Brian Wilcox. 'Winter White in Maine'
We all love bliss
Jean Klein. Be Who You Are.
Klein is right. Why then do so many of us choose to be sorrowful? This choice is like saying, "I want that lovely flower in my room so that I can gaze on it daily?" Someone picks the flower and takes it to us, saying, "Here, the lovely flower for your room." And you put it under your bed or in your closet or maybe stuff it in a drawer. Yet, it seems many among us do this with the Flower of Life.
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Daniel Seeger, a Quaker, wrote in the series Pendle Hill Pamphlets, a work titled "Silence: Our Eye on Eternity." He shared the following story:
I once read an account of a woman who had a close friend who was sorely troubled in spirit. The writer thought that perhaps a drive in the country would be a renewing experience, and so she took the troubled friend on a day's excursion in bright sunny weather. But once driving among the lakes, mountains, forests, and farm fields, she observed that her friend hardly noticed the surroundings. When she sought to call his attention to them, he seemed to attend only for a second or two before returning to the reiteration of his sad tale of disappointment, anger, and betrayal. And so at the end of the trip it seemed to the woman that the effort that she had made, together with all the healing glories of the natural world, had been eclipsed by those things which her friend had been carrying around in his mind and heart. Thus, a lack of inner silence deprived him of an opportunity for healing.
Inner silence is an inner spaciousness. To have the Flower of Life in the room of our life, out where we gaze on it and give gratitude for it, we often need emotional healing or, more, spiritual healing. If we do not make this room for a redirection of our thoughts and passions, we miss the gift that is this beautiful, mysterious human journey. Even a slight shift toward rejoicing is a beginning. "Thank you" is a start.
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When anyone says something or someone brings joy to him or her, that is not true. Something or someone can elicit the joy within us but cannot give it to us. One can rightly say, "I'm joyful when walking in nature," but not, "Walking in nature makes me joyful." I could correctly say, "I'm joyful when around her," but not, "She brings joy to me." Walking in nature or being with someone are conditions of joy, not a cause of it. When we notice that what we thought were causes of joy are only conditions for it, we learn that joy is not in anything but within us.
We most-deeply want to live an en-joy-able life. So when feeling joyless, we are even more joyless for the separation from our natural way of being. Yet, again, we need to know we cannot receive from or give joy to anyone or anything, but we can share the joy with them.
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Possibly a hard truth for many persons is this: they are not joyous for they choose not to be. Persons who are miserable-feeling beings would likely refute that. How many would want to say, "I'm miserable for I choose to be miserable?" Yet, that is true. Accepting that truth may be a first step to living a joyous, contented life.
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I lived a sorrowful life for years. I now live joyously. I do not mean I am a happy-go-lucky guy. I do not mean I am never sad; I have written on this matter of being sad and joyous simultaneously. I sometimes feel blue, sometimes feel blah. But we can be blue-and-blah and still joyous.
But I once lived sad most of the time. I had to choose a joyful life. I had to choose to love life, my life. I had to see I had opted to be dissatisfied, resentful, and miserable. I decided for joy after getting fed up with being ungrateful and downcast almost all the time. I had to make some different choices, not easy ones, but I wanted to live with gladness. And, thankfully, some choices were made against my will. And I came to see how fortunate that those apparent losses were to my being a joyful person. If you pray for joy, you may find you lose some things that were hindering you from being joyful.
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Now, before proceeding, it is needful to look at this joy. What is it? This gladness is not pleasure or happiness, but a subtle quality. It is a spiritual quality. An attachment to pleasure precludes living joyfully for the same reason that joy is not happiness. Happen-ings can lead to happi-ness, but cannot bring us joy-happinenss then is only a happening, an emotional one. Joy is free of happenings. It is not a happening. Joy is inner contentment, one of gratitude, regardless of what is happening. Rejoicing, gladness, and bliss are words for this subtle joy.
"Subtle" here means one may not look elated or show outward signs of joy that many expect, especially persons who equate bliss with happiness. The most deeply joyful beings are likely to manifest the most subtle sense of bliss, not the more pronounced expressions. This subtleness is for, unlike happiness and pleasure and elation, joy is not an emotion; joy is before all emotions. Emotions arise in the body; bliss arises from the heart.
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The Sage was asked, "Why do you laugh so much?" He replied by sharing about Bokoju.
Bokoju was a Japanese spiritual master. He would awaken each morning and start laughing a big belly laugh. The laugh would resound through the 250 cells of the monastery. The disciples would wake up to that laughter. Bokoju would continue laughing for three to four minutes: then silence. The last thing Bokoju did before he went to sleep nightly was to let out the same big belly laugh. His disciples were curious to know why Bokoju laughed in this way. He refused to say. He died without anyone knowing why.
"Then," the Sage was asked, "why do you think he laughed?" The Sage said, "Because he could." "So, you're joyful for you can be." "You could say so. Yes."
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To live joyously, we stop blaming others or conditions for our misery, and we stop crediting the same with the responsibility to make us joyous. There are as many excuses, it seems, to be sorrowful as persons living joylessly. Yet, too, we have known persons with difficult lives who used no reason to exempt themselves from being joyful... they chose joy. And some of the most challenging times of my life, I found to be the most joyous. I have heard others confess the same.
Our nature is joy, so, then, we can nourish the seeds within of gladness. One way of doing this is an awareness of our thoughts. If we think sorrowful or angry thoughts, we become sad or angry. And one of the better ways to nourish joy is to engage in doing good for others. Rather than the complaint, for example, about how we are not loved enough, we can love others. Instead of moaning, we can give thanks. Taking care of our bodies helps in living joyously, including exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Working at something we find pleasure in is a condition for joy-I write many hours daily, and this makes it more probable I will have a joyful day. We can also attend daily to our spirituality, not neglecting our relationship with the Sacred. This last matter has been most instrumental in my living with joy.
You noticed I said it is more likely I will have a joyous day due to my writing. See, while conditions do not give joy, they do set the environment that encourages us to live en-joy-ing life, even as being with a friend or walking through the wood can. In a sense, doing certain things that encourage joyous living, those we choose for we are joyous. So, joy leads into joy.
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Yet, finally, we will nourish the seeds of joy only if we do one thing. That one thing is deciding we will settle for nothing less than a spirit of gladness. Being joyous is something to claim and live, not only for ourselves but that others may feel and, so, say yes to the same joyousness. And does not our world, including all of Nature, need this joy now? Yes, we want to live en-joy, so let us pray for and choose it, and begin it with our next breath.
So, a breathing meditation you may want to try follows, and you can repeat the cycle as many times as you wish. On the in-breath you silently say the word, allowing yourself to feel it, possibly imagining a time when you felt the quality or of something that encourages the quality in you. A variation of the out-breath is to imagine the breathing out being your breathing it out as a gift to or prayer for the world. On the out-breath, only smile. On the last cycle, no speaking, only smiling.
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©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.