No. 15 - On simple joys

One of my favourite experiences ever was when my husband and I attended a lecture by the Dalai Lama. Never had I been in the presence of someone who instantly connected with the thousand or so people in the 'room' (it was a campus basketball arena). He was funny and warm, joked and laughed; his energy was pure joy. As I found myself this week receiving reminders on the importance of dipping into joy, I thought I'd spend a little time down a joyful rabbit hole, and what fun it was. I hope you will find herein something that speaks to you and that your week will be just that little bit more joyful.


It seems so simple to tell the difference - pleasure is external, and joy is internal. But, is delighting in a morning cup of tea pleasure or joy, and which one brings true serenity into one's day? This is a question that likely has a different answer for each of us, but in listening to an interview with Jodi Wellman, I realize that it can be both, and it can be either. We can take pleasure in every aspect of tea, from anticipating the first cup to savouring the flavour of the last drop. Pleasure is when the happiness is derived from the tea as an object. But we can equally use the tea as a tool to dip into joy. When tea is the ritual we use to take us into a place of serenity, we enter a state where we are only ourselves, we are happiness, we are the feelings that bubble up from deep within. That, to me, is joy.


There is a difference between chasing pleasure, which is fleeting - deeply enjoy that square of chocolate, and then it is gone; take pleasure in the sunshine on your face, and a cloud easily sweeps it away - and being in joy. It takes perseverance to rediscover pleasure. And it's okay to work for it, to bask in it for a moment or two, as long as our mindset around it allows us to take pleasure in the awareness that it is temporary. Otherwise, we risk being dragged too far down when its opposite comes. On the other hand, as Eckhart Tolle translates, "Joy is [our] essential nature." It does not take great effort for joy to be present; it only takes acceptance, a willingness to open to the experience. To borrow the imagery of Zadie Smith in her essay "Joy," let us enter into the emotion and disappear for a moment. Taking any small moment to bask in the feeling of a simple joy is like being whisked away to a magical land where the teacup is never empty, and the aroma is always exquisite.


Did you know there is a global project on the go to spread joy around the world? I did not, until I started reading more deeply about the concept of Simple Joys this week. Diving down a joyful rabbit hole, I stumbled over an article from Georgia Public Broadcasting on micro-actions of joy and initial results out of the BIG JOY project, an extensive research collaboration being led by the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. As of November 2023, more than 22,000 "citizen scientists" had participated in the project, and "before and after" data was pointing to an increase in emotional well-being of 26% after just one week. Wow, all based on simple joys: doing something kind, tuning into one's values, dipping into gratitude, dwelling in awe, celebrating another's joy, shifting perspective, and being a force of good. Bonus? All these are accomplishable with a cup of tea in hand. Bring on the big joy, I say.

One more thing...

"When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy." - His Holiness, the 14th Dali Lama

Until next time,
Steep Calm.

No. 15 - On simple joys
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