What is Joy?

joy1To misquote Persig, who was writing about Quality in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,and what is Joy, Bill?  Need we ask anyone else to tell us?”

In thinking about that I was reminded that long ago when my oldest daughter came home from a Grade 1 or 2 class she had a home-work assignment that was to answer the question “What is happiness?”

And I remember thinking how brilliant the teacher was because all the kids were going to learn that happiness isn’t just one thing, And, as adults, we talk all the time about “Beauty being in the eye of the beholder.”  Not only that, but our answers may well vary with time on the assumption that we are not trying to define any of those words from an intellectual point of view but rather from a feeling one.


So here are some of the answers I wrote in a December 2000 Newsletter:

Joy is receiving a little note from Vicki in Manitoba saying, “I prayed, and I asked the grandmothers for an eagle feather for you, and they gave me this pure white one for you to care for.”

Joy is showing Dorothy, a Reiki teacher, some multi-coloured fabric I had bought in the Cook Islands for which I had been unable to find a shirt-maker and hearing her say “I’ll make it for you.” To this day, it gives me, and others, joy. 

Joy is listening to Nancy ~ a Feldenkrais practioner ~ telling me after a treatment that I am perfect just the way I am and then adding “But you’ll dance better next week.” So how perfect is perfect?

Joy is saying to my first spiritual sister, Leah, “I need to go to Findhorn to rest and heal” and being gently told “You deserve to go.”

I went but the opposite happened!

Joy is realizing that darkness can be a healing force too.

And here are some of the ones I wrote a year later:

Joy is sitting on the floor during a workshop and doing water-colour painting for the first time since my childhood.

Joy is creating a mandala of  The Unreachable Star and seeing that both the design and the colours work.

Joy is having the courage to share my pain over Remembrance Day and having Lisa, my family doctor, phone to gently enquire how I am doing; and then getting another issue resolved too.

Joy is receiving a post card from Shawn in Kenya, en route to Thailand and India, saying “I miss your Newsletter”.

Joy is opening a letter from Jodee when I am feeling klutzy, awkward and not good-looking which ends “keep on being your most preciously beautiful self Bill Ellis.”  She is on a goddess path too and later I shall spend an evening at her and Bill’s place deep in the woods at Sharbot Lake.

Joy is three adult children with whom I am the best of friends.

That will later change for a rather long time but the healing has now taken place

Joy is having a new home for twelve months in one of their vacated condominiums and moving in on a December day that was sunny with no sign of rain or snow.

And if I was to write this back in April 2013, I would say:

Joy is creating, with the help of Janie Snyders and Kaira Ayer, a web-site which I believe is truly a work of art.

Joy is making new friends in a dance community in North Carolina where my son now lives and where I get to watch soccer matches on his big screen.

Joy is spending a day with seventeen others doing holotropic breath-work and finally being able to release a trauma that I have carried since my childhood.

Joy is planning a summer holiday that is going to take me to Kanata, Ontario, where one daughter lives; England, where my sister lives; Scotland, Switzerland and Germany where I have friends and to a week long Jungian Conference on Self and Silence, also in Switzerland which was the catalyst for everything else.

Joy is having John Bjornson as my dentist and my friend.

In November 2014 I added that Joy is discovering  James Baraz & Shoshana Alexander’s book,  Awakening Joy, 10 Steps That Will Put You On The Path T0 Happiness (Bantam Books, New York, 2010) which he has been teaching for years. He is an American Buddhist and one of the Founders of the Spirit Rock community in California, so his approach, as you will see, is very much in line with that psychology:

1.  Wholesome Intention by inclining the mind towards Joy.
2.  Cultivating a mindful practice by being present for your life.
3.  Gratitude: saying “yes” to Life.
4.  Being aware of the difficult stuff in our lives: recognize, allow, investigate and  don’t take anything personally.
5.  Act with integrity and experience the bliss of blamelessness.
6.  Let go of the past because you cannot hold on to anything or anyone in an ever-changing world.
7.  Love yourself and become the best you can be: Not a second-best someone else.
8.  Love others.
9.  Develop compassion and being of service to others.
10.Simply Be. No place to go; nothing to do.

And now, after yet another year has passed, I would add that Joy is experiencing a whole week of warm sunshine before the winter rains return