Focus on the Joy

October 16, 2011

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Years ago, I wrote a post called More Love, Less Fear. Today I say more joy, less fear. I think joy and love are intertwined and reciprocally generating. It occurred to me today that the way I overcame my feeling of being adrift after retirement had to do with focusing on joy rather than fear.

What is the security that Lindbergh talks about? I believe a basic physical safety, enough to eat, clean water, and community are the essentials for security. We can construct much more elaborate security needs when we come from a place of fear.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do believe that most people hunger for true connection more than wealth and power. Many of them don’t understand the yearning and do bad things in the pursuit of security. What if they focused on what gave them joy?

What gives you joy? Can you pay more attention to that and less attention to the nagging fears that tell you to pursue greater security?

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Let Your Life Speak

March 29, 2009

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. ~Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces….

~May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”

Palmer reminds us that the word vocation is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” He has come to understand vocation as a gift to be received, rather than a goal to be achieved. Watching his granddaughter during the early days of her life, he could see that she had inclinations, preferences, and her own personality from birth. He says, “We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then–if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss–we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”

And he says: As May Sarton reminds us, the pilgrimage toward true self will take ‘time, many years and places.’ The world needs people with the patience and the passion to make that pilgrimage not only for their own sake but also as a social and political act. The world still waits for the truth that will set us free–my truth, your truth, our truth–the truth that was seeded in the earth when each of us arrived here formed in the image of God. Cultivating that truth, I believe, is the authentic vocation of every human being.

And: Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’

This small volume of essays from Palmer leads us through his choices about vocation, his depression and dark periods, and his ultimate realization that he is a teacher. He believes our shared vocation, leadership in the world of action, is an outgrowth of our inner journeys. We should support one another’s inner work by creating “communities of solitudes,” not abandoning or trying to fix each other.

More ideas from Parker J. Palmer here.


Love and Trust

February 5, 2009

One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others. ~Archibald Rutledge

For many years, I’ve believed that what hurts one member of the human family hurts us all, and what helps one person helps us all. It is logical, then, to rejoice when another is lifted up or otherwise graced with good fortune. I am learning that, like forgiveness, this practice is something that helps the giver at least as much as the recipient.

When we are jealous or resentful of others, I think we are coming from a scarcity mentality. In celebrating another’s fortune or success, we fear losing something ourselves, whereas embracing abundance (which leads to generosity) shifts our position dramatically. Gary Zukav, in his book, The Heart of the Soul, says that we release our energy into the world from either fear and doubt or from love and trust. It seems important to me to be intentional about staying on the side of love and trust as much as we can, opening our hearts to others.

How do you see it?


Positivity

January 8, 2009

The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry. ~Maya Angelou

We hear way too much gloom and doom from the media. Yes, it’s true bad things happen in the world. But every day, so many people are doing good work, helping others, showing courage, giving and sharing, speaking truth to power, loving and caring for the world.

While it seems right to be concerned and cry (about the horrors in the Gaza Strip, the shooting in the San Francisco subway, and the other tragedies of the day), we also have to sustain our belief in goodness, laughter, community and sharing. Being human is being all those things, despite the fact that it sometimes feels a bit schizophrenic. Think how healing it can be for people to commune, laugh and remember after a memorial service, to enjoy being together, to remember the loved one who is gone, but also go on living.

I have never cared for the ideas of “positive thinking” or “affirmations” because to me they have always seemed false, a pretense. But if we are genuinely in touch with both the sadness and the joy in life, it is good to remember the things that make us laugh. May we all laugh as much as we cry.


World Community

December 27, 2008

Today the planet is the only proper “in group.” Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. ~Joseph Campbell*

The election results have had a significant effect on my outlook. I am almost tempted get that bumper sticker that says “Proud to Be An American.” But I won’t, because I don’t believe there’s any virtue in nationalism, as we are world citizens living on the earth interdependently.

Campbell’s words help me reconcile the enormous suffering in the world with our responsibility to live fully and joyfully. Carrying the weight of that suffering doesn’t help anyone. As Dorothy Day said, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

May we live more joyfully at the same time we open to the world’s suffering with our compassion. Awake and joyful living will show us the path to our right work for the welfare of all.

*Today’s quote comes from the Word for the Day at gratefulness.org.


You Are the Gift

December 24, 2008

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. ~Kurt Vonnegut

There is no need to capture or hold on to anything because you are everything. ~Sasaki-Rosi

Our most important gift to others this holiday season is our full presence, our aliveness, our unique expression. I am hopeful that the economic downturn is actually helping people understand the value of such intangible gifts. Who really needs another kitchen appliance or another technological gadget?

I agree wholeheartedly with Sarah Susanka’s suggestion to consider recycling something in our vast collections of “stuff” that we no longer need but that might bring joy to someone else. Fewer items for the landfill.

But most importantly, may we remember that we are the gift. Wishing everyone a joyful, simple, mindful holiday season.


Engage

December 19, 2008

How long will you keep pounding on an open door, begging for someone to open it? ~Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya

What a great reminder that (as my friend Shirley used to say) “I have everything I need to be happy here and now.” Don’t we all sometimes just want to be rescued? How tempting it can be to be the damsel in distress, the victim, waiting for the white knight (read: lover, father, boss, president, savior) to come along. It is seductive to feel absolved of responsibility for our own lives. But in the process we are turning our power (and our joy) over to others.

How much more satisfying to engage in our lives, be mindful, celebrate all that is–the universe in its infinite wisdom; our friends, relations, and coworkers who are who they are; our life situation, which is no doubt perfect for the lessons we need to learn. Who are we, after all, to question the design of goddess/nature/god/spirit/life?

Yesterday I had a moment of profound gratitude for life, for breath, for the world just as it is. Today, I bow to the mystery and to you. Namaste.