Posts Tagged ‘joy’

joy(Photo: www.allwlpr.com)

Neither Dorothy nor any one of her three traveling companions went to see the Wizard to ask him for happiness. In fact, I can’t recall happiness ever being a subject of conversation in The Wizard of Oz.

I was lost in thought and thinking about happiness the other day on the first day of about the umpteenth college class I’ve taught. I looked out at a sea, well maybe not a sea, but perhaps a lake of fresh faces looking up at me with a blank stare. The 20 stares spoke volumes even though not a word was said. Despite the fact that I was being paid to “teach” these students, all I could think about was their happiness.

And then it hit me. I think we make too much out of being happy. In truth it’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be. I think we’ve lost our way our way on the YBR looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I think we are a sad people living in a sad world. And because nature abhors a vacuum, we try to fill in the empty spaces of our life by seeking happiness thinking that we’ll find it by living lives at break neck speed, going from one party to another, by living life on the edge, or by thinking we can find happiness in a bottle.

Because so many of us feel trapped in meaningless jobs we quicken our pace and revile in Friday thinking that over the weekend we’ll be happy. But then it’s Monday again.

To make an analogy. Happiness is like the weather. And we all know that the weather is quite unpredictable. It’s bloody hot when we want it to be cool. It’s damn freezing when we want it to be warm. It rains when we want the sun. And it’s sunny when we crave a little rain.

Happiness is about 76 degrees. Happiness is a blue sky. Happiness is being home in a warm house when it’s snowing outside.  Happiness is something that happens to us on the outside. Our happiness fluctuates because the weather fluctuates. It can be sunny one minute and cloudy the next. Just like happiness.

Happiness is too damn hard to sustain. It takes too much energy to try to maintain happiness 24/7.

But joy. That’s a horse of a different color. Joy is like the weather. It’s climate over time. It’s hours of happiness mixed with times of sadness. It’s moments of laughter mixed with a number of tears. It’s saying hello and it’s also saying goodbye.

Joy comes from within. Joy is what sustains us. Happiness can be overshadowed by the fickleness of life, but joy shines forth because it emanates from our very core.

My recommendation?  Relish real moments of happiness, but don’t go chasing after it at the expense of living a full life. Instead of being a happiness seeker, look for joy. And where do you find it?  Remember what Dorothy said when she was asked what she had learned while in Oz?  To borrow from her response: “If you go looking for happiness, you won’t have to look any further than inside your heart because that’s where joy lives.”

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.  – Thich Nhat Hanh


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A funny thing happened recently when I gave a presentation on the yellow brick road to Oz as a meaningful metaphor for the heroic journey…you know, the journey where we venture into a foreign land and are confronted with challenges and obstacles…or the journey common to characters in our favorite fairy tales when they travel through the deep, dark forest.

The two-hour presentation went well and I believe the 18 people in attendance were amused and perhaps even enlightened a bit.

Following my presentation, a woman came up to me. She said, “I enjoyed your talk and I agree we all need to go on a quest, but there was one thing you didn’t talk about.”

I was all ears because I appreciate hearing what I might need to improve my Oz talks. The woman continued, but went in a direction I was not expecting.

“It’s valid to talk about taking the hero’s journey, but no one ever talks about the fact that we had no choice in being born.”

She had a point. But what was I to say.

“I sometimes think that if I had the choice, I would not have chosen to have been born because life can be such a painful journey.”

Again, she had a valid point about life being a painful journey.

She continued to talk but as she did her eyes were filling with tears. “We need to be invited in. We need someone along the way to say, ‘come with me and join me.’ We need someone to look at us and say that we are important. That we matter.”

By this time the tears were rolling down her cheeks. I reached out and hugged her.

“I just don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel like I never belonged.”

I told her “the very fact that you feel this way makes you the special person you are; it shows how much you care.”

(I plan on getting back to this woman to continue our conversation.)

That one woman’s reaction got me to thinking and I realized that most of us spend our lives looking for happiness (sometimes in the wrong places) when what we should be doing is trying to live a life of joy. There is a difference. Happiness is the weather. It changes quickly when our loves go from sunny and warm to cloudy and stormy. Joy is a climate. It is weather over time. Joy makes room for both the sunny and the cloudy. Joy helps us to appreciate every moment without being burdened by having to be constantly “happy.’

I wonder if the woman who came up to me is confused by joy and happiness?

I’ll have to find out. I’ll get back to you when I do.

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