Featured photo by Aki Tolentino
What is the difference between happiness and Blissful joy?
What is happiness?
Well first, let me start by explaining what happiness is not. Happiness is not something you achieved or reached. It’s not a goal with a deadline, or a New Year’s resolution. Instead, there are other deeper and connecting ways to discover happiness and blissful joy.
For me, happiness is a moment-to-moment experience. Happiness is having a sense of purpose and wellbeing from where you find satisfaction and fulfillment. Happiness is a conscious decision.
Is Joy not the same as Happiness?
For me Joy is a step above. I always think of joy as the next step after happiness. Like when you graduate from high school, then you go into college, and then grad school and so on.
So then… what is Joy?
I think of Joy more like an internal and inner peace. For me; it is a blissful state of being, or what yogis call Samadhi; which is not a moment-to-moment experience, but rather a more permanent experience. It’s a state of pure awareness.
It is knowing that yes, we are face with challenges every day, but we still keep the ability to observe these challenges with more objectivity without letting these feelings overwhelm us, and take actions not based on fear but in trust.
It is the knowing that every challenge has a solution, and so there is no need to worry. It’s knowing that everything will come in due time. I learned to trust God’s timing because the trust that we are taken care of, guided and loved.
What it feels like is the presence of God through the Holy Spirit surrounding you, protecting you and accompanying you every step of the way. It is letting go of any feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and to practice forgiveness starting with yourself.
Is Joy real?
Joy is a very real feeling. Some people might think that this is too esoteric, and therefore, unattainable. My husband called it “ethereal.” I can attest however that this state of being is a very real experience.
The first time I experienced pure bliss was when I was about seven years old, during my last conversation with my dad (shortly afterwards he died of a heart attack). That conversation is so clear on my heart, the topic was God.
Now thinking back, it seems that blissfulness was my natural state of being as a child. I remember spending so much time in nature, taking care of my plants, gardening and playing with flowers. I lived in pure joy!
Then I grew up and things changed.
Finding my way back home and how I found blissful joy.
Step 1: Stop and smell the flowers: Get back in touch with Mother Nature —Gaia is alive and she wants you to experience her.
As I grew older and started working, I disconnected from my core. I became stressed out and sick, like most people. I sort of forgot to connect with Mother Nature until I suffered a heart attack and a bunch of other challenges and decided that it was time to listen to the signs and went back into my spiritual rituals and meditation practice.
Rituals – The Morning Walk:
One of the things that I started implementing was my morning walk. This is a form of meditation that I practiced as a child. The idea is to walk without an agenda, just enjoying nature and its beauty, stopping when something calls your attention, a flower, a bird or a tree. I carried a notepad.
Taking a picture if you feel like it or stopping to write whatever comes to your mind. There is no rush; just pure enjoyment to capture, smell and see nature for what it is… a great gift from the eternal.
Step 2: Capture the moment — it’s all you have.
And it happened… During one of my morning walks, while walking at the edge of the Hudson River on a clear and sunny summer morning, for a fraction of a second it felt like everything came to a sudden stop.
The air felt dense, the colors were brighter and deeper. The sky was a beautiful and intense blue; the trees were so alive and pure green. I could feel their presence, the energy, and their spirit, as if they were speaking to me as they move their leaves to say hi!
The Hudson River looked so serene and splendid, and the sun was vibrant and bright. The air was pure and felt massive.
The best way to describe this experience would be more like a slow motion movie. I wanted to stay on that moment forever, but I knew it was a gift that would only last for a fraction of a second and so it would be gone at any moment. And it was, the same way it came, the same way it faded away.
I made sure to capture that precious moment and stored it in my “Happy Collections Memories Box.” Torrents of gratitude rushed through me for being blessed with a simple and precious moment.
Step 3: Joy is not the absence of challenges.
Some people think that for them to experience the joy, the bliss, they’ll have to retire to a mountaintop in Tibet. This is so far from the truth! I have experienced joy during some of the most challenging moments in my life.
I firmly believe that bliss or joy is a hug from the infinite mind of GOD, a way for Him to tell us, I’m here with you, and Him asking us to please allow Him into our hearts. And when you say yes, then a pervasive feeling of love, peace and warmth comes…This is joy; this is bliss!
Step 4: Know that you are not alone.
A few years ago, we faced a great challenge with our baby boy when he was diagnosed with cataracts and was blind at nine months old, had surgery and was able to recover his sight. This experience was extremely scary, as my boy was born with great health. He started walking at nine months old and we were pretty excited about that.
However, a few weeks later he went back to crawling, and for some reason was bumping into corners. One night as we sat down around our dinner table, my niece who had come over for dinner, noticed that Chris was looking through the very corner of his eyes and it seemed like he was having a difficult time seeing her.
She pointed that out to me and I looked at him and noticed a white cloud covering his eyes. I was petrified, as I did not know what was going on. I started a frenzied research on the matter and found too much information, ranging from cataracts to a brain tumor on the Internet. Big mistake!
The next morning the doctor checked his eyes and found nothing wrong with his sight. But knowing what we saw the night before I insisted on getting him checked again.
The doctor asked if I wanted to see a specialist and I said yes. We moms have an intuition that will not compare to any doctor alive. When we know something is wrong with our child it is because something is wrong!
We went to the specialist’s office one hour later and yes, with a simple check he was able to determine that Chris was almost blind. Both eyes were covered in cataracts.
His case was very peculiar since babies suffering from this are usually born that way. This was not the case with Chris. His sight was perfect when he was born, and somehow he developed the cataracts. The doctor knew this because Chris’ eyes were used to seeing since they move in the right direction when directed.
Why my baby?
I was devastated, and again the looping question, why? Why my baby? The doctor was able to see that it was just the cataracts and nothing else. Chris would have to go for surgery to remove the cataracts and he would get implants in both eyes.
I felt like the whole world was resting on my shoulders. They told me that one of the best doctors would be operating on Chris and that there was nothing to be fearful of.
I admit I was very afraid, but deep into my soul I knew that I was not alone.
Step 5: God speak to you in many forms, are you listening? Learn to listen to God’s voice.
My sister Silvia, one of the wisest people I’ve ever known, feeling my pain, asked if she could contact her spiritual guide back in the Dominican Republic. This person is an old woman, who never went to school and doesn’t even know how to read or write… what would she tell me that I didn’t know? How would this help me?
So I thought, well maybe I’ll pray with her, and that will help. I had nothing to lose. Also, my father was a healer and a very charismatic spiritual guide so I believed in the power of healing that we all possess. But my relationship with God was not up to date at that point. Nevertheless, I had nothing to lose.
So I called her, and the conversation was not very successful. As I said hello and told her about Chris, and me, she stopped me and asked me to call her back another day. She said that I was not ready to listen to what God had to say. That was interesting, how did she know?
Well the truth was that I was not ready to hear. For many years I had abandoned all my spiritual practices of my early life and closed myself down. I became too academically educated and my intuition had suffered a great deal. However, it was still there. God was just looking for a little hole to come in, hoping that I would invite Him back into my life once more.
So I thought about it, and for the first time in many years I had a conversation with God. I was angry at him. Here I was vulnerable and feeling hopeless, and asking, what happened? What I did wrong? Why my baby boy?
And He talked, oh yes He did, loud and clear: Call back Adelina, and stop being so hardheaded. And so I called her again. She told me that she was glad that I did because she was able to feel my pain and my lack of faith.
Step 6: Invite the presence of God back into your life.
So what happened next was incredible. This old lady, who did not know how to read or write and barely spoke Spanish told me what would happen for the next nine months, and even eight years into our future.
She started by saying: You need to know that God had never forsaken you. It was you who had forsaken him. But He does not hold grudges so He was just waiting for your call.
She went ahead and told me about Chris’ doctor, Dr. Marc Lustig, that we hadn’t even met yet. I was told that he was a great and talented doctor, how sweet he was and how he would make such accurate measurements on Chris’ implants that he would not need a second surgery at a later age.
She described the procedure from beginning to end. She explained how I needed to be strong because they would ask me to put him on the operating bed after anesthesia and how I would feel like he was dying in my arms but he wasn’t.
The feeling was such a release and peace, knowing that Chris would be ok. I knew in my heart that God’s love for me was so great that He gave me a glimpse into the future to let me know that my precious boy would be ok.
And so, I was eternally grateful for this experience. At that moment I felt the joy of being loved, guided and taken care of. The following months were so easy to handle because I knew what to expect every step of the way.
Dr. Lustig was amazing and explained the process in great length, just like Adelina said. We were able to ask questions. He took the time to explain and make sure that we were comfortable. He said that the measurement was almost a guess and that it was possible that Chris would need a second procedure at eight years old. But I wasn’t concerned; somehow I knew the measurement would be perfect.
Step 7: Know that the worst nightmare might turn into the greatest blessings:
The nightmare turned into a blessing. It was the pathway back home, back to my spiritual path that I had abandoned for so long. Sometimes we get disconnected and all sorts of things start happening in our lives.
We may see these things as tragedies, and sometimes they are, and the pain can be deep and unbearable but if we let God in and work through the pain we can always find the answer and the healing that we are looking for.
Happiness it’s not feeling “amazing” all the time or repressing any feelings of sorrow or pain. As human beings we experience a range of emotions, from angry, sad, stress, to hope, happiness, and love, etc. So feeling these emotions is being human.
Thinking that you will never feel angry or sad again is unrealistic. The key is how you handle your emotions. For instance, instead of getting consumed with anger or sadness you can go ahead and ask yourself:
What is really going on here? What is the real meaning behind this situation? How is this feeling serving me now? What can I learn from this situation?
I always say that happiness is a decision and a choice, and I truly believe that. However, there are cases where individuals are dealing with deep-rooted and unresolved emotional struggles, which need to be healed first. Happiness is not to be forced. When happiness is imposed without healing taking place first, it might result in more struggles.
Before we can strive for happiness or even think of attaining joyful bliss, we must heal ourselves and make peace with our past experiences and mistakes, practice forgiveness so that we can truly feel free and be able to let go and let God.
Identity Magazine is all about guiding women to discover their powers of Self-Acceptance, Appreciation, and Personal Achievement. We ask that every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the current article they have written. In that way, and as a team, we hope to encourage and motivate each other, thus inspiring you to Get All A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? Additionally, what are you still working on accepting? Now, we’re talking about resignation, rather stepping into, embraced, and owned.
I accepted that we are trying to do our best with what we have. Coming with that perspective has helped me to stay grounded and stopped any type of judgment about myself and others. Always learning new things, I’m a student at heart, the more I learned the better I can serve others.
2. What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? On the other hand OR in contrast, are there elements of who you are that you’re still working on appreciating?
A few years ago I was in a dark place, I was suffering with deep-rooted emotional and physical pain. I suffered with depression, low self-esteem, obesity, and poor health in general. At age 36 I had a heart failure, my father died of a heart attack when I was seven years old, and that changed my life, so I decided that I didn’t want the same for my kids.
So the fact that I’m still here is a big reason for appreciation. I learned to appreciate and take better care of my body for what allows me to do everyday, dance, eat, play with my kids, hug, speak, smile, etc… and even more important, I learned to appreciate who I am. For many years I convinced myself that there was something terribly wrong with me so I wasted a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, and making myself sick.
After my healing journey I discovered that I’m God’s greatest creation and so you are… Therefore, I live in constant appreciation for life and all it’s miracles, no time to compliant about anything. Life is great regardless of the conditions and the situations.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? Tell us not only what makes YOU most proud but also share the goals and dreams that you still have.
My most rewarding achievement is that I was able to give myself permission to dream once more at age 40 when many women are ready to give up. I’m most proud of my family, my wonderful kids and my loving husband. They are the best gift that anybody can ask for. My most exciting and immediate goal is to expand my practice to help healing the planet one mom at the time, because when we healed the moms, we are able to heal the kids and the community at large.
So, I’m committed to help my client to find hope, more joy and happiness in their lives. I’m also part of a beautiful but challenging cause: To eradicate human trafficking (specially kids) around the globe so that every kid have an opportunity to thrive. We have a Walk on May 20th “Lacing Up for Freedom” We invite anybody who wants to be part of a community to bring about real change to join us.
4. Of course, we all have imperfections, or so we think. In truth, we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? Likewise, what imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I love that phrase “I’m perfectly imperfect” I love myself for who I’m but I have many imperfections. So we can have a field day with this questions. So let’s see the stories behind it: I get lost easily, my sense of direction is really bad, I really need my phone and I’m so grateful for the invention of the GPS. I don’t take life too serious anymore and I don’t watch the news for the last six years, except for the Women March to Washington, that was something worth watching.
In addition, I can be very silly, like childlike silly sometimes, make voices and faces, and so on…. for some people it’s pretty funny, for others, it is childlike, but since I’m not concerned about what people think then it’s OK. Sometimes I lose the sense of time easily if I’m having a great conversation, learning something new or writing. So I have to be very careful with my time if I want to be productive, so time management is not my greatest skill, I’m getting better, however. I’m just happy!
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to appreciate and express all the positive traits that make you…well…YOU! In fact, sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (We assure you!) Therefore, Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my God/Source who is always guiding, loving and protecting me. And the love for my body because is one of the greatest creation. The obvious, I love my family, my kids, my husband, my mom, my sisters, my friends. My mentors and guides who are inspiring me everyday and I love my life because it is a miracle. We are walking miracles. Lastly, I love the gifts that I’m being given because it allows me to help others to realize how wonderful life is.
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