Pleasure vs. Joy

Jim:    Greetings, and welcome to another episode, another journey into mindfulness.  This is Jim Ellermeyer.  I’m a behavior health therapist, and you have reached Fishing Without Bait, where we attempt to find an on-ramp from your everyday life into a mindfulness-type of existence – one where we participate in our lives, and one where we actually are there, when we’re aware and we can experience the exquisite joy of being.  And, as always, I’m joined by my friend and my co-host, Mr. Mike.

Mike:    How are you doing today, Jim?

Jim:    I’m doing just grand.  Today, Mike, I was thinking about asking you some questions.

Mike:    Uh-oh.  It’s quiz time!

Jim:    Yes, it certainly is.  Mike, tell me, when you think about pleasure and you think about joy, what is the difference?  Are they the same, or are they different?

Mike:    I think pleasure comes out of activity, or a more tactile response, in my head.  Joy is just – I feel like joy is just an uncontrolled emotion, like you when you can’t stop laughing – or just glee.  Every time I see a certain puppy video come across my Facebook, a cute puppy video, I just can’t help but be gleeful over that vision, that presentation in front of me.

Jim:    So, let me talk to you.  Let me tell you about one of my heroes, my favorite philosopher, a Trappist Monk/Zen Master by the name of Thomas Merton.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, perhaps you may want to Google him.  One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Do not look for rest in any pleasure because you were not created for pleasure, you were created for joy.”  And, if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy, you have not begun to live.  And, this is one of our primary purposes in our mindfulness journey – is to have people experience the joy, have their life lived in color, make their world colorful and meaningful.  And, experience every moment.  Again, as we repeat again, once we find the exquisite joy of being, the exquisiteness of each moment will never, ever be born again, ever.  So, tell me know, is there any change in your thoughts about pleasure and joy?

Mike:    People seem to get pleasure from doing things, obtaining things, reacting to things – you know, scratch that last part.  I think this seems like where we get in trouble with substances being the pleasure.

Jim:    Absolutely.

Mike:    And, vices seem to fit in that category.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, pleasure is usually comp something that you obtain by a method – like, through money.  Or, taking drugs, alcohol, sex.  We’re constantly trying to have people – the media, manipulate individuals to tell them what will bring them pleasure.  And, if they don’t obtain a certain, particular brand, or a style then they’ll be unhappy and they won’t experience pleasure until then.  Happiness, Mike, is fleeting.  If someone’s pleasurable activity is, let’s say, drinking alcohol.  To continue to have that pleasurable experience, what does one have to do?

Mike:    Continue drinking alcohol.

Jim:    Yes.

Mike:    This is the kind of thing where I try to wrap my head around – I’m not a bar-goer.  I never really liked the scene.  And, I would always have co-workers say, “Oh, I’ve got to go to the bar.  I can’t wait to get to Friday so I can go to the bar,” and have, you know, do all this stuff, and spend so much money.  Again, it’s not chasing a high, but chasing that experience, right?

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, we continue to try to experience.  But, there are many times that I deal with, let’s say particular people in substance addiction – drug addiction, that quite often I’ll ask them when the last time it was fun, and most of them tell me they cannot remember.  So, the idea is that it’s an outward emotion.  When you have pleasure, you have an outward emotion.  You have a feeling.  However, joy is more of an inward-type of feeling.  It’s inward peace.  It’s contentment.  It’s that glow.  You know you’re alive.  I’ve told you before, let’s say, if you would give me a diamond ring.  That would certainly give me some pleasure.  Or if you gave me a new technological doo-dad.  I would get some pleasure from it initially.  And, perhaps I’ve mentioned to you before, that the first time my granddaughter walked beside me and reached up and held my hand and walked with me.  Is there anything?  Where’s the store at where you can get that, Mike?

Mike:    Right.  So, you’re looking for more experiential things that you feel inside.

Jim:    That type of joy is sustainable.  That type of joy I can always access.  I can always access that memory.  I can experience that joy and hold it in my heart, and hold it in my life.  So, how do we experience joy?  We experience it through gratitude.  We experience joy through caring with others.  Unconditional love, Mike.  When we love and care for someone so much, and we expect nothing else in return.  So, normally when we deal with individuals, we expect something in return, do we not?  That gives us pleasure.  Tell me, what are some of the ways that people give themselves pleasure.

Mike:    Going to a play.  Getting out, walking along the river, in a park.  Videogames.  Pinball machines.  

Jim:    Generally, pleasure is passing.  It’s temporary.  And, people constantly pursue the pleasure, do they not?

Mike:    Right.  

Jim:    People constantly are – they’re never satisfied.  So, there’s a friend of mine.  He’s a good friend of mine.  I’ve spoken to him many times, and he’s an individual by the name of Krishna Pendyala.  He has written a book called Beyond the Pig and the Ape realizing success and true happiness.  So, when we look at pig, it’s pursuing instant gratification.  And, for many people, instant gratification equals pleasure, does it not?  And, also what we do – the ape is avoiding painful experiences.  So, for those of you out there who are unfamiliar with Krishna’s work I would suggest that you perhaps pick up this book and read it, and it will really give you a distinction between how we search for instant gratification believing that it is going to make us happy and joyful, and avoiding painful experiences.  If we avoid painful experiences, there will be no joy in our life.  Mike, if you never had pain, would you have any idea what joy was like?

Mike:    No.  You wouldn’t have a comparison point for any of that stuff.  It would just be mundane.  The whole idea of our lives is that we do feel both sides of the coin, and have those comparative experiences.  Depending on the pain that you’ve had in your life, your threshold of joy may be far different than another person.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, even people that are quadriplegics –paralyzed, can be truly in a constant state of bliss.  They can have a great deal of joy.  When we learn to be mindful.  When we learn to be aware.  When we learn to embrace.  When we learn to dance with the pain.  That’s what we learn to do.  Quite often, Mike, does more stuff equal more happiness.

Mike:    Nope.

Jim:    However, in our society, what are we taught?

Mike:    You need a big house so you can put more of your stuff.  

Jim:    Right.

Mike:     We have places that we can pay to store our stuff.  And, they seem to be cropping up everywhere.  There seems to be more of them cropping up more than there are pharmacies and CVS’s.

Jim:    Certainly.  When we accumulate more stuff – and it seems like people out there try to keep score with how much they have, do they not?  Even though – how often have you moved, Mike.

Mike:    Thankfully not for a long time.  I’ve moved significantly to three (3) different places.  

Jim:    Did you ever realize how much stuff you had when you moved?

Mike:    Yes.  The poor people helping me have said, “Why do you have all this?”  I may have a little bit of packrat tendencies with certain things – some old magazines, comic books, etc.  But, again, I was really kind of born with the mentality – or raised with the mentality of, “Oh, that’ll be worth something some day.”  So, I never throw anything away I thought may have been significant.

Jim:    So, there’s a story in the Talmud, which of course is the Jewish dogma – the Jewish Bible as you’d say it.  Which in – for the Christian world it would be the Old Testament.  And, relates once a great sage encountered Elijah, who was a prophet, and asked, “Is there anyone who is assured his place in the world to come?”  And, Elijah answered negatively.  He said, “No.  There’s no one.”  In the interim, two (2) brothers entered the marketplace, and Elijah pointed to them and said, “They merit the world to come.”  And, the rabbi walked over to them and asked, “May I ask what do you do?”  They answered, “We are joyful people, and we make those who are sad happy.  If we hear about an argument, we make peace using humor between those crawling.”  So, what does it mean to be joyous and happy?  Being joyous – being joyous means to have gratitude, and having joy and having gratitude means that it goes forward to others.  Have you met people – have you ever met people who were just extremely joyful?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, Mike, the bottom line here is that pleasure is temporary.  Pleasure needs to be constantly infused.  We need to constantly pursue pleasure – where, as I mentioned to you earlier, I can – right now – imagine that little girl’s hand in mine, and me looking down at her.  Never forget it.  Never.  It’s a joyful experience.  And, my hope is – in the next podcast we’re going to be doing some more, we’re going to pursue this matter just a little bit further.  We’re going to talk about how to achieve joy.  What are the type of things?  How we can use mindfulness skills of being present and aware, and participating in your life.  And, actually opening your eyes to things that are around you, and find out what is joyful there.  In our next podcast, we’re going to reverse the lenses in our glasses, and not see the negative.  Not see the temporary.  Not see the transitory.  We’re going to find out.  We’re going to go to the permanent.  We’re going to go to the sustainable.  We’re going to go to joy.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  

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