The other day I went walking and a thought came to me that I knew was true. It amounted to this:
“The discovery of joy requires a change in self.”
In other words, joy is an aspect of a specific part of our self. There is a part of us – the “joy-self” – that encompasses this reality. This means that joy, as I use it, is more than an emotion, as we’re normally told. It’s a state of mind, a “reality”. It goes way beyond any emotion. It’s for this reason that it hits the depths of our souls. It’s for this reason that joy, really, is a “self issue”, not an “emotional issue”.
As we live in our everyday lives we tend to lose this “joy-self” and forget it. There becomes so many aspects of ourselves that come up in the course of our lives that it gets jumbled up in the mess, lost in the myriad perceptions, impulses, emotions, and such, that come up in life. Because of this, we must continually rediscover and find this “joy-self”. Once its found, though, it tends to get lost again in the affairs of life, making us have to rediscover it again.
Because of this, not only does the ‘joy-self’ require discovery but a repetitive discovery. It can be easy to find it once, but many times? . . . This repetitive rediscovery is one of the great challenges and difficulties of “joy”. Often, there’s a skill and knack at this, which some of us don’t have . . . and many never develop it. Sometimes, this rediscovery is just too much work and we forget it, perhaps for the rest of our lives. Some people rediscover it from time to time throughout their lives. For others, rediscovery is almost a natural thing. What all this seems to show is that the repetitive rediscovery of “joy” requires an ability. Often, this ability seems rooted in a person’s character which means that rediscovering “joy” is often beyond ones choice. That is to say, some people cannot “will” it to happen. This goes against many people’s thinking that a person can “always find joy”. My experience, though, is that some people just can’t . . . and it’s not necessarily their fault. Their abilities and character just don’t allow it.
I should point out that I use “joy” in a specific way. “Joy” is a term that I use to refer to a perception that has traits such as these:
- A sense of being very in-the-world. This means it is rooted in awareness of oneself and ones existence in the world. This means it’s not rooted in a ‘phantasizing’ or a ‘pie in the sky’ mentality, which is often associated with many ‘good’ feelings.
- We feel ourselves content in the world. There is an absence of striving or struggle.
- We feel confident. This implies a knowledge of oneself and a certainty of who one is.
- We feel safe and secure. We do not feel threatened or unbalanced in any way.
We see here a pattern where joy is based in a good view of oneself and oneself-in-the-world and a confidence in oneself. It is not based in being ‘satisfied’, or having no worries. On the contrary, I’ve always felt that, to experience joy, a person must have experience with pain and turmoil, a person must have experience suffering. But its more than that: a person must feel a confidence in handling conflict, or that they can ‘weather it’. This means it is based in experience and in a knowledge of oneself, of ones strengths and weaknesses. In this way, “joy” is a sense of an experienced-based-and-confident-self-in-the-world.
Sometimes, “joy” does not necessarily have to be rediscovered. Often, to discover joy we must “predispose” ourselves to this self. In other words, we must ‘allow’ ourself to be joyous. Too often, we become too engrossed in the affairs of life that we forget to feel our joy-self. Because of this, we think it’s not there or missing. But, in reality, it is there, waiting to be brought up. This ‘allowing’ ourselves to be joyous can be difficult for it generally means we must forget our problems and let go all our tensions. This is not an easy thing to do. Again, we see the question of ability coming up again. Some people have that ability, some don’t.
What’s ironic, though, is that “joy” is often accompanied by pain! Because of this we recoil back from it, preventing us from experiencing it. But, actually, the pain that often precedes joy is a result not of ‘pain’ but a change in self. As I said, joy is a matter of self. As a result, in order to experience joy a person often needs to change ones self. The ‘shedding off of ones current self’ is often painful as its like getting rid of ones skin. I often feel that this is usually the hurdle we often confront and which stops us from continuing to experience the joy-self. Generally, we want joy to be an emotion that comes up within our self-at-the-moment and make us feel good . . . we’re seeking the emotion. To experience a pain, though, makes us confused and contradicts what we are expecting.
There are times, though, when a change in self is painless and happens even without our knowing. It seems that this is common when we’re young. As we grow it seems that the change in self is harder to do and more painful. No doubt, this comes from a more ‘rigid’ stance we take in life, as a result of living and experience. The older we become the more ‘rigid’ our self becomes. As a result, the more we lose the spontaneity required for the change of self that we had when we were young. Without this ability to change self, we are hampered at rediscovering “joy”. Because of this, older people tend to be more ‘joyless’ and struggle with it more. This is particularly so if they have a great burden or responsibility on their head that forces them to develop a more ‘rigid’ character. This is why its best to avoid positions or situations in life which places great burden and responsibility on one’s head. My experience is that people who have little burden and responsibility are the people most likely to rediscover joy . . . they have nothing forcing them to be ‘rigid’.
Because of a change in self there is often patience that is required. In fact, I see a close association with joy and patience. A person who expects everything immediately is going to have a harder time finding joy in things. This shows that a big part of joy is having patience. But patience is generally meaning having to wait or not be satisfied. In many ways, patience is nothing but knowing that you can’t have everything today or when you want it. But, more importantly, patience means that, though you may not have what you need today, you know you will have it sometime in the future. Patience, therefore, entails a willingness to suffer and a faith that this suffering will end.
A change in self, that is required for “joy”, also requires a quality of courage and faith. This is because changing ones self is much like stepping out into the unknown . . . you don’t know what is going to happen. Without this courage and faith “joy”, often, cannot be rediscovered. Many people, I think, fail at “joy” because they lack these two qualities.
Rediscovering “joy” also requires a confidence in oneself. A change in self may bring out a part of oneself that you did not expect or do not like. This means that a person must be secure with themselves and who they are as well as an acceptance of who they are, good and bad. This quality, I think, is often lacking in many of us, hindering any rediscovery of “joy”.
The patience of “joy” requires the ability to ‘unwind’ and not get wrapped up in things. It means an ability to ‘let go’. In addition, it means not making a big deal about things or seeing problems in things that aren’t there.
All this shows that joy is more than just an emotion but a state of the self, requiring a change in self. This change in self, though, requires many more conditions and states to make it possible: confidence in oneself, faith, courage, patience, experience, acceptance of oneself, etc. These go way beyond any emotion and feeling. These things are elements that hit to the center of ones beingness and who they are. As a result, “joy” becomes a condition, really, that hits to the core of a person. In that sense, “joy” becomes a reality, a way of being. When one looks at it much of life is really nothing but a cultivation of “joy”, in some form or another, and any “life wisdom” is based in various techniques to achieve this. This shows that “joy” is really a product of a cultivation of a certain way of being for the development of the person and their self. Because of this, the cultivation of “joy” is really a growth issue, of seeking a persons growth and development as a person and human being. This makes “joy” a critical and important aspect of life.