Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 23, 2012

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(Sacred Impulses: Facet 5 of 8)

It may be surprising to find joy listed among the Sacred Impulses, but it certainly belongs. We need look no further than nature to see joy deeply embedded in the workings of the world. From playful pups to the songs of birds, animals certainly seem to enjoy being alive. From our natural responses to sunsets, mountains, and shorelines, nature provides us with ample opportunities for joy. So it is not so farfetched to consider that joy also goes well beyond life, into the higher realms, perhaps as far as being fundamental to the whole creation. We share in Godís joy.

Joy has levels. At the lowest level, joy is a temporary satisfaction of cravings. We feel we must have that cake. Afterwards, the joy and satisfaction vanish into the endless rounds of craving.

At our ordinary, half-aware level, we look to alleviate boredom with fun or thrills or pleasures, which break through our perceptual filters to bring us into actual contact with our life — again though, temporarily. That joy is short-lived, as the thrill evaporates on the flat expanse of the half-aware life.

At the level of being in contact with our senses, joy arises from many sources, such as appreciation of natural beauty, the arts, music, and humor, anything of high quality, seeing excellence in action, delicious foods tasted fully, making music or dancing, and so on. Although we prefer joy to pain, sadness, suffering, unhappiness, or ennui, we understand that life in time, in the sensory world is necessarily mixed and cannot be all joy. So we take our joy as it comes and we savor it.

At the level of being conscious and fully aware, we rise into a natural, un-caused joy. We are suffused with joy in our awareness itself. Our very presence is joy. Sharing moments with friends and loved ones brings us joy. Taking actions that serve others brings us joy. Being useful, creative, or spontaneous brings us joy. Doing something well brings us joy. Dropping the burdens of egoism, dropping the defense of our pretenses, dropping our clinging, we are released into joy. We even feel empathetic joy in othersí joys. Our joy is no longer limited or in any way dependent. We live in joy.

And yet, there is more. At the level of the World of Sacred Light, which we may touch in the deeper reaches of meditation or of contemplative or fervent prayer, joy comes as pure ecstasy and leaves its golden trace on our soul.

What can we do to increase our joy? That is not so straightforward, because in seeking joy we do not find it. It comes as a byproduct of a life well-lived. For example, it requires a clear conscience, which in turn allows us to give ourselves permission to enjoy our life. Spirituality, engagement in serious and important matters, career, family, and so on, do not preclude living in joy. Indeed, one mark of spiritual practice rightly pursued is that it gradually increases our capacity for joy. It is not all effort and self-denial. Joy reorders and rebalances our energies in a positive way, while encouraging us to continue our practice.

For this week, please enjoy your life or see what blocks that joy.


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