I thought about joy this morning, because even though I have been in physical pain this week — rib injury on Sunday — I have had joy through the pain and tiredness. I don’t always, though, and neither do many others.
As I thought of this, I thought of perhaps a better question, one that helps produce joy, I believe. I know that people who are miserable with themselves, their circumstances, and most other people really have no joy. Sometimes I am crabby and grumbly, but really those times are short-lived. I will say, however, that at times I consciously am not very expressive around people who are miserable because they resent it and it reinforces their misery. However, the question that might help them and that helps me think about life is this: How much do you or I appreciate life — not the fact that we are alive but the fact that other people and the creation of Nature and humanity abound, demanding our attention?
We are alive, we are here, and we receive and transmit stimuli constantly. How do we feel about it? Our attitude towards this world, this life, and creation is colored by several things. Choice of primary life operating system of Heart is the greatest factor — Heart or Ego? However, ego can and does at any time crop up, even for those who have awakened to self, simply because ego is an integral dynamic of our being. Knowing it helps us know when it is operating. It also helps us know we better change filters pretty quickly.
If our view in any given moment in life produces or is characterized by apathetic indifference, combative anger, snorting superiority, self-defeating depression, shrinking inferiority, or a hundred other things, then we know that ego is working overtime. The solution? Joyous appreciation at soul level of the essence and construction of life around us — animate and inanimate, nature and man-made. Appreciation does not say that we agree with everything or everyone, that we even like everything or everyone, or that we wouldn’t change things that are in our power.
This is very important: the sort of appreciation I am speaking of here is the understanding of the relationship of parts to the whole, of understanding how this world, this Universe all fits together, of looking at it all and knowing the relevancy of one person, place, or thing to another — AND our relationship to it all. This insight comes from a heart perspective because the very nature of Ego will not allow the Other to be so intrusive. Therefore, when Heart gives us such insight, we appreciate life, our life in relation to the whole, and this produces joy.
If I am feeling depressed and frustrated, as I was this morning, I know that ego is operating by default; I know that I have looked at circumstances and NOT chosen Heart. That is the value of recognizing ego. My solution, and one I would recommend to you, is to Walt Whitman up! This is exactly what I have been speaking about, but let’s see how Walt looked at life.
One of his joy poems, and I know it is so because it is an exuberant song, “Song of Myself,” shows how Walt developed this heart outlook. On the surface it’s simple, but the philosophy is profound. We should understand our philosophy, our belief framework about life. Walt begins with “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” We each merit our own song; we do!
Walt goes through sixteen pages in my version of Leaves of Grass, and in those pages he observes and creates an identity with and appreciation of almost all conceivable areas of life and creation. Note what I said — identity and appreciation. For joy to result, we have to understand our relationship to the whole. The ironic thing about celebrating the Self in this poem is that one comes to understand that we celebrate everybody and everything else. Song of Myself becomes song of this whole world.
Walt says in Section 16: “ I resist any thing better than my own diversity, / Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, / And am not stuck up, and am in my place.” He gets the relationship of his part to the whole. Then, he continues in Section 17 with this: “These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me, / If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing… // This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, / The common air that bathes the globe.” Grass and air are everywhere, universal, a symbol of democracy to Walt and one that says we can appreciate the place each one has — no matter what it is. This gives a settled joy as we understand our place relating to all others.
When fretting about self, life, or others, understanding via the heart creates peace. We know we are on the heart path when we understand that “whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,…” We can expect spiritual death without sympathy, a feeling with and understanding of others.
What is the understanding Walt gets to? “I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least, / Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself. /…I see something of God each hour…In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, / I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’ed by God’s name.” Even though he doesn’t understand God, he understands that he and all else are expressions of God — “letters from God dropt in the street.”
Walt Whitman up, my friend, if you are confused, upset, depressed, or any other feeling being produced by ego. Turn to the lens of the heart and view the world around you in sympathy as “letters of God dropt in the street.” Then, remember that you are one, too.
Joyous appreciation feels good, so if you want to feel good, choose Heart.
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Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!