In a recent entry, I was commenting on joy and how it seems to elude me. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and I’m coming to understand that it may be that I really am experiencing joy and simply not recognizing it as such. I think, like a lot of people, I’ve been looking for what could more accurately be described as ecstasy, that top-of-the-world, over-the-moon feeling where it seems your heart could burst. I imagine most of us have felt that occasionally – I know I have – and it’s wonderful! But it’s also temporary, short-lived, and usually tied to a specific and relatively rare life experience, like falling in love or the birth of a child. So expecting or even hoping to have that sort of feeling on a day-to-day basis is bound to create disappointment.
What I’m trying to do now, on the advice of Jean, my spiritual advisor, is to pay attention to a much more subtle and delicate feeling that bubbles up from within. A sense that in this single moment, all is well. Maybe that’s what joy feels like. Maybe it’s a not a big rush of emotion bursting from my heart, like a geyser or volcano. Maybe it’s more like a small, warm flame filling me with a quiet and gentle sense of contentment. In this moment.
And that makes sense to me because as I’ve said before, I know that the present moment is all that really exists. Past and future are illusions and distractions and, at least for me, that’s where the “non-joy” lives – in fears of what might happen and regrets or resentments about what has already occurred. Which is not to say we shouldn’t enjoy fond memories and learn from the past, or make thoughtful decisions and plans for the future. But when it comes to the question of how to feel joy, I think once again, “being here now” may be a big part of the answer.