From my old apartment overlooking the Charles river, I could hear the background hum of paddlers coming and going from a nearby rental kiosk. One day, a couple on paddle boards were getting nowhere fast just below my balcony. A young woman on one board was paddling in circles, while her companion was offering instructions on how to turn around and proceed in a straight line. Eventually, though in an amazingly sweet voice, the woman asked him to stop directing her because “I am enjoy.” Though I realized she probably meant “I am enjoying myself, so please leave me the <bleep> alone,” her phrasing always stuck with me.
I was taken by how her enjoyment of paddling had absolutely nothing to do with how well she did it, and that she was fully embodying joy in that moment, not merely having a fun experience. There was nothing passive in her statement - she was joy itself.
Where could we invite ourselves to be infused with joy? Where could we loosen the reins a bit in our practice to experience how we feel doing it, rather than judge how we are doing it? What if we allowed ourselves to momentarily release the need to get an activity “right” and instead opened to what the moment could offer us?
One way I try to keep my Type A tendencies from running amok, and open to experiencing more joy (as well as peace and calm), is to proactively invite them in during a meditation practice. I allow the phrases “I choose Peace; I choose Calm; I choose Joy” to ride my breath, inhaling them in, exhaling them through. I’ve also shortened this into a moving meditation while paddling, echoing Peace, Peace, Peace subvocally for 3 paddle strokes, then Calm, Calm, Calm, then Joy, Joy, Joy. Over and over again.
The next time you find yourself struggling in a task, movement, or practice, perhaps invoke the image of paddling in circles, lit from within and radiating joy.