A Sense of Quiet
Old Orchard Beach, ME
Of any thing in our lives, we can ask, "Is this helping me enjoy life more? Is this encouraging me to be a joyful being?" We need to move toward joy and limit as much as possible what does not encourage it. In so doing, we claim our right to be joyful. We become joyful. This is not selfish. By being joyful, you brighten our world, and you invite others to claim their natural estate of feeling blessed and of feeling gratitude. Where there is joy, there is love; where there is love, there is joy.
* * *
A cartoon shows a man getting an examination in his doctor's office. The doctor comes out of his private office. He holds some papers and a chart with the test results. He says, "Well, I see no reason why you can't live a perfectly normal life as long as you don't try to enjoy it."
* * *
When I began to meditate in my mid-30s, I was surprised at something that arose in the silence. This quality - joy - I had repressed without knowing it. Based on my training in Jungian psychology, I understood joy had been part of the shadow, relegated to the unconscious.
Misery was authorized to roam my house; joy lurked in the basement. When joy walked up the stairs, opened the basement door, and came out into the living quarters, it had to be put back in. Without meditation, I may have never been still and quiet enough to listen to this part of myself needing out of the darkness. I saw, over the years, how I had an ingrained message, "You can enjoy joy briefly, but you're not permitted to remain joyful."
* * *
In the Hebrew Bible, we read:
Psalm 16 (NLT)
1 Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
2 I said to the Lord, "You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you."
3 The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.
5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
7 I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
The psalm represents an ideal: joy all the time. We are sometimes like the doctor's prescription. Still, we can sing of joy like the first singers, knowing its joyfulness is not always true to our experience. And speaking or singing what we aspire to is a means to nourish the seeds of its fruition. Indeed, we need to voice our aspirations even when not experiencing them. Speaking forth brings forth.
* * *
We may be uncomfortable with joy, so we sabotage it. Undermining gladness is more prevalent than we might think. Emotional drama inwardly and conflict outwardly are ways we derail delight. We can feel joy is too pure, too intimate, so we push it away through our particular style of trouble-making.
* * *
Meditation is a means to be quiet and still to see our style of creating problems that distance us from positive thoughts and feelings. This need to listen deeply, arising from the stillness, is a reason forms called meditation that keep us active - such as a pleasant walk in the wood, sun-soaking on the shore, listening to calming music sounds online - may hinder us from being honest with ourselves - though such practices can be helpful in their own way. Also, deeply buried qualities need spaciousness to come forth into awareness.
Some of us have received the message early in life - "Life is difficult. The world is a problem. Enemies abound. Be dutiful; that's more important than enjoying life." Is this really the world we live in? Why are some persons so joyful and others not, though we live in the same world? Or do we each create a world - gladsome or gloomy? Silence provides space for us to explore the assumptions we have about life, others, and ourselves. Many of us early in life inherited messages through word and example that lead to choose joylessness. Some of these messages likely came from persons who themselves did not feel permitted to enjoy joy. We can choose otherwise, but we need insight into these wrong, debilitating views. Unless we choose otherwise, we continue the cycle through our words and actions, spreading misery like a toxin.
* * *
We can acknowledge joy is not happiness, for happiness depends on happenings. We can go into the sanctuary of ourselves, and there we find a sense of companionship and contentment. This sense is so subtle we cannot say what it is, but we can know it and feel it.
Unhappiness can lead us to a place of joy. The instability of happiness awakens us to acknowledge its transitory nature. Then, we seek a deeper experience, not based on outer circumstances.
In welcoming joy and becoming joyful, we encounter what may appear as a paradox. Joy is a gift, something given to us, and joy results from our choices. This truth is our everyday experience, so we need not be mystified by it as something extraordinary.
Joy is no different from nurturing a seed into a plant, and you neither created the seed nor the plant. Yet, you would not have enjoyed the cabbage at mealtime without caring for the cabbage seed. This entails making sure the seed is in a nourishing environment - this is first and foremost your inner environment, though it does not mean the outer is not important. When you care for your heart garden, you can enjoy the grace of joy. Caring for means effort, while joy itself arises effortlessly. Then, you grow from joy to being joyful. And you realize you received joy... that you are not the source of it, the creator of it. You can receive it with no felt need to disrobe the blessing of the mystery it is - so it is with all good graces arising into our lives, gifts we, through inviting them, in time become one with.
* * *
For me, since that day of the arising of repressed joy during silence, becoming comfortable with joy has been a journey. This pilgrimage has included many moments and decisions for self-care and difficult choices concerning work and relationships. Not all of these have brought more pleasure into my life, but they have led more to that gladness of which I speak - a quality more desirable and sustainable than pleasure.
The journey continues for me. Possibly, that is true of all of us. Could it be there are depths of all good qualities - of the Good, True, and Beautiful - we never reach? If so, that is good news, is it not? If so, what we have yet to experience urges us onward to more of Grace and the fulness of graces.
* * *
*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2021.
*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.