I make a concerted effort to remember the absolute brightest moments of my day. Then I reflect on who and what I can be immediately thankful for. Finally, I consider what my journey has taught me about my work or myself. My notes are never polished, comprehensive, or all-inclusive. I take care not dredge up distant memories; I limit myself to exactly the last twenty-four hours of my life. This is my method of cultivating mindfulness; a way to pause so I can catch up on some necessary mental housekeeping.

Occasionally, my thoughts are languid and still. I cradle my hot tea and wait patiently until the memories peek out from hidden places. Other times the recollections tumble out like a nest of wrestling fox kits. Within the covers of a non-descript grey notebook I record compelling ideas, specific phrases, descriptions of precious time spent with those I love or things I witnessed.

“Taught a very young gardener how to properly harvest her first ripe carrot today—elation, then understanding flooded her face. Speechless.”

Sometimes just a fragment of experience, a scribbled sketch, or a meaningful quote fill the pages of what I have come to call my Journal of Joy.

I start my day with this practice, because at dawn, my critical judgments, fears, and worries aren’t fully awake yet. Unshackled, I don’t try to solve or fix anything. I just revel in the gift of yesterday, knowing it is a stepping-stone into tomorrow.

Joy, Gratitude, Discovery. I freely remember the sparks of connection, of genuine resonance that I personally experienced. What tiny moment spoke to me, unleashed a wave of goodness, touched or inspired me? Over the last twenty-four hours, who was kind to me? Who made me laugh? What grace did I witness? What positive change did I help create? I’m not looking for life changing events, rather the tiniest flashes of pure connection, of complete authenticity.

There’s an old saying that we often forget exactly what was said to us, but we never forget how it made us feel. Once every day, I pause to glean such richness of feeling. I categorically collect my most powerful emotions, the often unspoken but highly potent energy swirling just underneath the surface of the pond of daily life. If I’ve had a setback, if I didn’t act with compassion, if I lost patience or failed to skillfully navigate an opportunity? These hurdles find a home in my notebook too. Joyful and difficult, I take time to acknowledge the facts and uncover the truth of the experience, to transform the emotion into a tangible discovery that will guide my actions moving forward.

My Journal of Joy is a way to rebalance the scales of perception. This is critical. The inky shadows of fear and loss must not override the self-sowing goodness taking root in all manner of obscure places. This writing practice is one way of carding the wool, of separating of the wheat from the chaff. It’s like sweeping the kitchen floor, or washing the sink after the dishes are done, a way to respect the fortune, grace and beauty right before our eyes.

My little Journal of Joy– it’s a small thing, taking up no more space or time in my life than a one-cup coffee break. Until recently, no one even knew about it. I rarely share my words or sketches, and yet it’s becoming the most valuable book of my life.

For one, this practice effectively slows down time for me. I relive the most moving moments of my daily life and thus can cherish them a second time. I’m no longer the kid who rips off the wrapping paper, stares at the Christmas toy for two seconds before moving on to the next one. That may be how I move through hectic days, but my Journal of Joy asks me as a matter of routine, to collect the gifts, one by one, smooth the crumpled wrapping paper and take stock of the bounty with which I am richly imbued. I give myself the opportunity to celebrate again the clever, funny, tender, rich or peace-filled moments I was fortunate enough to encounter in the last day of my life. What could be better medicine for the soul?

Secondly, this habit is a magnificent way to tend the inquisitive spirit. How can one bring more joy into their life if they don’t quite know what elements support it? By reminding myself of my joys, I incrementally begin to more deeply understand what supports my health and happiness. I learn the peculiarities and specifics of what fills my reservoir. Or rather, what experiences allow me to be in the flow, i.e. help me feel most effortlessly and completely my highest and best self?

Over time, patterns emerge, and I am able to see myself from a very different perspective, often with deeper, kinder affection. As the pages of my journal fill, I can clearly connect the types of experiences that light up my world. What exactly was I doing when Joy flitted down and chittered happily on my shoulder? I begin to clarify what specific situations enliven me, boost my enthusiasm, and enrich my life. Seemingly unconnected events are now easily correlated; I can recognize the commonality of vastly different experiences through the undercurrent of parallel actions, partners, or environment. Was I was teaching or tending or leading when Joy arrived? Possibly I was fixing or solving or fine-tuning. And who was I with? And where? This cross-reference reflection upon our many ‘yesterdays’ is a powerful form of internal evolution. Experience-by-experience, I am gathering the very clues that will lead me toward a jubilant independence. With joy in the lead, I step closer each day to becoming my best self.

Finally, my daily musings remind me of how vitally nourishing it is to allow yourself to love without explanation, justification or judgment. In a society confined by untenable, narrow ideals of perfection, the power of reassurance and the celebration of individuality must not be underestimated.

a cat, hiding in a tractor, gets a chin scratch from a farmers gloved hand

Imagine if one of your ancestors had likewise kept a Journal of Joy? Page by page, day by day: an honest testament of what one loved, of what one unabashedly cherished most, of what one wrestled with and discovered about the living of their unique life. A private record of unfiltered truth, small delights, and deeply personal vignettes, bestowed to the ones who are now walking the next mile of this unfolding human experience.

A Journal of Joy is not a once in a lifetime retrospective tool, but rather a real time offering, a testimony recorded as we lived it: one short day, one small joy at a time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to recount when and where and how it felt to be completely alive?

Where and when Joy perks up her soft little ears in your own life is worth noticing. Our little barn swallow uses mud as the connecting link, an interchange that supports the weight of home and protects newborn life. Likewise, we can use joy as a hidden infrastructure to support the discovery of who we really are and to protect the newborn possibilities of our precious, irreplaceable gifts. No one else can do this work for us; the journey is ours alone.

There is one final reason I am devoted to my Journal of Joy. My allegiance to optimism does not mean I live in a Pollyianish dream world. I espouse a philosophy of joy precisely because for much of my life, I have wrestled with a sensitive, impatient, and judgmental nature. Once, I actually carried the family nickname of Bad Attitude.

So on the increasingly rare day I can’t quite tap into the cheerful faith and hopeful positivity I admire, I don’t write. Instead, I open my journal and allow myself to flip backwards through the past entries. Let me tell you this. It never, ever fails. Sparks of happiness fly up at me, from every, single page. ~ A

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