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The Joy of Service

Friday, April 20, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. ~ Rabindranath Tagore

This quote opens my book. It expresses what was possibly the single most beautiful and important thing I learned in Afghanistan.

When I remember this, and live as though it were true, it transforms my life.

Service gets a bad rap. When I lead ‘Yoga in Action’ workshops we do an open brainstorm on word associations with ‘service’ and people say things like:

obligation, responsibility, duty, martyrdom…

So how can service be joy? It can when we are serving from our soul, as Rumi said:

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
~ Rumi

This is what I’m learning. That it’s not indulgent to pursue creative joy. Joy is the fuel of my soul, and of my creative spirit and of the truest, purest and most effective service I can offer the world.

Which is why I’m joining Jen Louden and Susannah Conway on an exploration of Creative Joy. This week we’ve invited many of our friends to join us in answering these questions about creative joy, and in June we’ll be leading a retreat to explore and dive into Creative Joy.

We hope you’ll join us. By answering these questions yourself and sharing them with us (there is a great conversation about this on Twitter using the hashtag #CreativeJoy), or by accepting the free gift we are in the process of putting together for you (we’ll be sharing it tomorrow) or by coming along to our retreat.

Here’s what I’m learning about creative joy…

When you hear the words creative joy, what springs to mind?

Dancing. Laughter. Play. Flow. I get so much joy from dancing, and the experience of dancing, when I really give myself over to it, feels a lot like what I imagine people are talking about when they talk about ‘being in the flow’.  When I get stuck in my writing, or any kind of creative work, I sometimes just put on some great music and dance. It helps.

What did your creative joy look like this week?

A yoga session on my lounge floor. A walk on the beach with my friend and her dogs, including a four month old Border Collie — joy incarnate. An early morning walk on the beach by myself, with cheesy dance music on the iPod and a skip in my step.

What do you wish it had looked like?

I’m pretty happy with how it looked. But I would always take more time to laugh, more time to write. Actually, I would have loved a little bit more writing this week. But yoga, dog walks and dance music are not bad. Not bad at all.

What are 5 moments of creative joy from any time in your life?

Dancing at a gig by the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra two weeks ago.

I did an interpretive dance to a cover of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler. It was very creative and very joyful.

Teaching an outdoor yoga class, in the sun, on the grass – because I’d left the key to the yoga studio at home. Writing a very silly story about a little magic mouse who lived in a mushroom – inspired by Spike Milligan’s Bad Jelly the Witch – and making myself laugh out loud as I wrote. Inventing an entire world inside a hay-barn with my cousin over the school holidays, complete with our own language and weekly newspaper. Talking to a room full of people about my book last night, and feeling their questions, their experiences and my story weave into a new story, a story that belonged only to that place, that group of people.

What gets on the way of your creative joy?

Being in a hurry. Rushing to get things done. Fatigue and overwhelm.

What else?

Comparing myself to other people.

What else?

Letting my inner critic (who thinks I’m not good enough, and that I’m not really entitled to have any fun) run the show.

What feeds your creative joy?

Moving my body. Getting out into nature. Collaborating with creative people who I love. Reading for the love of it. Space. Music, dance, laughter.

How can you build a bit more creative joy into your day? week? life?

·       Answer these questions for yourself.

·       Turn off the computer, put on some music & dance

·       Give yourself the time to play (ideally with a puppy)

·       Whisper sweet nothings to yourself – hold your own hand

·       Find out more about The Creative Joy Retreat

·       Read what Jen had to say about Creative Joy

·       Find out where Susannah finds her Creative Joy

·       And keep an eye out for the Creative Joy gift tomorrow!



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3 Responses to "The Joy of Service"

  1. my friend I love you

  2. […] I dug into the connection between creative joy and service, because understanding that connection is transforming how I serve in the world. […]

  3. […] loved the questions Marianne answered on her blog about creative joy so I have spent a bit of time exploring them […]

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