99

When We’re in Pain, Joy is Still There

The theme for this episode is ecstasy, joy and expansiveness… I love joy. And let’s face it, ecstasy is in a league of its own… expansiveness, yes, please. 

Here’s the sticky part though. As I release these episodes, I’ve made a commitment to bringing you one every week reliably. If this series is a pilgrimage, each episode represents one step or one part of it. We’re not going to get to our destination if we don’t keep moving, right?

Well, sometimes, things don’t go the way we think they “should.” As a favorite college professor joked one time when I apologized for having to miss class for a funeral, “What, you mean LIFE HAPPENED?… it’s okay… just catch up when you can.”  He always had a way of making my big crises seem manageable. 

As it turns out, I’ve missed a week of 99 because I’ve been sick and just couldn’t record until now. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself – after all, I could barely stand for ten days. I was forced to just lie there on the sofa feeling miserable and trying to come up with something to say. The kind of funnier part of this is that the topic is about ecstasy, joy, and expansiveness. Sometimes the Universe or the Divine seems to have a sense of humor, no? Ecstasy, joy, and a raging fever. Right. 

I wish I could tell you that I somehow transcended my physical state and found ecstasy and transcendence amid the tissues and soup. I didn’t. Instead, I think I learned something pretty important though. I ended up basically meditating for hours and hours about joy. What is it? Where is it? Does it start inside me and then radiate out? Or does it come from somewhere else so that I have to wait to be infused with it? I imagined this like sunbathing… and wouldn’t THAT be awesome!? could there be salons you could visit where you would lie in a booth and get a treatment like a suntanning salon?  

Well….

As it turns out, the kind of ecstasy and joy and expansiveness that is our theme IS actually there… all the time. What I found was, even though I was feeling miserable, joy wasn’t gone. If I concentrated long enough, I could find it. It was just hidden by whatever else was going on – like my current miserable state.. Like clouds blocking out the sun on a rainy day. The sun isn’t gone. In fact, you can usually tell it’s daytime because everying gets lighter. Sometimes when I fly on rainy days, it’s like I get to visit joy, as the plane starts in the dark wetness below and takes off to rise above the clouds. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced that feeling… Realizing that there’s another reality happening at the same time as mine. My rainy day is someone else’s beautiful, maybe blinding sun. 

Looking at my life this way gave me some hope. Yes, I still hurt, but the hurt didn’t replace joy, it only made it harder to find.

I wonder what that looks like for you. Where are the clouds in your life right now? Is there anything covering up your joy and blocking out the sun? If there is, I invite you to ground yourself for a moment and then try to find that source of joy- of ecstasy and love that burns bright. 

What is the source like? Is it a person? Is it a feeling? Where is it – inside you somewhere? Outside you? 

What does it feel like? or Where do you feel it? Like the sun shining through clouds, I imagine joy gently warming my skin on a cold and dreary day.

I invite you to spend a few times this week on this exercise. Close your eyes, and acknowledge the clouds in your life – whether sadness or grief or pain or whatever gets in the way. Acknowledge that stuff – don’t try to ignore it, but just acknowledge it and put it to the side for a moment and shift your attention beyond it. Reach out for the source of joy. Is it God? Is it your children or beloved? Is it something else entirely? 

Maybe like the sun on a rainy day, try to sense its location through the clouds. Give thanks for it. Even though your world is rainy or cloudy and dark sometimes, the source of joy is still there. Waiting for you. 

I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the poet Hafiz of Shiraz, who said, “Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, You Owe Me. Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.”

My friend, I’m so glad to be back. In truth, you, listening to this are an important part of my joy. I’m sorry I’ve been away, and I’m so glad you waited for me to catch up on the journey. Traveling with you is brilliant.

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