Readings on Joy

Readings on Joy

“The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” Martin Buber 

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”   Rabindranath Tagore

To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act. The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise. Our astonishment at being loved, our bold willingness to love in return – these wonders promise the possibility of joyfulness, no matter how often and how harshly love seems to be lost. Therefore, despite the world’s sorrows, we give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised. Molly Fumia

Joy is not just about “feeling good.” It is also about perspective. The spiritual life is, in part, about seeing our lives as being invited to the best party in town. Our challenge is to stay awake to that, to continually pull ourselves back from the mindset that our days are simply a series of challenges and responsibilities. It’s all about balance. We are called to look around and see all that must be done.  We are also called to look around and see all that has been given. Soul Matters Minister

Sometimes I think there’s a conception of joy as meaning something like something easy. And to me, joy has nothing to do with ease. And joy has everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die. When I’m thinking about joy, I’m thinking about — that at the same time as something wonderful is happening, some connection is being made in my life, we are also in the process of dying. That is every moment. That is every moment. … I have really been thinking that joy is the moments — for me, the moments when my alienation from people — but not just people, from the whole thing — it goes away. And it shrinks. If it was a visual thing, everything becomes luminous. Ross Gay

Stay close to those who sing, tell stories, and enjoy life, and whose eyes sparkle with happiness. Because happiness is contagious and will always manage to find a solution, whereas logic can find only an explanation for the mistake made.  Paulo Coelho

Joy is an essential spiritual practice growing out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope, and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. Joy is our elated response to feelings of happiness, experiences of pleasure, and awareness of abundance. It is also the deep satisfaction we know when we are able to serve others and be glad for their good fortune. Invite joy into your life by staging celebrations. Host festivities to mark transitions and changes in your life. Toast moments of happiness you notice as you go through your day. Dance — jump for joy — as often as possible. Life is not meant to be endured; it is to be enjoyed. Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat

On this day of your life I believe God wants you to know… that safety is not the thing you should look for in the future. Joy is what you should look for. Security and joy may not come in the same package. They can…but they also cannot. There is no guarantee. If your primary concern is a guarantee of security, you may never experience the truest joys of life. This is not a suggestion that you become reckless, but it is an invitation to at least become daring. Neale Donald Walsh

…there is a misunderstanding about what joy is. Joy is not a response to something in the environment; that is happiness. Joy is not necessarily a feeling of pleasure; it is not the same as feeling good. I have felt profound joy in the midst of depression, sorrow, and illness. I do not have to like the condition I’m in in order to feel joy. In fact, running away from difficult situations that do not immediately bring pleasure or gratification can keep us in a state of disconnection and shallowness that inhibits the experience of joy….

Consider for a moment if you were ill, who you would like to minister to you as a healer: someone who is pessimistic and sorrowful, constantly reminding you of how much you are suffering and holding out little hope for your recovery or someone who is joyous, positive, encouraging, and filled with a vision for your future? …

Joyousness is… a connecting force linking our hearts and minds with the presence of the sacred. Joy is what the sacred is. … I do not look for joy in the events or things of my life; I look for joy in the connection with my soul and in my connection with the world. Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering; it is the presence of God.

For the experience of joy transcends the self and is also an experience of participation in the well-being and lives of others. Paradoxically, joy makes it possible to face the suffering of the world and not be seduced into a dark imagination that says such pain is too big, too daunting, too overwhelming to ever be healed or transformed; but at the same time, accepting the presence of suffering and taking it into my heart in compassionate and empathetic ways — striving to feel in my own being the suffering of others — opens me to joy because it opens me to the reality of connectedness. This is not joy because others are suffering and certainly not using images of suffering as a meditative tool to make me feel joyous (because what I will undoubtedly feel if I use suffering as a tool is not joy but happiness that I am not suffering, which is a disconnecting attitude). It is the joy that is the natural presence of the Beloved that arises because I am not separating myself from others or from the world. David Spangler

Joy is a freedom. It helps a person to find his or her own liberation. The person who is joyous takes responsibility for the time he/she takes up and the space that he/she occupies. You share it! Some of you have it … you share it! That is what joy is! When you continue to give it away you will still have so much more of it. Maya Angelou

Joy is the meeting place of deep intentionality and self forgetting, the bodily alchemy of what lies inside us in communion with what formally seemed outside, but is now neither, but become a living frontier, a voice speaking between us and the world: dance, laughter, affection, skin touching skin, singing in the car, music in the kitchen, the quiet irreplaceable and companionable presence of a daughter: the sheer intoxicating beauty of the world inhabited as an edge between what we previously thought was us and what we thought was other than us. David Whyte

It’s hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to its challenge. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. E.B. White

“Finding joy is the hardest of all spiritual tasks. If the only way to make yourself happy is by doing something silly, do it.” Rebbe Nachman

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Longer Texts

A sweet essay from UU World by Rev. Meg Barnhouse on looking for joy.

From On Being, columnist Omid Safi on suffering and joy.


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