JOY – the dictionary defines it as a feeling of great delight or pleasure, bliss, ecstasy. Pretty big words aren’t they?

Some of you may be wondering if you will never feel joyful ever again.

Let’s talk about JOY! Before we do I want you to remember a time when you did feel joy at the very core of your being. For me it was at the birth of my children. A depth of feeling that I had never experienced before and Joy is the perfect word to describe that feeling for me.

What’s your most memorial moment?

According to Martha Beck there are two rules for using joy to chart a course for your own North Star, that place of coming home to who you are.

Rule No 1. If it brings you joy, do it.

Rule No 2. No, really.  If it brings you joy, do it.

In fact, if the only thing you ever did was fill your life with the people, things and activities that bring you genuine joy you’d find your own North Star almost immediately.  Naturally this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Many people know they don’t want quiet desperation, boredom, perpetual anger or outright despair, but that doesn’t really help them know what they do want.

To chart your course in life by the compass of joy, you must first understand how genuine, core-deep happiness looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes.

Pleasure and suffering are opposites, joy and suffering are not.  Anyone who has felt the pain of bearing a child, or pushed past physical limits in some athletic event or struggled to learn difficult but powerful truths, been through a heartbreaking divorce understands that suffering can be an integral part of the most profound joy.  In fact, once the suffering has ended, having experienced it seems to magnify the capacity to feel pleasure and delight.

“Joy happens when you finally fall in love with the whole span of life, even the parts that hurt.” 

Your love for yourself and others for the whole process of life and growth and loss and death is so strong it somehow illuminates your suffering and pain.  In the end, it’s all joyful.

Rachael, said “I became truly happy after I lost everything at once, a baby (who was stillborn), my job, and my marriage.  As I lived through that I broke down completely but then I began to feel a kind of cushion beneath me, like a net below a circus acrobat.

I realised that by accepting my sadness and then going beyond it I could find a deep source of happiness inside myself, one that will be in my life as long as I am”.

This kind of joy, the kind that runs deep and broad, requires facing and mastering all the painful experiences we’ve discussed in the previous posts. It means making yourself stand and face the things you fear long before you have had a change to develop courage.  It means allowing grief to wash over you when you really think you’ll drown in it.  It means channeling rage into compassionate action when you long to commit mayhem.  I hate that, but I’ve never found a way around it.  To be a true hedonist to chart your course by joy you need a strong moral center and some serious guts.

Albert Camus wrote, ‘In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

The confidence that your capacity to experience joy is internal and indestructible grows as you let go of joyful experiences and find that they are replaced by others even more wonderful.  You can learn to hold your own happiness lightly by remembering that you are its source, and that there is an infinite supply.

Kicking the suffering habit….   I personally don’t believe in suffering for its own sake.  Enduring a thankless, painful life doesn’t mean that you deserve happiness as a kind of recompense:  It just means you’re enduring a thankless, painful life. 

And if I’m going to suffer it better be for a damn good reason.  It better yield me more joy than it costs.  If not, I will do anything I can to avoid it and I advise all  my clients to do the same.  This is a profound sacrifice for the martyrs among us.  The truth is that people will love you much more honestly and easily if you give up suffering and fill your life with joy.  More importantly, you will be expressing love toward yourself.  This will increase your capacity for happiness and spill over into your behaviour toward others so that you start bringing them joy as well.

The happier you are, the more joyful the whole world becomes.

Your thoughts, comments, personal story or suggestions are important to me.

With love and gratitude

Jenny xx

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