My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Category Archives: feelings

Connecting with Joy

Washington apples

Washington apples

Biting into a crisp and juicy Fuji apple, I had a small revelation about my relationship to joy.

I was enjoying my apple.  I was telling myself how much I love apples.  (Of course I love apples.  I live in Washington, the apple state, after all.)  Recently I discovered Jazz apples and Lady Alice apples…so delicious and so fun to try new varieties!  As the sweetness and crunch of this Fuji apple filled my mouth, I became intrigued by its “imperfection.”  The color of the skin was not uniform – one side of the apple was a light yellow/dull green and the other side a dull, streaky red with yellow splotches.

As I munched joyfully on my apple, something I said to someone in an open moment came to mind.  I remember saying, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.”  My remembrance of uttering this statement has gnawed at me for months.  I’m not a gloomy, dark, negative person.  In fact new people I meet often experience me as bright and cheery.  Despite my projection of brightness, there are times I feel an inner gloom, when sadness takes hold of me.  As I reflect back on this moment, I offer myself compassion and recognize that I expressed this self-observation during a darker season, literally darker outside and darker inside (the transition from fall to winter was hard for me and I struggled to hold on to my inner light).

For the last several years as I’ve progressed from the heaviness of devastation and grief from my relationship ka-boom to less heavy to lightness and a growing brightness, I’ve been contemplating and cultivating a connection with joy.  At times I’ve doubted my ability to feel joy, as my statement above illustrates.  Other times I’ve been felt bewildered.  “Joy?  What’s Joy?”  To myself I’ve wondered, “how can I feel joy if I don’t know what joy is?”

I remember asking myself once during my journey out of the sadness and heaviness of grief, “do I even know how to be happy?”  I actually sat down a year ago (probably on a day or a week where I was struggling to connect with a feeling of happiness) and wrote down a list of everything that brings happiness, and yes, joy, into my life.

Here is a snapshot of my list:

  • birds (their songs, playfulness, and curious behaviors)
  • sunshine
  • nature – wildflowers, blue sky, clouds, sunsets, mountains
  • cooking and eating my creations
  • time spent with my friends
  • interacting with the kids on ICO outings and witnessing their discoveries of nature
  • learning and self-discovery

My small revelation, my moment of insight, emerged in the space just after remembering my declaration, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.”  It’s not just that I’ve been through a lot of hard stuff in my life (a tough childhood, the death of a sibling, a tragic and traumatic end to the most important relationship of my life) which has undoubtedly darkened my perception of my experiences and my reality, it’s also, and quite significantly so, that joy was not modeled for me during my childhood.

My dad was an angry, scary man.  He was also a workaholic and so often put an end to our play – instead we were barked at and commanded to do work.  I spent a lot of my childhood, along with my siblings, stacking fire wood, weeding the garden, and helping my dad corral the sheep he raised.  My mom was and still is a very timid person and lives in a chronic state of fear and depression.  She typically represses her feelings and emotions and “suffers in silence.”  My mom is also quite negative and often expresses her belief that something will go wrong, always assuming the worst, not believing in the possibility of the best.

These were my behavioral models:  anger and aggression from one parent; fear, negativity, and timidity from the other.  Sadly, there was not a lot of joy experienced or expressed in my family.  It’s no wonder that I’ve had such a hard time connecting with joy.  Joy, for the most part, has been a big unknown for me – obscure and elusive.  I’ve had to discover joy on my own and for myself.  And then I had to re-discover joy as I emerged from the heaviness of my grief, from heart wrenching pain.

I now celebrate that joy is no longer so elusive and bewildering to me.  My enjoyment of my apple, the pleasure I experienced eating it and taking it all in, splotches and all, illustrates my ability to connect with and feel joy.  More and more I experience joy in everyday life, whether noticing a dog at play, a crow burying its food in my back yard, a perky and cheerful daffodil, or a notable moon rise.   In each of these noticings and much more, I feel joy permeate and fill my being.  Hooray for that!

On my journey I have discovered that curiosity is the pathway to joy.  Curiosity, being inquisitive, being in a state of wonder, helps us to discover (or perhaps uncover) the essence and the fullness of joy in all things, in all experiences.  When we are curious, we are open to receiving the fullness of life.  Additionally when we are curious, we are fully present in each moment, squeezing and savoring every last drop out of JOY in each moment of life.  The pathway of curiosity is the path of mindfulness.

How does JOY live inside me?

When I feel joy my heart feels light and buoyant, the corners of my mouth and eyes turn up into a smile, I feel playful energy stir within me.  When I feel joy, I feel an inner brightness. 
When I feel joy, I AM bright!!!

How does JOY live inside YOU?


Inhabit a Feeling

A little over a month ago I began taking a course in non-violent communication, also known as compassionate communication.  When I share this news with folks who have not heard of or are unfamiliar with non-violent communication (NVC), I see confusion on their faces and/or hear confusion or curiosity in their voices as they try to understand what “violent” communication might look like or sound like.

“Violent” communication in this context does not refer to explosive or abusive language.  Statements such as “you are making me angry” or “stop pressuring me” or “I feel disrespected” are examples of “violent” communication.  In each of these statements the speaker is not articulating a feeling, but instead makes a judgement of another person veiled as a “feeling.”  And by saying “you are making me angry” or “stop pressuring me” the speaker is deferring blame, creating a buffer, and/or not owing what he or she is truly feeling on the inside.  I regard much of the language of “violent” communication to be passive aggressive.

What I’m discovering in this journey and practice of unlearning old communication patterns and learning and integrating a new, healthy, compassionate style of communication is how pervasive “violent” communication is in our society.  I am sure many folks can recognize their patterns of using the language of “you are ____” instead of speaking from the position of “I feel ____” or “I need ____.”  Furthermore, if we bring awareness to our collective patterns, we will hear how commonly people use the words “I feel” paired with a judgment or their perception of reality without even expressing a true feeling.

This journey is revealing to me how disconnected many of us are with our actual feelings and/or how challenged we are to actually speak to our deeper feelings.  Using statements “I feel” paired with a judgment not only masks our feelings but further perpetuates our disconnection with our inner most selves.  We become so accustomed to saying things like “I feel dismissed” or “I feel misunderstood” that we lose our ability to speak with fluency to our actual feelings; we are challenged to speak to or even name our actual feelings.

Feelings.  What are feelings, exactly?  Many of us associate a feeling with an emotion that stirs or resides in our inner landscape.  But how do we know what a feeling actually is?  How do we know what happiness is? gratitude? joy? exhilaration? What do we feel inside that tells us “this is happiness” or “this is gratitude” or “this is exhilaration”?  How do we come to pair a body sensation with the word for that feeling?  What signals or messages does our body give to us to help us identify or connect to that feeling? What stirs in our emotional landscape that informs us?

In NVC we cultivate self connection with our inner landscape, we cultivate a deeper listening.   We listen to our thoughts and we listen to our bodies – both, not just one or the other – to help us identify and inform us of our deepest feelings.  We use this listening to get underneath, to get behind historical statements such as “you are overwhelming me” or “I feel let down” or “I do not feel appreciated” to identify what we’re truly feeling and needing or to hear what others might be feeling or needing.  Over time and with practice, we cultivate the skills to speak directly to our feelings and needs without falling into old, passive aggressive, judgmental patterns which very often alienate us from others.  When we are more able to speak to our inner experience, we are able to own our feelings and needs.

I want to share and draw insight from a distinction that one of the members of my class shared that really resonated with me.  He spoke to the ownership of feelings.  He shared that to him the statement “I feel sadness” lacks depth of emotion.  He articulated that “sadness” expressed in this way is like an object outside of ourselves and not something that is inside of us.  He offered that when one makes the subtle shift and expresses, “I feel sad” or “I am sad,” there is a greater depth of feeling because the speaker is naming an emotional experience he or she is having instead of expressing something that could be perceived as outside of themselves.  By expressing a feeling in this way the speaker not only owns the feeling, but truly inhabits the feeling.

When we “inhabit a feeling” we are fully present with that feeling, we stay with it, we allow it to fill our entire being, to permeate our inner landscape.  Why might we allow ourselves to experience the fullness of a feeling?  I can think of two very important reasons.  One – happy and joyous feelings grow out of life’s gifts which, in my humble opinion, should be treasured and cherished; we choose to bask in happy feelings, to savor joyous feelings as these feelings are part of the gift.  Two – mournful and sorrowful feelings grow out of difficult moments or tragic events that can be, if we choose, life’s greatest teachers; when recognize an opportunity for learning, we choose to stay, we choose to feel fully.  When we stay with ourselves, when we “inhabit a feeling,” we develop greater authenticity. When we stay with others and receive their feelings, we cultivate harmony and connection.

“Learn to stay.”  ~ Pema Chödrön


I bow to Karl, my teacher and model in NVC.  I greatly admire and respect Karl’s exemplary skills and gifts.