The anatomy of Joy
A couple of weeks ago, someone posted this question in one of the Facebook groups I frequent – “What brings you joy?”
Four simple words. But enough to spiral my brain into a never-ending cycle of overthinking. What is joy? How is it different from happiness? What triggers joy?
I ended up concluding that joy was an inward (spiritual) feeling while happiness tended to be more outwards and earth-bound. So, joy for me would be fluid, unrestricted by words, while happiness would be tangible and describable.
Nonetheless, the question still lingered – four words that demanded at least a few words in return. So, I decided to try and contain this fluid emotion into a few sentences that hold true, at least for me.
Read on as I try to figure this difficult answer out. And yes, when you are done, do take a moment to breathe in deeply and answer this question for yourself too. And believe me when I say this – the moment you channel your inner self into your answer, your true priorities will come into focus and joy is bound to follow.
What brings me Joy?
I am joyous when my brain is overflowing with thoughts and I sprint through sentences, jumping mid-word from one line to the next, because it’s urgent, it’s incessant, and it is momentary. I have to capture that feeling before it’s lost forever.
I am joyous when a dialogue I see on TV or a paragraph I read on the internet pierces my heart in all the right places. Because in that one moment, I am alive. And my mind becomes an open expanse of ideas, a playground of thoughts bouncing off each other. In that moment, I deviate, and am no longer living my life in predictable loops, as tight and as closed, as ever. (If you happened to recognize my reference to Dr. Ford from Westworld here on the true meaning of consciousness, rather, its indistinguishability from AI in absence of true will, then know this my friend – It brings me joy to make one fleeting connection with a fellow kindred spirit.)
I am joyous when sometimes, I choose to toss aside the tightly knitted muslin cloth over my mouth and share ideas freely and unfiltered and let my “true self” shine through. Don’t get me wrong, I love my filter and I cling onto it for dear life. How else will I segregate the tea from the leaves, the cottage cheese from the leftover water? But sometimes, I have to remind myself that all that small talk makes it a half-life, an ill-lived one. So, unfiltered and vulnerable is the way to go, at least on some occasions. (Today happens to be one such day.)
I am joyous when I succeed in capturing and magnifying the everyday mundane through the camera lens of my phone and show to myself and (probably) to others the beauty of little things.
I am joyous when I remember to count to ten and breathe in and out when something drives me mad. I am a work in progress but I love it when unkindness and hurtful words make me want to walk a mile in the shoes of the other person and not hold grudges but rather my tongue. I love it when an affront forces me to look at the bigger picture “Is this person the center of my world or is he/she on the fringes? Does this really matter in the greater scheme of things?”
I am joyous when life comes full circle and I get to witness karmic justice in action first hand. No, not because it is one of the cheapest thrills that the universe has bestowed upon us to witness. But because this karmic consequence makes me more mindful of my own actions. I know that every good/bad action done as my younger-self has come to fruition already, right before my eyes. So now I am busy sowing the good seeds and weeding out the bad ones daily. At least that’s my hope. But like always, I am still a work in progress and forever will be.
I am joyous when I recognize the transient nature of things and events and not get too caught up in the highs or lows of the moment. It brings me joy when I understand that the emotion I felt on receiving my first salary, buying my first cell phone, my first camera, my first car, my first every (material) thing will never be surpassed by any subsequent purchase, no matter how costlier or more advanced the new object may have been. That is how I learn, every day, to distinguish my needs from my wants.
I am joyous when I eat without guilt and exercise without the zeal to attain my ideal body. I want my body to be strong and serve me well till my last breath, but the constant worry over perfecting it takes away my joy, robbing me of life’s simple pleasures and injecting stress into my being. I am better off without it.
I am joyous when I stop my people-pleasing ways in its tracks and draw boundaries, hard and fast, to safeguard my personal space and time. It’s hard for me to say no but I love it when I do. My time on this earth is my treasure and I get to choose how I spend it.
I am joyous when I say yes to the things that scare me but which, in my heart of hearts, I always wanted to try. Stepping outside my comfort zone to confront my demons, both big and small, is a good thing, always. I do understand the inherent dichotomy of my nature which makes me love hiding in my shell and take chances simultaneously, but I am joyous when I finally see that both can coexist and that there is no conflict or contradiction in living that way.
I am joyous when I no longer compare and contrast with other peoples lives. They are where they are because their journeys took them there. I am where I am because this is the path I created for myself. I am happy with my successes but also know that my failures aren’t all that bad either. Yes, I do get sad when I fail, but I recognize that failures are my opportunities to learn and grow. So are everybody else’s.
I am joyous when a thought in my head pops up in someone else’s social media feed at about the same time. It makes me feel connected and part of something bigger and grander – a collective conscience, if I may call it so.
I am joyous when I learn something new just for the sake of learning – something that seems completely pointless at first, but down the road, I find myself connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture emerge. Every single creative pursuit, irrespective of the field, be it writing, coding, mothering and so on and so forth brings me joy.
I am joyous when I see a work of art – a painting, a song, a dance, a poem, a movie, a child – and derive meaning from it and interpret it in a way that’s my own, yet in alignment with and an extension of the artist’s vision.
I am joyous witnessing nature in all its glory – a sunrise, a sunset, the moon, the stars, rain, wind, sand, forests, flowing rivers, oceans, mountains – and suddenly my troubles, my worries become microscopic in the mega theatre of creation.
And last but not the least, I am joyous when I wake up to a new day – a restart, a new beginning. Because I am grateful for life and for a family to share it with. Because for this brief moment, in this minuscule planet, on an average galaxy, in an unfathomable universe (in probably a sea of multi-verses), I am awake. I am mindful. I am conscious. I am living. I am Joy.
I am still not done exploring the concept of joy, so I went ahead and started reading “The Book of JOY” where spiritual gurus, his holiness, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu explore this burning question – “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?”
Just looking at their happy faces and the anticipation of reading a book which promises to be invaluable is bringing me immense joy 🙂
Here are a couple of gems that I have discovered so far:
- Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.
- We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.
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