The Anatomy of Joy

I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.

~Oprah Winfrey

Have you ever given thought to the emotion of joy? Most of us don’t because usually it “just happens” spontaneously, with no effort on our part. Because I “enjoy joy”, I am making a commitment to myself to be the observer of how, when, where, and why it arises in my experience. More joy? Yes, please! This process raises some interesting questions: where does joy really live and how do we know when we are experiencing authentic joy? What is it that opens me to the experience commonly known as joy and is it the same experience for you as it is for me? Is joy really more readily available this time of year, or is it we who are more available to joy? Is the source of our joy internal or external, and how can we have more of it every day of the year?

I invited my Facebook Friends to share their ideas about joy and how and when it shows up in their lives. While their comments were wonderfully diverse, there was also a very common thread running through most of them that spoke to the single most important component of joy, which is a sense of personal connection. A connection to what? They referred to a connection to a universal Presence, some called God (some Nature or Life), and with loved ones as the conduit through which joy flows in and through their lives.

When one is feeling connected to life and engaged in the present moment, joy becomes a natural part of the experience.

Ask a musician what he is feeling when performing just for the “joy of it.” He will say he is feeling connected to something larger than he is and the music is moving through him effortlessly. Ask a new mother what she is feeling as she cradles her newborn baby—a precious gift from beyond this world of flesh and bone. She will say she is feeling the joy of the oneness and miracle of life. Simply put, a connection with life brings joy.

In many spiritual traditions, they consider Joy another name for Infinite Presence expressing (pressing out) through us in those moments when we most feel our unity with life and one another. In this light, we could say that joy is the heartthrob of the Infinite, pulsating in and through each of us in those moments when we feel a sense of connection to what matters, which most often centers on our relationships. Whether it is a relationship we are having with our loved ones, including the dog (or cat), strangers, nature’s creatures, or the planet itself, what matters most, and what brings the most joy, are relationships where there is a feeling of personal connection. Perhaps that’s because, in those moments of feeling connected to the people and things that matter, we are also (knowingly or unknowingly) experiencing the greatest relationship of all, which is our unity with the universe itself. Joy brings with it a sense of wholeness where all senses of separation dissolve.

Where does joy live? Ultimately, joy is an inside job; it has taken up residence in our minds and hearts and is always on call, waiting to be activated and integrated into our lives and the lives of others.

We cannot give others our joy because we cannot give them that which they already have—however, we can be the stimulus that invokes joy to arise from within themselves. Joy is a subtle energy; it is as intangible as the air we breathe and, yet, as palpable as our heartbeat—as difficult to describe as is love and, yet, as easy to feel as is love itself?

May we remember we don’t have to wait for special occasions to be the beneficiaries of authentic joy because there is never a moment when joy is further away than our next breath—lo, our very next thought. All we have to do is turn within and think a thought that connects us with who and what really matters and invite our heart to wrap itself around that image, knowing joy will ascend surely as does the morning sun. May we know the depths of a joy so rich and meaningful that we can’t help but share it with our world this day and every day.

Peace, Dennis


Dennis Merritt Jones
Dennis Merritt Jones
Throughout his lifetime, author, speaker, and mentor, Dr. Dennis Merritt Jones has been on a quest to inspire and lift people to a higher expression of life. His vision is to guide people to their purpose, knowing that when one fully awakens to who they are and why they are on the planet, they share their gift to humankind and create an enriching life for themselves and the world around them. Dennis is the award-winning author of six books—three of which are recipients of a Nautilus Gold or Silver award—and hundreds of articles and blogs. He has written and released the following books: The Art of Abundance - Ten Rules for a Prosperous Life; The Art of Being - 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life; The Art of Uncertainty - How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It; Your ReDefining Moments - Becoming Who You Were Born to Be; Encouraging Words - Proof That Who You Are Matters, and; How to Speak Science of Mind. Dennis believes we each have the capacity and, ultimately, the responsibility to contribute something positive to this world, leaving it a better place than it was when we arrived. Reflected in his writings and presentations, his teachings promote a contemporary life-affirming, spiritually logical, and positive outlook on life. As a keynote speaker, Dennis is equally comfortable addressing an audience seeking spiritual inspiration or those seeking a purely secular motivational message. He uses his understanding of universal principles to draw upon wisdom from both eastern and western philosophies. As a mentor, Dennis works with individuals and non-profits to assist them in clarifying their vision and mission. He believes that there is a deeper consciousness of unity, cooperation, and reverence rising in humankind where the value of all life, regardless of ethnicity, geography, culture, or sexual orientation, is sacred. He believes this consciousness of unity, cooperation, and reverence for life and the planet will be one of the most significant influences upon society as we approach the challenges of 21st-century living.

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