The four directions of joy

and why we need others to heal

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

When I first started my spiritual journey, it was all about becoming enlightened. I was obsessed.


Nothing in this world mattered. All that my heart longed for was union with the divine. I started meditating. My first experience, even though I had never done anything before, was a Vipassana (Goenka style) meditation retreat.

If you don’t know it, that’s how it works:

10 days meditation in silence. No talking, no reading, no listening to music, no gesturing to others, no writing. And all that 10 hours a day!

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That was the most painful thing I ever did in my life. And it was, up to that point, the best thing I had ever done. I felt incredible afterward. Light and free and open. Wow, a revelation!

After that, I was hooked. I went back every year for my annual masochistic mental/spiritual detox. I loved it!

But I soon realized, it was hard-core and with all the benefits that I received from it, it was not supporting me to become whole or happy.

Instead, I was becoming rigid. Focused entirely on my verticle line up, which is only one direction of Joy, as we shall see. Later I became acquainted with the term ‘spiritual bypassing’. And indeed, that is exactly what I had been doing.

Then I discovered ‘embodiment’. I realized that even though I loved the space of clarity and equanimity that meditation provided, I was missing the joy and pleasure of having a body. Of just enjoying myself.

Massage, Biodynamic Breath and Trauma Release (BBTR), laughter yoga and other (feminine) body practices came into my life.

I started breathing into my body, opening my capacity to feel. I started to dance and to move, to sing and also to scream. The heavily stuck emotions of my past started releasing the tension in me and what followed was a time of catharting.

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I understood that in order ‘to play the human game, one has to feel fully’.

Apparently, I mumbled that during my sleep one time. With my boyfriend waking up next to me, shaking his head incredulously, saying: “Do you not even stop in your sleep?” That says something about my obsession, right?

But it’s true, I understood the power of meeting my feelings fully, and because I had a strong vertical connection up, I felt safe in the knowing that it’s all good, that no matter how deep the pain: this too shall pass.

And then…

I kind of ran out of fuel. I had done so much work on myself, both vertical up and down, but I still felt ‘unhappy’. Also, I didn’t really have a job, nor a career. Freelancing the healing skills that I had acquired during the process of those 10 years, I was always just getting by. My life was not in order. It was chaotic, uncertain and filled with struggle.

I got tired. I developed digestive problems. I became disillusioned by my connection to the divine: it was all just a story, let’s become an adult, hunker down and make some money. Let’s become serious about life.

I would still meditate, still do my practice, but somehow the magic, the light was gone.

I realize humility is really, the hardest and the most precious won lesson of all.

Slowly, Something else started emerging in me. A softness in the heart, a humbleness. A compassion towards myself, and a very ordinary kind of satisfaction. A willingness to be more here than anywhere else.

So I titled this article the four directions of joy, because I learned something last year, that no one had ever explained to me in all those years of inquiry before. Something so simple and yet so profound that I can’t help myself but share. Something that made me realize that I need others to in order to heal and become a full human.

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True Heart Intelligence

I learned about the four directions of Joy from Christian Pankhurst and his HeartIQ training. It’s what helped me to bring the magic back in.

As you might have noticed, I mentioned the ‘vertical up’ line a few times in my writing above. I also referred to the ‘down’ line. Let me finally explain, what I’m talking about.


is your connection to your Higher Self, to the divine, to your consciousness, whatever that may mean to you. It’s the space we enter when meditating, it’s where we connect to our vision, our purpose. Where we are happy to be by ourselves. It’s where we connect to trust and our ability to have faith for a higher purpose. This connection aligns us to our truth and our intuition. It’s what we call guidance. And it is what I was solemnly focused on in my early years of spiritual seeking.

If we don’t have this connection, we may feel a lack of meaning. We may only function from survival instincts and often experience life as a burden. We may be scared of death.


This is really about embodiment. About your connection to your core, to a deep sense of ‘self’. It’s about listening to the intelligence of your body. If you are connected vertically down you can easily express your truth and stand up for yourself. You can take action and feel confident in moving towards getting what you want.

You can feel a deep sense of pleasure and enjoyment of being human and having a body. Without this, you may experience fatigue, depression, confusion, or overwhelm. You may not know how to assert your boundaries and to have the necessary drive to create what you want in life.

The best tool I found for liberating my body and creating a connection to my core is BBTR. You can check out more about it in the book Feel to Heal. It’s a truly elegant way to release tension and trauma and to feel your essence deeply down to the very cellular level of your being. It completely changed my life.

Without the upward connection, you’re at risk of not recognizing and connecting to your own truth. Without the downward connection, you’re at risk of not feeling and expressing your own truth. (Christian Pankhurst)


This direction is about expressing who you are. It’s your ability to authentically share with others your inner reality, regardless of where you may be at. When your outer expression matches your inner reality people can feel it and will respond to it easily.

There is nothing more beautiful than watching someone just being themselves.

In our world, where so many are trying to be ‘perfect’, authentic self-expression is always a relief and brings joy, because it gives everyone else around the permission to be themselves as well. It’s like all of a sudden we all take off our masks and have a laugh at having tried to pretend!

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means to receive. Not only gifts, or touch, but also energy and love in form of attention and compliments. Why is it so hard for many of us to do public speaking for example? Because the person who speaks has all attention focused on them and if their energetic container is not used to ‘receiving’, that may feel very uncomfortable.

So often I catch myself and others do some form of advanced energy aikido when receiving a compliment. You know what I’m talking about, right?

compliment: “You are amazing! I really love what you are doing”

response: “Yeah, BUT, you are just as amazing as me! I’m just a mirror, you know!”

Of course, that may be true, however, the important part here is that in those moments some unconscious part of us doesn’t feel good enough to receive, so we deflect. It feels uncomfortable to pause, look the other in the eye, breathe in and simply let it land. “Thank you, I really appreciate you saying this”.

But the Horizontal In also means to allow ourselves to be touched by what we witness in another.

‘This Direction of Joy invites you to stand in your full power and feel your own magnificence as it is reflected to you through others.’ (Christian Pankhurst)

It’s in the balance of all these directions that we can cultivate true joy

That we can truly become heart intelligent. And that’s a daily practice to check in with yourself with these four questions:

1. Are you connected to your source?

2. Are you listening to your body’s wisdom?

3. Are you expressing your truth?

4. are you able to receive from the world?

So simple right? Makes so much sense also. But have you ever heard anyone explain it like that before? For me, it was like a light bulb switching on.

Of course!! It’s not EITHER/OR! It’s all those things and more! The experience in New Eden (the center for HeartIq in Holland) was liberating as all those parts of me came online together.

I connected deeply to the longing in my heart of being part of humanity, not just the ‘divine’, of contributing, of being seen and acknowledged. Of feeling deeper not just myself but others, of experiencing true intimacy.

What a relief.

I’m not alone here and I don’t have to be better or higher than anyone else.

Our spirituality and evolution is not a one-man job!

It gave me so much revived inner passion and love. I went home and straight away created two women’s circles. I started sharing all this wisdom with others. And I can only say that magic has been abundant.

The deep gratitude I’m feeling for being part of this amazing tribe of committed people to become more heart intelligent in a world that so desperately needs it is beyond words. I am now connecting deeper into what love actually means.

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And it fills me with energy, with vision, with generosity and compassion to such a degree that, for the first time in my life, I feel I can manifest my vision. No matter how scared, finally I feel I have a strong inner container and a tribe that supports me, that can hold space for this emerging creativity that’s bursting into life. This creativity that is not there to just serve my own self, but as a gift of appreciation to all of life. To all the people, who are part of my life.

So wherever you are in your journey, I hope that the awareness of the four directions of Joy will bring you clarity, balance, strength, and support. And of course JOY!

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +431,678 people.

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Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash