The Paradoxes of Seeking Joy

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For the past few years I have focused on seeking joy in my life. And truly understanding what will bring me joy and what will not bring joy still surprises and puzzles me. It’s filled with paradox.

A friend recently told me that seeking joy sounded too hedonistic to her. She wondered whether it wasn’t selfish to do only what brings her joy.

Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting. Joy is the oxygen — ever present. — Danielle LaPorte

The Paradoxes of Seeking Joy

I explained to my friend that sometimes following joy was hard. Seeking joy is the opposite of hedonistic because it always seeks to go deeper than surface pleasures and comforts, to a place of soul. Cultivating joy almost always involves moving outside my comfort zone.

My trip to Ely late last winter (I spent March – May living and photographing in the north woods) was challenging in many ways. I had to push through many fears and much physical pain and discomfort while I was there. Despite the difficulty (and maybe even because of the difficulty) it brought me joy.

The capacity to expand into bothness — the awareness of your joy in all circumstances — is so much of what it means to evolve. — Danielle LaPorte

Joy comes from within the soul

It’s part of the why of you, what makes you uniquely you.

It can and does exist in times of deepest travail just as beauty exists in the depths of devastation.

Cultivating joy in your life is not about following what makes you feel good. It’s about listening to the deepest longings of your soul and following them.

Whatever makes you feel alive, whatever calls you, even if it doesn’t “make sense”, whatever challenges you—these things contain the seeds of joy.

Joy often lives in paradox

Joy is not what you think it might be. In fact, often it is the exact opposite of what I initially think. But then thinking is part of the problem. Joy comes from the heart and soul, not the head.

Here are some guideposts that I have found helpful in seeking joy:

  • I have never found joy in activities rooted in “shoulds.”
  • Joy comes to me in spontaneous giving, sharing, loving connection, and gratitude.
  • It doesn’t appear in duty.
  • Any time that my actions are rooted in ego or showing off, joy is not there.
  • If I’m obsessed with outcome instead of enjoying the process joy is not there.
  • Joy lives in service that comes from following the heart.

The journey of seeking joy in my life teaches me about who I am. The deeper I go in creating art through photography (which is one of my chief sources of joy) the more I come face to face with me, warts and all, the more I discover that my artistic journey is my soul’s journey.

Joy is the primary signpost on the winding path of the soul’s journey.

Check out these blog posts to read more about seeking joy: Cultivate Joy, Purpose and Joy, Choosing Joy Part 1, Choosing Joy Part 2, and Following Joy.

May you walk in beauty (and joy).

Meeting at MN Historical Society to donate 2 Makers’ Hands Series photographs to their collection (Left: Jennifer Huebscher of MN Historical Society, Center: me, Right: Martha Bird, basket maker)


Kids from the neighborhood skating on the pond behind our house




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