How I Became a Joy Factory

We work so hard to create the lives we want that sometimes we don’t even notice when those lives have arrived. When I stop and notice that what I want is actually right here, right now, I find myself in a state of joy. 

In my world, joy looks like loud and unapologetic eruptions of laughter, spontaneous public outbreaks of dancing, and the celebration that comes with finding vegan donuts in my neighbourhood. For me, joy comes from knowing that I have done what I need to do to take care of myself so I can live fully. It’s a relaxed state of being, and a quiet internal recognition that everything is just right. 

While joy is my default these days, it was not always so. I diluted my joy production for years and as a result, diluted my life. I was convinced that I was on the planet to feel the suffering so I could change the world. It was somehow my job to feel the misery of the abused and mistreated, the polluted and denigrated — humans, animals and the planet herself.

It started with my career in policing, where I felt the misery of the abused children and women. Next I felt the misery of the animals our culture has labeled “food.” And then, to round things out, I took on the misery of the planet as I recognized her heaving gasp under the weight of our destructive choices.

I thought it was my job to feel all this misery so I could generate the massive state of internal fire required to awaken others. My goal was to have them see the impact of their choices, as I had, so they would choose differently. I took my job very seriously, despite the personal toll it took.

My strategies included being the best police officer I could be — vigilant in my protection of women and children and hyper-aware of creating the perfect conditions for just outcomes in the court process. Next were several years of fiery animal rights activism. Then, on behalf of the planet, I drowned the forests in tears on what felt like apology hikes in an attempt to let Gaia know that I was sorry for the destruction humanity was inflicting upon her.

I was driven, I was in pain, and trying to get others on board changed little.

Setting it down

I don’t even remember how it happened, but one day I woke up and realized that although I was unhappy with the violence, destruction and suffering I saw all around me, I no longer needed to personally take on the job of making the world “out there” a better place. I no longer needed to inhale the misery and work to fix the mess. I saw that my daily choices to live gently, be vegan and walk lightly on the planet were enough. I saw that as the creator of my life, I needed to recognize how incredibly powerful I am, and that looking outside to the actions of others was a form of denying my majesty, my unique power and my sovereignty.

It was a subtle shift, and it was an incredibly freeing moment. It was a moment of letting go of the heaving lifting. I saw that my choices for my life were all I needed to be concerned about, and the other eight billion humans on this planet were not my responsibility. Their choices to continue to eat animals, spew hatred and violence and cut down rainforests were not my fault, and not my job to fix. In fact, the problem was never mine to fix, the world “out there” never mine to repair. I now care more about my own daily decisions than those of other people, and even if they are not “perfect,” they are the best I can do within the confines of the culture.

Our suffering is useless to Gaia, the animals, and to our own lives. As Louise LeBrun says, there is no life in suffering. I believe it’s our joy — our full-throttled living — that invites a new consideration, a new narrative in our own lives and, by extension, the lives of those around us and the world “out there.”

Breaking out of misery prison

Now I know that my only work is to tend to my inner landscape, the world “in here.” Free from my self-created misery prison, I spend my energy these days looking for more joy, creating joy, enjoying joy. Joy instead of suffering. It’s my new choice.

Although joy is my new default, it doesn’t mean it’s my only state. I have moments of deep unravelling — and I’ve learned to recycle them into joy. I choose never to brace against moments of discomfort or pain but instead walk into them, roll around in them, make friends with them. That way, the pain can never have me. 

The way I see it, pain is just a sensation I’m experiencing that tugs on something locked in my body from the past — a wound or trauma that still wants my attention. When I feel that tug, I respect its intelligence and move into it. I explore it, and as it releases, I am freed from the sticky goo of history — leading to even more joy.

The pain is only passing through. It’s almost like pain is a secret ingredient in joy. I like to think of it like a conveyor belt: when I surrender, the pain rolls through and gets converted into joy. 

Being whole in myself and focusing on congruent choices that align with my essence means I turn into a living joy factory. This feels like a much more worthwhile focus than struggle. Nothing to do but be myself, be real and continually expand my internal world. Joy just spews out of this way of being. 

Joy is the contagion that gets spread when I am not even paying attention. Joy spreading like a virus is a much more pleasant way to change the world.


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