Hi, I'm John Ince, the founder of Joyshift and the main writer of this blog.
Here is a quick description of me from the back of my latest book Joyshift: the journey to primal happiness:
John Ince is the author of six books including two legal texts, a wilderness travel guide (Sea Kayaking Canada's West Coast) and a study of sexuality and society (The Politics of Lust). His diverse background as an entrepreneur, wilderness adventurer, lawyer, human rights activist, seminar leader, and meditation practitioner informs the innovative personal growth practice Joyshift describes.
If you want more detail about me and Joyshift, here it is:
My special interest in happiness arose when I was just 18 and heard my doctor say “you could die from this.”
I’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer, which I ultimately survived. But my brush with mortality at such a young age had a profound impact. It showed me that growing old was not guaranteed.
So I resolved to make every moment as rich as it could be and dedicate my life to finding how to do that, even if that would cost me financially, professionally or socially.
I’ve been mostly true to that youthful commitment, and the result is a fairly unusual personal history, some of which I share in the blog. In my twenties I spent a year in India.
There I studied yoga (with BKS Iyengar), learned to meditate in a Buddhist monastery, and travelled extensively through poor rural areas where I saw that great happiness was possible without any material wealth.
In my twenties I also learned that contributing to the greater good was deeply satisfying. As a young lawyer I found that working for powerful corporate clients was lucrative but boring.
The legal cases I found to be most emotionally rewarding -- involving human rights or environmental protection -- paid no fees. So I focused on the fulfilling work and looked for other ways to finance my lifestyle.
That led me to entrepreneurism, taking on projects that were deeply satisfying yet potentially lucrative. For example I discovered how to make money from my love of wilderness travel. I spent two years paddling in a sea kayak through pristine wilderness coastlines, and co-wrote a book about the adventure.
The paperback was in print for over a decade, ultimately providing more income than working for two years for corporate law clients. By defining my life around happiness rather than money, I could still pay my bills.
My quest for an emotionally rich life also motivated a move out of the city (Vancouver and Toronto) to British Columbia’s beautiful Gulf Islands, where I lived for ten years and built a house from trees harvested on my land. I also discovered the wonderful sense of community of small rural islands. Thanks to various entrepreneurial projects, my decision to “follow my bliss” out of the city and into the rural world kept me financially secure.
Ultimately I returned to the city (Vancouver) but found a home that was right out of a wilderness picture book, with sweeping views of forest, ocean and mountains. Yet it was in a highrise tower in one of the densest population clusters in all of North America, downtown Vancouver (although right on the edge of a thousand acre park).
I discovered the many benefits of urban density: I could walk and bike almost everywhere I needed to go, and could enjoy the cultural richness of a diverse, multicultural community.
The city brought several more entrepreneurial projects, including the operation of an educationally oriented woman-friendly sex shop where my partner and I led seminars on sexuality and hosted sex-positive projects that attracted international attention.
Soon after, a major US publisher released my book The Politics of Lust and I founded the world’s first officially registered political party dedicated to overcoming the largely unseen negativity toward sex in our society: the Sex Party.
Promoting more positive attitudes toward erotic life was deeply rewarding but it also exposed me to the hostility of people who were threatened by a relaxed approach to sexuality. Any activist has to have a thick skin, but about five years ago I decided that I’d done enough in the sexual field and needed a new project that would provoke no taboo.
I’d always been curious about lifestyles that seemed most conducive to happiness. One of the reasons I favored a nonconventional lifestyle for myself was that the traditional one – marriage, kids, a home in the suburbs, lots of consumption of media and material things, and working long hours to pay for all of it – did not seem to produce much joy.
While some folks definitely thrived in the mainstream, I saw more evidence of negativity than happiness: anger, depression, addiction, loneliness and obesity.
Why were so many people leading unhappy lives?
I decided that my sixth book would try to answer that question. I spent four years researching the often arcane academic literature on happiness, the product of several disciplines. In my research on sexuality, I’d noticed that researchers tend to stay in the silo of their own field, and rarely venture into adjacent specialties.
In contrast, my approach is to look for macro patterns in the human condition, and these tend to emerge only in cross-disciplinary research.
For example, my book on sexuality showed a striking relationship between two seemly unrelated aspects of ourselves: our attitudes toward sex and our political orientation. That link surfaced in the data from diverse fields but because so few researchers take that macro perspective, my sex book was the first to discuss it at length.
I took the same generalist approach in my study of happiness and it yielded a major discovery, the primal happiness principle: that we evolved to find deep happiness in only a relatively small number of experiences that turn out to be precisely those behaviors essential to survival in the ancient hunter gatherer world where the human genome was born.
Think of those routines as the emotional equivalent of the essential dietary inputs that you need, such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats. I call them the primal nutrients of happiness.
The primal perspective answered my question “why are so many people unhappy?” They are missing many primal nutrients!
Modern lifestyles are deficient in many of the things we need to be really happy. Why? Because few people are aware of the primal roots of happiness.
My research culminated in my book Joyshift: the journey to primal happiness and then to presentations, trainings, and this blog.