How to Turn Suffering into Joy

By Judy Kinney, Lesbian Life Coach

I have said it a zillion times- joy is our natural state of being. Still, I understand that joy can seem illusive or disrespectful at times. Recently, people have asked me,

How can I be happy when there is so much suffering happening in my own life and in the world?

How do I create my own life, be sensitive to those around me, AND help create this world of ours?

Central to this question is our ability to be sovereign beings in relationship with others. I believe that joy may be our conduit to developing this essential skill. Feeling good is a very personal experience, yet I believe it may be impossible to feel joy and feel isolated from life and all its glory.
 

Feel joy and be connected or be connected, and feel joy.

This idea may be easy enough to understand, but now, let’s reconnect to this issue of suffering and distress.

First, let me say that I believe that it is our reaction to the event, not the event itself that creates our suffering. I sometimes struggle with this belief, but it still guides me.

You may have seen this for yourself when two people experience the same event and have completely different reactions. I am seeing this a lot these days. Some people lose their job and are happy, others are miserable. I have read that some people in Japan are experiencing an increased sense of connection, community and power since the recent tsunami. I am sure that you have read of people facing incurable diseases who are happier than they have ever been in their life.

Still, while suffering is a part of our common human experience, it never feels good. You know as well as I do-feeling bad because someone else feels bad only creates more bad feelings. Within each of us there is the desire to connect and be apart of something bigger than our self AND a fundamental desire to feel good.

A lot of people are feeling lost in a chasm between joy and distress these days. Intellectually, joy may sound good, but how do any of us make a discernible difference?

I have developed a practice called iJoin, that helps people turn sorrow into joy. This practice helps heal the sorrow and the distress you are experiencing or perceiving in the world.

iJoin is an adaptation of the Buddhist idea of sympathetic joy. Sympathetic joy, or mudita, is joy in the fundamental goodness of all beings, especially the pleasure that comes from delighting in rather than begrudging others’ well being

There are a couple ways to work with the practice of iJoin. You can use iJoin when you want relief from your own despair, frustration, or hopelessness. You can also use this practice as a form of prayer for others who are suffering.

How it works.

  1. Identify the related joy
  2. Join or align with the joy.

For example, rather than ranting, feeling powerless or ignoring the US entering into yet another war, I find the joy that I am seeking-peace. Rather than praying for others to change, I say this statement of prayer before going to bed or as I come across war-related news.

I join with ALL those who are committed to peace.
This statement aligns my energy with the millions of people who also value peace. Note that I am not engaging in a conversation about the right or wrong way to obtain peace. Instead, I am tapping into and feeding a common human desire for peace. As I express my iJoin statement, I feel connected to MILLIONS of people. I am directing my energy to expand peace in my life and in the world.

When I get nervous about my coaching business, I say,
I join with ALL those who are thriving while courageously creating their life.

And suddenly I feel a surge of confidence. As I think about other people’s suffering, I also imagine their joy.

For my friend who has a lot of job worry and despair, I say,
I join with Sara in her desire to have a vibrant, welcoming, and well-paying job this year.

For those living in Japan, I say,
I join with ALL those who are creating an ever more vibrant Japan.

For those who are afraid of change and take it out on others, I say,
I join with all those who find their powerful heart even in the midst of fear.

iJoin is a form of prayer, but instead of fixing something or feeling hopeless, you tap into the goodness, joy, and power that already exists in your heart and in each of us.

 

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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