Joy… hmmm… what is it?

Another action shot from Christmas Day up Moel...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about joy and fun.  And whether I feel them much… or ever…  I realize sometimes I’m not even sure what joy is or how to have fun any more.  Or maybe I’ve changed so much my definitions have just changed.

I do have this one precious memory of a joy-filled moment I relive when I want to move into a joyful place.  And that’s one of the nice things about any emotion:  you can choose to go there or move out of there or to change to a different one any time you want.

This particular moment was in Marin.  My friends had asked me to house sit through two sessions of their workshops and the couple of weeks in between — seven whole weeks in my favorite place, taking care of the kitties I’d helped raise, in the place where I’d had my little apartment.

Early in the trip I went for my favorite walk on a glorious day.  After crossing through the county park that abuts the house, I came out on a little country road that curves around the hill; for a while shortly after you exit the park you’re walking under trees on a section with no houses.

I stepped into that private space, so happy to be walking there and with nearly seven weeks left to revel in being there and I started jumping around in circles with my hands in the air.  That I can identify as joy.

The thing is, the way I used to run to clubs to hear music, go to parties, hang out with crowds and noise, etc.  now seems more like a pantomime of fun.  I love music, so there was some joy in hearing great bands.  But the rest was fodder for a restless and unhappy spirit and I’m quite sure a lot of the time I mistook over-excitement and over-stimulation for joy.  Also defined fun by some perception of what was “cool” among my peers.

When I look around these days, I see huge numbers of people who are pursuing the same — to me — illusory forms of joy and fun.  In fact these forms seem really amped up now.  Restaurants are bigger and noisier than any I remember, crowds at music events are bigger and louder.  Sporting venues hold more people, turn the sound up louder.  I have to use sound reducing earplugs to halfway tolerate a movie theater.  And I find all of it energy depleting, enervating, and somewhat depressing.

Thirty years plus in on meditating, yoga, practices, releasing, soul searching, etc. many of my moments of deepest satisfaction are very quiet.  Gazing at a sunset, a deep conversation over dinner with a couple of close friends, feeding people something I’ve cooked and watching their faces light up…  None of that puts me in quite the same space I held on the day I danced around in the middle of a Corte Madera mountain road.  So are such moments joy?

I was very interested to read Louise’s recent post at Dare Boldly and note her thoughts about sunsets and walks in the park and being with friends as joy-bringing activities.  It’s bringing me a whole new perspective on what joy maybe really is.

Those activities for me bring serenity, a sense of balance, a warm feeling in my heart.  I love to be in that kind of space but I can’t decide whether it’s joy I’m feeling or something softer yet deeply satisfying.

I find myself wondering if I’m still being seduced by some culturally implanted idea that joy should equate with something exciting.  Does it have to be as big as the moment of happiness so intense it had me jumping around in the street?   [btw, hard to express how unlike me that was and how much it says for the absolute joy I felt in the moment]

I’m just contemplating, not in a place where I have any sense of an answer.  And maybe joy and it’s bigness or smallness is in the eye of the beholder.  Or maybe it has big moments and small moments…  I imagine I’ll be revisiting this question for some time to come.

For me one of the joys 🙂 and drawbacks of the spiritual journey is becoming someone new.  Of looking at an emotional tone differently and trying to decide where the current version of me stands…  seeing how much my view/feeling has changed compared to various points in the past. Most of the time being new is great and sometimes not so easy…

15 thoughts on “Joy… hmmm… what is it?

      • My pleasure Leigh, and thank you. Your post showed something that we all go through in our lives, with that ‘feeling’ of always trying to find that happiness within but never seem to reach it for any length of time.
        And I thought my journey may, at the least, give some guidance to some in trying to find that place 🙂

  1. I understand your journey Leigh. It sounds very similar to my own. Joy for me now arises when I’m in some exotic new place, or see dancing, or beautiful art, of the beauty of nature. This joy is sometimes exuberant, and sometimes very quiet, like tonight when making lasagne for Don for dinner. I hate the noise of restaurants these days. And don’t even go near bars or clubs.

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  3. Last night, as I was clearing out and reorganizing a china cabinet in the dining room, I noticed Beaumont (the sheepadoodle) standing in the hallway looking at me a bit askance — why is my mom getting up and down a step-ladder, talking to herself and generally being weird? — was the look on his face. I got off my stepladder, went over to where he was in the hallway and sat on the floor. He immediately, pressed his body against mine, stuck his face in my face and went nose to nose. And for that moment I felt a beautiful sense of communion, connection — and quiet joy. We sat like that a bit and then I went back to cleaning.

    This morning, I looked at my cabinet and felt this deep sense of satisfaction — it’s clean and organized and looks so pretty with its orderly shelves behind the glass doors. 🙂 Different than joy, deep satisfaction still gives rise to a calmness within me.

    I think, as you so beautiful write Leigh, that joy is in the eye of the beholder. It is in the quiet moments sitting on the floor cuddling with a dog (or cat), and in the great big moments leaping and spinning on a quiet path — I remember the beautiful photo you shared of that pathway some time ago — I can see how in the presence of that space joy would spontaneously arise!

    I love this line you wrote “I mistook over-excitement and over-stimulation for joy. ” I relate so well to it. Like you, I spent time in bars, and other places of mass distraction and felt over-stimulated and mistook it as being ‘part of’ the scene. And then, I have moments like Tuesday night when I went to an Ajeet Kaur concert and stood in the darkness of the hall, hold hands with the people on both sides of me as we chanted, We are beautiful. We are bountiful. We are blessed. We are peace — and in that moment, I felt the joy of being in communion, connected. I felt joy.

    Thanks for the beautiful post this morning — and for the mention. I appreciate your thoughts and presence on my journey. Hugs ❤

    • Oh that moment with Beaumont does sound like joy — I have some of those with my cat.
      I’m glad you brought up the concert — I totally forgot to add anything about the amazing experience of being in a group doing something for spirit, joined in focus, creating a big amazing energy…
      Thanks Louise — I’m always grateful for connecting with you!

  4. The first foot set on the spiritual path must have told you that there would be changes in your life. Upon starting this journey, you discovered many ‘new’ ways of looking at everything. Such is the nature of ‘renewal’ of spirit. Joy comes as you find beauty in every breath and every flower.

    • Interesting. I think when I began I hoped for change, which was why I began. But I don’t think I had a clue about the nature of the change I would experience. Nor would I have stepped so readily on the path had I known. I think of it as one of the gifts of the Universe that we usually don’t see what change really means until we’re firmly set on the new path…

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  6. What you say about real joy being a quiet thing is so true. How easy it is to forget that–especially in relationships. We so often want a constant circus of romance and fun and expect the other to offer this up for us. In our resentment we forget about the times we have quietly sitting in the yard or having a meal together.

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