Is Joy an Impossible Dream? by John Cali

As you know, if you’ve been with us long enough, my spirit guides often talk about finding meaning in life through joy. In fact it’s one of their major “themes.” They often advise us to look for the joy in all our experiences, even the tough ones — especially the tough ones.

Now and then I get angry objections from some of our newsletter and blog readers. They usually go something like this: “How can I possibly find joy or meaning in this experience (death in the family, terminal illness, no home, not enough money, miserable marriage, etc.)?

One of our blog readers commented on a recent post. She was objecting to at least part of what we said in that post, specifically this part:

“When you go on vacation, are you anxious to reach your final destination? We don’t think so, because you started out from home and your final destination is to return home again. The point of the vacation is to enjoy the journey and forget about your destination. If you’re constantly obsessing about going back home again, you miss the joy of the journey.”

Here are the reader’s comments:

“You know, all this stuff about going on vacation seems a tad disingenuous to me.

“Want to tell folks who have no place to live it’s just like taking a vacation — enjoy the trip and never mind the destination? Want to tell folks who have no food to eat it’s just like your last vacation….did you enjoy the change of scenery or worry about the trip home?

“All well and good guys — the unfortunate folks probably have no access to the net anyway to read your secrets to manifestation. But as someone who reads this stuff and has work [sic] a lifetime as a social worker with folks who need real answers that give hope and a fair timeline [sic], all this warm fuzzy ‘do your self love work’ is really hard to swallow.

“Fairly hard to love yourself when kids are crying and you’re desperate and hopeless in my experience. A compassionate shoulder and attempts to help are what’s needed.”

I agree with her — compassion and willingness to help are essential in situations like she describes. But is teaching self-love inconsistent with that? I don’t think so.

Many years ago I did work similar to what our reader does. I know my clients could have used some of that “warm fuzzy…self love work.” Perhaps even more so than other more fortunate folks.

All this reminds me of Austrian medical doctor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. Being Jewish, Dr. Frankl was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Here he talks about how he took care of himself and ultimately survived:

“The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory….'”

What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find joy and meaning in even the most horrid circumstances (as Victor Frankl did)? Or is it an impossible dream? Please comment below.

John Cali’s Spirit Speaks Newsletter

22 Responses

  1. Pete Wigley

    Fantastic post. Some good points you dicuss in there.

  2. Rhonda Hazle-Hackett

    Hi Sarah,

    I guess I do not have any profound words of wisdom for your current problems.

    I know when I’m in a place where my back is against the wall, the only thing I have to hold on to is to believe, sincerely believe, that my guides and spirit friends are with me when I need them and somehow tomorrow will be better.

    That’s all I have I’m afraid.

    Find someone you trust and gather in their vibes and just be kind to yourself.

    Here’s to your happiness and a clear path to it! Cheers, Rhonda

  3. beachdrifter

    Dear Sarah,

    everyone wants to experience joy. But what you need to understand is that you cannot get from severe depression to joy in one fell swoop – it´s too far of a jump. You can, however, move up gradually, stabilizing at better and better feeling emotions over time.

    There is a meditation CD called “Getting into the Vortex – Guided Meditations CD and User Guide” from Jerry and Esther Hicks that I´ve used for almost a year now, that can help you achieve just that. Do it 15-30 minutes per day, and you will find the peace and joy that you´re seeking, more and more in every day. (note to John: just delete my post if it’s not OK to mention this on your blog!)

    What is happening with you is that you have very strong desires that you don´t believe you can achieve, and thus you´re contradicting them with the thoughts you´re thinking. That´s what´s causing emotional pain within you, and alcohol helps diffuse the focus on this contradiction, and thus alleviate the pain somewhat, but as you know, it only brings temporary relief, and has many drawbacks, so it´s not a solution.

    At the basis of all of your desires, no matter what they are about specifically, is the desire to feel good. And as you begin to feel better and better, the craving for alcohol will go away also.

    The CD can help you in two ways: 1) assist you in finding an emotional place of peace and joy that expands over time, and 2) with the help of the affirmations (and accompanying book) that are spoken there, you will shift the beliefs that are currently causing the contradiction (and thus pain) within you.

    The fact that your boyfriend kicked you out could very well turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It´s much easier to find your inner peace on your own, and then, from that stable place, enter a relationship, than finding it in a relationship that is not at its best.

    Be gentle to yourself, you´ll find your way. I have overcome a year-long depression myself, and it has been the catalyst to seek (and find) my spiritual path, and I wouldn´t change anything about my past if I could, because had it not been for those dark times, I couldn´t live the joy that I now experience daily. The tricky thing about this is you´ll only know that after you´ve already made progress – but you will know, that is a given.

    Much love to you,

    • John Cali

      Thank you, Beachdrifter, for posting this. Your words are wise and insightful.

      I have no objection to you mentioning Esther and Jerry. I’m a great fan of theirs and Abraham’s. In fact, I have that CD you’re talking about. As you said, it’s very powerful.

      Thanks again. Have a great weekend!


  4. Chieko

    Dear Sarah,

    I hope you know that the reason why no one except John has written you so far is not because no one cares about you but everyone who has read your comments is truly wishing you to feel better than you do now, and recover eventually (you will anyway). It’s just that it seems any stereotyped advice or cliche won’t have any real meaning to you, at least at this moment.

    I think everyone has, at some point in time, if not in this lifetime then in somewhere in their countless lifetimes, been to where you are. We all know what you are talking about. Sometimes you wonder if there would be any time ever in future when you recover from this painful, negative emotion. You wonder if it’s ever possible that you would become numb (or I should say immune) to whatever “hurtful” event that has happened to you.

    You know, Sarah, we all know that we can’t be any help to you if we come down to where you are and become as much depressed as you are. I think that’s the biggest reason why no one has written you so far. But Sarah, it never means no one cares about you, no one loves you. But in opposite, do you know how many people in the world now, for the last 24 hours or so, are thinking about you? Deeply concerned about you? Praying for you? Loving you? Wishing from the bottom of their heart for your happiness? Seeing you and visualizing you as a recovered, strong, wise, generous, warm-hearted, and authentic person?

    Being alcoholic is quite a healthy step toward feeling good, in my opinion. You are using alcohol as your means to be aligned with who you really are. But the experience is temporary and you go back to where you were before taking the alcohol so the cause for you to take the alcohol in the first place is still there. But Sarah, you know what you are doing. You know exactly what you are doing. You are a wise being who knows exactly where you are and where you are going. Otherwise, how can you call yourself “a recovering alcoholic”? Yes! You are recovering. If you are not wise and have deep wisdom how can you appear on this blog to start with? If you don’t resonate with the energy and the wisdom John and Spirit give, and know what they are talking about, and see the wisdom in what they are saying, how can you be there at all? You are wise. You are brilliant. You were born with the wisdom embedded in you. You are beautiful on all levels. You are great value to me, to everyone who has come across your life in this way or some other way.

    Sarah, you said you want to be heard by the divine energy, and you want to “reach” your guides (or whatever name you give to the divine energy). But as you know, they are right there with you, flowing through you, inside you, blending with you, embracing you, being one with you. You and they are love itself. You love each other. No separation there. You and “they” are connected, intertwined. The same energy. The same divine energy. Remember, you are a goddess yourself? Goddess doesn’t mean she is perfect. She is imperfect so the whole scenario is perfect. Goddess experiences painful emotions in this physical world but that imperfection in and of itself is perfect. Do you start to remember who you really are? You all know this already. You know it more than me, actually, you brave soul.
    Sarah: Yeah, so don’t talk to me like that, you smarty!
    Me: Sorry. I’ve just become hot because I love you.

    I think it’s a gradual journey to where you really want to be. I’ll be honored to be part of your journey. IF you want you can ask John to give you my private email address and write me. Only if you want. Actually, if I were you I would ask for a private reading with Spirit. John and Spirit are offering private readings in an easily accessible way with a very reasonable price, you know, if you check it out on their website. (I’m not paid to advertise this.)

    Glad I’ve found a new friend today. We’ve already known each other for a long time, I believe. But it’s always nice to experience an apparent separation before meeting the soul I’ve known already for “a long time” (I mean eternally) in this physical world. Nice to meet you, Sarah. Nice to see you again.

    Much love and big hugs every day,

  5. John Cali

    Dear Sarah,

    My heart goes out to you. I’ve had several close family with severe alcohol problems.

    This may be an obvious answer, but have you tried Alcoholics Anonymous?

    I’ll add you to our prayer list.


  6. Sarah Kocourek

    I want so much to experience the joy that you all talk about even though my circumstances aren’t ideal. I’m a recovering alcoholic with severe depression and I pray and try to reach my guides every single day. My own self-will is not enough to keep me sober.

    Every night I get on my knees and beg to be heard by my guides, by Spirit, by God, by someone or something.

    I’ve just been kicked out of my house and lost my boyfriend. Does anyone please have advice? I feel like I’m locked in my own prison in my mind and I don’t think I can hang on much longer.


  7. Kathelena

    You have an amazing reader base John! It’s so wonderful to see thoughtful, respectful discussion on some very difficult subjects, even when we don’t all agree.

    I have to say that I feel like I first learned about joy and appreciation from my best friend’s family. All of us were pretty poor growing up, what society would call “upper lower class.” So we weren’t at the bottom of the financial heap, we had enough to get by without public assistance. But of all of us who hung out together, this one family was by far the worst off financially. The rest of us friends complained among ourselves about what we couldn’t have as kids, noting what other kids could have (isn’t TV great that way? :p), but not these kids. We all hung out at their house because it was the most wonderful environment to be in! They always appreciated what little they had, and they always shared it with anyone who came by. And boy did they know how to have a good time. They appreciated each other constantly, they appreciated whatever they had no matter what. In real terms, they appreciated LIFE! And you know what? Those kids all grew up and went to college and had nice families and nice homes and ended up taking care of mom (their father passed early). All – to me – because they knew how to appreciate and find the joy no matter what.

    So in answer to the question “exactly WHAT does one say to someone when they are hope-less?” I’d offer something like this, using whatever words seem appropriate at the time .. “Well my dear, I know this situation is really difficult. I don’t want to play that down at all. But let’s put that all aside for just a moment, a really short moment. Will you do that with me? Let’s just sit together for this one little moment and find one thing, one tiny little thing to appreciate.” “What about your children? Aren’t they amazing?! aren’t they beautiful?! aren’t they funny? and endearing? and spontaneous?” And if that didn’t work I’d keep digging until we came up with some things to appreciate, and I’d continue to do that as long as I knew them or interacted with them. That’s what I’d do.

    Oh .. wait .. that IS what I do! 😉 I work with people who are dying and their families and that’s what we do. We find things to appreciate instead of things to complain about or worry about. Because it works. Because it takes the sting out of the situation and puts the love back into relationships. And because that’s the kind of world I want to live in!

    Blessings of love and light to all of you!

    – k

    • John Cali

      Thanks so much, Kathelena, for your wonderful comments. You’re right — we have an amazing group of folks here, even when we don’t always agree with each other. It would be pretty boring if we did. 🙂

      What a beautiful story you told about growing up! I too grew up in an “upper lower class” family. But we never felt “poor.” We always had all we needed, and all of us grew up to be successes, by worldly standards.

      So I agree with you, as do my spirit guides — joy can be found in the bleakest circumstances. It’s always right there before us, but we’ll never see it if we don’t look for it.


  8. Rhonda Hazle-Hackett

    Hi again!

    I’m the “angry” poster who was quoted…..

    I thought about being angry, and yes, I suppose I am to a certain extent. You see, after ruminating about my life’s work and if I effected change, I understood it was not all for naught. But what came to me loud and clear is that I took on a warrior role in which truth, justice and equality were my guiding ideals.

    Anything, and I mean anything, which smacks even a little bit of exclusivity just makes me mental and I begin to rail at the futility of it all when simple truths are not that simple for those with no access.

    Yes, I’ve been at my own quest for *Love* and truth for a jillion years, and I count myself as fortunate that I was given breathing space to explore and expand and figure out where I stand in this vast sea of consciousness and our collective journey back to *Love*.

    My original post still stands for me, and obviously, it did for John too, and to ask his readership what they think says to me that neither he nor his guides have come up with a simple answer.

    You see, I would not (and simply was not allowed anyway) tell my clients “Look, if you would just try to see the positive and work this through as you are the author of your own life anyway you know” and think myself just wonderful for stating the bloody obvious.

    Because it is NOT obvious. In fact, entirely obscure to the max actually. People have been led down a dark path for so long that the simple truth is so obscured that if you do not have the time and resources to dig a little, this life is all you have and hopeful moments are few and far between.

    Which is why I asked, exactly WHAT does one say to someone when they are hope-less? Enjoy the trip?

    I’m sorry you feel perplexed with this. It has perplexed me almost my entire life, which is why I asked in the first place. For me, in my former line of work (took my writing skills and work in a museum now) as a child protection worker, probation officer, parole officer, second stage housing administrator (I ran housing for battered women), foster care coordinator, adoption worker, ad nauseum, your comment about “enjoying the trip” would’ve landed me in a place where I would be considered unsuitable and certainly not ready to deal with the folks who needed help.

    I find it strange your guides have not come up with an answer for me. It was quite simple I thought: how do I tell folks that this life is but a temporary pitstop and their problems just an inconvenience and enjoy the trip without getting into huge long spiritual belief monologues which were neither asked for nor would they be wanted? Why does any secret to manifestation only reach a chosen few?

    Just askin’. And by the way, I do appreciate your blog. And I’m also most appreciative about meeting Cheiko who made my heart sing.

    Cheers to you John, and to your readers. Rhonda

    • John Cali

      Thank you, Rhonda, for your honest and thoughtful comments.

      To be equally honest with you, I don’t think any answer Spirit or I could come up with for you would be simple enough, or enough at all. So let’s just agree to disagree.

      I’m glad you appreciate the blog. Thanks for telling me that.


  9. anny

    “Is it possible to find joy and meaning in even the most horrid circumstances…”

    I think it is not only possible but absolutely necessary if you ever want to get out of these circumstances again. We must let go of being a victim of the situation. I know it is not easy and nobody should say it is but it is essential for your growth. Horrid circumstances may not be necessary for our growth but when we are in them we have to deal with them in a positive, loving way. People may help us and comfort us in such situations but we are the only ones who are responsible for our growth and for our perspective on things.

    When all goes well, we take so much for granted but when we get into a difficult situation we can look back on everything we had or could do and be grateful for that and having done that we can also see what we have left still and be grateful for that. It may be a start to turn your perspective around. And by letting go of hatred and resentment we will free ourselves of a heavy burden.

  10. Shirl

    I agree with all that has been said here in response. In the process of “finding joy” we each look for and eventually find the means that will direct us through that process. We are diverse beings with different ways of finding our way through any process. What ever gets us there is perfect for us.

    I have found for my process the quickest way to overwhelming JOY is through gratitude.

    Yes of course I understand when one is overwhelmed with deep emotional pain, physical pain, seeming lack of the material things we need just to get by, and all the other stresses of this life that we may experience it seems near impossible to be in gratitude. And certainly I have been there and done that as most everyone I know of has. However, when I begin counting all of the amazing things I am blessed with it becomes easier and easier to find and feel that joyful space.

    Perspective is everything. When I begin by expressing my gratitude for the beautiful sky, the clouds, the rain, the wind, the trees, the sagebrush, the birds, the deer, the antelope, the dog who shares my life, the cats that call me theirs, the fact that I had something to eat today, the rivers, the lakes, the mountains, the shelter that I live in, the chair or tree stump I sit on, the sun, the moon, the earth itself, the amazing array of people in my life. . . . well, as you can see the list becomes endless.

    I run through this or some other endless list of things that I am blessed to experience everyday as I am filled with awe and appreciation of everything around me and everything and everyone in my life. And I always (now) come out to that joyful place of knowing I am the most blessed being in the Universe and expressing my thanks for all that encompasses me.

    So it is that I have become eternally joyful in all of my moments, even those that present frustrations or challenges; my practice of gratitude always takes me to joy.

    Hugs and blessings in love

  11. Doug Schwinn

    All ‘form and function’ evolve from nonphysical energy and intention. We are blessed with free will to invest into warm and fuzzy and morbidity as we choose in each moment, without judgement. Who’s to say what “Oneness” needs in a moment of life?

  12. Anita

    From experiencing unhappiness to happiness is a process. It mostly is more than one step. Up the emotional scale from depression to anger to hope to happiness and the steps in between.
    A loving hand from a social worker is a step towards hope. Somehow the person created help in their life. Created a loving hand. That is a positive thing to focus on. A (tiny) step forward.
    I came from depression and feel happy now. Even feel happy with moments of unhappiness. I know my power to get out of it. It took afford to look for the light in the dark, it can be done though. With seen and unseen loving, joyful, helping hands.

  13. Judith Anderson

    “Is it possible to find joy and meaning in even the most horrid circumstances…”

    It is essential, I believe, to try, to have hope.

    Along with so many others I have recently had some very hard things come back up to be dealt with yet again. This is always frustrating after one thinks that they have been safely transcended.

    It has also made me feel a bit schizophrenic as I have been remembering moments of great joy/happiness at the same time.

    A week ago was my 50th High School Reunion, and while I did not attend, I feel as if I got so much more out of it than most of those who did go.

    One of the questions asked for the memory book was “What is your favorite High School memory?” and, I could not think of a blessed thing.

    It is not that I was unhappy in High School, I simply no longer relate to it and feel no nostalgia.

    I finally listed the times I had spent with my four closest friends at the time, and I am still in regular email contact with the three women still living and the daughter of the one who is deceased.

    Enduring friendships seem to me to be one of the most important things we create in life.

    But that question also prompted me to try to think of the Happiest Moment in my life, and while certainly the births of my sons and grandson and some of my travel memories are filled with joy, I have decided that my Happiest Moment is still to come, and I feel a great anticipation in moving forward to find it.

  14. John Cali

    Thank you very much, Cinda, for your suggestions. As you point out, there are many, many resources available to us all, no matter how dire our circumstances.


  15. Cinda Miller

    It may feel like an impossible dream because the circumstances are not only dire but our emotions never stop torturing our souls.

    If we find ourselves in a difficult situation, it is necessary to do all that we can to pull ourselves out of the dungeon. Look for avenues for help. Keep a positive attitude that things will get better. Sounds “Pollyanna” but until higher consciousness develops, until we as a people come to the realization that we are one, there will be divisions among us. The more people that can raise the vibration of our world, the more we will band together. Instead of seeing the human race as the “haves” and the “have nots”, we will see ourselves as a unit of loving energy. And that loving energy will touch those that are hurting mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

    As an example: If we have a headache or a backache, we do all that we can to relieve the pain. We do what is necessary to get back our balance, if after doing all that WE know to do, we ask outside sources what we can do to get well, either friends, relatives or doctors. Most of the time, we don’t stop until we find the answers.

    When it comes to our economic status, we again do all that we can to find the best possible job, searching for ways to improve our situation and asking different agencies for any help that is available. The key is: While doing all that we can to make our situation better, it is vitally important that we hold a positive attitude while looking for relief from our situation. To look for a better job, while holding the thought “I will never get this job” or “Nothing ever works out for me”, will hold back the good that you are desiring to have in your life.

    It’s not easy to develop positive thoughts while facing unpaid bills and having collection agencies hounding you for payment. But as Jesus said “If you have the faith of a mustard seed you can remove mountains.” We all have our individual mountains of problems, or fears, but, dig deep to find that mustard seed, hold on to anything and everything in your life that DOES have a positive note to it. Build on the good that you do have and focus on the good that is yet to come and with those good thoughts, do all that you can to improve your situation.

    When it comes to saying “goodbye” to a loved one? It’s a challenge to let go, it’s hard to live your life without that special person. Time helps to heal, but the emptiness Is a reality. It helps to know that we ALL have to pass through that door and it helps to believe that we will once again see that person and enjoy life on a grander scale.

    If you find that your grief is more than you can handle, there is help. Hospice provides grief counseling, free of charge. It is also a good time to lean on your friends for their loving support. Live your life to honor your loved one.

    I certainly do not have all the answers, and you may think I haven’t a clue, but, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try these suggestions.

  16. John Cali

    Thanks so much, Christine, for your wise observations. As you said, if we know God is within us, we have access to all the answers we will ever need.


  17. Christine

    Every one is made from God and is God the embodiment of ourSelves, we all have the chance to hear our inner voice, our God -Self tell us how to get out of any and all uncomfortable and painful situations, amidst the pain and sorrow; yet many rather ignore it and wallow in their pain and suffering. We all have been in a terrible place in life at one time or another and in the imagination were we are capable of experiencing a vaction may be a sense of relief, brings but peace for a moment, and in that moment is were God resides. You don’t have to read a blog or have internet to know God within you, where all your answers reside. Even a death can be a joyous experience through the loss, there is peace that a beloved is in greater hands. Even if that cannot be recognized from outer cirumstance or beliefs within someone who is experiencing the separation, God still will grant peace and an inner wisdom for greater unerstanding to all of us all the time whether you believe or not.

  18. John Cali

    Thank you very much, Barbee, for your moving, thoughtful response. As you said, joy is all around us. But we’ll never find it unless we choose to see what’s right there before our eyes. There was a saying when I was a kid — “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”


  19. Barbee

    Yes we CAN and MUST find those sometimes fleeting moments/ seconds of JOY. It is those moments that propel us on. I too have been in despair and at that time of my life…. finding JOY was what often times, kept me hanging by a thin thread. It is very difficult at times to say you have something … ANYthing to be thankful for. But what I was thankful for in my moments of depression or financial ruin…. it is what helped me the most. I had to go back to basics…. and be thankful NOT for my sad situation, but for things like….. a beautiful sunset and EYES to see it with. I found JOY in a pup wagging his tail at me….. letting me know I was still loveable if even to a pup in the park. I found JOY in others smiles and in hearing with my EARS children giggling…… I found JOY in a public library where I could sit and read for free. Little things matter so much especially when one realizes they aren’t little things at all. I found a bit of JOY with swinging in the park. Yes, I agree it IS so very difficult to find it….. but it truly is all around us, if only for moments at a time. I also learned that at those very down and lost times …… living with much fear…. I found that the moments of JOY were also the moments that I heard Spirit the clearest.

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