A recent episode of On Being, called Tending Joy and Practicing Delight, has been inspiring me to think more about the ways in which I find joy in everyday life. In the conversation with Krista Tippett, Ross Gay talks about writing an essay about something that delighted him each day for a year. My interest in these types of awareness exercises stems from a desire to avoid the pitfalls of constantly chasing the next best thing, which doesn't actually lead to more happiness. This is known as the hedonic treadmill—"the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes."
Since we seem destined to accept our current states of existence, I'm interested in how mindfulness and awareness can both elevate and ground my everyday life. Instead of relying on external factors to contribute to my "highs", can I find ways of noticing and appreciating the things that are already within and around me? Photography has been critical to this practice, since my style of personal documentary necessitates an awareness of beauty and interest surrounding me on a daily basis. Studying product design also made me increasingly aware of the physical objects and systems around me. Learning history enables further insight (and as a result, appreciation or criticism) into the current state of the world. These moments of awareness and recognition are my ways of "tending joy and practicing delight." Learning and understanding new connections between things is perhaps one of my life's greatest joys, even if the complexities of the world’s problems are sometimes overwhelming.
In the episode, Ross Gay goes on the describe the connection between joy and dying. He says:
The connection between the dying and the joy? Well, part of it is just the simple fact of the ephemerality of — and maybe this is a little veering off, but there is this thing of, if you and I know we’re each in the process, [laughs] there is something that will happen between us. There’s some kind of tenderness that might be possible — not always gonna happen, because I might just get scared and do something else. But there’s the potential, I think, for some kind of tenderness.
And this is the thing that’s been interesting about writing that Delights book, is that it has articulated for me a way that, “Oh, my question is joy.” My question that I could see that’s a life question is, “What is this joy?” Or, “How joy?”
But in the process of thinking about it, I have really been thinking that joy is the moments — for me, the moments when my alienation from people — but not just people, from the whole thing — it goes away. And it shrinks. If it was a visual thing, like, everything becomes luminous. And I love that mycelium, or forest metaphor, that there’s this thing connecting us. And among the things of that thing connecting us is that we have this common experience — many common experiences, but a really foundational one is that we are not here forever.
And that’s a joining — a “joy-ning.” So that’s sort of how I think about it."
I find his reflection fascinating because awareness of death is also a significant motivator for me in practicing gratitude (and in turn, delight). My favorite part of On Being is the constant exposure it provides in mechanisms for mindful living. Much like learning skills (guitar, piano, photography, writing) or building strength through sports and exercise, kindness, empathy, and conscious living are also aspects of life I find incredibly valuable to work on for personal development and wellbeing.
Trying to build different habits since working remotely can lack structure sometimes — I’ve been experimenting with reading for 30 minutes every morning with a cup of tea before starting other work. It’s nice to start the day off with some learning and allows me to make progress on books even when I’m busy. The downside is that it’s hard to focus right after waking up.
I started doing TRX training at home—I like working out but don’t really enjoy gym environments, so this seemed like a good alternative. My whole body hurts but it’s been fun.
I’ve been realizing how much random stuff I have at home since moving back and consolidating everything I owned in Boston with all my childhood things here. I was slightly neurotic about my belongings when I lived in Boston due to a few stressful moving experiences (I kept an updated Google Sheet that listed every item I owned and why, if that counts as neurotic), but became a lot more lax about it since my family’s house is much bigger than my previous 325 sq ft. studio. However, I miss that mindfulness and simplicity regarding material possessions, so I’m doing a fair bit of selling/donating now. Books are my weakness.
What five words would you use to describe yourself? What five words would you want to be described as? (If those words aren’t the same, why?)