*Brian Wilcox. 'Opening the Heart to the World'. Flickr
Hindus refer to the Absolute as SatChitAnanda, meaning, literally, "Being, Consciousnss, Bliss." This can read "Being that is Conscious of Bliss." From where would this joy arise? Being Itself, for Being is Joy. This gladness does not reside in an object, nor any cause or condition, though these may provide a context to inspire the uprising from Within. This joy the sage Jesus, in the Gospel of John, speaks to his followers of, "I have spoken these words to you that you might have my joy in you, and your joy might be full." Even temporary arisings of this deep, subtle gladness reminds us that this potential is within us, is of our true, primordial nature. We each can become a being more and more aware of the natural bliss within us, within all things. So, joy need not be an exception for us, joy is potentially our usual experience of Life.
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This past Friday, we enter the room for the Friday evening Dharmata Maine gathering. She and I begin preparing the room. We begin friendly banter, some might say frivolous for persons preparing for sangha, in which we would chant, meditate, and engage in Buddhist Dharma teachings. Yet, we are smiling and laughing. As time comes to settle into our gathering, I find it a challenge to settle down, to shift from the previous humorous sharing. It feels like an aroma of jocundity lingers in the room. This is in contrast to my oh-so-serious manner in which I often enter such meditation settings, both alone and with others. Yet, possibly this night that oh-so-serious was destined to undergo a challenge. It seemed so, if matters did not shift to a different mode of feeling.
After the chanting, we sit in quiet for 35 minutes. I can still feel this sense of glee. In the Silence I watch this feeling, exploring it. I can not escape it, can not shift to that oh-so-serious that seems to afflict most of us who take a spiritual way seriously. I used to invite my meditation students to smile slightly when in the Silence, as certainly this might reflect a gladness in engaging this prayerful posture of Heart.
Finally, I realize that this sprightly lightheartedness is present for it needs to be present. I acknowledge that this, too, is a way Life graces us with Its presence, that being playful is equally an expression of Grace as all other expressions are as we sit in the Quiet, as well as live our daily lives. Hence, I relax into the humor Silence is offering me, and I honor it as fitting and reverential.
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We can invite a range of atmosphere into the Quiet. We can allow the Quiet to manifests in varied feelings. And we may find as we are transformed in our relationship with the Silence, we become more lighthearted, more playful, and more humorous about our path, our practice, and ourselves. Why should this not be? Why does spirituality need to be treated with such gravity? Is not Life playful? Do not children teach us adults this, we who may have forgotten that life is to be a celebration, not a survival? Do we not feel less egoic when we are captured by joy?
And this is how I would speak of what was felt in the Quiet. This was not merely an emotional happiness or frivolity. This was joy. Some spiritual teachers speak of this as happiness, not meaning merely an emotional elation. Rather, this is a subtle, inward ecstasy, a bliss that lifts us beyond ourselves as we usually esteem ourselves. This joy can erupt into loud expressions, but for those who spend much time silent with Silence, generally this inner radiance will be subtle and quiet, and, yes, beautiful.
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What I felt that night was, also, love. Interestingly, when an early Christian writer, in the Christian Scriptures, speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit (or, spirit), the first quality given is "love," the second "joy." Why? For where love is, there is joy, and where joy is, there is love. Love and joy belong together, and they arise together into our experience of Life. And two qualities we need much more of in our world is this love and this joy. We can be a blessing to others by inviting this subtle, inner radiance of love-joy more into our lives, and into the practice of our spirituality.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Thanks! for the lovely reminders'. Flickr
(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019