Midweek Faith Lift
December 26, 2018
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
On this last Sunday of Advent, as we wait for the joy of Christmas, we get a glimpse of what that joy really is. We have encountered Hope, which evolved into a deep and simple faith, saying “Let it be with me according to your word.” Traveling in this consciousness of Faith, we experience Peace, the deep peace, which comes with the deep healing of old affronts and hurts, the kind of healing that lets them be truly done. This healing gives us lasting peace and with this kind of peace, we are truly free to love, to love wastefully with no limitations. We can embrace that consciousness of both/and and recognize in each and every human encounter our true Divine nature and the true Divine nature of all beings, no matter how messy or ugly it might be.
It is that kind of love that brings us the experience of joy. We first have a human experience of joy. We recognize the feeling of joy at hearing very happy news. Last week, when the incredibly generous financial gift for our roof and floor projects was announced, there was a sense of lightness and joy in the air. We can for sure experience joy in our human reality. There is joy at the good news of prosperity, a return to good health, the report of no more cancer, the celebration of an engagement or the birth of a child, the approval of a loan to buy a house, acceptance in school and graduation and so on. These are all joyous events! So we have a sense of what joy is.
The real question for us as humans, wanting to integrate more of our Divinity into our human experience, is can we experience joy unrelated to any specific event or circumstance? And what is that joy like? How do understand Joy Unspeakable? When we are moving into a deeper joy, unrelated to any specific thing, it is more a state of mind and heart than a response of either. It is living in that expanded consciousness, that mountaintop view that continually maintains the awareness that there is always a greater reality that is much larger than my limited human perspective. It is a journey of the mind and the heart, the divine and the human integrated at their highest possible expression.
It is a state of consciousness, which Jesus tells us, is possible.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (NRSV)
How do we do that, how do we “keep” the commandments of Jesus? Well, one of the best ways that I have experienced these instructions has been captured in The Book of Joy, by Doug Abrams who chronicled a weeklong experience with the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa as they discussed both the obstacles to joy and the Pillars of Joy. If we were to re-cast this in the words we have been using, we would call it Practicing the Absence and Practicing the Presence. We experience this deep, spiritual sense of joy when we Practice the Presence. The Eight Pillars of Joy of the Dali Lama, to me are a prescription for Practicing the Presence that results in Joy Unspeakable!
There are four Pillars of the Mind and four Pillars of the Heart and it is essential to cultivate all of them to cultivate the consciousness of Joy Unspeakable.
So here we go:
The Pillars of the Mind :Perspective; Humility; Humor; Acceptance
The Pillars of the Heart: Forgivenes; Gratitude; Compassion; Generosity
Perspective: This pillar challenges us to cultivate an awareness of the lenses through which we look at the world. And to Practice the Presence that moves us to Joy means that we see “what is” from many points of view, appreciating that ours is just one point of view. The constant question is “What is the God-Love perspective?” How do I see “what is” from that perspective?
Humility: This one seems to be in short supply in our ego, achievement driven culture, but it is truly at the core of Joy Unspeakable. Both the words “human” and “humble” come from the root words “humus” which means dirt. Maybe if we took the “worm’s eye view” we would approach life with a deeper sense of humility. The challenge is to walk lightly on the earth, not taking ourselves too seriously. As Clark said to me during my first 6 months as minister, “Remember, Rev. Deb, it’s just Ames!” And then he got me an EASY button!
Humor: Which is the next Pillar of Joy—the ability to genuinely laugh at yourself! I remember sitting in a circle at meeting of Unity bigwigs as we were planning the World Day of Prayer service for 2011. Someone noticed that I had on a black sock and a brown sock….to which I replied, “Yes, and I have another pair just like them at home!!!” One of my favorite Birthday cards was from Sally, and it said, “You may be getting older, but you’re still tarp as a shack!” You betcha!
Acceptance: This is a critical key, and seems contradictory, but the only way to possibly experience true joy is to accept and love things as they are. It is the undergirding energy to all forms of nonviolent “Presencing” as that practiced by Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We teach this as a spiritual law: “what you resist persists” so put your energy into “being with” what is so that it can open to “what is more” rather than into fighting with it. Easier said than done, but it is a key component of Joy Unspeakable.
Pillars of the Heart:
Forgiveness: On this Advent journey, we have been reflecting a lot on forgiveness in the use of the ho’oponopono prayer, I forgive you, I’m sorry, I love you, thank you! This powerful prayer of forgiveness highlights the truth that at the basis of all peace is this kind of forgiveness. It is forgiveness filled with humility, able to acknowledge all that might be considered “practicing the Absence” in any given situation. It is at the Heart of Joy Unspeakable!
Gratitude: The practice of gratitude is at the heart of all religious practices around the world. It is a human response to feel grateful. In the practice of gratitude that brings Joy Unspeakable, we know it as practicing “Yes, and” rather than “Yes, but…” This kind of expansive view allows all that we experience to be stepping stones to our deeper experience of Joy. A friend once said to me during the despair of divorce, bankruptcy and loss, “the depth of your grief will be the height of your joy!” AND SHE WAS RIGHT ON! Thank you God for everything!
Compassion: This is our ability to “feel with” another, even when we don’t understand or approve of their behaviors or attitudes. It is stepping back, out of and away from judgment, from a sense of superiority to literally “feel with” the pain of another. Compassion does not mean we “take up the cause” or become co-dependent in our thinking or doing. It means that our capacity to love is spacious enough to make room for those who are at the bottom of a steep learning curve as they attempt to express what they think loving others really means. It gives us room to see the pain behind mis-guided attempts to express God-love. Jesus didn’t reject those who wanted to really learn what he meant by love. He guided and taught them and reminded them to look within. Compassion asks us to do the same, and to look within our own hearts for loving kindness toward all, no matter what. Joy Unspeakable is the side effect of this kind of Compassion.
Generosity: This is our final Pillar of Joy and it asks us to have an open heart, a giving heart when we encounter each other. Be generous in your assumptions about the motives of another as you would ask that they be generous with you. When you let go of grasping, you are open to receive. When you let go of avoiding what is uncomfortable, you are open to give. Let your mantra be, “I give and receive joyfully, I cannot out give God!” Research has shown that the reward centers of our brain light up as strongly when we give as when we receive. We have evolved to enjoy giving because, as an interdependent species, generosity was essential to our survival. So we are hardwired to feel happy when we give.
These are the Pillars of Joy Unspeakable, and they are available to all as our own personal Christmas Present. I want to end today with a short piece from Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Contemplative Action Daily Meditation, from Tuesday, December 18, 2018:
The world desperately needs people, free of cultural illusions, who are undertaking a dedicated exploration of true reality, not just to know the material nature of things, but also to know the very Source of everything that exists. An unfolding contemplative practice eventually becomes total receptivity. In that receptivity, one is aware of a silence that is becoming an irresistible attraction. Silence leads to stillness; stillness leads to surrender. While this doesn’t happen every time we sit down to pray, interior silence gradually opens to an inner spaciousness that is alive. In this context, if we speak of emptiness, we are not speaking of just emptiness, but of emptiness that is beginning to be filled with a Presence. Perhaps we could say that contemplation occurs when interior silence morphs into Presence.
This Presence, once established in our inmost being, might be called spaciousness. There is nothing in it except a certain vibrancy and aliveness. You’re awake. But awake to what, you don’t know. You are awake to something that you can’t describe and which is absolutely marvelous, totally generous, and which manifests itself with increasing tenderness, sweetness, and intimacy.
May you have the Gift of Joy Unspeakable this Christmas!
Blessings on the Path,