My story was never about reaching my destination, because I never left in the first place. Joy – and love – is who I am. It’s who we all are at our core. – Kaia Roman
If living life were like running a business, what could be its WHY?
One word: JOY
The purpose of life is joy. But what of the pain and suffering we experience? They provide the contrast for joy, just as failure does for success.
And if there’s someone who had a first-hand experience of that contrast and managed to turn it around from a business failure into living a life of joy, who could it be?
One person: Kaia Roman
How did she do it? Well actually, “do” is not the word she prefers, but rather “be” on what she calls The Joy Plan. And what she initially planned to experiment for only 30 days ended up becoming her way of living, a lifestyle, and now a movement she rallies.
In this book, Kaia uses her business acumen to layout The Joy Plan. Just like any business plan, there’s a background section, strategy, challenges, team, and projections. She also includes Joy Plan Exercises in the last section to put the plan into action.
Let’s get to business!
…once formed in the brain, the persona then evolves as its own separate mental identity whose primary objective is to keep itself alive… The persona becomes a mask we wear much of the time, especially when interacting with other people.
It’s all one big mental overreaction. And the crazy thing is that most of us don’t even recognize our personas, because they’re so ingrained in us that we can’t see them as a separate identity. But the persona is not who we truly are!
Kaia adopts the term “Evolutionary Glitch” from the works of Dr. Albert Garoli who says that we develop a mental defense mechanism in response to moments where we experience rejection. The onset of this glitch starts in our childhood and develops onward.
To compensate, our brains (brainstem and amygdala) create a coping and protective mechanism to keep us safe. This is how the ego is formed. No problem with that. The ego is just doing its job for our survival.
The problem comes when we learn to identify with the ego and forget who we truly are. This misidentification leads to what Dr. Joe Dizpenza calls “The Identity Gap” in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. Now, we have a new identity, a persona.
Because our true nature (who we truly are) was rejected, we wear the mask of our persona instead. We didn’t realize that this persona also masks our joy.
This calls for acceptance. When we learn acceptance and remind ourselves that it’s safe to be who we truly are, there’s no longer the need to protect ourselves from rejection.
Does This Feel Good?
Because I need a plan to be simple in order to follow it consistently, I boiled down my approach to the Joy Plan to one question, which I would ask myself repeatedly throughout each day: Does this feel good?
My goal was to make “feeling good” my number one priority – and to that end, to make adjustments throughout the day, all day long. Simple. Not always easy, but simple.
Only one question matters in The Joy Plan: “Does this feel good?”
Kaia derives from the teachings of Abraham Hicks and points to the Emotional Scale proposed by Abraham (refer to Ask and It is Given).
For the 30-day experiment, her goal was to do whatever it took to feel good. Think thoughts that make her feel good. Do things that make her feel good.
But what about the things you have to do that don’t feel good? Here’s what Abraham has to say:
Rule of thumb: Be happy first.
(Check out the “Secret Shifters” from the book The Secret for more tips on feeling good.)
This process of clearing the visual clutter in my life wasn’t just about ignoring what felt bad; it was about creating the space for what feels good. I found that once I cleared that opening, inspiration had a doorway to enter through that had been too crowded before.
If I create my own reality, then I’m doing it all the time through my thoughts, words, and actions. And on the Joy Plan, small moments that occurred all day long were opportunities in motion to create my life.
Following the idea of going for a good feeling, let’s make it easier for us.
Will the news give us a good feeling? Will scrolling down on Facebook give us a good feeling? Will violent and horror movies give us a good feeling? Let’s not play with fire if we don’t want to get burned.
Let’s not try to look for the bad and wrong things in the world, for we’ll definitely find them. This isn’t ignorance. There’s awareness, but we choose where we give our attention to.
Kaia says the Universe works like Pandora, an online music streaming platform. If she likes what’s playing on her station, she gives it a thumbs-up. And thumbs-down if it doesn’t. Pandora then, with its algorithm, loads songs similar to Kaia’s preferences. More and more of the thumbs-up, less and less of the thumbs-down.
The Universe also offers us a variety of contrasting experiences to choose from. We get what we choose.
Matter Over Mind
Meanwhile, I looked for opportunities to engage in simple pleasures that would nourish my body as well as my mind. Taking time to intentionally hone in on each of my five senses allowed me to connect with my body, notice sensations that were happening in that very moment, and practice mindfulness. Our five senses are how we experience our world and are therefore an excellent way to tap into the present moment, especially when our minds are anywhere but here and now.
Thoughts are habits, and habits can be changed. By focusing on my body, senses, aesthetics, and tactile sensations, I was actually changing my thoughts.
Joy happens only in the present moment. The practice of meditation and mindfulness takes us there. But it’s quite a challenging feat.
With The Joy Plan, we want to make it easier as much as possible. We want to feel good easy. So instead of the mental practices, we can use body practices. Matter over mind.
We simply choose to experience what feels good to our body.
Here’s an exercise from the book:
Today I will find joy in:
TASTE: (Smoothies for me!)
SMELL: (I’m loving the smell of what my mother is cooking for lunch)
SOUND: (Marie Digby is currently playing in the background. Love her angelic voice… huge crush on her!)
SIGHT: (Oh my God… I love this Calibri font… way better than Webdings!)
TOUCH: (Hugging Scout, our golden retriever)
(Check out Reclaiming Your Body to help you with body practices)
They say laughter is the best medicine – and for good reason. Laughing releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” hormones that activate the body’s opiate receptors, reducing pain while increasing pleasure. Endorphins are behind the light-headed, giddy feeling you can get from laughing. They reduce the body’s stress response and relax the muscles. Full belly laughs, in particular, also release oxytocin, which bathes our nervous system in a warm, fuzzy glow.
The laughing face of the Buddha says it all. Laughter is very good for the soul! It’s an expression of joy.
Did you know that even faking a smile helps you feel good? Scientific studies have shown that the act of smiling, whether it’s natural or forced, triggers the brain to release endorphins.
Did you also know that you don’t need to take meditation seriously?
Hand It Up
When you want things so badly that the lack of having them is felt more strongly than the joy they will bring, your focus on lack actually prevents what you want from coming to you. As soon as you release your grip on your desires, what you want can come at lightning speed. Mastering the art of letting go is a critical element to the Joy Plan.
Letting go is not giving up. It’s handing it up. Instead of handling your own issues, you hand it over to a higher power.
Most of the time, we hold on so much to our desires, and that grip is what’s preventing our desires from coming to us. We can’t receive when our hands are full – full of fear.
Kaia says that along with our desire is a fear that we might not get it. Can you be completely okay with the possibility of not getting the thing you want the most?
There’s a YouTube clip by Tosha Silver where she describes the power of spiritual surrender that perfectly captures the concept of “handing it up,” which can help you soften your grip on the thing that you really, really want.
Because of the brain’s built-in negativity bias, it’s generally believed that it takes three positive experiences to outweigh the impact of one negative experience. However, according to Gottman, in marriage and long-term partnerships that ratio jumps from three to one to five to one. In other words, it takes spouses five times more positive interactions than negative to create a long-lasting stable relationship.
5:1 – “The magic ratio” developed by psychologist John Gottman is the formula that predicts the likelihood of divorce.
Here are Kaia’s tips on how to rekindle the magic in couples, or any relationship for that matter:
- Do what brings you joy. You are not responsible for your partner’s joy. Nevertheless, by filling your own cup, your overflowing joy will spill over them. If there are activities you both enjoy, it’s even better when you do them together.
- Every day, make a list of things you appreciate about your partner. Remember what you liked in him or her when you first met. Get specific. Look at these lists whenever you feel less loving.
- Praise your partner as often as possible. Notice even the small things. Praise more, criticize less.
(Check out Brian Johnson’s Love 101 Master Class for more awesome goodness)
Numerous studies demonstrate a correlation between visualizing a successful outcome and actually achieving it. Daydreaming activates regions in the brain that stimulate the realization of creative solutions. You don’t need to figure out “how” your visions will come to be; simply feel the excitement of them, and marinate in your own joy soup. What innovations and discoveries could you conjure from the creative recesses of your mind? Give yourself permission to daydream each day, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find out.
From “planner” to “creator” – this is the biggest transformation that Kaia had with The Joy Plan. She was so used to making it all happen and obsessed over the details: the who, what, when, where, why and how – especially the how. As a creator, she now only focuses on two components: what and why.
When we’re creating ourselves, our lives, we only need to know our what and why. We don’t need to figure out how it will happen. When it’s something we haven’t done before, of course, we can’t figure it out!
One more reason, the how only adds up resistance that blocks your desires. Notice how you feel when asking for the how? It doesn’t feel good. Thumbs-down.
Now, ask yourself what it is you really want. Just the what. Then fantasize about it. Add details if you like. Imagine. Daydream!
Daydreams, defined by scientists as “spontaneous, self-directed thoughts and associations,” activate many areas of the brain at once while stimulating increased creativity, cognitive capacity, and improved mood. Research shows that daydreaming boosts success in goal-oriented tasks by helping the brain to solve problems in creative ways. And surprisingly, it also improves attention span.
Joy On Board
A vision board is a visual representation of what you want to create in your life.
You can amplify the things that are happening that you like, you can feel excited about what’s coming next, and you can do this no matter what else is going on.
Another guided exercise Kaia outlines in the book is how to make a vision board, which was pretty much covered in this video:
I got so fired up that I did some updating on my own vision board.
Here’s what I come up with:
Not only did I find this exercise enjoyable, but also steamy! Totally rocking that 5:1 ratio!
It Gets Easier
Pain will happen – it’s part of being human – but joy is always an option. Our hard times don’t have to defeat us or define us by playing out time and time again in the form of recurrent problems in our lives. Instead, they can be springboards to our growth, our opportunities to bless our imperfections for all that they’ve taught us – and then to move on, ever forward, ever upward, and ever inward.
What’s life without challenges?
One word: Boring
…and life loses its purpose. It was Kaia’s challenges that led her to joy. It was her experiences that became her story, a story that became her message to the world, a message inspiring us to find our own joy.
She says, “When you find joy where you are in your life, your life changes to match your joy.” When we tap into joy, it’s our perception that changes first.
When we become so practiced at feeling good, even the experience of “bad” things changes. We find the good within the bad. We find the joy within the pain. We find the purpose of life.
Here’s the plan: feel good, and good things will happen.
May you live a life bursting with unspeakable joy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KAIA ROMAN is a freelance writer and communications consultant for people, projects, and products working toward a better world. Over the past twenty years, Kaia has been a publicist, ghostwriter, and editor for rock stars, shamans, and scientists. She’s launched multiple companies and helped her clients rise to wild success. She’s now a full-time writer and frequent blogger on mindbodygreen.com, The Huffington Post, and other wellness sites. She also has the honor of teaching Mindfulness to elementary school children.