The Pursuit of Joy: Making Sense of Happiness and Suffering

In our quest for joy, we often find ourselves entangled in the complexities of life. We frequently experience moments of unhappiness and suffering, longing for a state of joy and contentment. This conversation needs space to explore the profound distinction between happiness and suffering, delving into the idea that true joy is independent of external circumstances, and that suffering can be transformed into a purposeful journey.

Our human condition, with its deep-rooted memory and intense imagination, can lead us down the path of unnecessary suffering. This is the illusion of suffering. We tend to project our fears and anxieties into the future or dwell on past regrets, causing immense distress. However, it is important to recognize that suffering and happiness are not prerequisites for joy. It is merely a product of our perception and mental state standing in the way of our joy.

Life is a constant interplay between happiness and suffering. While suffering may arise naturally, joy is always within our reach. It is essential to understand that finding this peace is not contingent on external factors. It is a state of being that can be cultivated by acknowledging and embracing the present moment. The challenge lies in consciously choosing how we interact with life despite the circumstances, actively working towards inner peace and contentment. Actively seeking joy.

To comprehend the true nature of joy, we must differentiate it from happiness. Happiness is often dependent on external circumstances, such as achieving goals or acquiring possessions. Whichever it is, we spend a great deal of our resources (time, money, energy, etc.) in an effort to please the expectations we think others hold of us. In this way, we seek approval from our external sources. We think we will be happy when we make others happy even at our own expense. This is the illusion of happiness. 
On the other hand, joy transcends these conditions. It is a birthright, an innate state of being that can be experienced despite life’s ups and downs. By understanding this distinction, we can liberate ourselves from the limitations of external validation and find lasting joy within.

We often fall into the trap of believing that certain achievements or possessions will bring us lasting happiness. We may think, “Once I get that job, then I’ll be happy,” or “If I earn a higher income, I’ll finally find contentment.” Or we may think, “If I lose those last ten pounds, “ or “If I get the diamond ring,” or “If I just suck it up a little longer…” This is the illusion of more. However, this mindset perpetuates suffering as we constantly seek more, expecting external circumstances to provide lasting fulfillment. True joy arises when we awaken to the present moment, appreciating what we have and embracing the richness of life as it unfolds.

The Stoic philosopher Seneca wisely noted, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Our minds often create elaborate scenarios of suffering that rarely materialize. By recognizing this tendency, we can alleviate unnecessary suffering and focus on purposeful growth. Embracing practices such as mindfulness, self-reflection, and resilience can help us navigate the challenges of life without succumbing to needless anguish. This results in the opportunity for transformation. 

But transformation doesn’t come in a vacuum. In my experience, I had to get out of my own way in order to embrace this idea – the idea that happiness and suffering are inevitable, it’s what we do about it that makes the difference. In so many instances, it was coaching that allowed me to open my mind, but all of this was enhanced by what I absorb, by what I ponder, and by what I read.

Here are some books that have helped me make sense of these ideas that may help you on your journey: 

Wisdom Simplified: “The Four Agreements”

Author Don Miguel Ruiz offers a powerful framework in his book, “The Four Agreements.” These agreements—Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best—can guide us toward freedom, true joy, and love. By aligning our actions with these principles, we can cultivate healthier relationships, let go of unnecessary suffering, and experience greater joy in our lives.

Embracing Creative Living: “Big Magic”

Author Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to unleash our creativity and pursue what brings us joy. She advises us to let go of needless suffering, embrace curiosity, and face our fears. By adopting an attitude of playfulness and exploration, we can tap into our hidden potentials and live a more fulfilling life. Gilbert reminds us that within each of us lie unique gifts waiting to be discovered.

The Power of Community: “Tribe”

Drawing from history and anthropology, author Sebastian Junger sheds light on the innate human behaviors of loyalty, inter-reliance, and cooperation. During times of suffering and turmoil, these behaviors emerge, fostering a sense of belonging and unity. Recognizing our shared experiences and supporting one another in times of need can help alleviate individual suffering and create a more compassionate and resilient society.

Happiness and suffering are intertwined aspects of the human experience. There’s no escaping it. While they may be inevitable, it is not a prerequisite for happiness. By cultivating mindfulness, choosing joy in the present moment, and embracing purposeful growth, we can transcend suffering and lead a more fulfilling life. Let us remember that joy and fulfillment are not a destination but a journey we can embark upon right now, empowering ourselves to create a life of true joy and contentment.

If you are ready to take this journey, I am ready to meet you there. Request a consult here!

If you aren’t ready yet, please enjoy the bonus segments of my podcast. It is the Live Joy of Tarot where you get 30 minutes of content-rich conversation between myself and Lisa Trancredi of the Feel Better Group. It will get your mind thinking of how you can build perspective and power to find peace.

Thank you and make it a great day!
Much Love, ~M✨

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