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Joy vs. Happiness

November 10, 2018


Pilot Light Blue is a place where we practice accessing joy even during challenging times. The word 'joy' is defined as a feeling of great pleasure or happiness, and while I agree that happiness and joy are related, I experience them very differently. 


For me, happy comes in moments formed on the inside and delivered from the outside. For example, I have a desire, let's call it, "strawberry ice cream." Even though I am in kind of a poopy mood, I have this desire spring up from the inside and I believe it will make me happy. So, I go to the freezer, serve up a dish of strawberry ice cream, go to my cozy spot on the couch and eat it. I am happy! I am happy until the next desire presents itself from the inside. The ice cream is finished, and now it will make me happy to complete writing this blog post. So I start typing again. I hop from happy moment to happy moment as if the moments themselves are stepping stones arranged in a path from one side of a river to the other. In the gaps between the stones of achieving the happy desires are fear, self-doubt, and aversion to name a few, but on and on I hop always in pursuit of fulfilling the next desire for happiness! 


My experience of joy is that it, too, comes from what feels like the inside and that it is delivered from the inside as well. Joy is foundational; it is the knowingness that regardless of outside stimuli and circumstances perceived as good, bad or indifferent, that I am so much more than this body. Joy is knowing that the cute, adorable, sometimes grumpy, sometimes silly, creative, curious individual that I identify as in the relative world is also oceanic in proportion, connected to all living things that ever were, are, and will be. Joy is knowing, "I am That." I am That is a way of saying that every individual expression comes from the same source; infinite individual expressions of One thing, and if there is only one thing, then you are It, or, in other words, "I am That."


Joy can be triggered by events from the outside, but it consistently simmers underneath the surface as the waves of acquiring greater and greater happiness bubble and shift. Joy lives underneath the gaps between the stepping stones of pursuit, has no Self-doubt and is unafraid. Joy is the river.


It's fun to hop from stone to stone. Fulfilling specific desires is mostly a pleasure, but can also cause frustration and disappointment. In contrast, Joy is fulfillment and has no need or desire. My understanding of Joy was born out of the most surprising changes of expectations I've experienced thus far. The deaths of my partner and my mother, although devastating, taught me that my capacity to enjoy life was foundational and not dependent upon things going the way I think they are supposed to go. 


Pilot Light Blue's mission is to explore accessing joy even during challenging times. A good place to start is to first define what we mean by JOY. Next is to identify moments in your life when you've felt exactly what I'm talking about, that great sense of "knowingness" that you are part of something much larger than your immediate needs and wants. 


Here are a  couple of examples of those moments in my life. Holding my great nephew in NICU for the first time a few months after Gary died. Life was tenuous but continuing nonetheless and baby nephew was proof. Watching a private firework display in Northern India where joy ripped out of my body in the form of big belly laughs and tears in my eyes. It felt GREAT to be ALIVE! Holding hands with my mom shortly after my dad died. I felt we were one.


You can see by my examples that often it can be life and death situations that give us access to this foundational joy, but I assure you that it can be felt in the small moments, too. Can you think of examples in your own life when you've felt this kind of joy? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

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