Joy is not the absence of pain, it’s the sacred acceptance of it

by Cheryl Brewster

Like you, I’ve experienced a lot of joy in my life, and a lot of pain. I recognize that both are integral dance partners, challenging assumptions and perceptions of reality.

JOY in my experience is the ever-present, inner quality of the soul, always in the background, and yet often expressing itself spontaneously and with great love. In fact I would say it’s one of the highest forms of love. And nothing is more comforting than knowing whatever befalls us, whatever conflict is gurgling inside of us, love prevails. When love prevails, joy does too. It’s an immutable law of the universe.

Which is why I’m so big on JOY. It’s fear’s faithful companion in the Hero’s Journey; the call to the Soul to express its true nature. By embracing what’s NOT working with kindness rather than with judgment, JOY looks for what is possible, opens dimensions of consciousness for fresh insight and new that solutions expand soul growth and greater effectiveness in life.

JOY means you’re true to the “real you” inside. The one that you’ll always be in discovery of. The one that lives in integrity with the law of nature, at one with itself and the universe.

JOY is always possible because it takes conflict and uses it to evolve consciousness.

There’s nothing more rewarding than that! No matter what’s going on, as we surrender to this inner quality inside, we make peace with our inner dragons and begin to tame them. That’s my definition of J.O.Y. – Just Open Yourself to this exquisite power inside. The sooner the better, for as the Course in Miracles reminds us:

Peace is our only goal and forgiveness is our only function.

Joy is not the fluffy stuff of unicorns and rainbows. It’s not surface. It’s deep. It’s strong because it’s emerged from transcending the sorrows of life. It knows that day always follow the night, so it trusts the light even when it can’t be seen. That’s joy. That’s the culmination of a deep, solid decision to trust life and be willing to continually face uncertainty with courage, grace, commitment and eventually, a sense of adventure.

Joy is the willingness to keep growing.
It’s the decision to embrace Beginner’s Mind, to cast ego pride aside, admit uncertainty and keep going anyway, learning how to walk in the new world with baby steps that include vulnerability, asking for help, many falls, scrapes and the infinite call to patience. Joy is knowing we are multi-dimensional, that everything really is okay, even when the ego insists it’s not. Joy is mindfulness, presence, and power rather than force.

In Stoicism, the Ancient Greek philosophy that emphasizes self-control, happiness or joy is defined as “eudaimonia” which means human flourishing and consists of the  growth, authenticity, meaning, and excellence. I’d say my definition of Joy is the same, it’s just a whole lot easier to spell . Like Stoicism, and speaks to the true nature of authenticity and the our evolution of expanding integrity and virtue of character. This is where joy and pain intersect. We’ll keep finding parts of ourselves that need to be surrendered to reveal the deeper authenticity within. I believe we do this best using joy – we will find all kinds of things that need to change, but joy’s response will be purposeful because it’s one of evolution. First we do things from love, then through love, then AS love. Joy identifies and releases patterns that don’t work, that keep us stuck in guilt or paralysis and makes healing possible.

Joy befriends the guilt. It provides safe passage for the pain to flow through. It is more interested in growth than being right. It’s not argumentative nor a perfectionist. Metaphorically, it likes to play in the dirt, in the imagination of mud pies that call to us when we take life too seriously.

So, the next time you find yourself wondering what happened to your joy. Know that it will come back. It didn’t go away, it’s still there, always in the background; you’ve just got some emotional processing to do. Painful emotions are a sign of growth and the reward is truly worth the effort. That’s why joy is not the absence of sorrow, it’s the sacred acceptance of it.

In the immortal words of poet William Blake, we find the seeds of resilience and true prosperity in this force of love called JOY:

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.

 

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