Midweek Faith Lift
November 4, 2020
Pillars of Joy- Perspective & Humility
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
We have looked at the Obstacles to Joy, now we have the pleasure of considering the Pillars of Joy! The very first consideration is to breathe into the reality that JOY is a by-product of qualities of the mind and heart. Joy is NOT a product that we acquire just by getting rid of the Obstacles. We are willing to let go of envy, anger, greed, fear and to cultivate the mental immunity that allows us to be present to what is whether we like it or not. We let go of what gets in the way of experiencing true joy as we now turn to the practice of cultivating what sustains this deep joy that goes beyond our human understanding of simple happiness.
So what are they, these 8 pillars that support a deep sense of joy? Well, there are 8 pillars, 4 of the mind and 4 of the heart. The Pillars of the Mind are perspective, humility, humor and acceptance. The Pillars of the Heart are forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity. Ultimately, for both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu, true joy is a matter of the heart, of compassion and generosity. However, to cultivate the deep joy that we desire, the mind and heart have to be in the same place in alignment with the Higher Self.
Perhaps it is more clear when we say it backwards: when our head says one thing and our heart says something else, we are not and cannot be in a place of deep joy! We are usually in conflict within ourselves or with someone else, not a joyful place to be. This whole journey is a process of getting our head and heart together and keeping them together! It requires us to recognize that what we are thinking and what our heart says are not the same. Many times we try to ignore one at the behest of the other and that is a non-workable by-pass that does NOT result in joy. Whether you ignore your heart or your head doesn’t matter! Truly bringing head and heart together is what brings deep joy!
So we begin with the pillars of the head, our thinking capacity! And the first thing we encounter is the Pillar of Perspective. The Book of Joy says it this way on page 194:
A healthy perspective really is the foundation of joy and happiness, because the way we see the world is the way we experience the world. Changing the way we see the world in turn changes the way we feel and the way we act, which changes the world itself.
We call this the law of Mind Action, which is the third Unity Principle. The critical element here is to really take a step back from our experiences to consider just how we are regarding things. This is NOT about cultivating our mind’s action so that we only see and expect positive things and thereby we have the power to always experience and expect positive things. It is not about trying to control outer circumstances and we can get confused about that.
It is true that changing our emotions is quite challenging, and so changing our emotional reactions to our circumstances is quite difficult and not worth the effort. We allow our feelings to happen, like the weather but we do have the ability to reframe how we think about things. When we can step out of self-interest and our own limited self-awareness, then we can see multiple perspectives and a much bigger picture. In our country right now, we are suffering from “perspectival myopia” which leaves us very near-sighted and unable to consider a larger or broader perspective on anything.
If you look at a cardboard box, there are at least 6 different angles from which you can consider it. The bigger the box, the wider the perspective! The question then becomes as we consider all the different angles, which ones are the most helpful and the most productive and conducive to our experience of joy? That is a question our mind can contemplate outside of our emotional reactions to what may be in the box! Remember, we are holding the intention of our head and heart coming together here so that we can experience true joy! The ultimate question for each of us is to really consider whether or not the perspective we are holding is actually lighting a path of joy for us or a path of suffering, regardless of what is in the box!
We want to be able to see what is from a neutral perspective with the realization that our limited perspective is not the “Truth.” What is even more freeing is when we can actually see our part in any conflict or misunderstanding. That is true freedom and power and a path to authentic joy, lasting joy. This is not to take an unrealistic perspective, it is to take the “higher viewpoint” that might remind us that we have something to learn in this circumstance and we very well might be a part of someone else’s lesson.
It was very interesting to me that both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu were trying to shift our perspective from “I, me and mine” to “we, us and ours.” That shift in pronouns and perspectives actually results in a lowered risk of heart attack! Additionally, when we make the shift from me to we, it results in less time invested in ruminating in self-referential thoughts. A high level of self-involvement was a better predictor of death from heart attack than cholesterol level, smoking or high blood pressure! One strategy that the Dalai Lama used to manage pain from a gall bladder infection was to think of all others who were also in pain for the same reason, which was a kind of “suffering with” which is the birth of compassion!
This brings us to the second Thought Pillar of Joy, which is humility. Once we gain that wider perspective that allows us to see our interdependence, we are able to realize that we do not control all aspects of any situation. And thus begins our path of humility! It begins with the recognition that we are human. The word human and humility share the same root word, which is “humus” the Latin word for dirt or earth. When we get too full of ourselves and all bent out of shape that “this shouldn’t be happening to me” or “I don’t deserve this!” something usually happens that brings us down to earth again and restores balance to our being.
When we require external symbols that serve to indicate our importance we have lost touch with our humanity, our humility! When we take ourselves too seriously and get puffed up with our own importance, it is a real hazard to our well-being and capacity for true joy. The Dalai Lama spoke of being at a conference with another holy teacher who insisted that his chair legs be longer so that he would be more elevated than the other wisdom teachers who were there. He started hoping for something to topple the chair so that laughter could take down the puffed up energy sitting in that chair. He described that when he is with other spiritual leaders, he hopes something unexpected happens so that they don’t get any idea of spiritual superiority and can laugh at themselves. That forces them to act like normal human beings and share their imperfections!
Humility is not something you claim to have, it is a quality that you demonstrate when under great duress. It is not false modesty or just “trying not to be arrogant.” Claiming what are truly your gifts and using them for a higher purpose or good is what Spirit calls us to do. Humility is all about how we relate to each other from a consciousness of mutual respect and authenticity, not about making grand gestures to prove how humble we are. It means authentically recognizing that we are in the wrong or have been offensive. True humility results in us changing our behavior, not asking others to change their behavior. False humility is co-dependence that goes along with someone who tells us we are wrong or bad when we know that is not true.
If our position, our response to another helps us to have a genuine, authentic connection with them and with ourselves, then we are in a place of true humility. If it keeps us in an emotionally “safe” position feeling superior like “at least I didn’t do that”, then we are not experiencing true humility. The Dalai Lama shared a Tibetan prayer on page 201 of The Book of Joy that goes like this:
Whenever I see someone, may I never feel superior. From the depth of my heart, may I be able to really appreciate the person in front of me.
It is essential to remember that the sense of arrogance that would keep us from truly saying this prayer is rooted in insecurity. True humility is rooted in our connection to our real identity, our connection to Spirit. As the Dalai Lama said many times, he is one of 7 billion people on the planet. He may have a special part to play that is just his, but he is not special. That is an empowering perspective!
Well, how does this look in real time! Well, last weekend, I was in Branson, MO with my sister for the weekend. On Monday, the day of the snowstorm, I was driving home from Branson to Des Moines heading to Kansas City and right into a snow event. I had printed the directions to get there from Unity Village and my intention was to just reverse them in order to go home the same way! Well, that was just not going to work, because I could not really read them in the driving rain, much less follow them in reverse. I got off to check and get gas and did not realize that I was at the right exit. I was stressing and I called Todd to have him check the weather and should I go a different way, and worry, worry, worry…..you get the picture! And he didn’t know what to tell me!
So I got back on I-44 going west, sure that the exit was ahead only to realize I had just left it about 10 miles back by now. So, I finally started to pray….letting go of the arrogance of proving to myself I could find my way back the same way I had come. And then I started with the self-blame chatter and the self-doubt nonsense… you shudda done this and that….” And then Todd called me back with weather updates and said “If you are going that way, don’t question it, it must be for a reason, so just relax!” And then I did and I prayed, “God is showing me the way home.” It reminded me of the verse in Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Which said to me that when my head and heart are in the same place, I am in alignment with my divine self and I always find my way home. And I did!
Blessings on the Path,