10: Joy

“In joy, we see even darkness with new eyes. Joy returns us to everything that is good and beautiful and worth fighting for. I was not alone. I was one in millions. I was part of a movement, one in a constellation. I had to shine my light in my specific slice of sky. I could do that.”

“Joy is possible even amid great labors—the labor of dying, the labor of birthing, and the labors between. We cannot force it. But when we create moments to breathe between labor pains, and surrender our senses to the present moment, notice the colors and light and feeling of being alive, here, together, joy comes more easily. In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in joy is a revolutionary act. It gives us energy for the long labor.”

—Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger, Chapter 10

Understanding Joy

Joy is the core practice that sustains all others.  To let in joy is to give our senses over to what is beautiful, delightful, pleasurable, or wondrous in the present moment. 

Joy is the gift of love. Joy returns us to everything good and beautiful and worth fighting for. It gives us energy for the long labor.

  1. Why is joy a necessary practice of revolutionary love? 
  2. What is gained—for others, opponents, and ourselves—when we practice, protect, and cultivate our joy?
  3. In what ways is joy an act of moral resistance and reimagining?
  • adrienne maree brown describes joy as feeling her own aliveness, purpose, and agencythe ability to make choices and seek connection even in the difficult moments. Make noticing and protecting your joy a daily practice. This might start with gratitude for small things: a hot cup of tea, a warm exchange with a neighbor, the voice of a friend or loved one. This may also include rest, and turning towards your community and loved ones when you need support. These actions, too, can be joyful.
  • Practice wonder about what makes you joyful: Is it music, art, creativity, movement? Is it time spent with young people, friends, community members, outdoors?  Nurture and protect these practices in your life, and help to nurture this joy in others as well.
  • Notice how joy feels in your body. Perhaps it is a lightness in your limbs, a relaxing of your jaw, and sense of calm and ease. Ask yourself what people, places, actions bring you joy and remind you of what is good and beautiful and worth fighting for.
  • Keep a joy or gratitude journal to note, daily, the things that made you joyful each day. Work to protect your  joy, and to practice it, especially when things are hard. Share your joy in community.
  • Seek out and explore examples of joy as a practice of moral resistance and reimagining. Movement builders have long used art, dance, movement, and song to ground their work in joy and community.  Some present day examples include the Resistance Revival Chorus, the Activist Songbook, Girl Trek, the work of Favianna Rodriguez, Julio Salgado, and many others.
  • Revolutionary love and nourishing our joy is a lifelong practice. In your wisdom journal, imagine each day as a lifetime, and each night reflect upon the questions that Kaur offers:
    • What was the hardest part in this lifetime? Notice where you sense that hardship in your body. Now how did you get through it? We somehow managed to make it to the end of this day, the end of this lifetime.
    • What was the most joyful part of this lifetime? Every day and every lifetime, no matter how hard, contains moments of joy. Notice what made it joyful. Sense what joy feels like in your body.
    • What did you learn from the joy? How can you bring more of it in? 
    • What are you most grateful for in this lifetime? Every day and every lifetime offers a new reason for gratitude. Sense that gratitude in your body.
    • Now are you ready to let go of this lifetime? Are you ready to think of the work you have done today and know that it is enough?