The Lesser-Known Pleasant Feelings, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:12am


So I’m in yoga class the other day, we’re just getting started. Everyone’s seated on their mats, eyes closed, backs straight enough. “Now,” says the instructor, “Now imagine something that brings you joy. We are going to spend 3 minutes in that space, so that you can carry it through your practice.”

Um, or, “Hells bells!” as my father said back in the day.

Because for the life of me I could not find any memory of joy that I could replicate. Being with my children? They’re elsewhere at the moment. The day I got married? Never to be repeated. Even the surprising moments of bliss in the side yard? I mean, those things don’t happen on command.

I spent most of the class wondering if I needed to be concerned. Not very yogic, that.

On the way home, I called my best friend in New Jersey. She used to live here, moved to Belgium, now she’s in New Jersey. Isn’t life goofy sometimes?

She and I agreed, the whole point of joy is that it doesn’t come on command. It opens inside you like a surprise bird in a meadow, then flies off. You watch it, ecstatic, until it becomes a small point, and then nothing but sky.

Thinking further, right now the world might be just a teeny tiny bit over-focused on joy. What about some perfectly lovely other feelings? For example:

  • Relief: I FINALLY took down the Christmas lights. Middle of February is better than never. Phew.
  • Satisfaction: Aha, the stovetop is clean! It will get dirty again. I don’t care, this moment is perfect.
  • Contentment: It’s so nice here under this comforter. I love having a cold face and warm body.
  • Happiness: It rained! The hydrangea are starting to leaf out. Looks like the olive tree just might be happy in its new home too, I see some new green.
  • Bliss: That was the best massage I’ve ever had.
  • Triumph: She accepted our offer! What a hire!

Heck. I even like me some mild amused irritation. “What the heck lady, how am I supposed to know if you want to cross the street if a) you aren’t standing at a crosswalk b) you don’t look up from your phone when the light changes?”

Have a great weekend, maybe spending some time with what we might call the Family Of Lesser-Known Pleasant Feelings.

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26 Comments

  • Snugness – inside in front of the fire with a glass of wine while the wind howls and rain drizzles outside. :)

    02/20/16
    4:31 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Eleanorjane, That’s a good one. I have seen lately a use of the Norwegian term, “hygge,” as a way to call this out as something worthy of its own word.

  • All of those you mention at once: finally getting an offer accepted on a house after over a year of looking and dang if it isn’t so RIGHT that I can’t even remember the details of the ones that my heart broke over when I lost out on them.

    02/20/16
    4:32 pm
    Lisa said...

    @MarlaD, Congratulations! And yes, the way a wonderful experience can undo the talons of bad ones – there is apparently even neuroscience that confirms this. Again, congratulations!

  • I think I like contentment best of all. Joy can be overwhelming.

    02/20/16
    4:34 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, Interesting. I like it when I’m in it, but its memory can feel so poignant it almost hurts.

  • Satisfaction is perfect! I just cleaned the stovetop myself and felt so happy and accomplished at the little white gleam of it, for just a minute :)

    02/20/16
    4:40 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Danielle, Stovefaction!:)

  • Life is made of Family of The Lesser Known Pleasant Feelings (how nice!) and of couple of Big Joy or Sadness,and yes,the moments happen and then leave (you said it more poetic) . So,I vote for the Family….!
    My imagination for similar situation always was :Laying on the pebble beach ,listening to the sound of the sea…. It may not be much,but it can make me happy- or something similar!
    Dottoressa
    P. S. I have still Christmas lights on one window,off, and from time to time on. It make me happy ,too.

    02/20/16
    4:42 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, The family <3. And that one could get as much pleasure from Christmas lights left up as taken down, hmm, that strikes me. Must consider...maybe my next yoga meditation:).

  • I know what you mean about summoning joy. I do have a very joyful moment that I remember distinctly: receiving an acceptance envelope from the pretty-hard-to-get-into university that I ended up attending. I still remember the moment; my parents were out of town and a friend was staying over at my house. The mail came, and in it was that big envelope! I remember the two of us screaming a little (probably a lot for me).

    I know I have had many others in the areas of love, marriage and children, but for some reason this is the one I remember!

    02/20/16
    4:42 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kate, How wonderful that the memory is still so vivid.

  • I suspect your yoga instructor was really thinking about “pleasure” when he or she said “joy”.
    “Pleasure” sounds too self-indulgent and worldly – while “joy!” is spiritual, and therefore more acceptable (especially amongst yoga instructors).

    02/20/16
    4:44 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Diane, Interesting. Pleasure I could have managed!

  • I remember a perfct day, perfect circumsances and telling myself to remember this day, time, color of sky, feel of the air. I still remember that moment of joy and can revel in it.

    02/20/16
    4:45 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Sandra Sallin, Such a great talent that, to be able to bring it up to the present.

  • I felt immense Joy on my trip to Paris and the south of France last Spring. It was totally blissful, way beyond the lesser feelings on the scale.

    02/20/16
    4:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, I remember how you talked about the trip upon your return. Have you spent any time thinking about why it was so special to you? Or are you content to simply let that be true?

    02/21/16
    7:14 pm
    Bungalow Hostess said...

    @Bungalow Hostess,

    It was a goal for many years…I never actually thought I would do it and never considered going by myself!
    It surprised me on so many levels…
    have not dissected it that much. Maybe in time.

  • Not very yogic actually. I think part of yoga is to be with whatever it is you’re feeling in the present, not to summon up feelings that might feel artificial or forced.

    Yoga, to attract this new widespread following has come far from it’s roots and the true practice.

    02/20/16
    5:28 pm
    Diane said...

    @Kathy, Kathy – Yes! Mindfulness is about observing without judging.
    “Joy” is a judgement – not an observation.

    02/20/16
    5:40 pm
    Lisa said...

    So funny. The rest of what she talked about was not judging. You guys are sharp. Come with me next time?

    02/21/16
    8:09 am
    Jane said...

    @Kathy, @Diane Yes, agreed. In my limited experience with yoga, I was often reminded to observe without judging.

  • I hadn’t even thought about that, but of course, you’re right. And I shake my head at the way my first thought was that I was doing it wrong. Some things run deep, are useful in some ways, and less than useful in others.

  • I agree with Diane…the instructor probably didn’t mean joy. Because joy, while wonderful, doesn’t strike me as conducive to relaxation…it’s too exuberant. Now contentment… satisfaction…those moments might conjure a slow relaxed smile…much better for Yoga than jumping up and down, whooping joy…IMHO. But what do I know? I failed Yoga every time I tried to take a class. I just can’t relax and breath and contemplate in a group. I always start counting the cracks in the ceiling or have a weird desire to giggle.

    02/24/16
    7:39 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, The key, I find, is to take a class hard enough that you have to focus on the movement or fall over;).

  • This is so interesting to me. I loved reading your thoughts and everyone’s comments. I have been asked the same question in yoga class, and I do have very clear moments of “joy” that I remember. But they are not “big” moments but “little” moments (that truly are the big moments in life…). I think to an extend it depends on one’s definition of joy… Maybe others wouldn’t classify my “joy moments” as “joy”…

    “Family Of Lesser-Known Pleasant Feelings” – I love that! We are very lucky if we encounter any of them often!

    02/24/16
    7:41 am
    Lisa said...

    @Andrea@WellnessNotes, I agree, it is really interesting to read the comments and see how people’s emotional landscape differs, as does their emotional language.

  • I am reminded of William Blake’s ” but he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise “. I’m not sure if that is a sort of backwards definition ?
    As to yoga I agree with Kathy , Diane & Jane .

    02/24/16
    7:42 am
    Lisa said...

    @Rukshana Afia, I love William Blake, have since I was a kid, and that quote describes the way I feel about it, pretty much exactly.

  • The GRAND DOGS bouncing in the house when I did not hear the SON pull up!

    02/24/16
    7:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @LA CONTESSA, Aw, that’s adorable!

  • Silly Yoga Teacher. How’s that for non-judgement?

    02/24/16
    7:54 am
    Lisa said...

    @Tracey, Hehe. Works for me:).

  • It seems that so many words have been cheapened with the way they are used. Awe is really something but has sadly been awesome-ized. Joy gets tossed around haphazardly, too. Joy is a full-body, in the moment experience. It’s not waiting in the wings to be summoned for a performance. Someone on FB made me laugh recently when they said, “Words, people. They mean things.”

    02/24/16
    7:56 am
    Lisa said...

    @Deirdre, “Joy is a full-body, in the moment experience. It’s not waiting in the wings to be summoned for a performance.” You’ve expressed my experience perfectly. Thank you.

  • Depends I guess on how you define joy. I wrote my own blog post about it in December, and shared my opinion that “Pursuit of joy is a deliberate decision, a choice. It’s knowing, then being watchful for things that bring joy. Joy needs tending.” To me happiness is a more constant condition, and joy is momentary. Good luck finding yours!

    02/24/16
    8:06 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan Wenzlick, Thank you.

  • I still have my ringtone in a Christmas tune because I refuse to change it. If my husband would not balk, I would keep my lights up until 3/1. So I think you’ve done quite well.

    02/24/16
    8:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @Farrah, Ha! That’s great. I can judge the passing of Christmas by the time I stop humming Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

  • well I must be a simple gal. I said to myself that I was feeling joy this afternoon when observing my ChowChow on the back porch letting loose with a full throated exuberant howl. Was that joy or would you call it something else? Relief that we have come this far from when he was out of control biting me? Or the anti-depressants talking? He makes me so happy. Thanks Lisa for your writing, makes me think. And I am fascinated by the varieties of emotional experience!

    02/24/16
    8:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @Caren, Thank you in turn so much for your comment. I think that most of us become simple in those moments when we feel joy, even if we are not so naturally.

  • I really enjoyed this post and all the comments! What you are describing seems to me to be the grown-up way of looking at it. Find the beauty in all of it. There is actually this concept in yoga called the “Rasa’s”. It means tastes or flavors. You wouldn’t want to experience only one in life. Thanks for a great post!

    02/24/16
    8:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy Dodd, This is a very grown up group of people:). Thank you for saying hello.

  • I would be judged. All I can think about is, yikes, 3 minutes is a long time to sit still.

    02/24/16
    8:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, So much is now clear;).

  • I don’t know if it’s contentment, joy, or something else, but I love the moment on a Friday afternoon when the house is clean, laundry done, fridge stocked, and the weekend is here. Maybe we have plans and maybe we don’t. I feel very serene.

    02/24/16
    8:49 am
    Lisa said...

    @AK, I think the term “serenity” might be it – although it’s a serenity you’ve earned by doing the work. xox.

  • The lovely Lesser-Known Feelings are a great family

    02/24/16
    8:49 am
    Lisa said...

    @That’s Not My Age, Now I kind of want to allocate roles. Like, is Enthusiasm the Niece? Contentment the Father?:)

  • Great post… Wait a minute was that a moment of I am not sure but I thought I felt “joy.” Keep writing you are so often spot on…

  • I love both your description of joy, and your family of lesser known feelings. Joy can’t be commonplace for a reason.

    I need to think of a name for satisfaction of the first sip of hot tea. You’d really think we would have come up with a word for that by now.