I’m having one of those weeks…how about you?
Having a nickname like “Twinkle” can be a lot to live up to sometimes. Especially since Joy is Serious business.
The irony of the timing of this service: “Living Joyfully” is not lost on me. That this of all weeks I feel put to the test to qualify and quantify exactly how to live joyfully.
What does it mean to me?
How is it significant in right relationship with others?
Why is it beneficial to our community?
Most days the words about Joy would come quickly, with little more than a touch on my conscious mind before spouting with delight about life and living for anyone to hear … who was so inclined to listen.
I can also sum it up in two sentences:
We have breath.
We have Joy.
It’s simple, right?
Well, perhaps not always.
“Living Joyfully” has been my creed for a very long time now.
I discovered several years ago that Joy resides in my heart.
Happiness, yes, but more than that.
It is like a sacred pool of strength I can draw from.
It gives me courage.
It guides me towards compassion.
It allows me to see more than what is just before my eyes.
It helps me quench my thirst for knowledge.
And secures me in my times of doubt.
That said, I admit that the past couple of weeks have pushed me to limits that have been both uncomfortable and ugly.
Incidents have challenged my belief in the ability to live from a place of joy, in the face of what seems quite the opposite.
And this, is as it should be.
More than merely philosophical, Living Joyfully, is of deep significance to my way of life. It stands to reason then that my experience with it would reflect a level of perspective reached from having had my faith in it tested.
Well, Mama Mia!
This week has been a thorough test.
And thank goodness!
How can I dissertate on any topic without having thoroughly examined it from all sides? My acquaintance with what I speak about should be longstanding. My faith repeatedly … and recently, reaffirmed.
So, do I still have Faith in Joy?
Let me first explain my beliefs about Joy.
We tend to think of emotions as individual. Existing singularly.
Aristotle had a similar list. In pathways to understanding communication within the sphere of human interactions he sites emotions with their opposites:
Love and Enmity
Confidence and Fear
Joy and Sorrow
We often align our minds to think that opposing emotions cannot co-exist in the same moment. Oh, They can come close, such as the saying, “there is a thin line between love and hate.” But in most our minds, there tends to be a clear division.
Kahlil Gibran offers us the alternative perspective that joy and sorrow are inseparable. He says,
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
He talks about how when one emotion is active, the other lies in wait.
I would like to suggest that Joy is not the absence of Sorrow. I feel the two can co-exist. And that when Sorrow presents in its many forms, that if we train our hearts to look and listen, we can find with certainty that Joy has not left the building.
That it is still present.
And it is possible to access Joy even in the most troubling of times.
Monday I was in Marblehead walking barefoot on the beach with my friend Suu. I was telling her about this service on Joy.
We talked about how easy it is to be joy-filled when life presents easily identifiable gifts. The birth of a long awaited grandchild, dancing, reconnecting with long lost friends, …..falling in love,
even a glimpse of a hummingbird taking nectar from a flower can incite instant Joy.
But what about the moments that are filled with pain and sorrow? During my walk with Suu, sharing my dilemma about wanting to show up here today able to talk authentically about this topic that is so central to my Being …..and finding myself struggling with it.
Amidst all this pain, I wondered where was my Joy?
And then something shifted.
Not the lighting bolt, epiphany kind of shift.
But a gentle remembering
as a moment caught in time resurfaced.
Just like the waves that were brushing against our feet from the receding ocean, the memory flowed in
….and ebbed out….
tenderly leaving its mark.
The memory was of my father’s funeral.
He was 58 when he died of a heart attack 14 years ago.
The sanctuary at his memorial service was completely filled. The walls lined with police officers. Big police officers.
Most of them shedding as many tears as we were.
But we were also sharing smiles.
Genuine, heart stirring, laughter merging, smiles …..as we shared stories, one after the other after the other, ….of my father, his humor, his idiosyncrasies, …..his life.
We were mutually in a moment of deep and undeniable sorrow.
But the Joy underneath held strong.
And in that moment on the beach in Marblehead remembering my father’s funeral, I knew I could speak here today with my faith in Joy restored.
In the spiritual tradition I practice, we find comfort in both the familiar and the mysterious. Deeply reverent of Nature. We train ourselves and each other to become vessels in which to explore the richness of living a full life on this planet.
We measure time by the cycle of the moons.
We mark the season’s arrival each quarter-year by celebrating the equinoxes and solstices.
We quiet our minds and open our hearts during solitary and group rituals.
We covenant together as we honor ancient traditions and co-create new ones.
And, yes, we weave a little magic… from time to time….
Together in this sanctuary we represent all aspects of life:
Maiden, Mother, Crone;
Beginning, Middle, End;
Physically, Spiritually, Emotionally.
During times of Joy, and of Sorrow, we attune ourselves to awareness of time and space.
Grounding to remain centered.
Focusing on aspects of the Feminine (Goddess) archetypes that we most wish to emulate:
Creator, Teacher, Visionary,
Shape Shifter, Warrior, Lover,
and myriad more.
Because there is power in words, we call Her by name:
Ishtar, Athena, Isis,
Persephone, Innana, Kwan Yin,
Hekate, Demeter, Shakti
and a thousand more feminine sacred figures who offer guidance and strength in the stories of their attributes.
When I think of Goddesses who represent Living Joyfully, I automatically seek out ones characteristic of what Joy means to me, and where it resides in me.
I think of Goddess Nemetona, whose name literally means “sacred space”
because to me Joy resides in my heart.
And, Maeve, Goddess of Cycles and Rhythms.
Because I’ve been reminded this week that Living Joyfully is not about a perpetual state of bliss.
It is not about always being in perfect health, or even in perfect relationship with each other.
It is certainly not about denying pain, nor ignoring what is wrong in our world.
And is it not about avoiding when “stuff” happens to interrupt your feeling of connection to your Joy.
Living Joyfully is about finding your way back to Joy.
It is about remembering Joy is always an option,
even when a season of sorrow enters.
Living Joyfully is about honoring the cycle of sorrow,
and following the rhythm of you heart
deep in to your sacred space.
From that space, that perpetual source of Joy,
the light in your life can reignite, opening your eyes to see the reflections of that Joy around you.
When we come together in community, the Joy we each bring serves to enhance, to enliven, and to heal.
“The Earth has music for those who listen.”
“The beating of our hearts, accompanied by the rhythm of our lungs..
..if we listen..
Adapted from Twinkle’s Sermon: “Where Joy Resides”
August 25, 2013
First Parish Women’s Goddess Covenant Circle
Theme: “Living Joyfully”