Where Does Joy come from and how do I Achieve it?

Hello Everyone:  I hope this month is going very well for all of you and that you are looking forward to summer. I’m in the middle of preparing for my ‘Open House’ here in Santa Rosa – exciting. It brings me great joy to prepare for such an event - knowing that I have a love of people and look forward to meeting new people.  This last point brings me to the purpose of this month’s article.  All of us want an abundance of joy in our lives. We have a desire to experience nothing else but joy – the alternative being suffering. Have you ever contemplated where joy comes from?  Does joy come from our experiences in life? Does it come from having comforts such as home, ability to pay bills, animals, someone to love, etc?

Over the years, I have traveled to places where the people are in abject poverty – they don’t even have running water in the home, nor indoor toilets. As an American I was struck by what these people don’t have. In this country we would be hard pressed to find any house without an indoor toilet or running water.  I’ve seen outdoor toilets that would make most Americans body system seize up and say ‘No, I don’t think I need to use the toilet, now’.  I have had my own body system do this.  And yet, when I looked into the eyes of these people, they were filled with joy. There was a peace about them that I had never seen - not even in someone who has every creature comfort available to man.  What I was seeing were people who had found joy, contentment and peace from something other than the physical possessions. I was so struck by what I saw, that I spent my time photographing faces. This fact fascinated me. What was the source of their happiness, their joy?

Most of us have believed happiness and joy comes from getting the job that pays us a lot of money or at least pays the bills; the perfect mate; the house; children – the list goes on and on. Some of us have acquired these things and still something is missing. . Ask yourself: Are you happy?  I mean really ask – ARE YOU HAPPY?  Is your heart filled with joy – at this moment? If you have said ‘yes’ – ask yourself: where is this joy coming from? Will the joy last? Or will it disappear if the circumstances that caused you to feel joy go away? If you said ‘No’ – do you believe you will have joy once you attain a curtain goal?  Think back to when you had a goal you were working hard to achieve. I’ll bet when you achieved the goal, you were filled with elation – you were joyous. How long did it last – a week, month, a year? It seems when we reach one goal, we keep striving for more and more. Our expectation of what will bring us joy keeps changing.  We keep searching and dreaming of that one thing that we think will bring us joy.

Since all of us desire joy at all times, we must know where it comes from to cultivate it. Ultimately, we all know joy is a state of mind. But how do we make joy stick and last throughout our lives?  This was a question I had all those years ago. I had no idea what a challenge it would be to hear the answer and to begin the long journey to obtaining lasting joy

It took me a while to integrate the fact that real joy arises from a mind that is free of suffering, distortion and in Buddhist language – obscurations.  Most of us know this subconsciously buts don’t want to hear that we have to work on our habit patterns. What this meant for me and means for you is that there is work to do and it isn’t easy work – working on self is never easy. The path that must be traversed requires conscious skillful effort.  One of the methods that I find useful is meditation. Meditation doesn’t eliminate the suffering. Meditation shines a light on all the ways we play the game of life, it provides insights that assist us to see ourselves clearly.

Another method that works along with meditation is the use of contemplation. I like to use purposeful contemplation. This is a Buddhist method of alternating sitting quietly and contemplating point:  alternating between analysis and no analysis. I have gotten loads of insight surrounding various topics using this method.  With contemplation, we are asking questions concerning the point we are working on. For example: If the point is ‘why do I always fall for the same type of person?’ We might ask ‘when did this begin?’ what drew me to the person?’ what needs did the person fulfill?’ Why did I have this need?’ You would follow the train of thought backwards to get to the root of the issue.  Then just sit quietly for a few minutes – not being attached to any thought. After a bit, go back to contemplation, being honest.  It’s amazing how well this works.

It is to our advantage to meditate on the truth of suffering concerning our lives. This doesn’t mean being judgmental.  We are looking for the truth without judging it.  We must also ask ourselves ‘what is suffering?’ As our knowledge into the truth of our suffering increases we begin to cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others.

It is imperative that all of us work with our minds to change our behavior and alleviate obscurations. If we don’t – we are compelled to continue the undesirable behavior pattern without any end in sight.  Our ultimate goal is to get off the hamster wheel of suffering and live our lives with inner joy which is our birth right.
There is no way around doing the work to banish our fears, anxieties, and suffering. This is the only way to achieve the joy we seek. Remember: There is no other source of joy, other than the mind.

Begin today!