“Joy is within you.”
When I first saw this statement at Ananda, I so very much wanted to believe it. I had heard it was so, and certainly there were times throughout my life that I had experienced deep inner joy. But to really know this truth, repeated over the ages by avatars and saints everywhere, as a constant reality: that eluded me. Today, the knowledge I long sought is becoming more solid within me, though it seems a slow – and very imperfect – process of moving from hope to belief to certainty. Any progress I can claim is thanks in part to my own efforts in meditation, but more so from the grace of God and Gurus.
Now I can also thank an alert reader of The New Yorker magazine. Just this past week, a gurubhai showed us an article he had read that introduced the term anandamide. Wow! Intrepid researcher that I am, I just had to find out what this compound was—and if it was real or not. And off I went to the Internet to search it out.
Well, my friends, it is real. According to that vast storehouse of knowledge, Wikipedia, anandamide, discovered in 1992, is the common name given to a fatty acid neurotransmitter which is derived from the metabolism of an omega-6 fatty acid (I’ve omitted the lengthy chemical names for the sake of brevity). And, says Wikipedia, “The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means ‘joy, bliss, delight’, and amide.” “Joy is within you” ain’t just a saying.
According to scientific studies, the naturally-occurring anandamide within us generally occurs at very low levels because it is easily degraded by an enzyme, also naturally-occurring. However, anandamide is also present in chocolate and cannabis. Yep. That euphoria some might crave from ingesting chocolate or other mind-altering substances? Maybe we’ve been after the additional anandamide. Scientists are pursuing possible therapeutic strategies for inhibiting the enzyme that ordinarily degrades it, so that its levels would rise naturally.
As scientific inquiry continues to catch up with the wisdom of the ages, what I’d like to see is a study of the levels of anandamide found in meditators. It can be no coincidence that those who have dedicated their lives to deep meditation have such blissful demeanors. I believe that, if measured, it’s possible the anandamide in many of our saints and sages would have been found to be unusually plentiful.
“Joy is within you” would become an indisputable fact.