Recently as I watched a news bulletin in my office, someone commented on how depressing the world is, that there is very little joy in the air. I have heard many people thinking like this recently. Yes, there are a lot of difficult things happening in the world, but the experience of joy is from within, so what keeps us from it?
I remember reading a story from the Sufi tradition some time ago, about Isa or Jesus, that I feel might give some understanding of the nature of joy. Jesus was walking one day when he came upon a group of people sitting on a wall by the roadside. They looked very miserable, and He asked them what the matter was. They said: “We have become like this through our fear of hell.” A little later on he saw a different group of people looking even more downhearted than the first. When He asked them what was troubling them, they answered: “Our longing for Paradise has made us like this.” He continued His walk and met a third group. They looked like they had endured a lot, but their faces shone with joy. He asked them: “What has made you like this?”, to which they replied: “The Spirit of Truth. We have seen Reality, and this has made us oblivious to lesser goals.”
The first group are afraid of hell, or to put it another way, they live in fear of pain or suffering. The second group have a desire to get to heaven, but they haven’t got there yet, and it causes them suffering. The body mind works like this, trying to get away from pain and trying to move towards pleasure. Fear and desire are the greatest obstacles to the experience of Joy. The third group are free from any chains of attachment. They are not hindered by any obstacles. They live in the present moment, the place of truth, and truth is joy. It does not matter what is happening in the world, if you can stay present to your own truth you will experience joy. Joy is openness in the moment, being open to your own experience without any judgements or prejudices about what should happen, being in a continuous process of curiosity. As Juddi Krishnamurti said: “Only in total freedom does bliss exist. Pleasure, like happiness you can seek and find, in many ways. But they come and go. Bliss, that strange sense of joy has no motive. You cannot possibly seek it. Once it is there, depending on the quality of your mind, it remains timeless, causeless, and a thing that is not measurable by time.”
I always say children are our best teachers, and this is particularly true when it comes to the experience of joy. When a child jumps in a puddle, they don’t consider how deep it might be or how wet they might get, they simply jump into the experience. Watch how a child sings or dances, abandoning themselves to their innermost being. Joy springs out of them, they are the source of joy and it touches our own souls. This abandonment to movement, to the dance of the soul, and to song, has always been the way of the Sufis to connect with Divinity. Similarly, watch a child playing with something he is trying to figure out. They are not looking for happiness or trying to avoid pain. They are absorbed and curious, and that process is loving and feeling joy in trying to figure it out. The joy in their attitude of curiosity is the same as the Spirit of Truth the third group Jesus met spoke about. Learn from them.
I leave you with another quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti: “It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.” Let nothing keep you from your joy.