Rebbe Nachman said that the pathway to our true destiny is joy. Indeed, joy and enthusiasm are important aspects of the spiritual path in ways. The wonderful part of this practice is that it nurtures us while we are doing it, and usually helps us see things from a different perspective.
Here are ten practices to warm the heart and fill the soul with joy. Any one of them can change your day.
- Music: If you don't already own one, get a miniature audiotape player and comfortable earphones. Find pieces of music that move your soul. Play them repeatedly when you are engaged in mundane activities. Play them so much that they are in your mind even when the player is not on. Also, sing! In the shower, in the car, spontaneously, whenever you wish.
- Dance: Find a room in the house where you will not be interrupted and nobody can see you though the windows. Move the furniture so that you have a clear space to dance. Play some music you love, and move your body any way you wish for twenty minutes. This is a dance for you alone. If it does not make you feel wonderful, choose another piece of music next time.
- Nature: Make it a point at least once a week to spend two hours in a raw, natural setting with a few people around as possible. Go to the beach, mountains, forest, desert, someplace filled with the beauty of nature. During this time, try not to think about yourself. Rather, act as a nature-loving tour guide for yourself who is constantly saying things like: "Look at that ant"; "Listen to that wind"; "Smell that flower"; "Touch the bark on that tree"; "See how the sun glistens off the water"; "Be very still and listen." Try to spend the entire two hours without thinking about your own life. You may wish to carry a notepad so that if distractions arise, you can make a brief note to attend to these concerns after the two hours are up.
- Selectivity: We choose fairly carefully the food we eat. We know what does not agree with us, and we usually try to avoid it. The same should hold true for what we choose to feed our minds. For one month, try to be selective of the type of programs you watch, the quality of radio you listen to, the magazines you read, the movies you go to see. You may choose to minimize experiences that titillate and excite, which often include scenes of violence, anger, and general mayhem. This kind of material may entertain us, but it does not give us joy. Indeed, it does the reverse. Try one month of selectivity, and substitute one of the following choices:
- Books: Take an hour and browse your local bookstore or library without any goal. Let yourself be guided by whim. Find a seat and read parts of a book or magazine that catch your fancy. The idea is to discover new areas of interest or simply to be lightly entertained, with no objective in mind.
- Playground: Take an hour and walk in a local park or playground. Ride a swing. Sit on a jungle gym. Lie in the grass. Hug a tree. Talk with a child you don't know. Try to be with your own inner child, not thinking about adult things. As in step 3, see if you can spend an hour not thinking about yourself.
- Museum: Spend a morning of afternoon exploring a local museum, just hanging out. Ponder the works of the artists. Let your fantasy flow. Again, try not to think about your own past and future during this time.
- Fantasy: Pick up travel brochures, get videos from the library on nature or distant lands, and let yourself fantasize about traveling around the world. Pick a place you would really like to go. Get books from library and study everything you can find about this place. Plan your trip, even if it is years away.
- Soak: Fill a tub with warm water. Use bubble bath if you like. Soak your whole body for at least a half hour, trying to keep your mind free. If you begin thinking about yourself, make up a fantasy and float away.
- Thanks: Speak words of thankfulness to God. Reflect on your physical gifts: eyesight; hearing; and the abilities to speak, stand, walk, touch, smell, taste, and so forth. For each thing, give thanks. Reflect on your shelter, food, safety, kitchen, bathroom, and give thanks. Whatever comes to mind, find something in it for which you can be thankful. Try to get into the habit of thankfulness (rather than the normal habit of complaint). Each night as you go to sleep, see how many things you can think of to give thanks for that day. You may discover that the list is so long, you will fall asleep before finishing it.
Notice that all of the above suggestions require taking time for yourself. Of course, there are many joyful practices that involve being with others. Take advantage of these as well. But be assured, our joy is ultimately not dependent upon other people, but on our individual relationship with life.
Obviously, there are hundreds of activities that lighten the heart and nourish the soul. As noted above, you do not have to wait for joy to arrive on its own; you can invite it in through the front door this very moment.— David A. Cooper in God Is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism