The wave of joy
Joy is one of the most beautiful experiences that we can have in our life. It rises like a wave, reaches its peak and spills over our surroundings through laughter, smiles, dancing, touching, etc. It can be like a calm sea, that makes us notice and appreciate the small things in life. Whichever way it presents itself, it seems to be a rare gem.
In fact, we often end up chasing after experiences which promise joy but rarely really give it, or, we keep repeating the same experiences time and time again in the hope of finding the same joy we have felt in the past.
It is joy that makes the difference, not the activity!
We are used to attributing joy to certain actions we take in life. One might say, "Running makes me joyful!" or "You make me happy," or "My work gives me fulfilment."
The belief behind these statements is that external things, people or actions have the power within them to give us joy. But, is it really like that? If something external really has the power within it to give joy, wouldn't it make everybody happy in the same way all the time?
Our experience shows us the opposite. Some people experience joy in swimming but not in running, some experience joy in doing nothing, others in gaming. We also experience joy in different ways according to the moment, one day we love biking but another day we just don't feel like it.
This proves to us that joy is not bound to something external, rather it is an internal movement which motivates us to do activities or meet people for our own pleasure.
According to this new point of view, joy seems to be inside of us already and we are the ones that pour it into different actions, like pouring water into empty glasses.
Swimming, dancing, talking and writing are empty experiences on their own, but these experiences become fulfilling if our inner joy, in the present moment, leads us to them. It is joy that makes the difference, not the activity!
Therefore, we don't need to pay a price for joy! We already have what we seek. We just need to learn to listen to our inner joy and act accordingly.
Can we always do what we want?
You could say, "We cannot always do what we want! What about work? Or being with my children when they make me go crazy?"
Yes, it is true, we cannot always do what we want. However, while it seems that, on the surface, your children are driving you crazy, underneath this, is a deeper joy. You probably never truly regret having them in your life, no matter how much they make you go crazy!
On the topic of work; if the discontentment is constant, then it might be good to check if it would be better to courageously change jobs. If it is a fleeting feeling, according to the mood of the moment, it means that it is not deep and that there is an underlying joy in doing your work. It gives you money to support yourself and enjoy your life!
How do I know if I really enjoy a moment or not?
Remember that joy is like a wave; it can be wide and powerful or little and calm. We cannot always have peak-experiences. Therefore, to know if you really enjoy your moment, ask yourself:
"In this moment, do I truly want to be elsewhere, do something else, be with someone else or am I ok here and now?"
If the answer is, "Yes, I am ok," and you are sincere, it means that it is your joy which is keeping you where you are right now reading this article, just as my joy keeps me writing it.
Life is a joyful play. Life is a playful joy.
I would like to share something that a client of mine told me not such a long time ago:
"On a Sunday, I ran for 20km in a "not so important" race near my house. I did it to train myself for an "important" marathon coming up the week after. When I ran that Sunday, I enjoyed it so much! I felt free and it was a great experience. But, on the day of the marathon, I was so stressed out to beat my record, that I didn't enjoy the race at all; I struggled all the time with my body and I felt disappointed to have missed the record by 5 minutes!"
This example explains how we normally miss joy in our life. Once we run, trying to get something out of it other than just running might mean we suffer and miss out. Don’t get me wrong, there's nothing bad with having goals but we have to take them as a form of play, not as something too serious.
If we want to enjoy life more, we need to understand the nature of joy. It is a circular movement, like a wave which rises and falls, then rises again, in a continuous movement, transforming from one experience to another.
Like surfers, we practice keeping a constant presence with its movements, moment by moment, in order to stay on the crest of this wave. This dynamic should not be confused with moving frantically from an activity, person or object to another. In fact, in that case, we would be like addicts, craving joy and constantly searching for it in the outside world.
The more we find our joy within and express it in everyday life, the less we need extreme experiences to feel alive or to simply feel something. Once, a Zen Master said: "In the end, what you really want, is only to enjoy the cup of tea"… Just a word to the wise.