Deconstructing Joy

Deconstructing Joy

I discovered that joy "(I)sn't something which comes from without, nor is it something that comes from within. It's the natural state of every human being." A friend pointed out that I wasn't the first person to come up with this insight! :) Eckhart Tolle calls this a state of enlightenment, and writes that "In that state, you feel your own presence with such intensity and such joy that all thinking, all emotions, your physical body, as well as the whole external world become relatively insignificant in comparison to it." I wouldn't describe my experience the same way as Tolle, but the characteristics were similar. I felt at peace with myself, and connected with myself in a really deep and natural way. I was joyful over the simplest things, and joyful over nothing. Tolle did a very good job of describing the normal operations of my mind, however: "The compulsive thinker, which means almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous problems and conflict, a world that reflects the ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind." (Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now") Yes, I tend to overthink everything! :) My brain is very good at analyzing and re-analyzing things, and it doesn't like taking a break. I soon discovered that it was also very persistent in finding ways to get my attention back. Small distractions presented themselves, and I found myself laughing at them. Silly things like thinking 'I'd be super happy with Taco John's in my belly' and then mindlessly following through. I laughed at myself doing such dumb things -- but I was on vacation, and I was happy, so I just rolled with it :) Tolle explains this 'internal laugh track' by writing that, "One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means that you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it." But my brain kept trying to get my attention back. Part of me (Stress!) wasn't satisfied that I'd found another partner (Joy!) to spend my time with, and it became more persistent at getting my attention back on super-important things like: - Someone didn't use their turn signals while driving in front of me. (Don't laugh, be outraged!) - While I was watching a performance at a theater, some asshole hit my car and drove away without leaving a note. People suck. (Don't be calm and in the moment, get angry!) - I overdid my training and cut my calories too quickly, and now I need to rest. (Don't be all chill and calm about this, you're completely wiped out! Get worried!) The cumulative weight of these things tend to wear you down over time, and some of them are more distracting than others. When I got back home, the number of distractions rose. I attribute this to the fact that it's very easy to fall back into habit, when presented with a similar environment to that which created the habit(s) in the first place. Still, I was moderately successful at finding my way back to my joyful and peaceful emotional core. I had made a lot of progress on my trip to Colorado! What has kicked me back out of this joyful state on a fairly consistent basis has been lack of sleep. I've always had some difficulty getting to sleep, as my brain is over-active and doesn't likes shutting down at night. So I did not attribute the lack of sleep as being particularly notable, it was just a frustrating variable that I'd work on when I had the time (and the list of self-improvement tasks is pretty long!). I recently realized that my lack of sleep is being promoted by parts of my brain (Stress! and Overanalyzing! and More Stress!) that are being left behind. This sounds silly, but it's something I've encountered numerous times while meditating and attempting to achieve a state of mindfulness. Tolle describes this as the pain-body, which works to distract your consciousness and draw it into communion with itself: "When you start to disidentify and become the watcher, the pain-body will continue to operate for a while and will try to trick you into identifying with it again ... The moment your thinking is aligned with the energy field of the pain-body, you are identified with it and again feeding it with your thoughts ... Sustained conscious attention severs the link between the pain-body and your thought processes and brings about the process of transmutation. It is as if the pain becomes fuel for the flame of your consciousness, which then burns more brightly as a result. This is the esoteric meaning of the ancient art of alchemy: the transmutation of base metal into gold, of suffering into consciousness. The split within is healed, and you become whole again." This quickly treads into 'woo' territory, but there's a certain wisdom here that I recognize. There are parts of my brain that don't want me to be mindful, joyful and conscious in the moment. These parts of my brain are very adept at getting me to identify with them again, and to feed them with my attention. This is also going to sound pretty 'woo', but my theory right now is that my intermittent sleep since returning from Colorado is caused by the parts of my brain that aren't satisfied with being relegated to the sidelines. So that's my next big project -- meditate a lot, stop worrying about sleep, and simply exist in the moment. Then the sleep will take care of itself. I guess the lesson for today is that if intentional neuroplastic change was easy, then it wouldn't be interesting to write about! :) == Tolle, Eckhart (2010-10-06). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library. Written on 2013/07/13

Written by Erik Schimek

Erik is an entrepreneur and self-improvement expert. You can learn more about Meliora Meditation at Infinite Chorus.

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