To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear, the dropping away of the anxious, worried self…the claiming of our place in the living conversation, the sheer privilege of being in the presence of a mountain, a sky or a well-loved familiar face. I was here, and you were here, and together we made a world.

David Whyte

Welcome to Day Four of Say Yes to Joy

If, as Br. David Steindl-Rast says, the root of joy is gratefulness, fear is its gatekeeper. When our fears and worries — real and heavy as they are — become the guideposts by which we live our daily lives, we miss out on joy. As we explored on day two of the practice, making space for joy isn’t about negating the sorrows we carry; sorrow and joy can be deeply integrated and inform each other. But joy does, in fact, depend on relinquishing unchecked fears that hold us back from joy, that keep us from saying a wholehearted yes. These can take many forms but are often experienced as fear of imperfection, fear of vulnerability, or fear of not being enough. Metaphorically speaking (and perhaps literally, too!), if we’re worried about how we look when dancing, we may not ever dance. 

Begin today by reading The Fearless Dive: Grateful without Conditions, a short essay by our CEO Joe Primo, in which he shares the ways fear kept him from unconditional gratefulness and, therefore, joy.

After reading the essay, take a few moments to consider the following:

  • Do you put conditions on your gratefulness, i.e. “This would be perfect if only…”?
  • Is there a fear you carry that gets in the way of greater joy?
  • How might gratefulness help shift your perspective and help soften this fear?

Today’s Practice

Setting aside our fears and vulnerabilities is of course not easy work, nor is it as simple as a one-time relinquishing. Ritual, however, can be a powerful way to begin laying down a fear that you carry. In the act of ritual, you can set an intention and remind yourself in body, mind, and spirit that you’re ready to let something go and make a little more room for joy. For today’s practice, we invite you to try the steps below. As preparation, consider re-watching the conversation between Brené Brown and Oprah that we shared on day one of the practice, as it speaks directly to the ways our fears cut us off from joy. 

  • Set the Stage & Get Centered. Select some music you find soothing, gather pen and paper, perhaps light a candle, and take a few deep breaths. When you’re ready, reread the David Whyte quote above; try speaking it aloud, inviting the “full and untrammeled joy” of which he writes.
  • Name the Fear. Identify a fear you’d like to relinquish in order to open to greater joy. On a piece of paper, write this fear down in the form of a single word or one sentence. This simple format is certainly not to diminish the complexity of our fears but to get clear and concrete about a specific fear.
  • Envision Letting It Go. Holding the piece of paper, take a few moments to be compassionate toward this fear and toward yourself. Allow yourself to feel it, to acknowledge its source and its weight. As you do so, begin to envision what it would feel like to relinquish this fear. Imagine the lightness and liberation you might feel. 
  • Invite Joy. Now turn the paper over, and name the joy that you want to welcome into your life. Complete this sentence prompt: “By relinquishing this fear, I invite ____________.” Complete this by writing something about the joy you’re inviting. Be as specific as you’d like. Make a clear, powerful statement that you are choosing joy over fear.

Once you’ve written your statement, take a few moments to reflect. What does it feel like to set this intention to relinquish a fear? How might you lean into this ritual the next time you notice fear getting in the way of joy?

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the Community Conversation space where we we invite you to share your reflections.

Deepening Resource

For some added delight to your day, allow NPR’s Joy Generator to help you lean into joy. Choose from soundscapes to poetry to images of the natural world as inspiration for a wholehearted yes to joy!

Research Highlight

Brené Brown’s research reveals that in moments of vulnerability or fear, joyful people practice gratitude instead of “dress-rehearsing tragedy” and keeping joy at a distance. In other words, when fear arises, turn toward gratefulness to remain open to joy. She goes on to make the distinction that gratitude is a practice, something “tangible and concrete.”

Photo by Jan Tinneberg