Navigating to Joy

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Course Ideas

Things that appear to be so under one set of conditions, are often found to be quite different under another.  It is for this reason that most of our conclusions formed historically, in the context of separation consciousness, are erroneous.  What’s remarkable about the experience of life is that we can be completely incorrect about ultimate reality, and have a very real and vivid experience of our own false conclusions up to and even through the experience of dying, without ever being more than the width of a thought from a completely different experience.

For some, the first question that arises is how exactly we are to determine whose experience or picture of reality is “false” and whose is “true”.  This sounds like a question we ought to be able to answer, but unfortunately it is not easily done.  If experience did not differ based upon what I’ll call the “basic interpretive settings” of what are largely unconscious logical faculties—e.g. the underlying choice of separation vs unity consciousness— and, if the experiences to which we are drawn, and which are drawn to us, were not the result of a deep relatedness between each one of us and the world we experience, then by rights this question would be easily answered.  But it is not easily answered, (at least by the thinking mind alone), because we are fundamentally and primordially related to all that exists, and because the deep-lying cognitive filters we apply to experience do as they’re told.

In other words, we live in a logical rat hole.  Our experiences are assigned meaning by cognitive processes that reinforce the standing interpretations, and neither we ourselves, nor the world out there we would study, are fixed constellations of meaning.  All that exists in third-party, observable form, is meaning-less.  A blank canvas.  We are the painters, not the guests at the museum centuries later.  When we put a daub of black paint on the canvas, then step back and say, “Look!  It is black!  See!” we are not being particularly clever.  We don’t experience it this way of course, because the complexity of human experience is astounding.

One problem is that there isn’t even an obvious way to determine if what I’m saying is correct: that we are fundamentally related in some manner to the movement of creation, or that the meanings we assign to experience are in fact self-referential and circular logics.  I suggest that this problem does have a solution, however, and that solution is the reality of suffering.  We need only hypothesize that suffering results from adopting stances incongruent with the nature of ultimate reality—the ultimate nature of ourselves and all that collectively exists—and that correcting those stances will end the experience of suffering.  This then, provides a compass—a tool for discernment.

Suffering of course is a challenge to define at any one instance of time, as the effects of our conceptual stances often take many years to unfold in our lives.  Sometimes we suffer immediately, and other times it takes decades for the nature of our choices to be revealed to us.  We can keep anxiety and difficulty tucked behind a facade of well-being for many years if we so desire.  And of course, none of us are all that excited about admitting the stances we have chosen are not resulting in happiness—none of us enjoy being proven incorrect about ourselves—and so it is human nature to act as though we are who we think we should be.  The only people we’re fooling of course, are ourselves.

So this is an inside job.  This is a job best undertaken in the quiet of one’s own heart, and there is in fact nothing whatsoever that needs to be said to others about what they can or should be doing, too.  Nothing good can really come of instructing another on how to accomplish the task we ourselves have yet to accomplish.  What is useful, is true companionship along the way.  These are the people who share in the readiness to question their basic propositions, and to report honestly on the experiences that derive from that, but more importantly, these are people who see you in ways you yet cannot.  These are people we can drop the guard around, neither to wallow in our difficulties nor to proclaim a false triumph, but to truly join with, because in joining our own private Idaho’s dissolve.  When we join together, we triangulate the location of our false perceptions, and then the choice is brought clearly to light: either we choose to continue with it, or to let it go.

We live in a world that demands a great burden of proof from us.  If any of us wish to assert an idea that is not in accord with the received thinking, then we are put to the task of proving it.  Ideas that cannot withstand external scrutiny are rejected.  But if it is indeed the case that our minds process information in ways that reinforce standing perceptual modes, and that even the circumstances in which we find ourselves derive from a deep relatedness—e.g. particular conditions of belief and learning that are unique to each of us interact with the world in a meaningful way—then by and large no externalized proof is possible.  We will never convince another that there is a more fulfilling way of experiencing ourselves and the world, and why should we?  Our need to do so is largely derived from the false hope that enlisting another in our viewpoint will validate it.  Perhaps the most powerful choice we can make is to simply live, and be the unique examples of life that we are.

Joy is its own litmus test, and anyone that is truly joyous over the long haul has probably got it right, regardless of the words and symbols they choose to use.  This is the flip side of the reality that suffering tells us when we have clung to a position that is ultimately incorrect.  Joy confirms we have aligned ourselves—our thinking, our feeling and our knowing—with the ultimate nature of things, while suffering confirms that we have not.

All of which is to say quite simply: we each have within us all that is required to experience lives of abiding joy.  And though it may at times seem a lengthy process of shifting our beliefs and learned perceptions, our lives guide us unerringly to this long sought reality, if we are but willing to listen to them.

39 Comments

    • Hello Hariod!

      I don’t know. I am inclined to say that joy is the experience of living in accord with one’s perfect and given nature, such that the knowing, the expression of that knowing, and the creative expansion of being that derives of this, are all simultaneous and mutually reinforcing. I don’t think there can be joy without a type of abiding knowing, or that there can be joy without the felt experience of all the former entails, or without the freedom to experience the expressions of oneself that arise in joy.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 6 people

    • So, one further thought, here, Hariod! I realize I’m not sure that feelings and knowledge are necessarily distinct. If I watch a horse jump a fence, and call my awareness of the facts of that moment as knowledge, then perhaps they can be so. But I don’t think either of us views facts as the only sort of knowledge there is. It strikes me there are types or forms of knowledge not conducive to expression in language, or to being factual in any way, that are best and perhaps only communicated/expressed in wordless feelings.

      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yes, I wonder if perhaps the kind of joy you allude to is not wholly reducible to any particular sensory datum. Could we say it’s reflected in sentience – as both feeling and knowledge – but is more fully a non-isolative awareness, and that sentience reacts in joyful feeling and knowledge in accord with this awareness? We have a tendency to abstract phenomena from awareness in conceptual thinking, yet those same phenomena are never anything apart from awareness. Food for thought, my friend, for which I thank you.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Yes Hariod, I like that description, at least my interpretation of it! Ha! What you call reflected in sentience feels like the moment when the false identification of self and the false separateness with other drops, so that even though there is this reflection, it is the reflection of awareness looking upon awareness– and so joy is partly the sensation of recognition.

          Having some very tasty thoughts!
          Michael

          Liked by 2 people

  1. This is a job best undertaken in the quiet of one’s own heart, and there is in fact nothing whatsoever that needs to be said to others about what they can or should be doing, too.” Period. This is measurably what can be accepted and embraced. In our omni-complex world (all facets, phases and experiences), if we would simply embrace our individual uniqueness; our heart-centric gifts; and the peace which flows forth from the joy that we can be and are…

    Can you please find a kind way, Michael, in which to more broadly share your wisdom with people less enlightened – yet open to simple awareness? 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

    • Period! I’m with you on the emphasis, Eric! Thank you for the kind words and will do my best! Ha! Your question is interesting and maybe you can expound on it? I sense you are speaking about a particular type of person you’ve witnessed– one who is “open to simple awareness”, yet struggling with some difficulty at the present time? As opposed to others, I suppose, who come at the challenges of life with very different settings?

      I often find those willing to accept simple awareness to be perhaps the most enlightened if you will, even if they would not think of it that way, or be capable of expounding some theory of their lives in any philosophical way. You can just see they carry inside of themselves an active relationship with grace…

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

      • Genie says

        Mind luggage

        Not concerned as to the nature of reflections,
        The whys and wherefores ~
        Bird sips water.
        Water reflects sip.
        Water too, is unconcerned, nor interested.
        Too much philosophical verbiage
        Muddies the water with mind luggage.

        Liked by 5 people

      • If not already apparent, Michael, I tend to lean toward generalizations (at least when responding to blog posts) in lieu of citing specific categories of people or challenges one might be facing. What I was attempting to share and this comes measurably from my work, is that many (if not most) people opt for complexity in their lives and wonder why they cannot see or experience the bliss, the joy, the beauty in who they are because they cannot or do not align with their heart – and allow their wisdom, choices, perspectives, whatever – to flow from their essence or as you often speak to, their relationship with grace.

        As have many, I have faced and (often times, reluctantly) embraced life challenges. And it was only when I opened myself to my heart was I able to sit with said challenges, come to some degree of reconciliation with them and eventually, move forward – with peace, grace and joy. The process for me requires (and benefits from) viewing and considering matters through a simple rather than complex lens. The world in which we live often creates clouded optics. And many/most do not see, have not experienced do not know how to appreciate life and her lessons from a vantage of their own warming, giving and loving heart. It’s just to easy to allow life, with its abundant challenges, to be ‘overcome by events.’

        My days of engaging in philosophical exchanges, intellectual fencing and trying to figure out what I believe is fine left to the inexplicable are long past. I have chosen a simple life, one in which the words “allowing” and “accepting” prevail and are appreciated. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it was one of those serious life challenges that awakened me to the beauty of a much less stressful life and what I now consider a healthier way of being.

        Now that I’ve rambled in reply to your thoughtful question, I may well have you scratching your head. 🙂 Still, shared with love!

        Liked by 3 people

        • Oh no, Eric, I’m tracking with you, and appreciate your sharing this very much. I was intending to ask what you meant by people who were less enlightened but open to simple awareness– because in a way I felt that people open to the simple awareness as you have just described are very likely to find peace and happiness in fact. I daresay that at this point it doesn’t really matter what I asked because in the end you’ve given a heartfelt description of what I feel is profoundly important!

          I agree with you wholeheartedly, Eric, and lately have noticed that if I find myself getting into debating minutia– which I am quite ready to do from time to time!– it is helpful to take a step back, a breath and get back to that center. This for me comes into my experience most often when a simple knowing is challenged, and I find myself feeling it must be defended. That seems to be one way I am pulled out of the place you describe. Of course, the knowing of the heart needs no defense, so it is not a necessary response, but these patterns of thought and being are just that. We need to see them to choose anew and I don’t know any short cuts… So, we just continue to ride the waves, open the heart, and throwing the maps overboard! 🙂

          Much Love, my friend,
          Michael

          Liked by 3 people

      • Yes , I love what you say about grace my dear friend who gives so much loving thought and heart into not only your beautiful writings but open hearted comments and responses as well and…thank you for the way you encourage these conversations always with so much inspiration , grace and joy ….Michael , you move my life into a love affair with the divine ….

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you, Meg! The exchanges with others are the best part, and it is very nice to see you here again! I love your chosen expression here: a love affair with the divine, for that is what it feels like to me quite often. Something delicious and inspiring, deeply affecting the inner sanctum of our being, shedding a graceful light on all that we behold…

          Hope you are well, my friend.
          Love
          Michael

          Like

  2. I have found with joy, it’s like standing in front of a mirror only staring at yourself in wonder of who we are, what we are and then in one second, deciding that it doesn’t matter, taking a big deep breath and reaching out to touch the reflection and suddenly feeling your hand go through what you perceived as being there. That aha kind of moment when you are on the edge and realized you’ve crossed over into a beautiful realm of just being and not questioning….letting go and just being. It’s been happening more frequently as I am on a quest of learning and letting go and remembering in a way what it was I knew before and putting it to work for me instead of against by questioning 🙂 it’s tough because there’s no one to share it with but a subtle change comes over your person and it is noticed, so in that way, I think it is shared because you sense the shift in that person into a more easeful way, is that even a word? Guess it is now…I’m sure this doesn’t make much sense but I am smiling and feeling so warm just writing it so I guess the inner me says “eh, go with it, don’t question”, see? It is working. Peace and giddiness 🙂
    K

    Liked by 6 people

    • I’m glad you went with this, Kim. I followed right along with your description at the mirror and had one of those little aha! moments myself. There is definitely an aspect to joy that is about discovery– the simple discovery of who we are, of where we are, of what is coming into being. These things we say sometimes sound like cliche’s I suppose, but when we really experience them they are quite amazing. What you’re describing as the subtle shift is what I was trying to say about joy as the litmus test… We just know it, recognize it, see it… And hopefully when we don’t see it we can find a way to nurture it…

      Thanks for a beautiful response.

      The giddiness is much appreciated!
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

      • Michael,
        Ha, I was born giddy….ok, I really wasn’t….I was the colicky baby that cried non stop, till I was set almost upside down, laying on someone’s legs with my head pointing at and angle to the floor, almost like those recumbent machines….perhaps that did the trick to unlocking my nature of a fast rush of blood to the noggin….opening up the possibilities of the universe….the a-ha moments are a cool joy, but I have to hold myself back from the excitement, jumping up and down, instead I just ride the moment In a happy bliss of peace, appreciating the moment as it moves to fill the cup within. An amazing thing truly, you always inspire me to thoughts that nudge me like, hey, you know about this feeling, huh? And the little joy machine kicks in with the happy dance😊
        Peace and to more A-Ha’s…..the band is pretty cool too…..
        Kim

        Liked by 5 people

  3. Michael, I love it how our navigation through dilemmas and hardships can lead us back to our true selves and joy that we trully are. Over the last few days I had been admiring my little one-year old niece. She walks along the sidewalk and for the thirtieth time she lifts her little finger pointing at yet another passing car and she shouts: car! Vroom vroom! And then she laughs as loud as her little lungs let her. And even all those who walk along grumbling about traffic, noise, exhaust, even all those flash a small smile for a bit.
    Have you ever read a book by Lise Burbeau “Heal your wounds and find your true self”? I had just read it and your recent posts being one self remind me of the book.
    Books or practice, navigating nooks and cranies of this life and hearts, I am wishing you a joyful journey,
    Kristina

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hahahaaaa!!! I love the image of your niece! What delight in the amazing contents of this world passing by! And I love how those moments touch even the curmudgeons and the bitter ones…

      I haven’t read that book, but it sounds very good. It is interesting– speaking about our journeys to wholeness on-line– but the last few months have been challenging in some ways. But also really, really good. It is really hard not to be image conscious when we’re all broadcasting images all over the place all the time, but the reality is that we can’t always come into contact with the truth inside of us by having a quick thought– by reading something and saying, “yeah, I got it…” It takes those moments of being “found out” and realizing you’re not joyful, but also realizing this is how you get down to it, to the opening from what has been to what joy will be. So I’m just echoing your sentiment from the beginning of your comment that our navigation through dilemma and hardship leads us ultimately to a healed place, if we’re willing to work with it.

      Life is amazing. So nice to have you visit and share in the journey, Kristina. Wishing you a joyful passage as well…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  4. There is so much to sink my teeth into here, Michael. I think that this truth is, perhaps, one of the hardest and yet in another way one of the easiest to learn and master. The problem is, I think, that for some reason this particular lesson comes quite far in the process of our growth and understanding. For one, it can be quite disconcerting when the realization that all we have sufffered…all the pain…all the heart ache…all the discontent…had quite literally been at our own hands. It is this one truth that opens the door for change, because if we realize that we were responsible for all that was painful then surely we can be responsible for choosing something different…for looking at…or thinking about things in a different way. And who wants to jump up and down and wave our hands in the air that we had the power the whole time and THIS is what we’ve done with it? On the other hand one can decide to jump and wave our hands that we realize NOW we’ve got that power and we won’t relinquish it EVER again. Yup…just depends on how we see things. 😉
    We seem to be thinking about very similar things of late. I send you brilliant white light with the messages of your heart ♡

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for this, Lorrie. You touch upon a really important point, which is that we want to be right about things– about ourselves, about whatever it is we’ve dedicated ourselves too, etc. It’s hard to turn that around, and especially hard to imagine all our good intentions have only gotten us shipwrecked! But to your point, this can all turn on a razor’s edge– for where one side is guilt and blame, the other side is freedom and forgiveness. They just about touch at that invisible moment where dark and light seem to be tugging with an incredible pressure at the center of our hearts, and then we choose… We accept… We allow… and we experience the peace and serenity of our own being. It is remarkable how quickly that inner weather can change!

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Enjoying life one day at a time and being grateful for second chances. I am anew follower to your blog and would love to read your other posts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Arlene, and welcome! That is the recipe. Enjoying spending a moment here with you right now, seeing your lovely smile looking back at me. Thank you for the gift of your presence here…!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    I love this piece, Michael, and all the comments as well. As always, your words go right to my place of heart and knowing – no matter the form you use.

    ” When we join together, we triangulate the location of our false perceptions, and then the choice is brought clearly to light: either we choose to continue with it, or to let it go.” This line caught my eye as I read through the first time, and subsequent readings. Your depth is so wonderful, I always have to read several times. There is a John Denver song that has a line, “All I want to do is try and find myself. Come and let me look in your eyes.” I think we mirror so much for each other here, on this planet. These mirrors are so important as well as the glass or water ones.

    I also resonated with your “tool for discernment.” That whole paragraph about adopting stances incongruent with the nature of ultimate reality. Also of joy being the litmus test. True joy. Real Joy, Not the pretend joy that we sometimes have because that’s how we think we should be, and fool ourselves into thinking we are. Pure joy in awareness. The conversation about joy between you and Hariod was interesting.

    “Perhaps the most powerful choice we can make is to simply live, and be the unique examples of life that we are.” Love this line too.

    All this is only to say that this is a wonderful bit of heartfelt writing, and I love that we can let our guard down with each other and explore these things.

    Peace, love and mirrors
    Mary

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Mary,

      I love that we can let our guard down and explore these things, too. It’s quite impossible I think, to truly make contact with these things if the guard is up anyway! When the guard is up we are trying to be who we think we should be, and even if we succeed it leaves us uncertain.

      This one did get a little “heady” I suppose, but I was writing down ideas that felt important to me at the time. And certainly the light we shine upon one another makes all the difference. It truly would be impossible to recover from the dream of separation if it weren’t for the present of one another, and too often we take this for granted I think– presuming the spiritual path is a solitary one. It has its solitary aspects for sure, and no one can make the inner shifts for us that will lead to genuine joy, but the whole world is in on this process of revealing us, to us…

      Simply living involves the presence of one another, and the relatedness that is fostered, that leads us to precisely what we need to see… Thanks for taking the time to read so carefully and to respond so fully, Mary! I greatly appreciate it.

      Love
      Michael

      Like

      • Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

        Yes! “the whole world is in on this process of revealing us, to us…” It’s such a weird feeling to shift between unity and separation. I love those moments of unity, where I totally get it, and then oh yeah, back to the illusion. It’s sort of like – have you ever stared at a spot on the window for a while and then changed your focus to what is out there far away – the bigger picture and then back to the spot, then back out again? It feels strange to the myopic or optic muscle or whatever that is.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think that is a good analogy Mary, to what it is like. We almost travel with our vision into unity and back out again, so it’s like we leap from being everything to being chopped up into here and there. This must be what electrons call the quantum leap!

          Like

    • Yes, Dajena, I like that. It feels similar to me as the idea I wrote about in my previous post that there is something like a skill to this, to the way we see and hold and carry things. When we get it right, it’s effortless, and when we try too hard it gets much more challenging!

      Thanks for the visit!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Michael, man, this is a great essay – and look what wonderful dialogue it created. As Lorrie said, so much to sink one’s teeth into, I suppose that’s what this was for me, everything (and our version of each of our everythings are changing) but everything is always there, and there is just another version of here. By being kind and true to ourselves and connecting with our our values, we find ourselves guided to joy (and sometimes part of being guided is allowing ourselves to become misguided, and sometimes those are the most fun parts of the ride). The feeling of serenity, is such a great thing, even if the words come out funny. Peacefully, Harlon

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s a lot of wisdom in your reply here, my friend. It does at times seem to take a little misguiding to round out the picture from time to time, and yes, there is another version of here. Love that. But I think you hit the nail on the head about being kind to ourselves, which is often overlooked. It’s okay to stop and have a snack, to smell the roses, to trust in the diversions that bring us joy, for isn’t joy the answer to this life anyway!?

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah the key is in your last sentence…if we are willing to listen to them! We must stop searching outside and start searching inside for our joy and trust ourselves! And really we adults make it so much harder than need be…find your inner kid again and go with it!! Laugh out loud, dance anywhere, ask questions, have an imagination…it’s a shame we lose all that as we “mature”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Deb! It’s interesting the way our sense of self evolves, and how our notions of joy move with it. And of course how we get so tied up in knots after a time if we’re unable to find that inner child again, as you note… Listening to our lives is so necessary, and at times for me so very challenging as well. The good news is we don’t have to figure it out all at once– or at all even. Moving into the heart seems to put this into perspective– gives the child an opportunity to play even as the expanded layers of awareness are able to settle into an abiding peace…

      Thanks for your note!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • You write so insightful and eloquently and your words are thoughtful! I often forget that I don’t have to figure it out all at once…I think that’s part of the tizzy I get myself worked into, because I think I do!! Thanks for the reminder, it’s calming to read. You are right and moving into the heart is the ultimate goal, isn’t it. It was my pleasure Michael.
        I’ll be a little off radar for the next few weeks, I’m taking care of my parents but I’ll be back!!
        Deb 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. How often do we chose to suffer, when despite everything we could turn it around and experience joy. its just a trick of light, a habit, a mind set.
    Lovely post and food for thought.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Debbie. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and you’ve hit upon something I feel is important, which is that some of the obstacles are truly a pattern. A learned way of perceiving and interacting that seems to run on autopilot, until we’re able to see it and realize it doesn’t have to be this way…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

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