Come Up to Joy »
By Margaret Stortz |
I have long felt that, in our Oneness with God, we cannot fail to be recipients of the Divine Good, which filters through us all the time. I say “filters” instead of just plain “flows” because in our ignorance we tend to inhibit the flight of the Infinite Spirit within us and therefore only get some of what we could receive completely. We could and do call the Divine Good by others names, such as Spiritual Gifts, which enables us to separate out Infinite qualities into characteristics we want to experience. Sounds a bit mundane, perhaps, but then much of our lives is mundane and worldly, caught up in our hopes, dreams and responsibilities. Why shouldn’t we usher spiritual qualities into the most ordinary parts of our days as well as the most inspired? Divine Inspiration is ours to use as we see fit, and who is to say some uses are better than others?
Recognizing the Gifts
One of Ernest Holmes’s favorite scholars, the English jurist of the 19th Century, Thomas Troward, gives a thoughtful, pragmatic look at how to recognize and use the Gifts of the Spirit. He lists some of them as identifiable characteristics that we will find familiar: Life, Love, Light, Power, Peace, Beauty, and Joy. No surprise here. As spiritual seekers we often gravitate to terms that point out certain qualities we would want to amplify in our lives. In fact, Troward suggests that we have access to them by what he called the “Divine Principle of Humanity” and that this is our “Normal Standard,” from which we continue to evolve. We could simply say that there is inherent, identifiable, expression-able spiritual DNA that we all come into life with and with which we have to become familiar. If Oneness means anything, it cannot be that we are not using the spiritual gifts. It can be, though, that we are clueless about the power within us. This can get a little scary because, as Ernest Holmes tells us, we can misuse our good.
Troward gives us clues as to how to access our normal standard, and he says simply that we can contemplate our sense of Spirit. We all have the capacity for self contemplation. We are all centers in Spirit, and as we think about our sense of Spirit, our personalities become anchored in it…part of our acts of being Troward’s “normal.” What is even more wonderful is Troward’s naming of a Divine Ideal, God’s desire to enjoy Itself through the expression of forms, some of which are ourselves. Could our invitation to live fully get any better than this?
I am especially thinking of the gift of Joy at this time because “Creating a Joyful Life” is the theme of this month’s GUIDE FOR SPIRITUAL LIVING: SCIENCE OF MIND magazine. As joy is one of Troward’s “normals” and is part of our spiritual DNA, we don’t have to scurry around trying to get it as much as we open to it through contemplation. Is it tied up in the acquisition of things, or is it a more ineffable quality of being that shows up, sometimes at the strangest times? In my service as a minister I have conducted many funerals and memorials, which are never happy times, but I make a distinction between happiness and joy. I believe happiness is mostly event based. We are happy when things go the way we want them to; we are unhappy when they don’t. Joy, on the other hand, being a part of our “normal” can show up at any time for no particular reason, and it does come up during some of our unhappiest events, such as end-of-life services. When people come together around the lives of loved ones who have made the transition, in the midst of sorrow, joy can emerge, perhaps as a shared story or just a smile based on thinking of the one loved, thinking of how wonderful it was to share a part of life with them.
Recently one of our eminent ministers, Dr. Roger Teel, contributed to the Science of Mind Magazine with an article entitled “Celebrating Joy.” He, too, recognizes that joy is basic spirituality when he writes, “When I say this life is joy, I’m saying the basic essence of life is the spirit, and the spirit is joy. It’s celebrating itself as everything that we are, as everything around us.” He recognizes the naturalness of spiritual gifts as being the only given when he also writes “a lot of human experience is suffering, not because life has set it up that way but because we are out of alignment (italics mine), and we’ve bought into a lot of illusions.” How often have we realized that the great mistake we make is in not knowing the depth of our spirituality and therefore not recognizing how the gifts flow to us and through us! In this ignorance we do create many misalignments and illusions about ourselves and others.
Dr. Roger also speaks about a concern I have shared for several years now when he writes of the often-intrusiveness of technology. I believe that joy needs its way. It needs the uncluttered mind and heart through which to impress us with its presence. The ever presence of technology tends to keep us walled off from our own humanity in our use of it, as Teel writes, “gadgets [that] are a symptom of our separation from reality.” Who needs more of an estrangement from life?”
Making the Conscious Connection
In his last address at Asilomar, Ernest Holmes, in one of his uplifting affirmations, said that “everything that lives proclaims the Glory of God,” which in its day was somewhat astonishing, especially as one thinks of all the western belief systems that proclaimed the separation between God and humanity. Holmes went on to say that …”we are a part of the unfoldment of the Divine Intelligence in human affairs,” a clear identification of how the Spiritual Gifts are always expanding. Holmes expounded on an idea he shared with Troward that humanity had reached a point where it must now deliberately and consciously cooperate “with that principle of evolution and outreach of the Creative Urge of the Spirit.” Can anyone doubt the necessity of humanity’s knowing its place in the divine scheme of things and how disastrous life can be when it does not?
If we think of ourselves as conduits of joy, we should certainly have fun doing so, for what is fun and pleasure if not some of the ways and means we experience joy? Like so many of the great philosophers, the Sufi poet, Rumi emphasizes the idea that God enjoys Itself through its creation. He wrote that “God created the physical universe in order to manifest Himself, so that the treasure of His wisdom may be revealed. He said, ‘I was a hidden treasure,’ Listen! In the same way you must not let your spiritual reality be submerged, but instead must manifest your spirit in creation.” Our treasures are not meant to be hidden either. When joy has free access through us, our revelations are made much easier.
Swimming in Joy
Some of nature’s denizens have always known this. Take fish, for example. For a number of years our family maintained a koi pond in our backyard. As I tended the fish, I noticed of course that they were immensely beautiful with their flashing colors and luminous bodies coursing through the water. But I also felt that they displayed an effortless joy in their movements. I don’t suggest that in their fish brains they were very self-aware and knew how lovely they were, but I do think that in their basic simplicity they were easy, uncomplicated conduits of joy. They simply did what they did without making anything a big deal.
In ponds as in any other body of water, there are always collections of what can only be called “gunk” at the bottoms, some of it edible, some not, but none of it very appetizing. On the other hand, pond keepers always have a supply of nourishing fish food that gets dispensed regularly. This is light in weight and always floats on the top. If they want it, the fish must rise up to the top of the water to get it. They’re smart enough to know that they have to come up for the best. They have to let go of the less desirable stuff on the bottom for the healthy stuff at the top, and they always do.
I so enjoy the spiritual metaphors that we can take from nature and its creatures. Birds, fish, animals… they know what they need, and they recognize their provisions when they see them. Their movements are beautiful and filled with natural joy. Who does not enjoy watching a soaring bird or a fish that leaps out of the water in sheer enthusiasm for where it finds itself. I think that we as human beings and the supposed “crown” of nature are not always helped by our complexities. Perhaps it is enough to remember that the Gifts of the Spirit emerge quite effortlessly when we remove unnecessary complications.
Margaret Stortz is an ordained minister of Religious Science and a long-time contributor to GUIDE FOR SPIRITUAL LIVING: SCIENCE OF MIND magazine. Visit her at MargaretStortz.com.