Contemplating Joy

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?

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Resentment, Anger and Grudges as Soul Journey Teachers

“If I destroy you, I destroy myself. If I honour you, I honour myself.” Nunbatz Men MAYAN

This is a daily meditation offering from White Bison.  The message: if I secretly hold a grudge or resentment against someone, I will be a slave to that person until I let them go so let me remember to look at my brothers and sisters in a sacred way.

This is a hard lesson to really accept and learn when we so want it to be about the other person! Yet when we hold that grudge, the person we hold it against actually has power over us.  To be even more direct, we have given our power away to them.  Nothing can be resolved unless they do something, healing cannot take place unless they do something.

What a sad and wretched way to live if this is what we choose – completely at the mercy of another’s journey.  What if they never change?  What if they never offer us what it is we think we need of them?  Or, even worse, what if they do and then we discover that that isn’t really the magic cure we’ve been waiting for? It’s not nearly as satisfying as we were sure it would be?

Healing of the soul is not an outer journey dependent on someone else.  It is an inner journey that only we can navigate.  Fortunately, there are many helpers, guides and teachers who show up along the way – but only when we are ready and can either perceive others as teachers or invite them as such.  It is easier to understand coaches and mentors as teachers, less easy to understand those we hold a grudge (or worse) against as a teacher although they often catapult our learning once we open to it.

When we feel wronged, and particularly when we feel deeply wronged, it is hard to step into the path of inquiry that asks: why have I invited this into my life?  This is not to make us wrong, make us a victim or cause us to take responsibility for another person’s actions.  This is solely to help us understand our own soul’s journey and the lessons we need to learn.

When I have felt marginalized in my life, I learned to ask the question: Why am I inviting marginalization (or marginalizing myself)?  How does that serve me in the place that I am in now? In a place of marginalization, I hide from stepping into my own power and purpose in life and, for some strange reason, this feels “safer”.

When I have felt voiceless in relation to other people I wondered what was my journey to reclaiming my voice?  I recognized my own feelings of judgment arising – about others and about myself – and learned to step into it, initially with great trepidation I might add, inquire into it, ease up on it.  Voicing my fears, issues and concerns in the light of showing up in ways I do not aspire to (as judgmental) began to bring me back to reclaiming my voice – a step toward also reclaiming my power – as a being of compassion, strength and love with important work to do in the world.

Jerry Granelli in my ALIA module  Leader as Shambhala Warrior said: if you resent one moment of your life, that is aggression.  Wow.  Just one moment of resentment is aggression.  Powerful.  It resonated strongly with my journey and learning to find the gifts in life decisions I’d made that I’d come to regret.  In truly finding the gift, the regret left, creating space for more compassion, strength, love and great joy – qualities that Byron Brown describes as inherent soul qualities in his book: Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within – a book that literally changed my life.

Letting go of regret and resentment can be a daily exercise, a daily reminder that this is a journey and, when we do step into it, it is a shape shifting journey.  We get to make a choice about it every day.  We only come to understand it as a choice as we journey, as we learn, as we sink into the soul’s journey by inquiring – with curiosity – into resentment, anger and grudges as they show up in our life.

Life has an interesting way of bringing to us that which we most need to learn from at any given time. My experience is that by learning to embrace it, it is usually a gentler journey – and I’ve learned that the hard way – from all the choices I made that brought me into deeply intense learning experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have “chosen” for myself but which I now see that my “soul’s journey” chose for me to create the conditions necessary for me to step more fully into the gifts, power and talents that serve me and serve my work in the world.

These soul journey teachers do not appear to be friends when they show up.  If we make them enemies as much as the others they show up about, we wither and die – literally and figuratively, spiritually and physically.  This is motivation enough to take the difficult first steps of seeing them for their enormous potential as teachers.  The more intense the experience, the greater the return in the soul’s journey.

Because at some point I embraced this journey – which was better than the alternative internal toxicity I found myself living in a few years ago, every day and most minutes in a day, I now find myself in a place of deep appreciation, gratitude and joy for my journey and the ALL the people in it who have contributed in some way.  Waking up feeling joyful does not get old!