The presence of joyous noxiousness

Well, I’ve died again.

It happens occasionally in my life. I’ll go underground, converse with the god of the underworld, and resurface to live the next iteration of my being in the world. This particular death process has lasted a few years and ended last night with a dream that I died and was able to read my autopsy. Here I was, dead, and reading my autopsy, alive, so that I could figure out what killed me. Dreams are great.

My cause of death was joyous noxiousness.

My response this morning is close to a WTF moment. But then, in order to come alive, to break the barrier, the part of me that went into darkness needs to die with all of its woe-is-me, heart-breaking, I-wish-the-world-were-different, my-mommy-and-daddy-were-mean-to-me excuses for not becoming fully alive.

We’re not talking soft sweet sympathetic head patting and empathetic eye blinks and hand holding meant to stimulate my emotional growth. No. We’re talking die already.

And what killed me was joyous noxiousness. Evidently, this joyous noxiousness has been quietly and steadily killing me without my knowledge and has now made itself known in a most magical and unexpected way.

My new life, then, is to learn how to live with it.

This one’s for you, Kathy.


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14 Responses to “The presence of joyous noxiousness”

  1. Kathy Says:

    WOW! What a dream, so real, so full, so obviously WTF. But, I must know: what does joyous noxiousness mean to you? (Is it a real word?) All the fear things you’ve mentioned with heart-breaking clarity, the ones that so many of us know so deeply, do slowly and insidiously seem to kill our joy. They’ve killed mine over and over as well.

    Seeing more clearly that there’s not necessarily a central and separate “I” leading the show has helped. And seeing that the world is what it is. And how patterns are playing constantly–and how it’s possible to just sit with them as see them as patterns more and more.

    You are lucky to have had that shamanic dream, and the opportunity for new life. And because you’ve shared it and we’re not separate–it’s possible for all of us. Thank you so much for sharing it, my friend, and for the learning to live in a new way.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Kathy – yes, definitely shamanism at work here . . . my joy working noxiously behind the scenes. By definition, something noxious is harmful, even fatal, so the juxtaposition — the oxymoron — seems evident. How can something fatal be joyful? But something inside of me is embracing how the joy is noxious to the part of me that was killing my ability to be happy, to be fully alive. I am halfway through Big Magic and it is speaking to the life that lives beneath the surface of our consciousness, the one that lives in dreams.

  2. ntexas99 Says:

    Still trying to wrap my head around “joyous noxiousness”, and how that would be manifested, but it is a puzzlement worth contemplating. Your words often set my mind to thinking. It’s always good to hear your unique contribution to the thought compost pile, where we sift and mix and nurture and grow.

    Sometimes when I close my eyes, I experience some sort of joyous scarcity, in that my “before” sleep was often riddled with anxiety and sorrow, and my “after” sleep tends to be an expanse of peaceful quietude, spreading out in all directions and none, all at the same time. A scarcity of detail that is welcomed. A quietude that says more than enough, in generous doses of silence. The scarcity allows precious renewal, and leaves plenty of room for the absence of noise.


    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — I am still working on what “joyous noxiousness” is and as near as I have figured out so far, the joy that has been growing in me has become fatal and noxious to the ways that I have been keeping myself from experiencing the life I truly want. It was clear in the autopsy. It was also clear that I had died, yet I was still alive to read the report. When my subconscious comes up with death and a combination of words so compelling, I need to sit up and pay attention. Big changes are going on beneath the surface and I need to bring these changes to life.

  3. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    “My cause of death was joyous noxiousness.”

    Oh me. Oh my! This is a FANTASTIC opening line for the book you MUST write.

    (Yes, all caps—MUST)…

    • Barbara Kass Says:


      yes. I do believe there is a book here, Laurie. To allow joy to kill off what is keeping one dead is definitely a book worth writing. Who would think that you have to keep all of you around all your life?

  4. Ann Marquette Says:

    Interesting and sad!l Thank God, when I need to go into quiet soul time it is with God, my heavenly Father, and where I find peace 🙂

  5. Barbara Kass Says:

    Hi, Ann — it was actually a very liberating dream, with my dying being symbolic of what I need to let go of in order to grow. Joy is what is at the heart of my liberation.

    • Ann Marquette Says:

      Well I am so very glad you know Joy is the path….and on that path to Joy? What brings you joy? I gave a talk some years ago with the goal that the audience would learn to remember those things which bring them joy. I had them make a list and it was so exciting to see that once they started they not only filled every line of the page, but many turned the paper over and kept writing.
      As the first one started sharing her joys some remember that some of them were also theirs and added to their list.
      The room filled with joy as each person eagerly shared theirs.
      At the end I suggested they place the sheet in a place in their home where they could go to it whenever they found themselves in a sad or trouble place.

      • Barbara Kass Says:

        What a lovely idea, Ann. One only has to start looking for what is joy and you are surely going to find it. Many things bring me joy and right now, it is my very existence.

  6. jeffstroud Says:

    I am contemplating all of this and I am reading Joyful noxiousness as a sense of “false” Joy, a pretense that you are happy with things when you are not really but going ahead “as if”. For joy may show up.
    And that may have been what your dream was trying to express to you? Wake up and experience real joy the dream may be offering you and truly seems to have been the case.
    I kept recalling bit in The Artists Way that seemed to be familiar but I could not find it now!
    It seem you have awakened again to experience a fresh awareness of life around! ((Hugs))

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Yes, Jeff, it could indeed be that the false joy has died and that the part of me that continued to live in the dream woke up and is ready to experience the real joy available to me. I do know without a doubt that I feel different and awake in a way that I have not felt before (these death dreams have that affect on me — one time I had a dream that I was eaten by a bear!). Your analysis is definitely one that my awakening joy resonates with.

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