The Gratitude Vietnam Retreat Venue Blog

Foreboding Joy - replacing fear with awareness, compassion and gratitude

Dear friends,


It's been a while since we've put out a 'thought of the week' - (more like a thought of the 6-months!) - but the recent worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 alongside other ongoing political events and natural disasters have once again prompted a period of reflection.


Brené Brown's concept of 'foreboding joy' comes up time and again in our retreats, and seems particularly relevant in the current climate of fear. To experience this for yourself, join me in a childhood game and complete the ending to this scenario, paraphrased from one of Brene Brown's TedTalks...


It's Christmas Morning. The peaceful hush of thick-lying snow surrounds a house full of laughter. Three children, excited and still in their pyjamas are playing with their newly unwrapped gifts whilst the parents watch, enjoying a rare moment of quiet contentment in a gentle embrace, with smiles on their faces.


Still joyful, the family wrap-up warm, bundle into the car and begin their journey to join cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents for Christmas dinner...


What happens next?

If your immediate thought is a car accident or similar, don't worry - this is completely normal! Approximately 80% of our 60-80,000 daily thoughts are negatively biased and we are constantly pre-emptively scanning for danger. In these moments of joy, human beings are, in effect, pre-programmed towards imagining the worst-case scenario so that we can avoid, navigate or by-pass potential threat. Given that we are also bombarded by negativity in the media, it is hardly surprising that the fear of what might be, overrides our sense of safety in the present moment.


Foreboding joy plays out in our lives time and time again, and most times abruptly halts the moment of joy, love or contentment with the imaginings of our inner-catastrophiser. This then often leads to a cycle of "It's too good to be true", "What if this happens?" or a self-directed downward spiral of unworthiness.


As with many things, the simple awareness that foreboding joy is even 'a thing' can be enough for us to catch and stop this process in its tracks. Taking the time to acknowledge and compassionately thank our catastrophiser for protecting us from possible (and unlikely!) harm creates space to counteract the negativity with "In this moment, my life is beautiful", "Yes, but what if it doesn't happen?", or "I am worthy."

This allows us to then feel into gratitude for this wonderful moment of joy, contentment, peace or love, and fully experience the moment with awareness, without fear of what might be. With practice, neuroscience indicates that our ever-plastic brains are able to rewire as we create new neural pathways and form new habits of thinking.

According to the Ayervedic calendar, a 26,000-year cycle (of 260 days), 2012 was a point of entry into the world of the Fifth Sun. This is the age of expanded consciousness, harmony between humanity, Mother Earth, all creatures, the environment, and the greater cosmic order.


On the face of it, looking at the world as it is right now, it seems virtually impossible that this planet could be moving towards an enlightened, consciously aware state of being. Yet, if we can take a moment to look past the media and our fear of what might be, cultivate loving awareness and gratitude for what we have 'in the moment', we can work towards re-programming our 80% bias towards negativity, and live in a space of gratitude and love, not fear.


Our thoughts are with our many teacher-friends who are currently displaced and facing increasingly stressful online teaching timetables, and others affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, bushfires in Australia and the fall-out from various political events. As a tourist-based business in Asia, we are also feeling the impact, and this does not come from a place of minimising events, simply offering a different perspective for thought!


With gratitude and love,

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It's our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection