What do Pain and Pleasure Have to Do With Joy?

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“By contentment, supreme joy is gained.” – The Yoga Sutra II.42, Patanjali

The results are in.

Hundreds of you hopped on the emotional scale. Thankfully I live by the University of Chicago where I have access to friends who can run incredible statistical analysis of the data. Not my top skill. 🙂

The results: this is a very curious group of people who don’t experience much joy.

Are you curious about how you can add more joy?

A happy life or a happy person is considered equivalent to pleasure, a temporary feeling: an amazing meal, a bottle of wine, vacations, rest, sex, chocolate, or any other pleasure that doesn’t last.

We mistake temporary moments of pleasure with the pillar of sustained joy that stays with us, even when our lives are objectively not going all that well.

This distinction was made 2000 years ago and the steps to a life filled with joy was clearly laid out. My scale just says that modern days emotional issues aren’t all that different from emotional issues 2000 years ago. So the wisdom from the ages must be still be applicable today.

Ready to add more joy? Ready to stop chasing moments of pleasure that are fleeting in exchange for a life that has sustained peace, calm – joy?

The first step in experiencing more joy is allow painful moments to pass without feeling overwhelmed and allow pleasurable moments to pass without attempting to hold on to them.

Whether it is an amazing night out with friends or a piece of pie, all pleasurable moments will pass. How could they not – time is always moving us forward.

Letting go of any sadness that pleasure is fleeting is critical, yet we resist the inevitable.

Why are we clinging to pleasure? Mainly because we feel that something is lacking.

When the pie is gone then what? When the vacation is over, then what? When our friends leave after a great night, then what?

We cling to what is by nature fleeting.

Why?

Perhaps because between the moments of pleasure we are faced with ourselves. And in those moments, there is a sense of lack – something is missing, not enough.

Just stop for a moment. Look up from your device and ask yourself, are you really lacking anything? Can you say, “I feel as though my needs, both physical and emotional, are met.”

Yes, you may want more. Who doesn’t? I like new stuff.

But until you can take in a moment without seeking more pleasure, you will always be chasing what is never going to satisfy. Who wants to feel like something is always lacking or not enough.

And, after we consume more and don’t feel like we have enough, we move onto that sense of lack within ourselves. Suddenly, we start to question if we, at our very core, are enough.

No matter how much you consume or spend, you will never be able to “hold” the feeling.

Don’t you want that sense that your life feels complete? That you are complete?

When you stop chasing the pleasure and running from the pain, life takes on a whole new dimension. You have so much more space. You are not desperately attempting to avoid painful moments and you are not desperately seeking more.

Get off the hamster wheel. Stop the cycle where you chase pleasure that cannot be held and stop pushing away the pain that has to run its course and any effort to prematurely remove it only makes it harder.

The ancients have always known the answer and now my quiz shows the same outcome.

When you can see each moment as complete you will feel a deep sense of contentment and with that comes joy.

So go shopping, open that bottle of wine, go to bed early and watch tons of netflix, but know that you are only getting a jolt of pleasure. But take that pleasure. Pleasure is wonderful. Then let it go and know more is to come. We live in abundance. You have more than enough.

And breath deeply into any pain in your life because it will pass. Accept this moment, now as it is with all it’s imperfections – even your personal imperfections – and start to experience contentment with what is.

What is, is always consistent and with that acceptance, you will find supreme joy, as we were told 2000 years ago by Patanjali.

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