The experience of joy is one that is common to all humans. We all know what it is to feel the sense of emotional elation that comes with a complete absence of resistance and a freeing up of the love and appreciation that resides within. The experience of joy encompasses both an absence of resistance as well as an active sense of appreciation and sense of celebration towards life itself.
Regardless of whether our joy is dependent upon the attainment of material desires or whether it simply arises freely and independently, “ joy”, that word we use to describe that sublime state of wanting for absolutely nothing while actively reveling in the moment at hand, is something we all have a reference for.
The joy of the enlightened sage is no different from the joy of a child receiving the gift he’s been wanting for months. Indeed, the child’s joy has arisen in the context of the fulfillment of a material desire, while the enlightened sages joy is not arising because of any ‘thing’ in particular, however, whatever the reason or lack thereof, both experiences of joy arise because of an absence of resistance to the content of the present moment, coupled with an active sense of appreciation and love for the moment at hand.
While the child’s joy may (or may not) be more short-lived than the enlightened sage’s, in the moment that it is experienced, it is no different. Joy is joy, peace is peace, bliss is bliss, regardless of how the experience of it comes to be. These words, Joy , love , bliss, are all really just labels we’ve ascribed to those experiences and states of being where we flowing with the moment at hand, free from resistance. While some of us may experience joy more frequently than others, most of us can recall and reference what it feels like to be in the flow of the moment, filled with happiness, and appreciation.
Plain and simple, the experience of joy feels really good. It is a result of a letting go of all attachments and thoughts that ‘this moment’ before me should (or even could) be anything different than it is. However, “Joy” involves more than this. A simple absence of resistance would be more accurately described as ‘peace.’ Joy on the other hand involves an inner state and feeling of loving and emotionally celebrating the entirety of the moment. Although we can experience joy while engaged in something as sedentary as meditation, It is a more active experience than peace.
When we abide in peace, we stand on the precipice of experiences of joy, bliss, happiness, enthusiasm, excitement, etc. Peace is the doorway through which we have access to all of the emotions and experiences that we deem to be most positive and most pleasurable.
We arrive at a place of peace through a letting go of all attachments and through a release of all resistance to the present moment and its content. From a position of deep, inner peace, the experience of joy and the experience of bliss are but a stones throw away and in my own experience, can be experienced at will simply by attenuating our focus.
Because the experience of joy feels so darned good, many of us become seekers of it. We spend the moments where joy seems to be evading us in search of an avenue to it. Following such a peak experience, we strive to have another experience of joy as soon as possible and we often even berate ourselves and our current position of ‘not being in joy’ when we’re experiencing anything deemed as lesser. If we find ourselves chasing after joy, we could say that we have an attachment to the experience.
The act of chasing after the experience of joy is the surest way to ensure its absence. The moment we begin to seek, we step off course.
But joy feels good. Am I supposed to stop ‘wanting’ to feel good? How can I stop myself from seeking joy?
There is no way any of us can ever stop ourselves from gravitating towards emotional well-being. I’ve met many spiritual aspirants who have convinced themselves that they are above a preference for experiencing joy. It takes a great deal of denial and mental gymnastics to hold yourself apart from your natural tendencies.
Like a flower naturally gravitates towards the sun and towards all that nourishes its growth, health and expansion, we too have a built-in, natural gravitation towards ‘the light.’ Joy is our signal that we’re letting it shine in.
The states of being that include, peace, happiness, joy, bliss and ecstasy, only arise in the face of a lack of resistance. Resistance keeps us from the light (or from recognizing ourselves as Source, God, etc) and an absence of resistance allows the light in.
What is resistance?
It could be said that resistance is arising in any given moment that you are ‘fighting against’ the content of the moment. For example, if I’m typing an article and my computer shuts down and deletes the entire thing, my first reaction might be a thought of “Oh my God…I can’t believe I’ve put in all that work and now it’s gone…..why the hell did that have to happen? What bad luck…Gee I wonder what else will go wrong today.” That would be resisting the content of the moment, (not to mention creating a story of woe on top of the actual reality of what just occurred). The law of attraction tells us that the experience of joy is simply not compatible with resistance to the moment at hand.
Now there’s really no huge problem at this stage, for if I see that I am in fact resisting the ‘isness’ of the moment, I can then simply let go of the resistance and move towards an acceptance of what has occurred.
Acceptance of the deletion of my article would look something like this; “Oh well, there’s no changing what’s happened. I’ll simply have to re-write it. Hmmm….I kind of felt like a break anyway. Maybe I’ll go grab a cup of tea and then get started again after. “
The worst thing in terms of moving deeper to an actual experience of emotional suffering and ensuring that the experience of joy evades me, would be to see the resistance and to then berate myself for having that resistance.Resistance arises whenever we attempt to ‘fight against’ the moment at hand and when we believe something ‘should’ be different than it is.
The experience of joy cannot arise in the face of resistance. It’s quite easy to identify resistance when it arises. In short, you’ll feel bad emotionally. Wherever resistance exists, the experience of emotional well-being will (to some extent) evade us. If I’ve just got a little bit of resistance, then I’ll only feel a little bit bad. If I’ve got alot. Then I might even begin to experience emotional suffering.
Resistance arises due to our agreement with certain thoughts that are arising. If a thought arises that says, “I hate having this stupid headache,” I can either agree with that thought and add to it, further increasing the resistance, or I can replace that thought with another that I can find agreement, or resonance with.
A replacement thought might look something like this; “Like it or not, I’ve got a headache right now. But I do know that if I can take my focus off of it, it will likely start to get better quickly.”
The ability to stand apart from our thoughts to view them dispassionately is a skill that serves us well in terms of releasing resistance and gravitating towards the experience of joy.
How do I accept something that I find unpleasant?
There is a difference between actively ‘wanting’ all that is occurring in the moment at hand and simply accepting that it IS. If I’ve got a splitting migraine headache, I’d be pretty hard pressed to revel in my appreciation of my throbbing head, however, I can simply stop fighting the fact that my head is throbbing and accept that in this here and now moment, I do have a headache.
I have found that in the moment of acceptance, any experience of suffering, ceases. The pain may still be there (but usually to a far lesser extent) but the overlay of judgment about the experience of having a headache has dissipated and thus, the experience of the headache itself, has changed into something less painful.
Accepting something that may have previously been seen as completely unacceptable does take a certain shift of perspective, however even with simple logic it is quite easy to see the complete and utter futility of ‘fighting against’ something that is currently presenting.
It doesn’t matter how angry I get, my article will not magically appear back on the computer screen and it doesn’t matter how much I rail against it and moan and groan, complaining will not make my headache suddenly disappear, in fact it will likely make it worse.
(an interesting side note; After writing this article and the example of losing an article, I then attempted to post it here to my website and I actually DID lose it, and thus, I had the chance to practice what I preach.....no doubt, a great example of the law of attraction in action!)
No matter how much he resists the reality of it, the person who has just been told he has cancer will not instantly escape it by emotionally railing against it and the woman who just lost her job will not instantly get it back by allowing herself to collapse into emotional depression.
By the same token, the man who rails against his fear because he is instead wanting to have the experience of joy, is fighting a losing battle.
Sometimes accepting ‘what is’ is as simple as acknowledging the futility of doing anything else. When it is clearly seen that fighting against current circumstances of reality does nothing and often makes things even worse, acceptance becomes the most practical option. From a position of clarity, anything else begins to look rather insane.
The experience of joy and bliss could be said to be the pinnacle of human experience, the state of being that we all naturally gravitate towards regardless of our level of acceptance in any given moment. If we are not consumed with seeking joy, there is no reason to attempt to quell this natural gravitation or to even label this gravitation as an attachment. Attempting to change something that is hard wired into our human-ness is to resist an integral facet of this physical life experience.
The fact is that the experience of joy becomes commonplace when we get into the habit of acceptance, where we abide in a state of being that is free from resistance and when we stop chasing after joy it as though it were a rare or scarce commodity.
When we reach the place where the experience of joy is not reliant upon any material circumstances, where it arises as easily in the face of preferences that are manifested as it arises in the face of present moment circumstances that may be contrary to our preferences, we could say that we truly are free.
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