Picture this: You spend the whole day craving for pizza. You’re working and all you think about is the pizza that you want to have. And then the time comes when you go back home, order the pizza, and it’s finally there in front of you.
You have that first bite, there’s an explosion of flavors in your mouth. But then from the second bite onwards, there is a shift. There are so many notifications on your phone, and you’re talking with somebody else, maybe watching something on Netflix. And even though you still have the pizza there and you’re eating it, you’re no longer tasting it. It could actually be any other food because your attention is no longer on the pizza and your taste buds.
What happened there? Didn’t you want the pizza so badly? And yet, all it took was one minute to forget about it once you had it. What is happening now that you cannot fully rejoice in it?
This example evokes a deep question, which is that ordering the pizza, was it about pursuing joy? Or was it about dealing with discomfort?
Wait, what? I just wanted pizza!
Well, here is the point of the question. Was the ordering of the pizza, going after it, chasing that craving, was it about fulfilling joy, a deep desire? Or was it about coping with discomfort?
Wanting something that you did not have, the craving in itself, caused you discomfort that created a reaction to cope with it. That’s because it hurts to want things we don’t have.
Let’s unpack this because this is a critical pattern to break to live in joy.
The Pain of Not Having What We Want
Let’s face it, we humans are terrible at dealing with discomfort, we don’t like it. The thing is, wanting something that we don’t have creates a great amount of discomfort in us. The moment that we realize we have a craving, we are quick to respond to it.
We react, in order to neutralize the discomfort. We run away from it, we make a strategic plan or a dream vision, or… we go chase it right there. Now, what does that have to do with joy? Everything. Because your energy goes where your attention goes. And if your attention is going to what is uncomfortable to cope with it, that’s what you get:
Discomfort and neutralization of discomfort, but never joy.
This is a huge insight, a huge key to turn within ourselves: the understanding that we are constantly having cravings and that these cravings are not based on joy or deep longings of our hearts and souls.
The result is that we are constantly thinking, acting, and putting energy into dealing with discomfort. This means that if our attention is going there so is our energy – leaving no time and energy to dedicate to joy.
That’s because our automatic reaction is to neutralize any kind of unease, to find relief, to not feel unease. That’s what we’re focused on.
See yourself with a long to-do list and go check the boxes as fast as you can to deal with the discomfort of having too many things to do. Or see a browser tab with way too much text and just close it. See someone having a nicer thing than yours and wish you to have the same, to not feel left out.
This is all so automatic, so reactive that we don’t even realize what we’re doing.
Living a Bland Life
Here’s the thing, when we react to discomfort, we experience relief. But that’s all we experience, for that is all protecting ourselves and feeling safe can do to us. Give it five minutes and we are back to where we were.
This is how life becomes bland because all we’re doing is neutralizing situations and not expanding joy.
Another consequence of this is that we become so disconnected from our joy. The result: we don’t even know what joy is and how to access it within ourselves anymore. Which brings us to the question of…
What Is Joy?
Joy is a state of Being. Joy is within you.
What this implies is that joy is not an emotional reaction. It is not something that depends on something else. It is not like “this happens, I’m joyful, this other thing happens. I’m no longer joyful.” No. These are emotional reactions, whereas we’re talking about something that comes from within you – a state of Being.
Joy doesn’t depend on anything. Outside, there might be the world’s biggest thunderstorm, but you are here with yourself. Centered in yourself, not caught up, not reactive to the outside.
In a world that is constantly thinking about success, dealing with discomfort, and being completely distracted, the pursuit of joy and fulfillment can seem so alien and far away.
And more than that, we get so disconnected that we don’t even know what joy is anymore. The result of that is that our life is good, but it’s also quite plain and bland.
The Key to Living in Joy
The key to joy is to stop living on autopilot, stop being so reactive of “this thing happens, I feel like this, this other thing happens, I feel like that”.
Joy requires mostly for you to come back to yourself.
Through the lens of spiritual growth, let’s empower you to awaken your connection to yourself, to strengthen this connection to your joy and your fulfillment for a more enriching existence.
There are two keys here that are super important to make this shift.
The first key is to stop focusing so much time and energy on discomfort. This requires you to create awareness of discomfort itself. We will explore this more in our practice at the end of this post.
Key number two is to stop being so reactive. Stop reacting so much to the events of life. Life will always keep happening, there is no changing that. What we can change is how we act or rather how we react.
This is how we come back to ourselves, go within, and find our joy: by stopping putting so much energy outside of us reacting to different events of life.
A Practice to Crystallize Yourl Shift
The next time you feel uncomfortable, maybe you notice a craving, that you’re looking for this quick satisfaction or to get out of a slightly unpleasant situation, I invite you to not do anything. To stop.
This is a practice of refraining. Hear me out.
Maybe you want chocolate cake, or maybe somebody just shared with you something that made you jealous, that made you want the same thing, just to not feel down. It doesn’t matter what it is. The invitation is for you to recognize something is up, stop and breathe.
Close your eyes if you can, take a deep breath, and stay there. Feel.
This means not only not going after something to satisfy the craving, but also not going to something else to distract yourself.
It is about staying right there in this gap, in this uncomfortable situation. Just stay there and breathe, feel the discomfort, and soften into it.
Start relaxing, breathing, and relaxing.
You will notice that it doesn’t take long for it to dissolve and go, to be released – if you dare to stay. So dare to stay there and feel it.
You will notice the discomfort is not that much of a monster, it was just a protective mechanism you had that you are now rewriting. This in itself will make you stronger to deal with the different discomforts of life.
Realize that these discomforts of life don’t mean anything, that you’re much more powerful and stronger than these small cravings are.
So again, don’t go and cope with the craving, but also don’t go and distract yourself and do something else. The power of this practice is to have the resiliency to stay, feel, and relax because that is what releases the craving. This builds the muscle of staying with yourself no matter what, to not giving in to the outside.
You can even bring some awareness to your body as you breathe, so you relax and let it go.
Stay in the Gap
I invite you to stay in the gap of not knowing what to do, and slowly soften to see that it’s not that bad at all and that you can totally get used to it as a trivial thing.
The more you can do this practice, the better you will be at not reacting to things, in not being bothered by things that actually don’t matter. And with that, you gain more self-mastery, the ability to discern and stay with yourself. The ability to make better choices for yourself, cultivating what is best for you.
Refrain. Discomfort is not an enemy, it is a big part of life, and in a way, it’s a distraction that is taking your attention out of what really matters.
Recognizing that our constant reaction to unease is limiting our ability to live in joy is vital. It is this ability to see what is happening that gives you the power to choose.
Choose better, choose from within yourself for what is best for you.
Instead of seeking for quick fixes, we learn that we can go within ourselves and cultivate our joy, despite any issues and worries from the outside world.
It begins with our ability to stay in that gap and go within. When you are no longer so focused on coping with discomfort, your attention can focus on joy, on what matters to you. You can more easily allow what wants to come through you to come into reality so you can create the life you want. Based on joy, and not based on fear.
Embrace what resides within you and live in joy.
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