I want to write about joy. I want to write about waking up in the morning, and feeling the joy of being alive.
I want to write about laughing at the moon on a clear autumn night when falling leaves are dancing in the dark.
But in a world filled with so much suffering and pain, how can one write about joy?
At this point, I am reminded of the words of Thomas Merton: “No despair of ours alters the reality of things, or stains the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.”
For Merton, joy is an inner state of being. It comes from an intimate and trusting connection with the Divine Mystery.
This connection does not mean we are protected from the hardships or difficulties of life. It simply means that we can draw upon a powerful resource in the midst of our daily challenges and difficulties.
Going deeper, contemplatives like Merton distinguish between pain and suffering. There is a saying which goes: “Pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional.”
We all experience the pain of life, but we do not have to add to that pain by bringing additional layers to it. For example, when we add our stories to the pain (“What did I do to deserve this? This never would have happened if….”), we bring suffering into the equation.
When I look at the times when I have experienced joy, they have often come when I was able to let go of my thoughts of what should be or what should not be, and simply open up to the moment.
Meditation practice has been quite helpful in this process. Through it, I have come to realize I am not my fear-based self. “Just as the sky is not the weather, we are not our thoughts,” says Elizabeth Lesser.
Whatever you may be experiencing at any given time, there is still an opportunity to open up to what might be lurking just below the surface. In the depth of your being, there is love, peace, and strength.
When we experience this reality, we find ourselves reclaiming our birthright of joy, echoing the words of e. e. cummings:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
Breathing in the Power, Love, and Strength of the Divine & Breathing out Inner Tension, Sadness, and Fear
Here is an exercise adapted from Andrew Harvey’s book The Direct Path: Creating a Personal Journey to the Divine Using the World’s spiritual Traditions. In practicing it, don’t be surprised to find your own natural joy floating to the surface.
- Sit in your place of meditation or prayer; compose yourself, and get in touch with your intention to open to the Divine Mystery.
- Now breathe in slowly, fully, and deliberately, and as you breathe in know that you are breathing into every part of your body, heart, soul, and mind the power, love, joy, peace, and strength of God.
- Then consciously breathe out all your sadness, tension, distress, and uncertainty. Breathe out, in fact, everything in you that in any way blocks or prevents you from being open to the Divine Presence.
- Do this again and again, with as profound a concentration as possible, keeping your heart awake to your intention to open to the Presence, the infinitely kind and empowering Source of your whole being.
- When you near the end of the practice session, choose one activity in the coming day that you vow to attempt to change by using this exercise.
- If, for example, you have problems with someone where you work, make a commitment to breathe in God’s compassion and strength and breathe out your resentment or fear just before you have to deal with him or her. If your relationship with a loved one is going through a difficult passage, pledge to use this exercise often during the time when you are with him or her.
- Finish with a prayer of gratitude.
With blessings and joy,