Sometimes life throws you a curve ball or two or five. Your moving along mostly content. Good days, full of work you love, a few errands, pleasant interactions with strangers, sweet talks with loved ones, it is all good. Yes there are grumpy days, agitations, worries, perhaps a month with too many expenses and not enough money flow, but for the most part you are in a pattern of smooth sailing.

You know it is coming. You try to be.present.now. But you know – because you have lived long enough to know – that something hard will come soon. You know about the hard part that makes life precious and beautiful, the abrupt reminder, the moment when the sky falls into your lap. As you walk to the bus, a flutter in your sternum reminds you of the precarious balance, the limit of this life on this earth now, for you, for your loves.

The last time I had this wake-up call was when I got into a bad car accident with my beloved. The accident shook everything in my life up, just like when you poke a stick in sedentary stream.

Since the accident and the awareness of our lack of control and brief chances in this life time, I have gone back to cruise control. Living mostly calm, happy days with one eye open, ready for the next precious life reminding moment to bounce into my lap.

A few days ago the reminder came. A community of dear friends have been intimately involved with our friend, and her husband’s battle with cancer. She has the bad kind of cancer, more than one kind actually, the kinds that are out to kill and refuse to listen to the multitude of modern medicine’s “magical” treatments.

Two weeks ago, she got the news that a whole new form of cancer had showen up and it was bad, it wasn’t going away and did not appear to be treatable. As the news was shared during dinner – one person after another experienced the quiet sops in their throats, the chill of disbelief and hot of anger.

What do we do in these times when the bottom drops out?

Right now, the key for me is to continue reaching for the joy place inside – I can still access it even when I am sad, it is always there. My joy is anchored to something much deeper than current emotions, current experience. It is anchored to something that goes back before my birth – that grounds us all. Everyone accesses joy differently. Below are a few of my strategies for accessing joy.

Accessing Joy in the darkest moments:

1. Feel the emotions

Sometimes I even talk to my emotions, “Hello there – you are feeling so sad. I am sorry you are sad. It’s okay to feel sad right now”.
(For more on not ignoring emotions check out Raphael Cushnir’s work).

2. Tap into gratitude and say thanks

Name 1 or 2 things you are thankful for. And say thanks.
“I am thankful for cool breeze in spring leaves. Thank you cool breeze.”

For more on gratitude check out Brene Brown’s work.

3. Go for a walk

Feel the air against your face, notice things, only talk a little or not at all, feel life moving around you

4. Reach out

Be with the people that are good for you. (These are the people that are okay with you and still loving even when you are not wonderful to be with.)
Tell them how you are really doing.
Be with them.

5. Breath

Inhale, exhale.
Feel your breath.

6. Let yourself feel joy

It is okay to feel joy even in the hardest moments. Joy is not the same as happiness. You are not denying the experience of grief or anger by also taking in joy. When it moves through you, acknowledge it, nod, pause, touch your heart.

Joy for me feels like a welling up, from my gut to my chest, it is a sense, a knowing that there is something to be thankful for right now and there will always be something to be thankful for. Joy helps me see the moment.
Joy connects me to now and to something bigger than now.
Joy keeps me courageous and open.

How do you connect with a sense of joy even when life is very dark?
What does joy feel like to you?

When you share your practices and ideas it will give others new ideas and ways to connect to their sense of joy.