Joy VS Pleasure

I’d have to be crazy to run away from feeling good, right?

Yet I seem to do just that on a daily basis.

Viewing meditation as a chore. Feeling resistant to making new friends. Finding reasons to avoid situations where I feel ‘not in charge’; that is, ‘out of control’.

Desire = memory of pleasure

I’ve tasted joy before. It began in my stomach/abdomen, and it spread outward, emanating out through my face, my fingertips, my toes. And it turned whatever I was doing into a joyful experience. Playing guitar. Taking out the trash. Whatever. My fingers tingled. I felt like laughing. My heart was singing. And it was contagious; everyone around me saw it and became part of it. In these moments of joy, my guitar playing was better than ever. My songwriting skills sparkled. Everything flowed naturally and easily. Effortlessly.

Later, I disconnected from my own joy. But I remembered it. And I wanted more. (Desire.) I remembered how my fingertips had tingled. How I’d felt like laughing. How everything I saw looked great. And in the pursuit of joy, I start chasing pleasure. Pleasure of the senses. Touch and the feeling of sexual gratification. Taste and the flavor of delicious foods/intoxicating drinks. (Wine. Sake. Expensive whiskey.) Smell, and the fragrance of incense. Hearing, and the sounds of tons of cd’s. Sight, and exotic views; tantalizing images.

Fear = memory of pain

If attraction and aversion are two sides of the same coin, then it’s the coin of attachment. So every attraction listed above can be flipped, to include my aversion from the ordinary/mundane. (Fear.) Aversion from the sound of a dumpster lid slamming outside my bedroom window. Aversion from the “boredom” of simple and healthy foods and drinks. Aversion from certain people; certain experiences. Certain death.

So now I had it all backwards. I’d experienced true joy. I’d mistakenly thought that it went away and that I had to chase it down to get more. Mistakenly perceived that it came from OUTSIDE of me… that I could eat it. Drink it. See it. Hear it. Have sex with it. Mistakenly believed that it was SEPARATE from me… that “joy” and “me” were two different things. That I could capture it and put it inside me.

Interesting, that I could shun nurturing the conditions for joy in order to chase pleasure. I’d have to be crazy…

WHO is it that is chasing pleasure? The ego.

WHY? To prop up the idea of its existence. Which is the very basis for the delusion of separateness from Source.

Turning away from attachment

I’d have to be crazy to believe in a separate ‘me’. Yet the society I live in promotes this insanity: designer jeans. Fancy cars. Scented toilet paper. A billion items designed to make me feel good.

Photo by Tim Cosgrove

Chasing this pleasure reinforces the idea that there’s a separate ‘me’. A ‘me’ that identifies with certain fashion. Certain music. Certain religion. Certain laundry detergent. “I’m special, because I wear this shirt. Because my bicycle is green. Because I only eat this kind of bread.”

Yet this very act of chasing some things (and, by definition, dodging others) means walking away from nurturing the conditions for joy. It means diving headlong into the game of attachment (desire and fear).

Embracing joy, in my life, during brief moments of sanity, means turning away from attachment by meditating. Spending time in nature. Noticing those moments of attachment and smiling at them. Nurturing gratitude in all areas of my life. Nurturing honesty. Vulnerability. Forgiveness. Compassion. Love.

In my experience, hiking in the woods with friends and sharing my fears, thoughts, and feelings (or hiking quietly in solitude) generally leads to a joy that is incomparable.

And doesn’t leave me with a hangover the next morning.

What about you, Gentle Reader? How does pleasure vs. joy play out in your life? How do you nurture the conditions for joy through your music? And in what ways might you be chasing pleasure, further removing yourself from experiencing the joy that glows from within?



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2 responses to “Joy VS Pleasure

  1. Daniel

    Thank you for your words on this topic.
    I particularily liked your view on the ego and the part it plays in our pursuit of pleasure.
    As Eckhart Tolle suggests “the ego is carnal it always wants something”
    I see you infering that the ego wants an identity an existance and i believe this to be true.
    You implied also that pleasure is an external/outside us event. I would agree with this also as long as we refered to our minds as an outside event too which i consider it as being .As Mooji says ïf you can watch it then it is not the watcher.
    Im only now cottoning onto the practice of nuturing joy instead of pleasure.Its a slow burn and in the short term cant compete with an orgasm but i can remember moments of joy and yes pleasure does nt hold a candle to it.
    From a science perspective pleasure is just a rush of chemicals(dopamine..etc)that we are hooked on and initially no amount of service or joy inducing acts are going to equal the feeling of a heroin hit (no wonder humanity generally pursues pleasure before joy) but eventually i am hoping the investment tips the scales and i am a joy addict instead of a chocoholic.Joy has no bad side effects pleasure has plenty.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I’d never considered thinking of the mind as an outside event… I’m going to try that out! Makes perfect sense! Wishing you well in your pursuit of joy. You’ve inspired me to get back on track in doing the same.
      All the best to you!

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