• Atma Central Wisdom

Seeking Your True Joy, Even in Troubled Times -- By Sharon Burch

Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness tends to be the pleasurable feeling we get from having the sense that life is going well. Joy, on the other hand, does not depend on good circumstances.



Joy has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even (sometimes, most especially) in the midst of suffering. This is because joy is what we feel deep in our bones when we feel connected to others and to what is genuinely good, beautiful, and meaningful, and this is possible even when we are in pain.


Nel Noddings, Stanford professor and author of the 2013 book Caring, describes joy as a feeling that “accompanies a realization of our relatedness” ~ the special feeling we get from caring.


Joy is also the feeling that can arise from experiencing harmony between what we are doing and our values, or seeing the significance in an action, a place, a conversation, or even an inanimate object. In her book, The Gravity of Joy, Angela Gorrell identifies multiple kinds of joy that can be expressed, even in today’s troubled times.


Retrospective joy comes in vividly recalling a previous experience of unspeakable joy. We can close our eyes and meditate on the memory, even walk through the details with someone else or in a journal and often experience that joy again.


Redemptive, restorative, resurrective joy is the feeling that follows things that are broken getting repaired; things that we thought were dead coming back to life. This kind of joy can be found in apologizing to someone we have hurt, or the feeling that follows recommitting ourselves to sobriety, a marriage, or a dream we feel called to.


Futuristic joy comes from rejoicing that we will again glimpse meaning, beauty, or goodness, and feel that they are connected to life. This type of joy can be found, for example, through singing in a religious service, gathering at a protest demanding change, or imagining a hope being realized.


Amid a year filled with challenges, pain and suffering, the good news is that we can also still experience joy. There is no imprisoned mind, heartbreaking loss, or deafening silence that joy cannot break through.


As a wise friend of mine sometimes says in the midst of suffering, "Hallelujah, anyway!" _______________________________________

Atma Clinic is a holistic family practice that offers integrative and functional medicine and holistic nursing in Lawrence, KS. www.AtmaClinic.com. Sharon Burch offers holistic mental health and wellness services. First appointment is free.