*Brian Wilcox. 'Androscoggin River Series~no. 17'.
Part of the problem with the word "disabilities" is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.
*Fred Rogers. The World According to Mister Rogers.
* * *
The late Jean Hendricks was a professor in the psychology department, where I served as a professor in the philosophy and religion department. One day, after years of she and I becoming acquainted, she stopped me, while we were passing by each other on the campus grounds. She said, looking at me rather seriously, "Brian, I never see you smile." She questioned why. I did not have an answer. I was not aware of this not smiling. I reflected on what Jean said; I concluded she was correct, I rarely smiled.
* * *
A few years after, I entered training for a meditation practice called Centering Prayer. This mode integrates concentration, but the focus is on awareness, openness to divine Presence. I was reintroduced to what I had studied in my Masters work in counseling: the shadow. Now, it was related to how that repressed, not allowed into conscious awareness, whether judged as good or bad, finds a way out when in silence.
To me, the shadow had represented what from my Christian background would have been called bad, evil, sin, or some distasteful concept like these. Stronger words would have been wicked, perversion, and the such like. Readings in the work of Thomas Moore, especially his Care of the Soul, had alerted me to the need to integrate the shadow and that such was not simply what we might term bad, the shadow could as easily include what we could term good. We can take what needs to be walking around with us, and stuff it in the basement, locking the door, depriving ourselves of the blessing and gift of its companionship ~ alike to how we can treat others this way, in our cocoon mentality.
I was in for a surprise. For after beginning the Centering Prayer training, the principal shadow element that arose was joy. Joy was left out of my conscious life, relegated to the dark basement of consciousness.
Why had I done this? I had not so much done it, as it had been introduced to me early in life. I had been taught, by example of others, not to have joy. I look still at a family picture from my mid-teens and see no one smiled, all looked stern. So, joy becomes unwanted, though deeply needed, yes, deeply wanted. One lives, then, with the contradiction: I want to be joyful, but I can't, I don't have permission, so I can't want it. So, if one ever lived a smile, the smile dies, life as basically welcoming and celebratory becomes lost. One may not appear so much unhappy as just not happy, not delighted at all with life. All is overcast, the face reflects and confirms the inner life of beclouded skies. Joy appears, cannot enter: No Vacancy reads the sign on the face, deeper, on the heart. Joy becomes forbidden territory, a dangerous quality, suspect at least. If joy appears, misery must be close by. And, if one is raised, as I, in fundamentalist religion, this does not help one welcome and embrace joy, for the world is seen as an unsavory place, a hiatus to survive righteously until the afterlife and the parting of all good and all bad, including persons good and bad. Being one of the lucky 'chosen' few is of prime importance, not loving the world of others and Earth as equal with you. And how can one live in joy, if he or she does not live in love? And how does one live in love, if he or she has been taught a world of unlove, a world undeserving to be embraced joyfully?
If you believe this world is unfriendly, this world is a danger zone, that would immediately influence your state of mind and bring about paranoia, pain, and contraction. But if you believe this world is lovely, benevolent, and if you believe humanity is intrinsically good, then in everyday life, you will feel more joy, love, and trust.
*Anam Thubten. The Fragrance of Emptiness: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra.
* * *
After Jean inquired as to my lack of a smile, I began intentionally smiling. I smiled and smiled and smiled. I smiled in contexts others might neither smile nor frown. It felt good; I felt better, more healthy. For many years I lived with a smile, and I felt more hopeful, more positive. Then the smile went away, it was no longer needed as constant companion on countenance. I mean, it did not go away not to return. It began returning, leaving, returning, so, in a sense, more true, more real. It was as though I smiled consciously until the smile could arise and dissolve, naturally, being present when appropriate, being absent when appropriate. So, this was an uncontrived way, but one that might not have arisen without that reminder from Jean and intentionally smiling for years.
* * *
Fast forward 25 years... and much laughter has entered my life as something often expressed, and, of course, with that smile. I reflected just yesterday, laughing alone in my truck, that possibly I had laughed more in the last year than in the prior 57 years. I thought that might be an exaggeration, but no.
* * *
So, from where arises joy? Well, it is interesting that Buddhism has a tradition of the setting sun and the Great Eastern Sun. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught of this, such as here in his Great Eastern Sun...
Those who arise from the cocoon are called the people of the Great Eastern Sun. They are not blinded by opening their eyes, and they are not embarrassed about developing head and shoulders and stepping out of their cocoons. Such people begin to breathe the fresh morning air. They experience brilliance, which is constant and beautiful.
In Tibetan Buddhism the Sun, the feminine principle, is put in the head, the moon, the masculine principle, in the heart. The Sun represents clarity, brilliance, bravery, joyfulness, graciousness, among other qualities. So, the Great Eastern Sun is this approach to life with dignity and grace, with gratitude and joy, seeing and inviting the magic of everyday life, things, persons. This would be like Jesus saying, in the Christian Scriptures, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within and all around you."
The setting sun world is simply the contrary of the Great Eastern Sun world. Here, life is about struggle, not celebration, and what celebration occurs as respite from the ordinary fight, well it is rather shallow and basically only a brief escape, a psychological survival mechanism. One could look at what is happening in the government now in the United States, and one sees a prime example of the setting sun world. It is quite pathetic, what is happening, with setting sun so-called leaders who have apparently, many of them, chosen power and prestige over the joy of life and promoting that good, an environment inner and outer of good cheer, for the country. And setting sun is much religion. I can eaisly fathem why much of it does not appeal to intelligtent beings. How can I, if I live in a cocoon, invite others to live in the open, sunny Sky, the fresh air, basking in the Light?
* * *
In the Christian Scriptures, joy is a Sun quality, among the Fruit of the Spirit. Joy arises from spirit or Spirit, not the environment or merely personal psychological make-up. And joy is not happiness, which arises from happenings; hence, joy is not pleasure or arising from pleasure. One can be very sad and be joyful. But one cannot be very sad and be happy. You can say, "I am joyfully sad" but never "I am happily sad."
I recall an episode of Star Trek, when I was a little boy. The crew beamed to a planet of complete ease and pleasure. Yet, they could not tolerate this place for long, though at first it was inviting. Happiness, too much, becomes unhappiness, pleasure over-done becomes itself suffering. Yet, joy is a grace beyond, so sustainable, for its nature is timeless. We are made for joy. The timeless qualities arise from the Timeless, not you and me as person, or from environment, or from others around us. Even God cannot give you something that is not already of you, of us, so, of Life.
* * *
One cannot manage the rising of the Sun, anymore than decide what is East and what is West. Yet, one can invite the Sun into the room, where one is sitting in the early morning. The Sun is shining, Earth has turned toward it, yet it may not be in-lightening where you sit. You may simply need to open the blinds or shades over a window. Or you may need to do something else, like open your eyes. Regardless, the Sun shines already, the Great Eastern Sun, Spirit, even in the night, for this Light is beyond day and night.
So, yes, we may engage work called psychological, as I did for many years, extensively so in Masters training in counseling, in which I underwent extensive psychoanalysis. But the best that can do is clear some barriers away, and we may feel more happiness and better adjusted with others who live in cocoons around us. But only in Grace, by the Sun itself, does the Light become a natural, spontaneous expression in our life. And, being joyful, you may be less well-adjusted to the norm about you, that of those in cocoons informing you of how to live well in a cocoon among others who live in a cocoon. And you may not be as happy, you may suffer more for welcoming the Light. Yet, would you rather be more pleased or awake to the magic of Life, of the world all about you, of yourself, of the Mystery we together move within?
*Video is accessed on original side via upper left artist-title below...