Recovering the Joy in Your Life

One Saturday morning I was walking from my apartment in downtown NY up to lead a weekend workshop. As I often do, walking through New York streets, I popped in my ear buds and my iPhone and listened to some ripping solid bluegrass music, in this case, a newer band that I love called the Infamous Stringdusters.

I could not help but notice that the “jolt” to my energy and mood was instantaneous and positive. I literally started bouncing down the street, singing a high harmony out loud. Then I thought, what is this, what am I experiencing here? And the word joy came directly into my mind — it was joy.

Have you ever wondered where our joy has gone? Don’t you find that a very big part of the time you are just getting things done, anxious, stressed out, tense, in a hurry, worried, concerned, uptight? Where has our joy gone?

I have come to feel lately that joy is an expression of our own truest nature. We are meant to experience joy, we are wired for it. But it also seems to be the case that our natural joyfulness, exuberance, enjoyment, whatever you want to call it, can get covered over by all kinds of other “heavier” programs. So I thought it might be fun to share some thoughts about recovering/uncovering our joy and also to invite you all to contemplate for yourself!

Here are a few thoughts:

Impermanence: Joy is not graspable. It is literally the expression of freedom and release in the moment. We cannot bottle it, store it, hold onto it or recreate it. It requires letting go and the recognition that it is easiest to experience joy fully when we are most in touch with impermanence.

Sadness and Poignancy: Ironically, joy is somehow completely linked with a tender-hearted, sad/poignant feeling that is so close to our essence as human beings. It is our ability to be touched, moved, empathetic, etc. that allows us to experience joy and aliveness at all.

Freedom: When we feel imprisoned, overwhelmed, bounded, constricted etc., it is impossible to experience joy. It literally cuts it off for us. We need to taste freedom to taste joy.

Energy: If our energy is low, if we are tired, worn down, under it, etc. it is hard to experience joy. Joy is energy, and joy itself is an expression of energy and vitality.

Absence of Fixation, Stress, Anxiety and Doubt: Fixation, rigidity, stress, anxiety and doubt are not a good environment in which to cultivate the experience of joy. Without denial or repression, we need to free ourselves up from these “negative” habits of mind in order to experience joy, even for a moment.

Maybe this post seems goofy and non-Buddhist, but I don’t think so. Buddhism lobbies for the recognition of the truth of suffering but also lobbies for the transcendence (not repression) of the causes of suffering and the experience of our own true nature as the confluence of bliss (joy) and emptiness (non-attachment).

What is your experience here? Where has your joy gone?