In order to experience Joy, you must first begin to fully understand it.
There is a vital difference between happiness and Joy.
Happiness is like a precious bird, fluttering through the open skies…. and Joy is like the sky itself. Sometimes it is wide and blue, and sometimes it is filled with color and light, and sometimes it booms with sound and electricity.
Happiness is something that comes and goes, but Joy is ever-present.
Joy is an experience of the fullness that you ARE. It can be both subtle and peaceful, or so full and overflowing that you think you'll positively burst apart with love. Happiness is contained by life and form, but Joy is the basis of e v e r y t h i n g.
It is what exists before every thought and form of this world. It is ancient, and infinite, and it is what you were born of.
Joy is your natural state.
You don't tap-into Joy, it taps into you. Joy has been moving you, and guiding you, for every minute, of every day, of your entire life.
It likes to play hide and seek with itself, so in those times when you have felt most lost to Joy, it was only hiding in frightening clothes… so that it might better understand itself. So that YOU might better understand YOURSELF.
Happiness is dependent upon things, and circumstances. Happiness is conditional, it has many opposites — like sadness and sorrow.
Joy has no opposite. It depends upon nothing. It is absolutely, positively UNCONDITIONAL.
How could it be otherwise? When it is the basis of everything? When it is ever-present?
You know those moments when you are looking at a loved one, your child, your partner, your dog sleeping soundly at the foot of your bed, a tree in the wind, or a sunset of radiant magnitude… and all the thoughts run out of your head, and you are caught in a still-point moment of utter clarity and knowing, and you are suddenly so flooded with love and AWE and deep wordless appreciation and understanding that you burst into tears because your body just can't process the feeling any other way??
That is when joy has tapped into you. For a moment your gaze has parted the clouds of your thinking mind like a curtain, and behind that curtain Joy was seen…. and truly experienced.
For a moment you allowed Joy to truly experience YOU.
I have come to see that Love and Joy are the same thing. Joy is the experience you have when you are loving without condition.
Your partner, your kids, your work, your home, a tree, a flower, a pile of dirty dishes… the "good" parts of you, the "bad" parts of you, the whole apparent "mess" of the world… Joy loves what IS, because it knows it's not separate from that, it knows it is connected to EVERYTHING. It is the basis of everything. It's fullness is only experienced in that knowing.
You get glimpses of it, and you think it's about something external, but it isn't. It is you, having a full and unfettered experience of YOU.
Of who you really are...of LOVE.
So, Joy is about INCLUSION. Whereas happiness is born of EXCLUSION. You have to keep some parts out in order to maintain happiness. But Joy does not need to be "maintained". You can't kill it. You can never be truly lost to it. You can only cover it up with a tangle of thoughts and mental noise, but it is always there, waiting for it's chance to come through.
The more you include, the more Joy is experienced. Because you are bringing pieces of your very own self, HOME.
Joy is quiet and full and all-encompassing. It leaves nothing out. It holds out it's welcoming arms to everyone. Everyone is safe in it. Everyone is home in it. How else could it be Joy? If it was only kind to some, if it was only a home to some parts, and not others — how could that be Joy?? That is FEAR, that is CONTROL… that is not Joy.
Joy has no gender, no color, no race. Joy has no sexual-orientation. Joy is not skinny, or fat, it is not smart or stupid. Joy is not rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, and it is not success or failure. It is what lies BETWEEN ALL THINGS, in the spaces.
Our human mind can only understand this by accepting that we are BOTH genders, we are ALL colors, we are ALL races, ALL sexual orientations. We are skinny AND fat, we are smart AND stupid. We are rich AND poor, ugly AND beautiful, successes AND failures. Because when we see THIS… it can finally be seen that if we are both things, then that means that ultimately - we are neither. If both opposites are true, than that pretty much cancels out the absolute truth of either one.
This middle-ground, this ultimate-inclusion, this absolute ALLOWING, this not-knowing-of-who-you-really-are — paradoxically leads you right to — who you really are.
This nothingness and everything-ness, all wrapped up in this beautiful and wholly unique expression that is YOU. You in this life… you and how you are in this world, your personality, your quirks, your unique and unrepeatable perspective and experience of this world, and ultimately, of yourself.
Happiness is breakable, it is rather fragile… just like human life. Joy cannot be broken. Just like the human spirit.
It is because of this, that Joy can also be profoundly experienced by the clear realization that we are all impermanent beings. That life is fleeting, and that we never know how long we have here. For when this is fully embraced, it becomes glaringly obvious how precious this life is. We touch into Joy more deeply, and we stop wasting the HERE AND NOW, burning it like fuel for a future, that never comes.
Joy is ALWAYS here and now. It is never "in the future". When you experience it, it will be "now". The future is a story you tell yourself in order to keep yourself running from the present. That is the thinking mind's job.
Joy doesn't think, it just IS.
If happiness is a stream, then Joy is the ocean. All emotions are rivers that run into the sea.
Joy is not an emotion, it is a state of being, as is Love. It is an indescribable ALIVENESS, a perpetual and unshakable state of pure appreciation and Love, and all emotions are just a stream that comes out of it and leads, eventually, right back into it.
Joy is a state of grace. It is infinitely deep and full… there is no end to it's giving. It has no expectations, and that is why you always feel safe in it. Wherever expectations are… fear is close behind.
Joy is you. You are Joy. The more you ALLOW in this world and in yourself, the more you allow Joy IN.
Allowing is the golden key that Joy has made safe in your heart, the more you use it, the more doors open.
And every door leads back to YOU… to Love, to Life, to JOY.
*I wrote this piece originally as a contribution to The Joy Up, a 30 day journey by Hannah Marcotti