Joy is.... Silence
I find it fascinating how a single word can mean so many things to so many different people. As human beings we may be speaking the same language, in terms of the actual words used; but how these words are put together, the intonations and emphasis used and our individual experiencing of the world can all have an influence on what we are trying to communicate to the other person in a conversation. The use of any given word, used in a room of individuals, may elicit a mixture of responses including nostalgia, a sense of comfort, a happy reflection or great clarity. But equally, the same word may provoke a traumatic memory to re-surface, alter someone’s mood or cause another person to put up their defences.
Here at team Joy, we use the word Joy frequently but what does it actually mean? The Oxford English Dictionary defines joy as ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.’ I think this is a reasonable start but as with any word, meaning is often many layered and multi-dimensional and I would argue, uniquely understood by each individual. We may take from that word a felt senseof what it evokes, a literal translation as above, thoughts around situations where joy may be found or an awareness of the lack of joy in our lives and the ways in which we feel unable to access it.
For me, joy can mean so many different things and be found in so many places, that I would find it hard to limit my own personal definition to one blog post. In this series of posts, I will explore my own multi-faceted meaning of joy, in order that it may prompt you to consider and reflect on your own.
When I first think of joy, I see movement; bouncing, rippling, unbridled energy. Similar to the infectious energy of a child running free through an endless expanse of nature. But if I am able to tap into the emotion of joy and where I find it in my life, I actually seeit frequently in the opposing domain of stillness. As I reflected on this piece, I was surprised to notice that I actually find joy frequently in the absence of movement. Examples include the meditation section of my weekly yoga class, where it feels as if I am hovering in a state of alert and blissful rest. In the candlelit church I attend where a spiritual stillness seems to descend, at times, almost without me feeling it land. In the pause between words as I write. In the faces of my counselling clients as they feel an emotion or make a connection for the first time; those seconds between edge of awareness and full knowing. At home, in the peaceful facial expressions of my children as they sleep. And in thegeneral practice consulting room, when a hidden agenda hovers in the air between myself and my patient; in that moment before they let their barriers down and invite me to see what’s really going on in their lives.
So why is stillness so important for me in evoking such joy? I think it’s probably something to do with connection; connecting to others, to myself, to my spirituality and the huge vastness of simply ‘being.’ That exquisite feeling of being exactly where I am supposed to be. In the right place, at the right time, in exactly the right way.
How do you find stillness in your life? Maybe it’s in performing intricate surgery, gliding down a ski slope or sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by? This will, of course, be different for everyone. I think as doctors, silence is something that can be difficult to even begin to think about, let alone actively seek. As we bounce from task to task, patient to patient and problem to problem, it can be all too easy to get caught up in being busy. Our roles demand so much of us and we demand so much of ourselves. But is it possible to take a few minutes every now and again to do whatever it is that brings you some stillness in your life? I wonder whether, if we can recognise and embrace these moments, it may help us to stay grounded, healthy and nourished?
Coming back to where I opened this post, stillness is just one facet of my own personal understanding of joy and where I find it. It would be great to hear about your own understanding of the word joy; what does it mean to you? Where do you find it in your personal life and in your professional life and how does joy manifest itself for you?
Dr Nicky Kiernan is an NHS GP, trainee humanistic counsellor, Joyful Doctor Coach and writer. She has a passion for story-telling in all it's forms and loves discovering what makes people 'tick.'