I was in the middle of a dish washing chore when Jorge knocked on my door for a surprise visit. We exchanged pleasantries, then he urged me to finish what I was doing before he arrived. That’s when he noticed the plastic bottle of “Joy” dishwashing detergent on the kitchen countertop. Jorge laughed that he had never been able to find joy in the act of washing dishes.
I smiled as I asked if he was absolutely sure that he hasn’t done so. I wondered aloud whether or not he had never found great delight in the act of performing a mundane chore. With a quick glance at my kitchen shrine and a look back at Jorge, I asked, “Really?”
Jorge admitted that he has sometimes felt a surge of satisfaction after he completes the chore and puts the dishes away in his cupboard.
I suggested that he try dishwashing meditation. It brings household chores to a whole new level. We had a good laugh about that. Then I told Jorge that there really is such a meditation. It’s easy to do, too. When you wash dishes, just wash dishes. Don’t listen to music and wash dishes. Don’t think distracting thoughts and wash dishes. Don’t complain about doing the chore. Just wash dishes. It’s an amazing meditation. That’s how you can really add Joy to the kitchen sink. “For what other reason do you think I have a shrine located above the sink?”
It was time for coffee and conversation.
“It’s a short, intense feeling of happiness that washes over you.” He said it is an orgasmic state of mind that can only arrive spontaneously. “Joy is like happiness, because chasing after it is a good way to lose sight of it.”
I offered that, “Joy is what happens when you’re making love to the Universe. It’s being fully engaged in my actions, moment to moment, without the goal of seeking happiness.”
Sometimes we mistake the feelings of thrill or elation for joy. We might encounter the sight of the full Moon rising in the East and enjoy the experience so much that we feel a tingle up our spines. While this is a positive experience, this isn’t always true joy.
In the same vein, joy is not gratification. You might feel ecstatic after you purchase something expensive, like a new vehicle or being given something precious, like jewelry. In as much as we get an emotional buzz from such things, that excitement soon turns blase’ because it is superficial. Saying this is not to condemn gratification, I mean only to put it in the proper perspective as a normal part of life.
Jorge and I whittled away the popular definition of joy to try to find the real essence of the state of mind. At the same time, we knew that we couldn’t pursue it without losing it. As in many of our discussions, we had to dance around the dictionary definition to find out what joy really might mean.
The moment you consciously define your state of mind as joy, the joy is diminished. It’s not in the acquisition of more and more things, money, experiences, or power. Joy is more than mere sensation. Thrills from attainment can be enjoyable, but they are only petty feelings. The sensations leave us only greedy for more. These feelings are mental addictions. It is like wanting to keep all the sunshine of a happy day all to oneself. Maybe more accurately, we try to use these sensations as a type of ointment to soothe the suffering found in life. Joy is not this superficial.
Maybe we seek joy in belief. However belief is a mental concept. Beliefs must be fed and maintained. Beliefs often require defense. Authority demands that we must establish belief in some sort of institution or some high ideal. It is possible for a belief to bring us a type of ecstasy that seems joyful. For most people, belief is sufficient. However, beliefs have no real stability. A belief finds conflict with beliefs of other people. A belief ultimately leans toward rigidity and conflict.
To discover joy, we must explore the territory of self-knowledge. This is not a self-conscious exploration. I might think we will find joy at the center of who I am. That doesn’t happen, because then, I’m trying to define a belief as to what is at my center. It is better for me to be aware of where I am, right now, in the territory of self-knowledge. We can get
close to joy if we are aware of what the territory looks and sounds like.
When we live life without grasping life, we can live and let live. When we allow others to live life in their own territories of self-knowledge as they discover the landscape on their own, we can get closer to our own joy.
Jorge mentioned that, oftentimes, joy grows from sorrow. The mind can process difficulty into wisdom. It is then possible that joy is realized after the lessons of sorrow are learned. When a person learns to fully experience his difficulty but not cling to it or become identified with it, he opens himself up to the possibility of joy.
I then picked up my Khalil Gibran anthology to see if he had anything to say about joy. I soon located a selection to read to Jorge.
“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and
others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your
board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
We decided to end our discussion on that note. We came to understand that joy is not found in belief or analysis. Joy simply comes to us when we allow ourselves to fully live out our lives.