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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

06 July 2014

What Does 'Finding Joy' Mean?

When I think about the phrase, "finding joy," it occurs to me that it's a complicated idea. 'Finding' implies 'searching', and I often think of 'searching' as something I do in the world around me. Then I have to remind myself: searching for joy happens internally.

Martha Beck, sociologist and life coach, writes in her article, "How to Find the Kind of Joy That Lasts", that what we think of as joy is often excitement with an added component that's almost crazed, or at least super intense. Many of us have come to expect that excitement as a definer of joy.

This is where I, as a person who lives with chronic pain, have learned to better understand the search for joy. Like Beck, I have let go of the need for excitement, though for a different reason: when I get excited, I tend to spike a migraine. I've had to learn to allow and express joy without excitement.

Says Beck:
True joy lacks the wild ups and downs of an excitement-based life. It's a peaceful landscape, filled with peaceful thoughts and peaceful emotions. Indeed, it's so peaceful that, to our adrenaline-soaked culture, it looks rather plain. In fact, I like to think of it as the plains of peace.

As I have learned to experience joy without excitement or adrenaline-punched energy, I've found what Beck describes, that true joy is peaceful, internal, and calming rather than exciting. That's not to say there's no place for excitement in the lives of people whose health allows it. Its release of energy and emotion can be positive and even cathartic.

The point is not to conflate excitement with joy. Searching for joy always shot through with excitement is a recipe for addiction.

In recent posts, I've been writing about Buddhism's Eightfold Path. The Path encourages the internal work -- reforming how we think, speak and act -- that sets the stage for joy. This is a search humans have been on since we became conscious beings. All forms of spirituality, religion and therapy and  have their own ways of setting the stage for joy. That will be the topic of my next post.

I welcome comments below through GooglePlus, or at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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