Joy

Do you think there is a difference between happiness and joy? Or do they seem like the same thing to you?

I admit that in the past I was confused about the difference between the two terms, or I used them interchangeably, until one conversation occurred with a friend of mine. He shared that, for him, joy was a much deeper feeling. It gave me pause and inspired me to reconsider my views.

While I love both feelings and enjoy their power, I believe one is far more important to me than the other.

Happiness seems to come from the outside, while joy comes from the inside. Happiness is triggered by all sorts of things I encounter in the world, while joy feels like an overflowing of love from my heart.

There are things and events which create and produce both feelings. Personally, I find happiness is short lived when compared with joy. Sometimes happiness feels like a present I’ve dreamed about but once I have it, its power fades, and I’m looking for the next thing to make me happy.

When joy arrives, its power remains with me, and I feel its love radiate through me. Although my life moves on, the memories of the joy linger and will easily return, if I bring them to mind.

So, what about you? Do moments of joy visit you and stay with you? Would you like there to be more moments of joy in your life?

If I answered my own question, my response would be, ‘yes, absolutely I want as many moments of joy as possible.’

You can probably guess my next question.

What would bring about more moments of joy?

Part of me is always pragmatic, searching for an approach that supports me and brings into my life that which I most treasure. In this case that would be to create and experience more and more moments of joy.

I sat back one day and let a calmness wash over me. I opened my heart and encouraged myself to allow my love to overflow. I did this because I know that joy responds to this call. It lives within me but wants to be unleashed into my world.

I believe that joy lives inside each of us, ever present no matter what our outward experience of life is. And perhaps it wants to spark and ignite into existence when we are down and need it the most. But we have to allow this. We have to open the pipeline, and the wider the better. We are the ones in charge of clearing the way.

I wanted to know if there was something specific I could do to enhance joy’s presence in my life. As soon as I asked the question, the answer appeared…give yourself the gift of illumination…and create a memory list of moments of joy.

I thought…what a phenomenal idea. And what started out as a simple list, expanded into thoughts of a joy journal or a joy scrapbook.

Something inside me caught fire.

One recollection ran into the next and then cascaded, filling page after page. It was as if I had opened a treasure chest of joy. What a sensational feeling.

One of the best parts of this experience is that I can share it with you. I am absolutely convinced that we all have the power to overflow joy into our lives and into the lives of those who surround us. We are connected to each other, both here and beyond and joy is one of our most intimate languages.

I hope you call forth the joy that lives in your heart and let it overflow into your life.

When Kindness Comes From Joy

Have you ever wondered where kindness comes from? Is it innately inside each one of us or does something need to happen before it appears?

It feels to me that we operate with different definitions and ideas about kindness.

I say this because I recently heard someone suggest that ‘we should be kinder than necessary’. While I appreciate the idea that kindness is important, two things about this statement challenge me.

The first is the use of the word ‘should’. Personally, I’ve gone to great lengths to eliminate this word from my vocabulary, because it is a ‘shaming’ word, meant to enforce one person’s opinion on another.

I wonder if you react the same way that I do when ‘should’ is used. I am immediately suspicious of the motivation of the one using it. Why do they think I ‘should’?

The second concern I have about this statement is the word ‘necessary’. I have a difficult time reconciling the use of the words kindness and necessary in the same sentence. The implication being that there is some sort of requirement or obligation involved with kindness. That isn’t how I conceive of kindness.

I went looking for references to kindness and found one that seemed to mesh with my understanding. It suggested that it is any selfless act of caring or compassion and can easily be recognized in both our own or others large and small actions.

I wondered how often kindness flows to me and through me. I paused for a few minutes to see what would come.

If you sat back right now for a moment or two, what do you think would come to you?

Two events jumped to the head of the line for me. In each instance they were infused with joy, not only for the receiver, but also for the giver. And it seemed to me that joy was the real source for the acts of kindness. I recognized a deliberateness to the actions, a meaningful opening to spirit and a flowing from abundance, as if kindness was an endless source.

I’d like to share mine with you in the hopes that you see some of your own and let them wrap you up in a feeling of joy.

The first one happened a few weeks ago while I was at a workshop at Kripalu Retreat Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. After classes were over for the day our group decided to get together in the evening for a kind of impromptu ‘talent show’. One of my friends, whom I’d met six years earlier at the same workshop, stood up and mesmerized the group with her divine performance poetry reading. We sat spellbound. I could not believe the incredible growth in my friend and went over to her; hugged her and told her I was so proud of her. Some might view this as an act of kindness, but she and I knew it was more than that because it came from a deep well of joy we share.

A few days later I received an email from her with an attached video of her reading a poem she wrote just for me. I was touched to my very core and a kindness born of joy was returned to me.

The second event happened a few days ago, while my wife and I were on a day trip together. We stopped at a restaurant my parents loved to visit and sat down at an empty table. Our waitress came over and engaged us in a conversation and asked if she could get us something to drink. When she returned, she inquired if we were ready to order. She took my wife’s order and turned to me. I said I’d like to start with a piece of their coconut cream pie (knowing that they sometimes run out of it). She told me she liked the way I ordered the best first and from there we had an extremely pleasant exchange throughout the meal.

After our meal was over and she came to our table with our bill, I told her that I was awarding her my ‘best waitstaff of the year award’. She absolutely beamed with pleasure and told me I’d made her whole day…maybe her whole week, as she went to help the next customer.

I took the paper ring that encircled my napkin and silverware and made it into a small award certificate for her and gave her a tip that matched our bill total. I handed everything to her, and my wife and I started walking out. She ran after us and called out to me, that she was going to keep the certificate forever and that I’d made her whole year!

There was such joy in her voice, and I knew that my simple act of kindness came from joy and reached out to create more joy.

Each of these things are important to me because they represent a connection to our divine source, where joy and love exist in abundance.

Celebration

I wanted to wish you all a happy anniversary because this post marks the beginning of my third year of offering posts to you to contemplate. So, happy anniversary!

I never believed I would be able to stick with my original commitment of writing two posts per week for this long. It feels like an amazing thing to me and if you’ve been with me for the whole trip or just joined me recently, I want to thank you for journeying with me.

At first, I thought I was writing these posts for YOU, but I’ve come to discover that the truth is I’m writing them for ME. They are a way of speaking what feels like the ‘truth’ to me. Most of them help me see the world and my place in it more clearly. I want that for me, but I also want that for you. I am always aware that, once I’ve placed words on the page, they become your words too, if you want them.

I feel we are connected, and I treasure that you are here with me. I wanted you to know that, to hold that inside for a moment, and know that I care about you and celebrate you.

This day feels different to me from other days.

Do certain days feel different to you, perhaps because something special occurred, something unique in your world? When this happens, do you celebrate, or give gratitude for your blessed fortune?

I don’t always. I let some beautiful events and days slip past me. I am poorer for this and encourage myself to pay better attention, to broaden my awareness and let joy overwhelm me.

When is the last time you let joy overwhelm you, when you actually sat back and allowed love to move freely from the inside of you to the outside of you?

If it’s been a long time, perhaps you’re ready to jump start the process. Maybe today is a great day to celebrate, to make into an anniversary of joy. Do you want to give it a try?

Yes, I mean right now in this moment.

I’m going to ‘assume’ you said, ‘yes’! I’m hoping you said, ‘yes’.

Okay, if you’re ready, let’s begin with this…

Tell me, who do you love? You don’t have to shout it out loud but bring the person or animal to mind and let your love overflow. Really, let it pour out of you and feel the pleasure it creates.

And maybe it’s not a who. Maybe it’s a what or a where. A wonderful gift you love or a place that feels sacred to you. Allow the intensity to build and burst forth. It’s okay to let go of our normal day to day ways and give ourselves this treat.

Perhaps it is a feeling or a thought that creates a special sensation inside of you. If it is, go with that, let it move and grow and explode into wonder.

I have a friend, John, who taught me a lot about the gift of celebration. About seeing the value and worth in all things. After listening carefully to my story, he would find something in it to cherish and celebrate, even and sometimes, especially what I considered the ‘bad stuff’. Many of his observations passed right by me. I didn’t hear what he was really saying, until one day, it dawned on me. He saw the truth that everything in life ‘serves you’ if you put it into the ‘right’ perspective.

He showed me that I could learn to celebrate anything and everything, because it’s all important and valuable.

So, today, I encourage you to give yourself the chance to celebrate anything and everything in your life and see where it takes you.

I hope along the way, joy comes for a visit.

Not Guilty

I suspect there might be numerous claims as to the culture or entity that has the most ‘guilt’ associated with it. Do you have an opinion about this? Perhaps your very own cultural upbringing would be your answer.

When I think about it, guilt is one of the most potent and destructive forces in the world. I have yet to come across anyone who does not know its powerful and invasive affects.

As a curious person I wonder about guilts origin. Where exactly did it come from? Does it serve a purpose in our lives? Do we get to decide, to actually choose whether to participate in feeling guilty or not?

No doubt we each have our own version of our guilt stories.

Lately I’ve been wondering how to give my ‘guilt story’ up, so I decided to go on my own self-guided ‘guilt trip’. Rather than taking the normal journey at someone else’s prompting, I chose to allow whatever feelings of guilt to come show themselves to me.

I asked for only one thing during this process…clarity.

Okay, so off I go.

But wait, where are my answers going to come from? Of course, for me, it will be Lia, that part of god that speaks to me in an ethereal feminine voice of love.

Question 1.

Where did all my guilt come from?

A rather simple answer came my way as Lia spoke, “All guilt comes from the world around you and is absorbed within you the moment you accept it as true for you.”

Well, maybe not so simple after all, because it is really easy to accept what others tell you as your own truth.

Question 2.

What purpose does guilt serve?

And after a moment, Lia’s sweet voice responds saying, “Others desire to have their wishes followed, so they choose to employ guilt to make you decide to accept them and their ways. They work diligently to control your actions and decisions and provide penalties and punishments for any noncompliance on your part.”

Wow, that’s some clarity alright! I needed a follow-up question, so asked, “Lia, I see how utterly correct you are and am wondering how what you’ve told me in the past can be true in this case. You’ve said that ‘all’ things serve me. It feels so awful to suffer the pangs of guilt, so I’m wondering how guilt can serve me?”

I am instantly rewarded with an answer that makes sense to me, because Lia told me this, “You assume that all things must be seen or felt to be ‘positive’ in order to serve you. This is not the case, with guilt or with any other thing. Both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ experiences serve you because they both point the way forward.”

Well, I surely want to move forward, but still wondered about her words.

Of course, she knew this. She always knows and since her love for me is whole and complete, she answered the question that was in my mind before it reached my lips.

She went on by telling me what I needed to know, “Beloved, guilt is your choice. No one can make you feel what you do not choose. No one. So, use what is offered to you to define your direction. The words ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are concepts, but more than that, they are guideposts. They offer you choices and what you end up choosing creates your life experiences. If you desire to live a joy-filled life, release any guilt offered you and know that it is and always will be your choices that defines your life.”

I needed to sit back and reflect for a minute and let her words sink into me. When they did, I understood that by releasing any guilt and embracing that which offers me love and connection, I can choose to live the joy-filled life I desire.

Why Are You Here

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

Here it is.

You are here to experience JOY.

Sure, I know that sounds crazy. You could say to me, look around, don’t you see what’s happening these days? It’s a fractured world. There’s climate change, political upheaval, war and the resulting horrors, drastic economic shifts.

You could ask me; how do you expect me to be happy and feel joyful?

And then you could say to me…are you mad?

Part of me is likely to respond that I can’t find much joy in this life either. I have my own list of prohibitions to joy and a host of prerequisites before I will allow myself to honestly answer that I feel any ongoing sense of joy.

But another part of me refuses to give up on this idea. It asks me to look deeper within myself and reveal a greater truth than what appears on the surface.

Yes, I see the challenges. I feel the pressures to perform, to possess, to acquire, to say out loud that I am happy and fulfilled. I fully sense my limits, physically, emotionally, financially, and mentally. And they weigh a ton. I know they do.

I’ve come to recognize that so much of what I see in the world is driven by fear and it forces me to ask the question over and over again…why am I here?

There is a strong part of me that wants to know my answer, or is it answers?

Each time this happens, some sort of list appears, as if completing it will provide satisfaction, a sense of completeness or elemental clarity for me.

It hasn’t. It doesn’t.

Maybe the same thing happens to you. Maybe you also associate ‘what you do’ with ‘who you are’, so that the more you accomplish, the better you can feel about yourself. Maybe you too seek to answer the question of why you are here with specific goals you set and meet. And perhaps you are just as unsatisfied with this approach as I am.

Perhaps you are ready for a shift in perspective. And maybe it will take something radical to make this happen.

Well, here’s something you may want to consider. Since fear doesn’t work, how about trying love?

The love I’m talking about is expressed through a genuine sense of joy. I’m not speaking about happiness, which can be fleeting and easily overcome by the world. Instead, I’m speaking about a profound inner belief that we are each here to experience and express joy.

What does that mean?

My personal answer is that it will be different for each person because what brings joy to one is not the same as what brings joy to another.

Then how is joy found?

Here’s a shocker. I don’t believe joy can be ‘found’, because this implies it is OUTSIDE of us, hidden somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

What feels like the truth to me is that joy is INSIDE each of us and is revealed when we center on love.  I see that fear is only a messenger and it guides by showing us what does not work, but it cannot tell us why we are here, because only love can do that.

So, what is the radical path I am suggesting?

It will take a little time, but it will be worth it. I promise.

It starts like so many other paths, with breathing in and out slowly, deeply, quietly, allowing your body to relax. It starts by closing your eyes and letting the world fade away, and then opening your heart and saying ‘yes’ to going deeper inside yourself (your self) and asking what brings out the joy in you? What makes you feel the most alive? I suggest the answer to these questions are also the answers to why you are here.

I’ll share some of my joys to get you started…I am here to help others find their own path. I am here to speak my truth (each of my books and these website posts are my attempts to share with you). I am here to connect deeply with family and friends, and to both give and receive love. I am here to get lost in the beauty of the natural world and I am here to live as an extension of the divine for as many days as I walk this earth.

If you give yourself some time, I believe you will reveal the truth about why you are here and how joy creates the spark for all things to happen in your life.

Letting Yourself off the Hook

Have you done something wrong? Maybe someone else thinks that you did, and they’ve placed you on a hook for it.

Perhaps you recognize an error you’ve made and can’t get past it.

What do you do?

Clearly, this may be simple or quite complex and no one answer exists for all situations. You may or may not agree that you belong on the hook. You may not think that the source of controversy is important or any big deal. You may disagree completely and believe you are blameless.

But, even if you are, knowing that others do not share your opinion can create difficulties and challenges for you.

I wonder what inner part of us controls our decisions about accepting and releasing blame. I wonder too when does blame turn into shame?

I know for sure that both blame and shame are extremely heavy loads to carry, especially if you feel you have to carry them for a long period of time. I don’t think any of us are prepared for that.

So, what resources are available to us?

I believe it is true that lots of perceptive, intelligent, and self-aware folks exist in the world. Many have made it a part of their mission to help those facing blame and shame issues. They have wonderful and insightful things to say and provide a host of suggestions about what to do. If you’d like, you can find them through an internet search.

But what if you don’t have access to their work?

Perhaps that’s the time to focus on your inner resources and your divine self, to call upon your immense strength and your accumulated wisdom from your years here on this earth.

I’d like you to consider that there is a sacred part of you that knows all things, but as of yet, has not been called upon for answers.

I confess this approach requires that you acknowledge you are connected to the divine and the source of all wisdom. Just because I believe this to be true isn’t enough. For there to be any divine aid in resolving blame and shame, you would need to make the decision that you are a part of god.

For just a moment, suspend any sense of disbelief and open to the possibility that you have access to greater wisdom. Allow yourself to conceive that you are directly connected to the divine. And that you can ask and receive answers to all of your questions.

Imagine that there is an answer for you, a solution, and a way forward.

Take a moment and sit back, close your eyes, and breathe in and out gently. Ask for help and guidance. Smile to let the love in. Be open to knowing that there is a center line running through you of joy. A joy that accepts you as you are and understands that you say and do things from a place of unknowing. You are present on earth as an unfolding of perfection. Not perfect itself, but an unfolding into perfection. And as you unfold, recognize that blame and shame do not serve you, other than to point the way past themselves so that you may see more clearly. Know that joy is your natural inner path toward all things.

From this relaxed place, release yourself from any hooks you may be encountering and allow your heart to guide you to the answer you seek and to the way forward that lets go of blame and shame and embraces love and joy. Once in the arms of love and joy, life flows easily.

Peace be with you and inside of you.

Open Road

I love the open road.

Getting in my car and heading out with no destination in mind, free to go anywhere. The thrill of endless possibilities stretching out before me (or us, when my wife and I are together in the car).

The sense of exploration always triggers happy feelings in me. And no matter how many times I’ve traveled the same roads, when I’m in a creative carefree space, I see new things.

The world is such an amazing place and I’ve always been fascinated by those who make a career out of discovering all of its joys. One of my all-time favorite TV shows was, On The Road, with Charles Kuralt. He had a passion for exploration and connection, and along with my father, probably inspired my sense of adventure the most.

I recognize that there are always bends in the road, which can add to the fun, because that’s where a lot of surprises sit waiting for me. Yes, I think they are waiting for me, ready to mystify or dazzle me.

But, sometimes someone pulls out of their driveway, headed to the grocery store or the doctor’s office or somewhere else, with no intention of driving anywhere near the speed limit. My wife and I have a saying we apply to them. ‘They have nowhere to go and all day to get there and no idea how to.’

Of course, this is unfair. They may have some idea, it’s just not obvious to us.

It is one of the drawbacks of beautiful country roads, there are almost no places to pass slow drivers or extra wide farm equipment or huge semis that chose the rural route over the superhighway. So, I have to wait until they make it to their destination or turn off somewhere.

It’s a call to patience for me. I know this is the truth.

Isn’t it funny how the experiences we need most, come up so often in our lives? It is as if I am universally connected to the pokey country driver and he or she knows exactly when I am coming, even if I don’t. He or she knows when to get up, get dressed, eat, pull on their coat, start up their car and back out into the road right in front of me. The precision of it boggles my mind, after all I didn’t even know which roads I’d be taking.

Do you think I’m imagining all of this, that this scenario couldn’t possibly play out as I’ve described it? That it is pure coincidence?

I wonder sometimes.

So, what keeps bringing me back to the open road?

I think it is the sense of freedom and surprise. The slice of priceless beauty looking off to one side of the road and seeing a vast stretch of green grass, bordered by huge guardian trees, with mountain peaks in the far distance, beckoning me to come to them.

When I am at my clearest, I can see into the story of my life.

Everything that appears real to me and that I take for granted, shifts right before my eyes. The open road becomes a vivid metaphor to me for the awakened life I hope to lead. It is filled with beauty and promise and grand opportunities, if I believe they are there. And if I am patient, and look around instead of straight ahead, I can see and reach for them and draw joy into my life.

So, I try to remind myself, that the open road leads in every direction and promises me adventure no matter what.

Next time you’re out on the road, maybe we can spot each other and wave. I’ll be looking for you.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Fun

What are you aiming for this year?

Are you unsure or do you have some thoughts about it already?

Here’s a suggestion you might not have considered. How about including fun in your life? I mean an ‘on purpose’ kind of fun, rather than hoping fun arrives when you need it.

If you’re game, grab a pencil or pen or even better, a crayon. The color doesn’t matter, whatever is handy will do. Oh, and a piece of paper, notebook, journal, or as my dad always used to do, reach for an old envelope.

Now, this is very important. This is an exercise of speed. You may find it works best if you write down exactly what comes to your mind immediately. The things that are sitting inside you and close to the surface are probably the ones you need the most.

You can always dive deeper once you’ve captured the quick and easy stuff.

Ok, here goes. Write down everything that comes to you that sounds like fun. Remember, it doesn’t have to be practical, reasonable or affordable. Stop now and just write.

I’m going to assume you wrote some things. I hope so.

Are you pleased with your list? If not, you can have a do-over whenever you want and as many times as you want.

Here’s another idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to see what other people wrote down on their lists? To me, this offers several opportunities for joy. One, you may want to borrow a couple of items from their list. Two, you may want to get together with them and do some of the items that appeal to both of you. Three, if you expand this to more folks, you may be able to do some fun things in a group.

As with all ventures, it is up to you to decide.

Just in case you’re interested, I’m going to share some of my list with you and maybe plant a few seeds:

Zoom with our Game Group friends, paint some rocks and put them around town, do art projects with my grandchildren, go for a drive with Maureen, put together some Legos, create a Zentangle heart and get it made into stickers, read a good book, make another tie-dye shirt, play cards, watch some shows we like, listen to music, email and text some friends to catch up, have conversations with Lia, and dream about when the weather is warm enough to be in water outdoors (any water really; a brook, stream, pond, lake, ocean, pool, even a puddle will do).

Earlier in my life I thought that intellectual aims were the most important things and that fun just filled in the gaps. But life can become serious and when it does, fun can become lost in the mad shuffle and get squeezed out.

That’s when my alter-ego has to appear. Inside me, there is a perennial four-year-old just waiting to be in charge. His job is to say, ‘enough work, it’s play time’. This is easiest to pull off when the grandchildren are around, but I’m getting to be pretty good at when I’m solo.

I hope you get good at it too.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Joyful

Do you know the TV and magazine ads that promise to help you deal with physical issues you might be experiencing? No matter what problem you have, there’s a drug or treatment that offers you help in managing your symptoms or condition. I’m very glad that this type of assistance exists and it’s wonderful to know that when you need support, it’s available to you.

The last time I saw one of these ads I wondered, is there some kind of pill or treatment for ‘conditional happiness’?

You may be wondering what this is.

Here are some of the symptoms. Do you create certain criteria that must be met BEFORE you can be happy? A list of items to check off, otherwise you think happiness can’t be experienced. Do you find yourself feeling happy and then wonder how long it can possibly last? And then, sure enough, it falls away. Do you wonder how it is even conceivable to be happy, given the state of the world? You want to be happy, but you feel so much stands in your way.

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

What if we shifted our perspective? What if we all were designed to be happy? Suppose your core nature contained everything you need to be happy, and that buried deep within you, there is a place of perfect peace. A place you can draw from any time you need or want to.

While I’m thinking about this, I’m considering my choice of words. Maybe ‘happiness’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps, ‘contentment’ would be better. No, contentment feels limited, sort of like settling for something.

How about ‘joyful’? Yes, I like that word. I like opening it up to see that it means, filled with joy. What an awesome concept. I want to be filled with joy.

So, let me start over.

What if we all were full of joy by design? What if we came here to this earth with the capacity to feel joy no matter what we encountered. What if we believed that joy was our very nature. I love the way that feels.

Is this possible for you to conceive? I hope so.

Imagine what the world would be like if we believed that joy is a fundamental part of us, centered deep within each of us.

How would this change things?

Ahhhh, isn’t that the real question?

One important thought comes to me. If I truly believed that I am filled with joy, and that it is always accessible to me, I could see things from a very different perspective. I could allow joy to flow through me and embrace it with delight.

On seeing a person by the side of the road asking for money because they are homeless, I could open my heart and spirit and let my joy overflow. I could open my window and share from my abundance and watch as my joy spread into another person’s world.

I could look around and see the beautiful turn of colors in the leaves. I could get lost in the aroma of fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven. I could glory in the connection with others who share this world with me, like you. I could reveal joy wherever I looked.

Rather than living according to what I see outside of me, I could live from my center of joy. What a wonderful choice to have.