Welcome, beautiful being, to your new online sanctuary of love and healing. We can’t wait to meet you!
All of us have busy lives, so please don’t feel you’re obligated to attend all four meetings each month. But if you have the time and that level of commitment to elevating your joy, then by all means, please do! The more time you spend in the love incubator we call Joy School, the more quickly and sustainably you’ll drop old patterns of thought and behavior to embody your glorious new vibration of joy.
Here is the Zoom info you’ll use to join us, any or all of these days and times each month: Lisa McCourt is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Meeting ID: 865 5016 1921
Our meeting days & times:
My One Request Before You Begin:
I’m going to ask that you procure a beautiful journal and something you love to write with for the automatic writing exercises we often do at Joy School meetings. Even if you think you’re a terrible writer, or just don’t think you want to participate to this extent in the upleveling of your joy, I’m humbly insisting you comply with this request. No one needs ever to see what you write, and there is zero expectation that it be grammatical, sense-making, or remotely literate. In many ways, it’s even better if it’s not! This journal will be a critical tool for connecting with a part of you that has likely been shut down for a long time. You might doodle in it. You might rip up some pages. You might lay down words, or you might scribble-scrabble a bunch of shapes and nothing-blobs. Just please make use of the tool. You’ll soon see it as the invaluable communication device that it is.
What You Can Expect:
You will have opportunities at each meeting to dive deep, or not. I respect you to set your own pacing with that. There may be some weeks when you dive deep and others when you don’t. It’s all good, and you’ll see an elevation in your personal vibration either way.
If you want to just show up each week (or even as little as once per month), listen, soak up some love, share a little of yourself with us, hold space for your groupmates, you will indisputably benefit from spending whatever time you choose to spend in the nourishing energy of Joy School.
Or, if you’re feeling more ambitious about your joy, and you want to do some work to make some more substantial changes within you, and by extension, to your outer, external world (because change “Out There” can only ever happen as a result of change “In Here”), you will have opportunities for that.
On an obvious level, each meeting presents the option for you to insert yourself to varying degrees. Always, the more you push yourself to participate and be as open and raw as you can, the more benefit you’ll reap. Even if you’re listening to the topic and thinking, “ehh, this one doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’ve done something like this before” -- even if that’s how a topic or exercise feels for you -- you’re here. You’ve set aside this time, so why not really open to what’s possible?
The truth is: unless you can look out at your life and feel that every single aspect is totally perfect, exactly how you’d most like it to be, then there’s something in your energy right now -- something in your internal landscape -- that is creating that. If you already knew what it was and knew how to change it, it wouldn’t be there. We don’t know what we don’t know. So, you might get some surprises. There might be some things lingering in your energy field that you don’t know about, and that exercise that feels like it’s not really for you might be exactly where it’s hiding.
Every time you join us, please set an intention as you’re logging on, that it will be a powerful experience for you. For each session you join, I suggest you intentionally open to the possibility that there’s a deeper level you can go to with whatever concept we’re discussing. Because that’s how we grow. And there’s a big difference between “knowing” a thing, meaning you’ve heard it before, or learned it before, and mastering that thing. You master it by participating fully in our time together, as well as committing to taking your practice into your daily life. I like to use my violin analogy: If you wanted to learn to play the violin, you could do nothing but show up for your lesson every week. And over time, you’d undoubtedly gain some knowledge about how to play the violin, but your skill level would deepen only to the extent that you thoughtfully approached each lesson, and the extent to which you picked the violin up between lessons and used it. It’s the doing of Joy School practices that creates a change to our vibrational signature, both the doing during meetings, and the doing that you bring into your day-to-day life.
You will elevate your Joy Setpoint -- and every aspect of your life -- in direct proportion to your belief that it is possible. (Don’t worry if that belief is shaky right now; we’ll be working on that!) You’ve probably heard me say this, but it bears repeating: You are creating your reality, in every moment, based on your expectations. Whatever you expect (consciously or unconsciously) is going to be what you create. It’s not an overnight process to authentically shift your expectations; that’s why we call it a practice. You may have also heard me say: “Your subconscious isn’t an idiot.” You can’t just declare: “I expect a million dollars to fall into my lap tomorrow,” and have it happen, because if it’s not what you authentically believe, then it’s not the energy you’re sending out. But with tools, with intention, with practice, you can authentically shift your expectations and beliefs. That’s why I’m asking you to practice this skill now by setting an intention that your Joy School participation is going to create powerful results in your life. A part of you already believes that, or you wouldn’t be here, so we’re just giving some strength and support to that part of you, so it can be right.
Sometimes, we’ll end with a meditation or some sort of energy work that might leave you introspective, and I might suggest that you take some time after the session to journal your feelings or any thoughts that come up. So, again, if you want to get the very most out of Joy School, plan to block off 20 minutes or so after each session to journal what came up for you. That’s great to do even the times I don’t leave you with a specific suggestion, because we all learn from one another in a forum like this, and sometimes a groupmate will say something that just unlocks some tiny little puzzle in your heart. So it’ll be great if you’ve already set aside a bit of time to explore that possibility.
Joy School Meeting Etiquette:
I don’t record Joy School meetings. That’s because I know the power of vulnerability for healing, and I know from experience people tend to be more open and vulnerable when they feel certain they’re sharing only with the people they can see and feel in that moment. I wouldn’t want anyone to ever hold back because of a sense that someone outside that particular gathered group, in that moment, might see it later. I know you’ll likely need to miss some meetings, but I promise we’ll fill you in on anything important that you may have missed when you return. (The exception to this is when we have a guest teacher. I will sometimes record the teaching portion of these sessions, but never the group discussion portion.)
Joy School is a confidential space, and by joining us you are bound to our confidentiality agreement. What happens at Joy School meetings, stays at Joy School. You are always at liberty to share your own experiences with anyone you’d like, but we do not, ever, share what any of our groupmates have said. Thank you for abiding by this contract agreement!
Each Joy School session is unique and follows the energy of the group as a whole. We’ll often do some sort of self-inquiry process together, and that could be an exercise that involves some automatic writing, so you’ll want to always have your journal with you. Sometimes it will be a meditation or visualization, sometimes an energy exercise. On occasion we do group EFT/tapping, Gestalt work, and other psychology-based energy work.
There will always be ample room for questions and individual sharing. You’ll always have an opportunity to share where you are in your Joy Journey (whether that means the Key you’re working with from Free Your Joy, or otherwise). Most often in Joy School meetings, sharing is done popcorn style. That means when you’re moved to share, you’ll raise your hand and speak up, and I’ll trust that you’re taking care of yourself, and taking up whatever space you need that day. At other times, we use “talking stick style,” which means we’ll hand the “talking stick” from person to person and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
When we have a guest teacher, the first portion of the meeting (usually roughly the first half) will be a conversation between me and the guest teacher, and all other participants will be muted. During this portion of the event, please jot down any questions or thoughts you want to share. For the second portion of the event, I’ll open the floor and we will all engage in meaningful dialogue together. I’ve found that most of my guests prefer this format, so I ask that you not interject questions or comments until the floor is open for that.
“Kerklunk” is the fancy term I use in Joy School for that gorgeous, sacred moment when an idea, a concept, some bit of knowledge you might have come across dozens of previous times, goes solidly kerklunk from your headspace down into your heart, your soul, your bones. Down into that place where you’re changed by it because it’s not just intellectual anymore. This is where it needs to be for it to shift your default patterns in how you think, how you respond, and what your body chemistry does with stimulation from the outside world. No intellectual understanding is going to do that until it “kerklunks” for you.
Sometimes it happens from hearing it in a new way or hearing how someone else has applied it to their life. You’ll see that happening in our online meetings. Most kerklunks happen after repetitive exposure to the concept or idea, so we’ll be hitting the biggies from a few different angles to ensure your kerklunks. The best part is: there’s always a next-level kerklunk you can get to (we call it “spiraling”)—which just keeps the whole never-ending process fun and spicy!
I’m setting the intention right now that you’ll get more kerklunks in our Joy School meetings than you could ever imagine. I want you to set that intention with me.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
It’s so tempting and convenient to sort incoming information into those files we’ve already established in our minds instead of staying curious about what new insights might emerge. We want to see the world in black and white, but I promise you, it’s a wild-rainbow world with limitless hues to explore!
In our Joy School meetings, if I start talking about something you’ve heard before, I invite you to approach it with what Buddhists call “beginner’s mind.”
I have a little cheat-tool for getting into beginner’s mind that I invite you to use. I call it the Etch A Sketch method. Remember using an Etch A Sketch when you were a kid? Call up an Etch A Sketch in your imagination right now and go crazy with those two dials so you have just a hodgepodge-y, wonky, line-filled screen. Those lines represent all the stuff you believe you know. Now imagine that line-filled screen, and then gently shake it until all the lines fade away into that weird silvery sand, and you’re left with a blank, gray void. That’s the space you want to be in for our processes during your joy journey. As you notice any thought arise that pulls you out of experiencing the moment with fresh eyes, just gently shake the Etch A Sketch and watch the old thought dissolve.
Often, in our Joy School meetings, I’ll give you a prompt and ask you to drop into your heart and then immediately spend some time writing down whatever impressions surface for you. When we do these exercises, please remove all expectations of yourself. Don’t worry about capturing every little thing. Trust that the important things are the ones that come to you as you’re writing. Do not wait to write until you know what you’re going to write. That’s the journaler’s #1 rookie mistake. Just start writing something, anything, and that will open the valve for whatever wants to come through. Try not to stop. Don’t correct or edit anything, or worry about spelling or grammar or making it pretty or spiritual. Just flow. Trust and record whatever is scrolling through the tickertape of your mind in that moment.
At times, we’ll be doing some visualizing. Please don’t freak out about that. I know there are people who don’t “see” in their mind’s eye as clearly as others and I don’t want you to worry if you consider yourself to be one of those. There’s a fancy name for it: “aphantasia,” the inability to voluntarily visualize images in one’s mind. When I ask you to imagine something, just tap into the feeling of that thing. However you experience that is perfect. There are only two rules:
In Joy School, one of the foundational pillars to everything we do is recognizing and connecting ever more palpably with our non-physical selves. I like to use terminology I borrowed from Eckhart Tolle when I was immersed in his work over a decade ago. He taught that we all have a Horizontal Self and a Vertical Self. He hasn’t used this lexicon much in recent years, but I’ve always loved how there’s a clear correlative with these two terms, each having its corresponding counterpart. More recently I’ve heard Eckhart calling our non-physical aspect the “Deep I,” and lots of teachers have used terminology like Higher Self, Soul, Spirit-Self, but none of those have a direct correlative for what to call that other part—the part that represents our non-spirit humanness.
This non-spirit aspect has historically been referred to as “ego” or “persona.” Karl Jung called it the “conscious mind.” Michael Singer says “psyche.” I feel like those terms have other associations depending on where you first heard them, which is why I’ve always preferred the correlated relationship between having a Vertical Self (the part of us that represents our non-physical, energetic essence, our divinity and alignment with source), and a Horizontal Self (our humanness—our name, our body, our job, our roles here in this time and place.)
Many spiritual trainings begin with an exercise that asks you to make a list to describe who you are. Take a moment to do that now. Open your Joy Journal and quickly, off the top of your head, write all the words that describe who you are.
Done? Typically, many of the words we use to describe ourselves are labels like man/woman, parent, artist, entrepreneur—words to represent how we show up in the external world. These terms might include your job title, political or religious affiliation, or family positioning. Even more intangible descriptors like “free thinker,” or “lover of life,” are still labels we identify ourselves by. All of these are words we use to describe our Horizontal Selves. This aspect of us even includes our thoughts and feelings. (We’ll dig around there more in our meetings together!)
The part that doesn’t wear any of those labels is your Vertical Self. It’s the you that is timeless, genderless, ageless, non-physical, joyful and wise beyond comprehension. It’s the most real part of you, as you’ll soon discover. Your joy journey will be about bringing this part of you more into the forefront of your existence while bringing the Horizontal Self a bit more into the background. Even a subtle shift in the direction of this repositioning creates tremendous ripple effects in your life. We’re not looking to completely dis-identify with the Horizontal Self, and that would not even be possible if we wanted to; we’re just looking to awaken the awareness and acknowledgment you give to this non-physical, often-neglected aspect of who you authentically are.
Albert Einstein said: “When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves.” In Joy School, we achieve this alignment.
Our hidden, unacknowledged, unexpressed shame is one of the biggest offenders that’s holding our joy and our creating potential at bay. Most of us have some shame that we’re aware of, and most of us have a lot that we keep buried, even from ourselves. But it shapes our opinion and beliefs about ourselves. And energetically, we can never rise above our own self-assessment. You create all your external circumstances based on your internal assessment of who you are and what you deserve. Our manifestations simply cannot outrun our deep-down beliefs about our own deservingness. That’s why it’s so imperative to do this work.
Everything that exists in your current external landscape—the yum as well as the yuck—is the result of a unique framework you’ve established for creating and experiencing your life here in your physical human-suit. In Joy School, we look at how this personal framework for experiencing the world came to be. Chances are good you have no idea how truly, uniquely personal this framework is to you, and getting clear on that paves the way to a whole lot of joy you’ve been missing out on. You are pure joy at your core, but there are likely some obstructions in the way of that being your day-to-day experience, so let’s look at how those obstructions got there, because understanding that is the most critical piece to working with them.
Joy-pushers like me often end up talking about trauma. What’s most important to understand about trauma is that we all have it to some degree, even if we didn’t face down any of the biggies—the heartbreaking life events that we all recognize as trauma. I’m sure many of you reading this did experience that level of trauma; I’ve seen recent statistics indicating as many as 90% of us have!
But whether you consider yourself in that category or not, it’s likely you formed some conclusions in your formative years about yourself and/or the world that are not serving your highest expression of joy right now. For our purposes here together, let’s agree that “trauma” is simply whatever affected you negatively and caused you to form certain unbeneficial default patterns of thinking about yourself and the world. Trauma is caused not by specific events, but by the emotional response you had to those events. It’s an important distinction.
I’ll paint you a picture to show you how easily trauma can happen: Imagine a mom in the grocery store with a toddler. She’s exhausted, just trying to get on with her day. The toddler runs away from the mom at checkout because he sees a shiny balloon display that fills his little heart with excitement. The display is not too far from the checkout area. Mom is watching the whole time, but also interacting with the checkout clerk, getting her groceries packed, paying her bill. It takes a while.
The toddler, meanwhile, as soon as he reaches the balloons, turns around to eagerly show Mom, and realizes Mom hasn’t followed him. He doesn’t see Mom anywhere. His eyes go from stranger to stranger and the panic rises in his heart, closing up his throat, stifling his voice. He’s frozen in place, terrified now, convinced he’s lost and abandoned at the grocery store forever.
From Mom’s vantage point, it looks like he’s just been standing there admiring the balloons, so she finishes her checkout and strolls over to him, ready to admonish him for running away from her. Maybe she even does start admonishing him, not noticing his terror at first. When he finally sees her, he breaks down and starts wailing in relief, just letting it all hang out. She’s embarrassed and tells him to be quiet. She pulls him out of the store because he’s making a huge scene. She thinks he’s just wailing because he didn’t get a balloon.
It’s entirely likely that the child has just experienced an event that will leave a traumatic impact. Young children have a different sense of time than adults; to him it might have felt like he was alone and abandoned for hours. Unless Mom herself has reached a high level of consciousness and empathy, she’ll probably want to minimize the whole thing, because she won’t want to feel the guilt of letting anything bad happen to him.
In coming years, he might bring up the memory, saying, “Remember when you lost me in the grocery store,” and she’d be likely to say, “I never lost you in the grocery store. You’re such an exaggerator; nothing bad happened to you that day! I could see you the whole time.” So, on top of his trauma, he feels gaslighted. She’s telling him what he experienced isn’t real or true. They each had a dramatically different experience of that same event, based on their unique perception filters.
Your perception filter is your personal framework for experiencing the world. It is truly unique to you, and we’ll be working with it throughout your joy journey, so let’s talk now about how this framework came to be for each of us.
When you came into the world as a fresh, new little human, you had a biological imperative to understand how it is here in this space and time. Right from the start, you were programmed to seek and store away knowledge about this wacky, overwhelming world and your place in it. As you grew, your parents, caregivers, school, and culture (maybe religion, too) all provided information for you so that you could know things. Since it was so deeply embedded in your human nature as a growing creature to want to make sense of this world you’d landed in, you eagerly gathered up these bits of knowledge coming at you.
It was a lot to take in, so, to categorize all this information, you set up mental “buckets” where you could file all these bits of data and definitions of things. This process started in infancy. Many experts believe it starts in the womb, even. It was important to you to know what each new thing you experienced meant so you could have a frame of reference for moving forward. And these buckets that you set up as your filing system might have labels like: “I am this,” “love means this,” “money is this,” “rules are this,” “power is this,” “my place in all of it is this,” etc.
We all create this categorization system because life here is really overwhelming and we have a limit to how much information we can comfortably process. Our little human brains have only evolved to process a finite amount of the nearly infinite amount of information swirling around us. Creating these buckets is simply the only thing that makes it manageable for us. This goes on at a subconscious level.
Now, once you’ve set up a bucket, the easiest thing—the most natural thing—is to continue to fill it with similar bits of knowledge, rather than allowing for a contradicting bucket belief to develop. One powerful reason is that we all have a built-in confirmation bias. It’s that natural tendency to subconsciously only seek out evidence for what we already believe and ignore evidence to the contrary. (We’ve seen plentiful examples of confirmation bias in our political and cultural climate in recent years, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
Some of your buckets that you set up as a very new human probably cause you to look for, and find, gentle, beautiful things in the world. People who had the massive good fortune to set up mostly that kind of buckets will continue to fill them with similar evidence as they move forward in creating and attracting their life circumstances. We all know these people who seem to live effortlessly blessed lives. But most of us have at least a few buckets set up that represent unhappy conclusions we came to in our earliest years—conclusions about ourselves, and conclusions about things out there in the world.
Are parents responsible for most of our unnecessary limitations? Sure. Yes. No doubt. But parents are just operating from their own innate limitations. They couldn’t help passing on their own crappy bucket beliefs; they thought that was how to love you and keep you safe. Because of that, and because of the way our culture tends to parent right now, always wanting to make our kids better, thinking that’s helping them, it’s likely that you established some bucket beliefs that aren’t serving your highest joy and highest potential for creating your best life right now. There are many solid reasons why these negative bucket beliefs are so egregiously common, and we explore these reasons together in Joy School. For now, just understand that—in general, negative bucket beliefs, particularly about ourselves, are very much the norm.
We continue to feed these bucket beliefs not only because of our confirmation bias, but also due to the built-in negativity bias left over from caveman days. Back then, if you saw the tall grass moving, it could mean a rogue wind, or it could mean an approaching predator. Your negativity bias would cause you to assume the latter because it was important to your survival that you choose that assumption and start running. The red berries your prehistoric ancestor just discovered might be delicious and wholesome, but since you have a bucket belief about some red berries that once killed your cave-mate, your negativity bias is going to tell you to stay away from all red berries. This leftover negativity bias in our reptilian brains still tricks us into believing it’s keeping us safe in the world, but it’s more likely to be doing the opposite. Whatever we feed our attention to is always going to grow in our experience, good or bad.
And that’s the next unfortunate thing to understand. The way our buckets continue to be filled is bizarrely cyclical. Let’s talk about perception. According to one of my favorite thought-leaders whose work I teach through Joy School, the preeminent energy researcher Dr. Joe Dispenza, at any given moment, there are roughly four hundred billion bits of information available to you to be processed. Out of those four hundred billion, your brain can only register about 2,000 bits, and is only capable of fully processing about fifty bits of information coherently at any moment.
How does your mind decide which fifty bits to grab onto out of the four hundred billion available options? It’s always going to be the ones that match those original buckets you set up! Remember, the buckets aren’t obvious to you; they’re not in your conscious awareness because you’ve spent your whole life filling them, so they’ve just become the water you swim in. Your definitions and rules about how it is here that you made up as a tiny child just continue to get reinforced because that’s the way human awareness is programmed.
This is how your perception filter was formed. Every one of us has a perception filter that is uniquely our own—the product of our bucket beliefs. And that means every one of us is truly living in a unique world. There’s no such thing as objective reality, because your reality isn’t my reality or anyone else’s reality, due to this tangly, thick web of beliefs that determines how each of us uniquely interprets the stimulus around us. As we often reference in Joy School, we’re all just seeing reality through a keyhole. And none of our keyholes are lined up the same.
Remember, you’re always propelled by that human need to make sense of the world and get smarter and smarter about what it means and how it operates. But as you can see, the conclusions you’re likely to be drawing—even right to this day—are heavily influenced by factors that have no basis in objective reality!
This filter not only determines what you experience as reality, but it is extensively coloring your expectations. And you’re always creating what you expect. The magic begins when you deeply comprehend that your whole framework for creating your life is based on misconceptions you absorbed as a tiny child.
In my workshops, I like to use an old Tony Robbins trick. I tell the participants, “Look around the room and make a mental list of everything that’s red. Red, red, red—find all the red things, quick! Now close your eyes! And now, with your eyes closed, yell out one thing that’s blue!”
After an awkward moment of no one yelling anything, I tell them to open their eyes and look around and find the blue things. Blue things were there the whole time; they just didn’t see them because I’d programmed them to see the red things. It’s a fun way to demonstrate that in any situation, what we find is what we’re looking for. In that little game, the workshop participants do it consciously. But when we’re not doing it consciously, we’re doing it unconsciously, and that means letting our filters determine what we see, hear, and experience—what constitutes our reality.
Most of us are observing “reality” unconsciously about 99 percent of the time. The part of your brain that decides what you notice and make “real” is called your “Reticular Activating System,” and you’ll be learning some practices for taking deliberate control of yours.
Your filter is always being reinforced. As you go through your life, your unconscious mind scans the horizon of possible bits of information to allow into your consciousness. It’s like a radar, and when it hits a bit of info that fits with one of your bucket beliefs—ding, ding, ding! You feel that must be what’s true about the world because that feels familiar. That’s how you make the unconscious decision to register this bit of information at the exclusion of other billions of bits. All this happens in a nanosecond. So, you pull in another piece of evidence for that bucket.
It’s about to get really insidious, so buckle up. Not only does this system work to strengthen our early-formed beliefs to ever more fortified levels, but it also causes us to create more and more evidence that shores up these erroneous beliefs. This happens energetically, kind of like what we sometimes call “self-fulfilling prophecy.” A child who’s formed a bucket belief with some version of the story “I’m broken; I’m bad; I’m untalented; I’m not good enough just as I am,” (which are especially common, easy beliefs to form, by the way) is going to create more evidence to substantiate that because it’s what he deep down believes, and that means it’s where he’s vibrating. We’re all creating our external reality based on our vibration. Maybe he’ll do bad in school, or in sports, or make himself unattractive or unpopular in some way that confirms his unworthiness. Our outer world is always just a reflection of our inner landscape.
So, it’s important to understand that we not only experience the world through this filter, but we create our world through it as well. It will seem like you can point to all this irrefutable evidence to support the truth of these negative beliefs about yourself, when the fact is: it’s just that you’ve selectively gathered the evidence, based on where your keyhole’s been lined up. And, based on your energetic output through this same filter, you’ve continued to attract and create new evidence to match it along the way. This is what I mean by “cyclical.”
I’m going for a kerklunk here. Before we move into redesigning your filter, I want a serious lightbulb to flip on for you about why you are right where you are in your life. The good and the bad. The yum and the yuck. It isn’t about blame or not taking responsibility. It’s about: “Oh, this situation where I feel stuck in my career, or where I’m not creating the meaningful relationships I want to be in, or I’m not creating the income stream . . .” All these things you can point to in your external world that aren’t to your liking are only there as the natural, inevitable result of some misperceptions that you absorbed very early on and have continued to subconsciously feed, nurture, and curate your entire life until now. Everything you’ve created up until this very moment is the result of this process. Remember, we create what we expect, deep down.
But you’ve arrived at the turning point. Now—in this moment. Bringing this dynamic up into the light of your conscious awareness is precisely what needs to happen so that you can begin to start authentically questioning the negative thoughts that cross your mind, enough to form new bucket beliefs and start finding evidence for newer, fresh, more accurate facts about yourself and the world. The evidence to support these new facts has been there all along, in those 400 billion bits of information that you haven’t been seeing. Just like the blue things in the room.
It doesn’t happen overnight. I wish I could tell you it did. It starts as an intellectual understanding but as it grows as a felt, kerklunked understanding, it changes everything. So, that’s the seed you’ll work to solidly germinate in your consciousness as you begin your journey as a Joy Schooler. You’ll know it’s taken root when you feel that little, real spark of excitement about discovering what might be all around you, just outside your view from your keyhole. All the opportunities, synchronicities, connections that you’ve been blinded to—they’ve been patiently waiting for you to learn to line up your keyhole differently, or simply expand it.
Let’s go back to our example of the kid in the grocery store.
Remember, as a small child, we don’t see logic yet. We process events in terms of feelings. So, if you were that kid in the grocery store, you’d likely create a bucket belief about abandonment that you’d carry throughout your life. Another story you might form a bucket belief around might go like this:
I see something wonderful that I want very much to be mine.
I run toward it with all the happy, free-flowing enthusiasm and joy in my innocent, wide-open heart.
Immediately (when I don’t see Mom) I realize I’ve made a terrible mistake.
I’m terrified, lost, abandoned, unloved, frozen in fear. My heart’s racing; I think I’m going to die!
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, Mom is there. Relief! I let my full emotions out.
Mom gets super mad at me. I’m told to stifle my emotions. I’m scolded and pulled out of the store, and I didn’t get that thing I wanted so bad, after all that.
When I try to talk about it later, I get shut down. My experience is denied. There must be something really wrong with me, and I should definitely avoid running after what I want from here on out.
Once this narrative becomes a bucket belief, it’s where your keyhole is lined up. You’ll attract and find more evidence for it. Your drive to understand how this world works, what the rules are, and to make sure you’re right about that, is so strong, that you might even subconsciously test this theory out a few more times by running away from Mom when you see something fun and exciting out there. On a subconscious level, you need to make sure your theory is correct. And of course, Mom is naturally going to double down on the punishments and discipline, so your subconscious goes: “Yep, that’s a solid bucket belief.”
Then, as you go through life, without realizing it, this story is where your keyhole is lined up, so even though there might be ample evidence in the world around you that would tell a very different story, your radar is going to scan the horizon and go “ding, ding, ding!” every time you see someone out there going for something and failing, maybe ending up worse off than they were before. You’ll be extra aware of classmates being too playful in class and getting punished for it, or later in life maybe you’ll zero in on people who lose money in a passion project. Maybe you’re the one who gets punished in school or loses the money. Again and again, you’re wanting to be able to say: “See? I knew it! It’s not safe to go after what I want!”—not in your conscious brain maybe, but in your subconscious, where you’re programmed to find evidence to support your bucket beliefs.
This is how the early-formed story just gets stronger and stronger for you, and it feels like the natural truth of the world, since it’s all you see because of the keyhole. This is what I mean when I say it becomes the water you swim in. We’re simply not wired to see what’s beyond the keyhole until we take conscious control of the dynamic, like we do together at Joy School.
This was just one example of how arbitrarily these stories that dictate our lives can be born, but you have hundreds of stories like this running you. We all do. This is how human beings be. Bringing these bucket beliefs up into the light of your awareness is the first step in releasing them so that you can write new stories from your now-mature, adult perspective. Now you have logic and emotional maturity. You didn’t then.
And I need to clarify an important point: While I’m saying we need to unearth and discover these stories that have been running us, I only mean that we need to know in essence what the beliefs are about and what they’re still creating in our lives. We can find that out by looking around at our current conditions. We don’t need to tie it to a specific childhood memory to re-write the belief. If you were the kid in the grocery store, you wouldn’t need to access the grocery store memory. You’d only need to recognize, by looking at your current and recent life situations, that you have a belief around going after what you want, and that belief has been creating unhappy situations for you. In some cases, it can be beneficial to access the memories and events that kicked off our bucket beliefs, but it is generally not imperative to successfully working with these old limitations.
For our purposes here at the start of your journey, the most important takeaway from this understanding—one that I hope is kerklunking solidly for you at this point—is: You don’t need to believe your negative thoughts about yourself or about the world because they’re based in bullcrap. Your thoughts come into your awareness through a totally unreliable filter you created when you were a baby and have continued to fortify ever since. Just because we have a thought, it doesn’t mean we need to believe it! This can feel disconcerting if it’s never occurred to you before, but it’s ultimately super freeing, and it’s the key in shifting a lot of energy in our lives.
It's true of every thought you’ve ever had, but when it comes to our thoughts about ourselves, our abilities, our potential—that’s the most important area to shift up. We’re going to have thoughts cross our minds all day, every day; that’s what it means to be a human being. And many studies have shown that the vast majority of our daily thoughts are habitual—the same thoughts we had last week and last year and so on. That’s going to continue to be the case until we start deliberately noticing and becoming the observer of our thought patterns and tendencies.
And then, once we’re practiced at observing our thoughts, we can develop the skill of routinely questioning them. When we get clear that the negative thoughts we have about ourselves are bullcrap to begin with—are nothing more than the inevitable results of this faulty system that created our arbitrary filter—that’s when we can authentically work to change them. You can tell a thought is false by its vibration. One of our Joy School mantras is: “Your soul doesn’t think you suck.” Any thought that contains any message along those lines is not in alignment with the deep wisdom of your Vertical Self. As this realization kerklunks, it gets easier and easier to dismiss all those thoughts that are vibrationally handcuffing you from creating what you want to create.
When that “aha” firmly solidifies—that our negative default thinking patterns are simply inaccurate—that’s when we’re no longer trying to trick our subconscious mind with affirmations or positive-thinking gimmicks. Your subconscious isn’t an idiot; it’s not falling for that stuff. The gamechanger is when you see the truth that your life was designed by a child. Child-you. Even if it feels like you have evidence you can point to in your external circumstances that demonstrates that the negative beliefs about you are true, hopefully you now deeply understand that it was the faulty beliefs themselves that led you to create the evidence. New beliefs will create different evidence.
“Schema” is the word psychologists use for the repetitive behaviors and patterns we engage in. Every one of us has schemas running. It simplifies life to have default patterns for how we deal with things. It’s possible to replace our harmful schemas with new ones through deliberate practice. And yes, you have to intentionally do it again and again to create a new schema. But I’ve helped people do it for decades so I know it can be done.
It's important to keep in mind the cyclical nature of our filter that loves to continually find more evidence to support whatever’s in our bucket beliefs. That’s the energy that’s pulling in all of your unwanted circumstances right now. The unhealed frequencies in your buckets are there because you did not have the ability to process those emotions when you first experienced them. Whenever you experienced something in your younger, impressionable years that you were not emotionally equipped to deal with, you stored this energy instead of allowing it to flow through you as it’s meant to do.
The author Michael Singer calls these stored pockets of suppressed energy by their Vedic name: “samskaras.” Eckhart Tolle collectively calls them the “pain body.” We’ve been calling them your bucket beliefs. Gregg Braden and many other contemporary thought leaders describe, in anatomical terms, what happens within our physicality. Basically, every emotion creates a specific chemical cocktail in our bodies. When we haven’t developed the emotional maturity to process the chemistry created by a traumatic event, this chemical formation gets stored in the form of neuropeptides that attach to cells in our tissues. It’s measurable by modern medical technology. (If you’re interested in exploring all the well-documented science around this, I encourage you to explore the fascinating work of Gregg Braden, Bruce Lipton, Candace Pert, Joe Dispenza, and Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.)
For our purposes together, it’s about taking deliberate control of our mental dialog to create the internal emotional climate for healing to occur. In your mind, you want to start framing your triggers out something like this: “Okay, I’m feeling resistance to this thing that is happening. This probably means I have a bucket belief that matches the frequency of my current situation, and therefore some long-suppressed emotions are being reactivated. I’ll let them surface and honor them with compassion, while also acknowledging that the thought that’s led to this feeling probably sprang from a bucket belief I created long ago and have continued to feed ever since. This bucket belief is probably based in untruth that I misinterpreted when I was too young to process a feeling that was being created by some trauma I was experiencing. Even though this feeling is likely based in a thought that was never true anyway, I’ll welcome the full expression of this feeling now, since all it needs in order to heal and release is my acknowledgment and compassion.”
For clarity, you might want to look back at the example of the toddler in the grocery store. Because the emotions of his situation were too strong for him to process, they got chemically stored away as the untrue conclusion: “It’s dangerous for me to go after things I want.” Unchallenged (by the kind of work we’re doing together now), a bucket belief like that could very well run a person’s life. There could have been many other baseless beliefs that additionally got stored from that one event, including abandonment issues or even uncomfortable feelings in grocery stores or around balloons! Most of us are walking around with dozens of preferences and avoidances that are the results of long-ago situations we have no conscious memory of.
I get that it would be challenging for you to try to take yourself through the above mental dialogue right in the red-hot moment of being triggered. One technique we do as a “feel to heal” practice at Joy School is to routinely set aside time to journal around these trigger moments.
You could start that practice right now. Look back on something that triggered you, and write, stream-of-consciousness style, about everything you were feeling in that moment. Focus more on the feeling than any thoughts you might have about it. Encourage the feeling to expand within you (this is probably the opposite of what you normally do) so that it can all pour out onto the page. When you do this, you release more than just the feeling of that specific event; you unlock the storage system so that any energies you’ve stored that match the frequency of the recent trigger can be released as well. Eckhart Tolle calls it “digesting the pain body.” It’s about not running away from a challenging feeling, but lovingly sitting with it instead.
In our Joy School meetings, we’ll explore many other “feel to heal” practices together.
One skill you’ll hear me reference at Joy School is our ever-increasing ability to discern between two voices that talk to us in our heads. The one you’re most familiar with is likely the voice of your Horizontal Self. That’s the loud one for most of us, but everything this voice tells you is filtered through . . . well, your filter. The thoughts and opinions expressed by the voice of your Horizontal Self are all born out of your bucket beliefs, and as you now understand, that means they’re not rooted in anything real or true. Sometimes it’s uncanny how much this voice resembles the voice of one of our parents!
The voice we’re always working to make more space for, by inviting it, is the voice of the Vertical Self. It’s talked to you before, but you may not remember. Until we build the skill of sorting these voices so that we can clearly decipher who’s talking, most of us go through life following the directional impulses of our Horizontal Self, hearing only its loud and overpowering voice, while missing the softer, quieter voice of the Vertical Self, where all our inherent wisdom, peace, joy, and natural compassion for self and others resides.
One way we build the skill of communication with our wise Vertical Self is through the automatic writing we do at Joy School meetings.