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Presently, Joy: Finding Happiness in Mindfulness

The problem is that religious nuts around the world have exported everything that is beautiful about a human being to the other world. If you talk of love, they speak of divine love. If you talk of bliss, they speak of divine bliss. If you talk of peace, they speak of divine peace. We have forgotten that these are human qualities. A human being is fully capable of joy, of love, of peace. Why do you want to export these to heaven?

There is much talk of God and heaven mainly because human beings have not realized the immensity of being human. It is obvious that the very source of life is throbbing within you in some way. The source of your life is also the source of every other life and the source of all creation. This dimension of intelligence or consciousness exists in every one of us. The deliverance of every human being lies in finding access to this deathless dimension.

To be joyful and peaceful within yourself every moment of your life, to be able to perceive life beyond its physical limitations – these are not superhuman qualities. These are human possibilities.

Yoga is not about being superhuman; it is about realizing that being human is super.

– Sadhguru, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (2016)


There is a lot of talk right now about joy and happiness in the yoga community. Spiritual teachers and yogis across the spectrum are publishing their thoughts on the best ways to free from the things that weigh down the spirit. Actually, a lot has been published in the last ten years about the state of happiness in general. It seems like there is a push towards sincerity and away from the pessimism of the last century. Digital media also allows anyone to publish their ideas online (this blog is case in point) and so if you are looking for direction, it can seem like an overwhelming flood of courses to happiness. But in the midst of the morass of advice, actions can get lost.

I’ve been meaning to write a little entry on the concept of joy, but also did not want to just add to the clutter. Since I am in my own search for joy, I thought I would write a little about that, rather than a few paragraphs of instruction.

Joy and happiness are found in one’s own search, not in following the leader. Eat, Pray, Love and Wild have their place. I could read thousands upon thousands of pages in inspirational books, but… joy is complicated! It is complex. One person’s journey to joy is drastically different from someone else’s.
I used to believe that line about “happiness is a daily decision,” until I faced postpartum depression. My ideas about happiness and joy were completely obliterated. I tried to make the decision to be happy each and every one of those days, but by four o’clock in the afternoon, with my mind feeling like it was under water, joy seemed elusive.

What I felt was intense love. I also felt intense sadness and intense anger – so much that it was easier to make the choice to feel numb. For me, PPD revealed itself in a force that was too much to bear.

Now that I am out of depression I am trying to take the time to reflect back on the experience, even if I combat feelings of guilt over lost time. That comes with the healing process. One thing I learned, though, is that there was actually joy and happiness in the darkness. I also have a new relationship with both concepts.

Happiness is not a decision one makes, but it is in fact, an action one takes. It lies in being present. When I think about the past or the future, all that comes with it is regret, anticipation, or worry. Even a positive anticipation for a future source of happiness creates the feeling of impatience.

Mindfulness is usually the word used along with “being present.” Looking back on the depression months, my most joyful moments were when I held my son before bed, or enjoyed bath time with him, sat for a quiet dinner at home with my husband, or found twinklings of contemplation in yoga. I remember these moments distinctly, actually. They are like a thread of pearls stringing my months together.

So I suppose in a way, happiness is a decision you make every day, but only if that decision leads to action. Simply choosing to be happy makes you contend with the fierce strength of human emotion. Trying to will yourself to be happy simply will not work! Choosing happiness over anxiety, anger, and insecurity must, must, must come with action. That action is simply: mindfulness.

Like Sadhguru writes in his recent book, humans are fully capable of experiencing bliss and joy here on earth, but we get so overwhelmed with emotion that we feel it is impossible. Our strength lies in the fact that we can look at the moments in front of us for what they are: opportunities for joy. Or not. Perhaps your moment is not joyful, but it will pass. I think the main thing that I am currently learning is that while emotions are legitimate, they do not necessarily reflect full reality. The only way to break through this barrier is through mindfulness, which brings peace.

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