The Book of Delights isn’t likely a book you’d sit and read in one day.
It reads more like a subtle, spiritual text, shifting your mind to a higher wavelength: one where you’re aware of often small, delightful moments and experiences that are often overlooked in daily life.
Ross Gay’s compilation of short, insightful essays weaves together observations, emotions, and reflections that celebrate these daily life’s treasures.
A bit about Ross Gay:
In The Book of Delights, American poet Ross Gay penned essays over a one-year period. His work engages readers in a personal dialogue that feels intimate and expansive. His words comprise a rare blend of profundity and playfulness that capture the fleeting moments that delight us.
Still, his essays reflect the reality of all aspects of his life.
Goodreads states: “Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights is a genre-defying book of essays—some as short as a paragraph; some as long as five pages—that record the small joys that occurred in one year, from birthday to birthday, and that we often overlook in our busy lives.
His is a meditation on delight that takes a clear-eyed view of the complexities, even the terrors, in his life, including living in America as a black man, the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture, the loss of those he loves.”
Why I find this so important:
In his work, Ross shows us how both can coexist by mixing painful, difficult experiences with moments of delight.
This practice of intentional appreciation can prove transformative, cultivating a more profound sense of contentment and presence.
How this work relates to so many other areas I’m studying:
What comes to mind most is a fundamental concept from Tony Robbins. He famously says, “Where focus goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you’re focusing on grows. In other words, your life is controlled by what you focus on. That’s why you need to focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.”
So, in a world filled with continuous stimuli, focusing on and noticing small, good things can significantly impact our day and become its foundation.
How to Embrace the Teachings of The Book of Delights: Finding delight in the small things.
Many of Gay’s moments of delight involve simple things we might typically walk right by. He describes a red flower poking its way through the ground and subtle, affectionate moments with strangers as he makes his traverses through life.
Here are some ideas that came to me while reading the book. They’re strategies I’m going to try:
- Consciously notice nature around you, with an eye for details in your environment.
- Inspire an atmosphere filled with potential for delight in your home and surroundings.
- Open the lens to self-care, too.
- Focus on relationships and connections. See how big and sometimes tiny interactions can inspire delight.
- Begin creating your list of things that inspire delight – foods, products, colors, textures, sounds…
- Enjoying simple pleasures and moments of serendipity.
Let’s take a look at each of these more here:
Consciously notice nature all around you, with an eye for details in your environment.
To me, this is almost like choosing to have an expansive view of everything around you while being aware of unexpected surprises.
Gay describes a scene where he’s walking down a familiar road, thinking about a friend who passed away many years ago while living nearby.
At that precise moment, he spots something on the sidewalk. He says, “As I got closer, sure enough, it was some kind of gorgeous flower, mostly a red I don’t think I actually have words for, a red I’ve maybe only ever seen in this flower growing out of the crack between the curb and the asphalt street at the terminus of Belton Way.”
In this story, Gay is teaching us to notice what’s right in front of us. We can marvel at the many delightful surprises if we’re open and willing to see them.
Inspire an atmosphere filled with potential for delight in your home and surroundings.
In another essay, Gay talks about the sheer delight of having a barista serve him his coffee on the counter with no saucer. He marvels at the presentation, and the entire experience fills him with joy.
Do you have a coffee cup that sparks joy? Or a warm, fuzzy robe that makes you happy? These seem like small things, but seeing the joy in them is key.
This appreciation for ‘things’ reminds me of Lesson Two in A Course in Miracles, which states: “I have given everything I see in this room all the meaning that it has for me.”
By recognizing the freshness and newness of ‘regular things’ in his environment, Gay is modeling total presence, and seeing things for the first time. We tend to see the world through a unique lens we’ve created, and to perceive it through fresh eyes is delightful in itself!
*Another way to ignite joy is through a vision board. A vision board filled with images of places, colors, and things that evoke joy is a great way to raise your vibration.
Open the lens to include self-care, too.
This is not from the book. It’s my personal aside.. (ha!)
It comes from a large societal and cultural push to always be doing something, accomplishing something.
But why can’t we view incorporating this practice of seeking moments of delight into our day as a form of self-care?
What can be more delightful than a warm bath with your favorite soap? Adding a metal bath rack is even better. You can bring in a candle, book, and even a cup of tea.
Or delighting in an afternoon matinee all by yourself once in a while?
What do you do every day to welcome moments of delight?
Focus on relationships and connections. See how big and sometimes minimal interactions can inspire delight.
Gay celebrates relationships of all kinds throughout The Book of Delights.
He says, “The point is that in almost every instance of our lives, our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, caretaking. Holding open doors. Offering elbows at crosswalks. Letting someone else go first. Helping with the heavy bags. Reaching what’s too high, or what’s been dropped.”
So, through this lens, we can see a matrix of care and support surrounding us, which is delightful!
Do you spot kindness among people around you? Do you enjoy connecting and interacting with people in your life? How can you feel more joy in these interactions?
I think these are interesting questions…
Begin creating your list of things that inspire delight – foods, products, colors, textures, sounds…
One of the most remarkable things about Ross Gay’s endeavor is that he chose to document his moments of delight.
Science shows that there is a strong connection between our minds and writing things down. So, maybe we can try copying him, even if it’s just writing down one sentence at the end of the day.
By the way, can you name a list of things that delight you?
I was struck last week by reading one woman’s story of how it took her 40-plus years to begin to learn what she likes and doesn’t like. She had a history of accepting whatever came her way, without clearly having a preference. In her case, this is because she grew up impoverished, without the luxury of preference.
So, now, at her age, she’s on a journey of self-discovery to explore and understand what particular things bring her joy.
I think this sounds like such a great practice, and I will try it.
Enjoying simple pleasures and moments of serendipity.
Gay shares his joy of observing statues adorned with flowers. Have you experienced that before? The moment of turning a corner and feeling overwhelmed with joy seeing a bouquet, or scattered petals, at the base of a statue.
Another simple pleasure that excites me is showing up to a busy restaurant without a reservation and unexpectedly snagging a seat by the front window.
Or thinking of a friend and having her call within a few moments.
The list goes on and on. There is so much delight to be found if we’re only open to seeing it.
Key ideas for practicing experiencing delight in daily life:
I think it comes down to slowing down and observing. We’re moving through our days so quickly and with so much distraction that we miss these subtle things around us.
We can become observers, almost like detectives. We can decide not to just go through the motions but to perceive the entire scene as a masterpiece, exactly as it is. And the delights are sprinkled throughout everywhere.
Ross is showing us that everything is already there. We just need to witness for ourselves.
Wrapping up and my experience with The Book of Delights:
This is a book I needed to read. My head tends to be somewhere in the clouds. My daughter told me recently that the single biggest difference between my husband and me is that he notices everything, and I don’t notice anything.
In some ways, this has been a good thing. I don’t notice or bother with the imperfections around me – like little areas of paint chipping off the wall, lol!
But I’m also missing some of the delightful moments too.
So, I’m going to challenge you and myself to seek out delight in the ordinary.
Let me know how it goes!