Finding Peace and Joy Within
What Do You Want?
We all want to experience joy. Our need to feel joy is so fundamental that the US Declaration of Independence states that the “pursuit of happiness” is an “unalienable right”. If you look at your own life and that of others, you will see that everything we do is intended to help us feel better or avoid feeling worse. Whether we have realized it or not, this is the purpose behind everything we do in life.
Young children have this figured out. Given the choice to play or pick up their toys, they will play. If told to pick up their toys or be denied TV, they will pick up their toys. We were the same, and this doesn’t change as we get older.
This is not to say we are or should be fundamentally selfish, or to deny the importance of love and service. The wise know that in giving, we receive, because there is a fundamental connection between us all.
A common misunderstanding is that we can fulfill our need to feel joy through accomplishments. This is simply not true. Outer accomplishments (health, relationships, responsibility, money) are necessary to fulfill our ambitions, to avoid feeling bad (illness, poverty, loneliness) and can provide pleasure and sense of purpose, but they cannot satisfy our need to feel peace and joy.
When unfilled, this need is often mistaken for a requirement for greater accomplishments. We achieve a goal and feel good about it, but after a while we realize we still aren’t satisfied. Because there are areas in life where we can always strive for more (relationships, money, power, fame, etc.), we can be deluded into thinking that we just haven’t accomplished enough and therefore keep striving for more, or for something else. The wise in many different cultures and traditions have long pointed out this is a mistake.
To see how this works, consider the need to eat. We must eat to stay healthy and it can be pleasurable, but eating won’t fulfill this need. If we eat more than the body requires in an effort to feel joy or to avoid feeling bad, it will make us unhealthy.
But don’t we need a degree of stress or suffering to be motivated? No. We will always need to do things we would rather not, be it our laundry or our taxes, and life will inevitably send problems. However, we can respond to problems and perform unpleasant tasks from an internal sense of peace and joy rather than stress, resentment, anger or fear. In fact, we perform better from an positive internal state, rather than from one of stress and suffering.
Similarly, there is a common misunderstanding that suffering is a virtue. Again, not true. Suffering is a burden we can put down as we connect with the joy that comes from within, while still fulfilling our responsibilities in life.
Life is about feelings, not accomplishments.
Accomplishments are necessary to fulfill our responsibilities and ambitions, and to experience pleasure, but they do not satisfy our need to feel peace and joy.
True joy is an uncaused inner experience that can happen regardless of our external circumstances. Our world doesn’t need to change for us to let go of suffering.
Effort from an internal place of suffering (e.g., stress, resentment, anger, fear, hurt) is not nearly as effective as that undertaken from an inner place of confidence, peace and joy.
Instead of expecting to find peace and joy as a result of accomplishments, first connect to your source of peace and joy, then accomplish even more.
How? See Finding Peace and Joy Within and keep exploring this website!