Enjoy the forward I wrote for Nicholas Amato’s newest book: Happiness & Joy: Can A Spiritual Life Have Both?
What is the difference between happiness and joy? Do we need to experience happiness before we can feel joy? How long do happiness and joy last? Happiness seems to have a short- term life. When we stop feeling happy, we pursue the next thing that we hope will once again make us happy.
Look at your life. Remember the times when you were happy. How long did this happiness last? What did it depend upon? Happiness seems to be something we seek on the outside: a raise or promotion at work, an unexpected gift from a friend, a one-week vacation.
Now, think about the times when you were overcome with joy. Your body tingled with an excitement for life, the present moment was enough, it was perfect. You had a love for life that was not external but came from within. What did this inner joy depend upon? Did it have staying power, or did it drift away despite your best efforts to cling to it.
We begin to realize that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is short term. Joy is here, and it is now. Joy does not leave us. It is the ground on which we stand, walk, and move forward on in life. Where does this joy come from?
Joy seems to surface during both relationship and connection. I have discovered that joy is in a friend that I can call when I need to talk, my spouse who I drink French press coffee with while we quietly watch our favorite Netflix show, when I walk and soak in the warm sun, the trees, the blue sky, the sounds of birds, the wave from a neighbor, while I sit at the table with my family, share a meal and we talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.
We read in The Cloud of Unknowing, “For the love of God, then, be careful and do not imprudently stain yourself in this work. Rely more on joyful enthusiasm than on sheer brute force.” This reminds me to not force my centering prayer sit, and feel that I must make something happen. I am to come to my sit with joy and enthusiasm. I sit and open to the presence of the great Joy within.
What does joy gift us with? Joy is powerful. Joy fills us with life, confidence, excitement, love, energy, power! Luke 2:10 tells us, “For Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.” Read this again! This joy is long-term, lasting, eternal! Joy grounds us, is always with us, sustains us, and provides us with life giving power.
Have you been in the presence of someone who radiates joy? They are pleasant to be with. They attract people. People gravitate to them. They carry an inner peace and confidence whether their environment is calm or chaotic. We want what they have. How do we access this same inner joy? Where does it come from? It reminds me when I sat next to a nun at a one-day Welcoming Prayer retreat. She radiated joy. She glowed. I could feel her inner peace, contentment, and confidence. I wanted to sit, bathe, and bask in her presence as long as possible. I wanted what she had!
How do we obtain this joy? John 16:24 tells us, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Is it really that simple? I believe it is that simple! All we need to do is ask, and our joy will be complete. Amato will show us how in this book.
Amato shares that joy is the fruit of a connection and a relationship with the source of all joy. What is the source of all joy? The large Joy: God. Amato reminds us that joy brings forth transformation and healing. He builds on this desire for happiness and uses it as a pathway to “joy that is complete” (John 15:11).
Amato explains that joy is not pursued, it is a fruit of the Christian life (Galations 5:22). Joy is a fruit of contemplative prayer. There are many different contemplative practices. Centering Prayer is my daily mainstay. It works for me. When people ask me, I encourage them to find the contemplative practice that is right for them, and then dig deep in this well. See what happens.
We sit in silence because we love God. We come to our sits with no expectations, yet God graces us with inner joy as we let go of the barriers to this inner joy. What are these barriers? I hear people tell me they include fear, anxiety, loneliness, lack of confidence, worry. The paradox is when we open to God, we receive Joy!
Amato explains, “Joy from a spiritual point of view then, is more than happiness, and happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings, if you will, but joy is a deeper reality subsiding in the heart, the spirit, and the center of who we are.” Joy is the very ground of our being! It is given to us from Being. This book shares how we can open to the joy within, let it out, carry us forward, sustain us.
We can access this inner joy despite the outer chaos and stress. Joy, like contemplative prayer is wordless. We can live from joy when we let go of our words and bask in this wonderful life with which God has graced us. When asked to describe our joy, we often are without words. It just is, and we know it.
We live hectic, fast paced lives and often do not give ourselves the chance to connect with this inner joy that is always available. Amato shares the tools, portals, and practices that if followed will connect us to this inner joy: God. Pick and choose the ones that will work for you.
Each chapter nicely builds from the previous one. I encourage you to read this book slowly. Follow the guidelines and suggestions within each chapter. Come to this book with a beginner’s mind. Let go of what you think you know and open to the presence and actions of the Inner joy that waits to be released. Allow Nicholas to serve as your gentle guide. Let your inner joy come out and play.
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