Finding the joy underneath

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

little girl with hands in the air and a joyful expression on her face

"The gold of our true nature can be hidden for years by clay. But as we willingly release the old clay of our suffering, the gold shines through." ~Jack Kornfield

When we talk about kintsugi, the focus is on the gold that is added as part of the repair (or healing) process. But that is not the only gold that is available to us.

We all have innate gold within us that is a part of our true nature that gets hidden over time under the accumulation of the constraints of our culture, our wounds, our fears, and the daily stresses of life.

As important as it is to work hard on healing what needs to be healed in order to find the gold that's available from the healing process, it's also important to continually be releasing those things that hide the gold of our true nature from ourselves.

In the quote above from a recent post, Jack Kornfield is specifically addressing the joy that is an innate part of our nature and excavating that part of ourselves again.

Our innate joy

Small children know how to do joy well. Everything is still so new and awe inspiring as they navigate this world they find themselves in. It is part of all of our innate natures.

Oh sure, they know how to do temper tantrums and fits of weeping too, but those times come and go like pop-up storms that allow for quick returns to joy, laughter, and delight.

As we get older, the natural tendency toward joy slowly gets covered up. As we learn more about the suffering that is in this world, it becomes harder to find our way back to that joyful delight in our lives.

In fact, by the time most of us become teenagers, we become much better at suffering than joy.

Suffering is easy

Suffering is actually easier than joy. All it takes to suffer is to spin stories in our minds that rehearse past suffering or imagine all the ways that suffering might come our way in the future.

Most of us do this to ourselves day after day without even realizing that we are doing it.

In a world filled with so much pain, it's easy for suffering to begin to feel safer than joy. After all, if we are already suffering, we can't be further disappointed, and we won't have to experience that drop from joy into pain (or so we reason).

But the truth is that the suffering we are creating for ourselves does not keep us safe. It only makes us miserable and covers over the joy inherent in our true natures with the clay of worry and fear and resentment.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Releasing suffering

Pain comes where and when it will. When we stay in the present moment and stay open to feeling the pain that arises in any moment, it will pass through us and move on—just as we see in the storms of weeping in small children.

It is only when we resist that pain—and therefore resist what is—that we set ourselves up for suffering. The pain that we think we are avoiding just expands into ongoing suffering instead of moving through us and dissipating.

When we rehearse old hurts over and over again hoping that somehow this time through it will be different, we move from the pain of the moment into ongoing suffering.

When we surround ourselves with worry and fear about possible future pain, we create suffering for things that may never happen. Even if the future pain is guaranteed to come our way, we extend our suffering by living in that future state now instead of waiting until the pain actually arrives to feel it.

Releasing suffering is always a matter of coming back to the present moment, accepting it as it is (even when it is not what we want it to be), and dealing with whatever is actually present in this moment.

The joy underneath

As we continually bring ourselves back to the present moment, we release the suffering that has built up over our innate joyful nature, and the gold of that joy has space to shine through once again.

This world is often full of pain in the moment. It is also filled with an untold number of delights for our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our senses.

Joy flows in as we open our hearts to these delights with love and attention. With practice in staying open and present in this way, it is possible to stay in that joy even in the midst of experiencing moments of pain.

It takes more work to and practice to learn to live this way than it does to live in suffering because we must choose to stay open, present, and growing over and over and over again when it would be easier to shut down in the face of our pain and the pain of the world.

But a much richer life is available to us when we make the effort to drop the suffering and once again live into the joy that is our true nature.

Questions to ponder

In what ways are you most likely to create suffering in your life? Resisting what is? Rehearsing old hurts? Imagining future pain?

How often does joy break through that suffering? What practices help you re-engage with that joy?

How might you best support yourself in choosing the practices that open you to joy more often than those that create or prolong suffering?

What is one thing you can put into action today to move in that direction?

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