Reprinted from my monthly column in 110 Mag
Until 2021, I had never chosen a “word of the year.” I read blogs and posts on social media that mentioned selecting an intentional word to be the focal point of the year. I figured, why not? After all, 2020 had thrown us all for a loop, perhaps an inspirational word would propel the new year into … bliss. That was my intentional word for 2021, Bliss.
It felt fitting. After such a tumultuous year, continually inundated by the world of circumstances, I thought returning to bliss, a place of being that Merriam-Webster defines as: supreme happiness, utter joy, the joy of heaven, paradise, would be the perfect focus for whatever the new year should bring.
What did it mean to experience utter joy and supreme happiness, something of paradise, of heaven? Author David Hawkins, Ph.D. had this to say about joy: “As love becomes more and more unconditional, it begins to be experienced as an inner joy. This is not the sudden joy of a pleasurable turn of events; it is a constant accompaniment to all activities. Joy arises from within each moment of existence rather than from any external source. Characteristic of this energy field is the capacity for enormous patience and the persistence of a positive attitude in the face of prolonged adversity. The hallmark of this state is compassion.”
From my lens, love is the path to joy, and joy is the road to bliss. I view joy as a sacred quality, a state of pure delight, yet not the same as happiness. I think there becomes a clear distinction between joy and happiness which, at times, are used interchangeably.
I once came across a well-articulated description between joy and happiness by Iyanla Vanzant. She said, “Joy is an internal process grounded in the ability to trust the wisdom of the divine, and faith in the perfect and perfecting process of life. Happiness is generally a mental and emotional response to temporary external stimulation, in response to a perceived need. Whenever your state of being is dependent on external factors, it is temporary and not joyous. Joy is the ability to stand in peace in the face of any and all physical experiences. Does that mean we will be smiling all the time? Not necessarily. It means that when we’re challenged in life, joy reminds us that there is a strength inside that nothing and no one can take.
Joy is the freedom and ability to make conscious choices in the face of seeming disaster, by accepting and acknowledging that you are a creative being on a divine journey. Happiness does not give you the power to choose, create, or sustain yourself when your back is up against the wall and the wolves are snapping at you … Joy can sustain you for as long as it takes. When you get right down to it, happiness is a sense of feeling full in response to the circumstances and events of life. Joy is a state being fulfilled simply because you are alive. The difference between joy and happiness may seem like a very small thing, but it can make a very big difference in whether you get away from these thoughts or if you are eaten up by them.”
So, how do we travel the road to experience bliss? Start right where we are, uncovering the joy. If you’re accustomed to feeling upset, agitated, annoyed, worried, afraid, or you’re a bully to yourself or hard on others, and that’s your “normal,” in the beginning, feeling joyful, harmonious, and peaceful may feel uncomfortable. It will require practice. When we take, let’s say, 20 seemingly small choices and add up the effects of them, 20 small choices that are not self-loving, not gentle, can be a killjoy.
The 20 gentle, kind choices will add up to a sense of well-being, bursts of utter joy, peace and harmony, it’s the little choices that equate to being joy-filled, leading to bliss.
One gentle choice leads to another. This is how we begin to activate that space which already exists within us, and as we bring joy to the world, we experience bliss.