The last year has been a masterclass in personal growth, surrender and embracing change. I believe that struggle is a part of life. Learning to embrace and grow through that struggle is part of any spiritual path. Yet, these last few months, the word ‘Joy’ keeps coming to my mind. I have been reflecting on how important it is to let joy back in after our worlds have been shaken and belief systems changed. That we must remember to emerge from protecting ourselves back into the sunshine of life. To uncoil ourselves once more. More than anything, I know when a topic keeps coming up for me, it is calling me to investigate it more. To research it for sure. But ultimately it is telling me to live it more. 
Joy is an elated feeling which allows us to expand. To connect with our truest form. Joy is the emotion that makes life worth living because it connects to our core identity. To quote one philosopher;  
Joy makes you more intensely yourself’' 
We experience more freedom, safety and ease with joy; therefore, we feel safer to be ourselves. Equally we must also feel safe to experience joy in the first place. This last year has removed some of that safety. It is up to each of us now to reclaim joy. 
Joy is all about connection; either to others or the wider universe. Studies show that we are more likely to experience joy with others or something which brings us joy. From an evolutionary perspective, it appears one of its primary functions is to reinforce important connections, particularly with people important to our wellbeing. Joy is about reunion. Reconnection with others, ourselves, the universe. This feels like a pretty important point for us all right now. 
Joy has always been associated with the spiritual life. Joy at miracles, joy for life itself. The word rejoice seen so often in prayer and spiritual songs means to feel or show great joy or delight. In any spiritual tradition, we are encouraged to go within, reconnect, to learn more about ourselves when change or suffering arrives. But we must also remember how to re-purpose that internal work externally. If we only go within, our spiritual practice is not complete. We must come back out into the light, allow ourselves to experience the joy of being alive in the world. 
As a last takeaway – struggle and joy share something. Just like struggle asks us to surrender to life, so does joy. Joy ranks lowest in terms of the emotions we can control. It is something that happens and take us over in the moment. Children experience joy so freely because they allow themselves to. There is a relationship between joy, play and the willingness to take risk. Surrendering to suffering is easier because suffering is inevitable. Surrendering to joy involves courage. It is a choice to embrace the risk of more joy. 
This summer, after so much struggle, have the courage to seek out joy and those people who bring you joy. 
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