A melancholy feeling had overtaken me. My most recent music mix even took on a slightly gray hue of sadness. I knew it was bad when spending some time in my artist room playing with paints and glue and glitter could not pull me out of my funk. In fact the funk grew deeper as the art piece I had envisioned and was attempting to create would not come together. Instead of feeling pleased with the creative process I grew more frustrated because what I was seeing on the canvas was making me feel more mediocre than ever. My woe-is-me attitude began to spiral into questioning my purpose and bemoaning that I don’t have a local women’s circle. One way for me to try and short circuit the negative thought patterns is to pick a favorite book to read or take a bath. Even better yet is to combine the two. So that is exactly what I did.
As soon as I was immersed in the hot comforting water I began to read from a well-read copy of Finding Joy: 101 Ways to Free Your Spirit and Dance with Life by Charlotte Davis Kasl, PhD. My spirit chose well that evening because the short excerpts in this particular book were so perfect for what ailed me.
There are twelve themes in the book and each one has a multitude of topics within it. The twelve themes are as follows:
- Discover the Power of Joy
- Loving Yourself, No Matter What
- Tapping the Power of Your Mind: A Training Manual for the Brain
- Lighten Up: Finding Balance in a Crazy World
- Marvel At Your Amazing Body
- Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules: Tips for Making Life Easier
- When You’re Sinking Grab a Life Line
- Loving Your Body In Spite of It All
- Loving Children, Discovering Ourselves
- More years, More Wisdom
- Dancing with Life
- Joy to the World
Here are some excerpts for you to explore.
One of the barriers to joy is a pent-up grief, sorrow, or anger. Other barriers are the secrets we keep because we are ashamed. Burying emotions and keeping secrets is like wrapping a shield around your soul that shuts out the smells of spring, the delicacy of touch, the softness of love.
It’s difficult to feel free and open when we’re congested with buried pain or rage or secrets. Joy flourished when we accept all of who we are. This includes experiencing our feeling and clearing out guilt and shame by being honest. How can we ever know we are loved if we show only a little part of ourselves to others?...
In my work as a psychologist I frequently see people emotionally constricted by repressed grief and anger. Over the years they become divided, detached or distant or turn to addictive substances or relationship. Because the human psyche is a holistic system, to numb one part of our being is to numb the rest and create constant inner struggle. I have worked with many couples who believe the love between them is gone. Often, after they open up and express their anger, hurt, and frustration, the love starts to return. It feels like magic, but it’s not magic; it’s the power of our ability to shift to new states of consciousness as we unblock the illusions that come between us and our love…
So when we sob with grief over a loss, cry because we’re hurt, respectfully express our anger and frustrations, or tell our shameful secrets, we are freeing ourselves emotionally and physically, which makes room for joy. This is a process that takes time. We need to be gently yet remind ourselves that freedom comes when we stop repressing our feelings and honor the truths of our inner world.
You get on the path of exercising, saying affirmations, writing regularly, paying the bills on time, not criticizing your partner, and then…yikes! You revert to old behavior. You can’t seem to drag yourself out to exercise, you start carping at your partner, you gorge on food, In short, you forget to do all the things that are good for you.
One the path to joy, it is important to accept that we wax and wane like the moon. We remember, we forget—and it’s all part of the dance. We push through our fears, get organized, take a risk, then retreat for a while. After a break, we once again push through inertia, and get going again.
Remember, you never have to do anything perfectly. Four affirmations are better than none. Walking one a week is better than once a month. Fresh vegetables three times a week is better than an unmitigated junk food diet…The important thing is to watch yourself play the remembering and forgetting game and be gently at all times. How you fall of the path is part of the path. It’s easy to love yourself when you’re winning. The real test is maintaining that love on the tough days. So keep remembering (until you forget) that it’s all drama, it’s all a dance, and it’s all okay.
From Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules ~ #48 If It’s Worth Doing , It’s Worth Doing Badly
Many people block themselves from undertaking new endeavors---from learning a language to taking up a sport or music lessons—because they are afraid of being clumsy and mediocre. I suggest that clumsy and mediocre can be wonderful compared with burying one’s dreams and shrinking one’ life. It is excellent for the spirit to be a beginner at something. Being a beginner keeps us humble, helps us understand children, and can bring tremendous pleasure if we stop judging ourselves and just enjoy. Better to a be a run-of-the-mill piano player than go to the grave regretting you never tried.
From Reaching Out, Breaking the Rules ~ #50 Stay Awake, Stay Aware—Learn from your Struggles
Sometimes we resolve to control a behavior and then find ourselves doing it again. At 8 am we say we aren’t going to eat sugar and at 10 am we’re munching on a sweet roll. We tell ourselves we shouldn’t spend more money and three hours later we’re ordering a new dress from a catalogue. It feels like something driving us that we can’t control, but it’s usually a substitute for a deeper, underlying need. Lonely? Eat. Angry? Seduce someone. Ashamed of a mistake? Blame someone.
The stay-awake-stay-aware approach helps you gain insight when you are going against your principles but can’t seem to stop yourself. The basic principle is that by adding awareness to compulsive or addictive behavior you transform the behavior.
We have talked about feeling overwhelmed or feeling like a child. Usually when children are upset they need to get rest, be held, be reassured. There are several types of connections that can help us out of an emotional jam. We usually need to do one or more of the following:
1) Connect with feelings.
2) Connect with another person.
3) Connect with our spirit.
Connect with feelings. When you suddenly feel disconnected, scattered, self-abusive, or nasty to others, it can be the result of repressing feelings about an event that recently occurred in your life. Backtrack to when you first go off course. Did you not stand up for yourself when you were angry with someone? Did you feel misunderstood and not tell anyone? Have you been rationalizing your feelings and need to be honest with yourself?....
Connect with another person. When we’re in crisis or being hard on ourselves, making a connection with another person can reassure us. No, we’re not unlovable to the core. No, we’re no the only one who ever blew it. Yes, other people care about us even when we get scared or make mistakes. Talking with another person can bring back perspective on a situation. The goblins in our mind get bigger in isolation….If you tend to tell yourself you shouldn’t bother people with your troubles or that you should figure it out on your own, you may have to push through shame to call someone. But on the path toward joy, connecting honestly with another person and sharing your vulnerability is crucial…
Connect with your spirit. Simply remember, this is drama, it’s not about your worth. You are sacred, you are life. You have the capacity for joy no matter how buried it seems at the moment.
When melancholy looms large in your life what do you do?
Did any of the excerpts shared spark something for you?
Author Charlotte Kasl describer herself this way on her web site:
"I wear the hat of psychotherapist, author, and teacher, but at my core, I am a peace and social justice activist. I believe the starting place for healing the planet is in our hearts and in the ways we practice respect, empathy, understanding and equality in all human relationships, including our relationship to ourselves." ~ Charlotte Kasl
Charlotte has written a number of books. One I have already read is called If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on A Spiritual Path. Her newest book that has yet to be released is called If the Buddha Had Kids: Raising Children to Create a More Peaceful World. It is one I will read once it is released.
Have you read any of Charlotte's books? If yes, do you recommend any?