Looking outside myself for something that lives in me intrinsically, can be like trying to fill a glass of water that is already full.
Yet, looking outside my head to identify joyful things also gets my attention outside of the rat trap that my mind can be, and then I can witness other things that exist in the present moment and gain perspective. There is play, trees, birds, bees... and I can see how lucky I am... to breathe, see, move, enjoy and have freedom.
Recently there has been some deep trauma in my world and I found my joy snuffed out into darkness. I reached into my past relationship with physical pain, to help me through my emotional pain. I remembered how I felt trapped by physical anguish following some seriously painful surgeries.
I had this thought that nothing but change was constant. So, that would mean pain was also not constant.
I experimented by looking for the breath between the pain, the expansion after the contraction, and lo and behold, there it was. Tiny as it may seem, a sliver of relief followed the fierce contractions that defined my moments. I stayed exquisitely present to that finite moment of relief. I put all my attention on it to slow down it's departure.
I also stopped using definitive words like "chronic or constant pain" as I noticed that my words filled in the gap where the awareness of relief would be, if I weren't present to it.
I decided to used this same theory when it came to the current pain that filled my heart for days and nights and seemed to snuff out my light. I saw darkness as my new normal, I accepted that it was coming for a long visit, and I stayed present for any tears in the fabric of my pain where any light shone through. Then, I thanked the universe and celebrated any fleeting moments of relief and release.
I switched my focus from expecting joy to be my foundational, my emotional baseline, to accepting darkness (or asleepness) as being my foundational baseline. Then, again, as each tear or break from that darkness occurred that let in the light, I enjoyed it and breathed in the breath of fresh air. I really celebrated it without expectation of it staying. Since then, I have noticed a huge expansion of my joy... and now joy lasts days, even weeks with blips of pain or sadness or darkness breaking through, but the percentages have switched from mostly dark to mostly light.
This perspective shift has allowed me some serious peace and joy and gratitude to re-emerge. It may seem like a negative perspective, but for me, it was a radical way to accept "what is," like when someone dies and the grief is more constant than the relief. Over time, the percentage of grief and joy can equalize, and then switch back to a more joyful baseline of consciousness. I can't say enough how much this perspective helped me. Perhaps it sounds dark, or maybe you can relate, but whatever the case, it was an interesting way to manage my dip into the great mystery.