Byron Brown, in Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, asserts that compassion, strength, love and joy are essential soul qualities. He says that ego – or our internal judge or critic – would have us believe this is not true, that we are in constant search of these qualities and that usually they are unattainable, maybe because we believe we are not worthy.
A constant search for these qualities would always have them in the future and, while we may have fleeting glimpses of them, they are elusive. We are thus, by default, relegated to a life of strife and striving, doomed to be ruled by the internal judge or critic who, when we are not doing well admonishes us that we can do better and when we do well, first congratulates us and then says, “How long do you think you can keep that up?”. Stepping out of this habitual, ingrained pattern in our thoughts and in our life takes conscious, intentional effort but when it happens we experience moments of freedom – even joyful freedom.
Of the essential soul qualities, it is joy I am contemplating most frequently at the moment. Joy because, as the shape of my world has shifted, I feel joyful – often. I wake up in the morning feeling joyful, go to bed at night feeling joyful. I don’t necessarily feel joyful every moment of every day but at least I’ve become aware of my emotional journey and am living into it – rather than walking through it as if it was happening to someone else – or, maybe, happening to just a shadow of myself rather than the multi-coloured range which has become more available to me over the last couple of years.
Joy feels freeing and expansive. It is fed by gratitude and appreciation. It is fed by noting it and sinking deeper into it – surrendering to it, letting it seep into all my pores, breathing it in with every breath and back out into the world so other people can also feel the expression of joy – even if they do not know what it is they are experiencing.
And as I notice joy and joyfulness in my life, in any given moment, every now and then I also notice the little voice that says — yeah, sure it’s summer now, but what about the fall? How do you know you are actually going to keep your business busy enough to sustain yourself in the fall? You should be worried about that now!
Hmmm, you should be worried about that now. Sounds like the voice of my internal judge wanting to be heard – in fairness to it, it does want to keep me safe and financially sustainable, but it has a limited range of options with which to do that and they all include struggle, worry and fear – emotions I am very familiar with – as I am also familiar with how constricting and how limiting they can be, shutting down the capacity of the soul to be in full expression – which includes full manifestation that comes from a place of trust.
Most of us have learned that life is full of struggle and if you want to get ahead you have to work hard, really hard – and even then there are no guarantees. We have learned that life is not handed to us on a silver platter, we have to work in order to live and adversity makes us stronger – you know that phrase – that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Okay, so there may be some truth in that but I declared awhile ago (a bit more than a year ago in fact) that I was welcoming ease into my life. I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the last year and a bit – it takes intentionality and really paying attention in any given moment, and, for now, it seems to be more and more a characteristic of how I am living my life and what is showing up in it. It doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult things or moments that show up. My father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer is a good example, the uncertainty of this story as it unfolds over the next 6 months to a year and the impact on me as his main source of support in his health care. Or my mother’s journey with dementia in a long term care ward. Or entering yet another new phase of my life as both of my older children prepare to depart to different provinces in the fall for University. But it does mean I entertain these stories, events in my life, with a different kind of graciousness which invites ease into how to hold them them. And it doesn’t mean I can’t feel joy or be in a state of joyfulness as I experience the ebb and flow of my life and the ebb and flow of the lives of people I care about.
I am welcoming ease, welcoming joy and welcoming the full array of what all needs to show up in my life, saying no to worry and to fear, yes to presence and to calm. I am aware that fear, worry, frustration are waiting in the wings some days, some moments, but I am no longer expecting them and no longer inviting them – consciously or unconsciously. Every moment will take care of itself. And, if I believe that, it is a far more playful and fun way to show up in the world, a world of joy and joyfulness.
If it is true that the other shoe will drop, why can’t it look and feel like the first one rather than the one we allude to: the heavy handed, heavy-hearted counterpart to joy, love, compassion and strength?