Geranium Enjoying Winter Sunlight
Joy is not a quality added to you, something you can get or lose, have or do not have; joy is intrinsic to you, is you. When you return home to yourself, your heart, you return to joy.
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I lived with ill-defined, allusive grief for many years. It seemed to hover over me, coming from nowhere. I seemed fated to live a life of sadness. Somehow, I had gotten the message that sorrow was my destiny. Possibly, it arose from prior generations, being an inheritance from the past. I do not know. It cast a gloom over my life and my relationships. I could not remember when I had not been sad. I used my religious worldview as justification for this suffering.
One day, a friend told me of my power to choose gladness. I was in my 40s. She was the first person who ever voiced permission for me to let go of the heartache and welcome gladness. Welcoming joy became a practice. And now, while I do have times of sadness, the keynote of my life is gladness.
This gladness does not mean I do not have compassion for the world's suffering. I often feel that suffering intensely, and daily I offer prayers for all beings to be free of it, well, and joyful. I see, however, that I need not cling to feeling suffering for others' suffering. I see that would not help anyone.
The world needs this joy - your joy, our joy. Joy is healing. Even amid sorrow, joy can draw suffering into itself and hold it tenderly. I have learned that it is okay to anoint a wound with a tear and a smile at the same time.
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Saigyō Hōshi (西行法師), b. 1118 -
Let me not spend my life
lamenting the world's sorrows
in the wide sky
the moon shines pure
*Gazing at the Moon.
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She visited the Sage, saying, "I feel so troubled, hearing all the bad news of what is happening now in the world. It is heartbreaking. It is just terrible! I feel so sad. But bearing this grief is my way to offer compassion. So, I welcome it. What do you think?" The Sage said, "The world needs your joyfulness now more than your sadness."
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage.
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When we are captivated by the sufferings in our world, we lose touch with joy. Media offers us a constant diet of viewing and listening to sad news. Sad news has become entertainment. Doom and gloom is the message. And one may feel obligated to live in grief for what is happening. We may think that is caring.
It is natural to feel some distress about the pain all around us and throughout Nature. It would be unnatural not to. Yet, the keynote of our lives needs to remain joy, not sorrow. Returning to our heart, we find joy, a quiet, grateful bliss that can take suffering into itself and transform it into hope. This joy is not the opposite of sorrow, yet it is not sorrowful.
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Saigyō, a late wandering Buddhist hermit and poet, realizes the heart is innately joyful. The moon in the vast night sky reminds him of this. He knows it is okay to love the world and live a joyful life. He is not betraying either the world or himself by being gladsome. With such a lovely moon in the sky, how could he not feel the heart of gladness arise within him? The moon visits and companions him - how blissful!
We, too, have reminders all around of the preciousness of this human life and the life about us. Anything of Nature can turn our hearts from gloom to gladness. So much can exclaim, "Let us rejoice!"
For a compassionate being, grief for others will arise. Welcome it, but do not try to generate grief, as though you are uncaring if you do not feel it and hold onto it. Let the sorrow move over and through you spontaneously. When it washes through, what remains? What never left - joy. Offer your gladness and gratitude for the well-being of all beings. Love gladfully!
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Some days, the clouds block the Sunshine. We may feel gloomy. We have many days like that in New England during winter. Suddenly, the Sun shines and adorns the sky and earth. We feel better. Just that, and we feel better. Let your joy be like that Sunshine. Does gloominess need more gloom? No. Be the antidote to sorrow, be the invitation for others to see suffering does not have to define themselves.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2022.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse.