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The Ecstatic Possibilities of Everyday Life

March 1, 2010

I want to spark a radically new approach to that experience known as joy.  And to start a project with you that will give us all the best – and surest ways – to get there.

 Are you with me so far?

 What if we view joy as a necessity? And, at this time in our history, an imperative? What if joy was an evolutionary urge, essential to our survival? A path that brings immediate awakening from the greed-and-hate-and-scared-and-sad-trance our species is caught in? 

 If this was true, what then would be required of us? Well, to learn to be joyful, of course, employing any and all ways that work!

 And what works? I have much to say about this, and this is also where I will be asking for your input.

 I distinguish between joy and happiness. Joy is radical. Happiness is status quo. The Declaration of Independence speaks of the pursuit of happiness. It’s something that comes and goes, and is dependent upon circumstance. One must pursue happiness because it is by nature elusive and ephemeral! It is safe and tame. It’s a nice day outside, and Verizon had a sale on that new phone I wanted, so now I’m happy.

 By contrast, joy is constant. It’s spirit deep and always there. We just need to get out of the way.

 So happiness is something you pursue. Joy is something you allow.

 And sometimes, joy is an eruption; an awakening from the slumber of negation, from this isn’t it. It can be rude and wild and uncomfortable, and it can undermine like a geological fault the faulty ethic of our time — conformity; materialism; spiritual deadness.

 Joy can shake and even shatter the status quo. So I see The Joy Project as not a mere blog but a conspiracy, mutinous and subversive.

 Joy is revolution. It’s about building heaven from the earth up.

 I’m interested in joy as a practice and as a way of life! 

 And I want you to know I am a learner on this path, and do not consider myself an expert on the topic. If I were an expert in the kind of joy I’m espousing, I’d be joyful every day! And, well, I’m not. I get as sad, depressed and stuck as anyone else. I’m constantly falling down, and off the path. Like the Buddhists say…

                       “Fall down 7 times; get up 8.”

 And when I do get back up, I learn from my mistakes (usually). So I have some things to teach, and much to learn, and I hope you’ll be learning and teaching along with me.  I’ll be sharing with you my struggles and triumphs, and I hope you’ll be sharing yours with me.

 Expect me to be talking about the nuts and bolts of joy in regards to relationships; to everyday life; and to illness and suffering and death. And I’ll be talking about celebration and ecstasy as a fundamental human need, and how a lack of them can result in depression, obsession and addiction.

 Most of all, I’ll be sharing what I’m in the process of learning about how to live joyfully, regardless of circumstance. And how to deal with the various obstacles that emerge like clouds that block the sun —  fear in all its forms; the obstacles that are in your body and in your mind; the inner demons like The Critic; The Perfectionist; The Comparer; The Punisher; The Catastrophizer.

 I’ll be posting three times a week – every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And each post will include a Joygasm: some quote or idea or trance-buster that I hope will help you access your inner joy that day.

 It is time to get out of the way. Come dance with me.

 Welcome to the Joyousphere!

 Today’s Joygasm:

       “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me          an invincible summer.” — Camus

19 Comments leave one →
  1. shelley permalink
    March 2, 2010 2:05 am

    I’m ready to follow you, no matter how bumpy the road gets.

  2. March 2, 2010 6:59 am

    I like it very much so far. It’s fresh and unexpected, and very much you.
    Is there anything else that you are looking for by way of feedback?


  3. Dave permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:32 am

    Special welcome/congratulatory/housewarming Joygasm:

    “The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost

    • March 3, 2010 3:05 am

      Dave you said it! We make our own heaven or hell, moment to moment, but the quality of our thoughts.

  4. Laurie permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:50 pm

    I have long found weather to be a superb metaphor for emotional life –
    and remind myself when clouds gather that it is the sun that is behind the clouds, not the other way around. It is always there–unseen when it rains, unfelt when bitter cold — but a constant giver of life force, in a sky that in its natural state is clear. Storms pass; the sun remains. It stays the course. Dynamically. Rising, setting. Traveling from solstice to equinox. Perhaps joy IS radical – not easy! It is EASY to get caught up in the turmoil when it blows our way – challenging to remain grounded, confident in the knowledge of what is eternal and what is temporary. We can grow stronger OR weaker from these batterings – perhaps that is what we took on when we ate of the apple.

    Sign me up!

    • March 3, 2010 3:10 am

      Laurie I love your post! And how you expand on the weather metaphor adds to its inspiration for me. To be “confident in the knowledge of what is eternal and what is temporary” … and grouded in it, is what will keep you smiling through any storm.

  5. March 2, 2010 2:01 pm

    I have been curious about your Joy project since you first told me you were working on it.

    This morning when I opened up my email and took a look, it really put my day on the right course.

    Thanks So much for making JOY a priority.

    I think far too many people assume life has to be a big downer.


  6. Dean permalink
    March 2, 2010 2:09 pm

    I love the distinction between joy and happiness. I never thought about it that way, but you are right!

  7. March 2, 2010 4:14 pm

    This is a lovely concept and a very interesting new twist. I’m not sure I ever really examined happiness or joy – I just felt them and always figured I would feel them again whenever they temporarily disappeared. Congratulations on a very nice job!

  8. David permalink
    March 2, 2010 5:45 pm

    I relate to the idea that one cannot pursue joy. It is a natural bi-product of a meaningful life. Yet, I can pursue a life full of integrity, values and good actions without feeling joy, so there must be another step required. Perhaps the is some kind of channel that needs to be unblocked.

  9. Elke permalink
    March 3, 2010 7:17 am

    I love the idea and I’m particularly looking forwarding to the joy exchange. Thank you, Charley.

  10. Ed D'Angelo permalink
    March 3, 2010 9:20 pm

    Congratulations on your new blog, Charley. Your e-mail message about your blog happened to arrive in my inbox at the same time as this message from a friend, also about depression. In distinguishing between happiness and joy, we might also question our notion that depression is unequivocally “bad.”

    Compulsive Avoidance ?

    I found the article (below this preface) to be worth printing out and reading.

    Like anything else, the work of Thomson and Andrews, discussed here, presents one point of view, and focuses on just one piece of the puzzle. But I feel that we have moved too far from this perspective, which is an ancient one. And I think that this is a significant piece, one that has been left out of consideration for too long.

    Andrews and Thomson are not necessarily arguing that depression cannot be a debilitating, indeed, even a terminal, malfunction. Rather, they are arguing that, like fever, it may have a biological function — being, like it, an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to deal with real challenges to our survival. However, fevers can swing out of control, especially in the very young and elderly. If persisting for too long, at too high a temperature, they can do harm. So also may the obsessive introspection, sadness and “flatness” that mark prolonged, deep depression.

    The borderline between a normal reaction and one that is termed clinical may not always be clear, and each culture may draw that line differently. Fevers serve to fight infections, but may render us unable to deal with normal daily functioning for a while. At times, some of us may also need to go through prolonged bouts of sadness and rumination, during which the mind retreats to try and solve real problems that it has difficulties resolving. In the process, we may be led to question basic assumptions, while losing interest in usual pleasures and interactions — and even ceasing normally necessary functions.

    Just as we may be too quick to medicate away necessary fevers, so also, we may be too prone to view necessary depressive episodes as pathologies to be treated by medications or other means.

    Our increasing pace of life and work, and the perhaps compulsive “positivity” needed to maintain this pace, creates an atmosphere in which the real problems remain neglected and festering, and any attempt to consider them, or draw attention to them, is shunned as “negativity”. Major economic forces are at work here — but not to the long-term benefit of most of us.

    Our increasing isolation from one another, as far as meaningful, binding, long term relations go, surely also contributes to the manic-depressive qualities we see manifested all around. Are we, perhaps, afraid to face our suppressed demons — the very ones that compel us to try and keep frantically busy with activities and routines so that we don’t have to deal with them?

    Our current civilization seems to be driven in this manner, and the consequences of this — including, incidentally, the prevalence of chronic depression — are there for all, with eyes, to see.

    Babui / Arjun
    2010 February 27, Sat.

    February 28, 2010
    Depression’s Upside

  11. Jessi permalink
    March 4, 2010 1:27 am

    I totally agree that joy is spirit deep and always there. I’ve been reading The Upanishads and last night I read, “So Bhrigu went and practised tapas, spiritual prayer. And then he saw that Brahman is joy: for FROM JOY ALL BEINGS HAVE COME, BY JOY THEY ALL LIVE, AND UNTO JOY THEY ALL RETURN.” …Yes “it’s about building heaven from the earth up.” Because joy has been and is always in us, we do not need to reach the heavens…they are right here on earth! inside of all our hearts. You mention being joyful every day…I feel like joy doesn’t have to be a blissed out state of being, but a beautiful natural state…accepting yourself and everyone else. Beautiful like a tree with dead branches and blossoming flowers… rooted in mother earth.

  12. March 4, 2010 5:59 pm

    Bravo! You’ve put together a joyous prospect. Good luck, Charley — though I admit I wonder whether, in this world and its myriad problems, joy is only available to the oblivious.

    • March 5, 2010 5:32 am

      To my favorite ex-shrink: Joe, I’ve found it to be the opposite. Despair is only available to those oblivious of their core self (…or Self.)

  13. Richard W. permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:03 am

    Now there’s a future for joy in the world! Good job, Charley

  14. March 5, 2010 7:41 pm

    Charley, Charley, Charley, I love your eternal optimism — and I think one of the reasons you’re able to say what you say is because you are an American imbued with the philosophy of Transcendence. I know you don’t believe it, but a core self is no guarantee. I was extremely moved to see the people of Haiti during their crisis able to demonstrate a strong core, but I don’t think joy is what they’re no feeling. Think of the people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Pakistan, and so forth. They show they have a strong core, but joy isn’t an option in their lives. I admire what you’re trying to do — your message — but fortunately you have the “luxury” to pursue it. Too many others just struggle to survive. It isn’t a mere matter of joy on one hand and despair on the other. But it makes me happy to see you at your endeavor. Good luck.

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