Stephen’s brother and niece are visiting us from the West coast, and it has infused some new energy into our daily routine that had become a bit stale and lifeless. It is so revitalizing to have family visit after a year of not seeing any relatives.
As July begins, I am reflecting on and trying to embody my word for this month which is joy. A simple word yet elusive to many including myself. I know when I feel it, but I can’t always grasp it. I have to wait patiently for it to come to me even though I believe certain practices can open ourselves up to receive more joy in our life.
My wise teacher Philip Thatcher asked my West Coast Institute class several years ago during our reading of Parzival, “What is joy?” My hand shot up immediately to answer, surprising myself, the quiet one who learned to keep my mouth shut and ears and mind open during most classes unless I felt I had something worthwhile to say, and as Philip called on me I heard myself speaking from a place of deep knowing–of course I know what joy is. Joy is that feeling and experience of holding pain and suffering while at the same time feeling your soul and heart expanding and bursting with love. For me, it’s the image of the mother, the conscious mother, I should add, fully awake and aware, in childbirth. Giving birth to my children was one of the hardest things I had to do physically in my life; it stretched me like nothing else could and yet the knowing that my child would soon be in my arms brought a fullness of heart that little else had in my life until then.
When I embody joy, it feels like an expansiveness and spaciousness, an acceptance and allowing for all feelings and experiences to be felt while knowing I am not alone. It has depth that happiness does not. For me, happiness remains on the surface but joy grows deep roots into the pain and suffering of being human by remembering that none of us is truly alone. I believe we all have an angel or guide and the Great Spirit who lives within us and all around us, making space for joy even through our tears of suffering.
As my telehealth psychotherapy private practice is beginning, I am reminded again and again of how we need to be gentle with one another. We all have our shortcomings, our failures, mistakes, and vulnerabilities. But we also have so many gifts to share with one another, the simplest and yet the hardest perhaps is loving-kindness. I tell myself frequently to be a blessing towards others and not a curse. May I bring more joy into a room instead of pain. May you do likewise this day.
I leave you with a quotation from David Driskell, a local artist whose work we saw at the Portland Museum of Art:
“When the indomitable human spirit rises above the chaos of violence, hunger and pain and soars to a heightened relief through the making of art, we are classless and raceless so long as we create the spiritual vision. As an artist of African ancestry, I have had to learn to live with racism, sexism, and all the prejudices. I often find refuge and, indeed, solace in the creative process. In the quiet of my small studio nestled in the majestic pines and white birches in Maine, two worlds merge in my work, one of sight, the other of vision. The beauty of nature and the creative world of the imaginations together express the joyous vision I have as an artist, responding to the spiritual urge within to fulfill my earthly task of making and creating my own beautiful world.”