Thursday, November 14, 2013

Birds of Passage

A wise rabbi once said: “It is a great challenge always to be in joy, to make yourself strong, and with all your force, to banish sadness and bitterness out of you. All sickness that comes over human beings, come forth out of the descent of joy. The descent of joy comes from the deformation of the ‘deep song’, of the vital rhythms. When joy and this deep song are affected, sickness can overcome us. Joy is a great remedy. It is important to find one place in us which gives us joy, and attach ourselves to it."

Another wise voice – that of Khalil Gibran’s – said of joy and sorrow: "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked, and the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." 

Joy works in us. To enjoy – to ‘en-joy’ – is a way of living which gives spirit and flow. Joy seems to embrace a whole spectrum of verbs: to trust, to heal, to give, to receive, to dance, to sing, to share, to make love: all ways of living from the heart.

And we wish this joy for everyone, which is what can keep us going. But we also will encounter the pain of joy – the joy which has its borders:  borders which always will be there in some form. And when we experience injustice, it is this sense of injustice which can harden these borders. Still we know: I am on my life's journey. Like the migrating birds of passage, after their African sojourn, journey north  to breed and face storm and rain on their journey, in the same way the soul, full of joyful anticipation, hurries straight through the opposing forces towards her destination, which is complete joy.

The way of joy is a way to self-knowledge. For along this road of joy, just as the birds meet their headwinds and storms, we will meet our inner obstructions. We will be given a panoramic view of our fears and flaws, our weaknesses and pains, and we learn that we carry traumas within which cannot be healed. It is understandable that many of us will lose heart altogether, falling into grief and depression, or even face illness which no doctor can heal.

And still we make the attempt to keep enjoying, even though the social pressures to remain positive, to ‘look on the bright side’, can at times appear clichéd and hollow to the point of seeming cynical. For sometimes the pain is too deep, too fierce, for us to be able to discover the tiniest bud of joy in ourselves. But…

No night so dark that it will become morning again, is a line in a song by a Dutch troubadour.

We have to break in order for the light to come in, a dear friend once said to me. How right he was. For in the crack of breaking one will see, however small or faint, this spark. It is the spark of creation! However softly-glowing, it will find its way to our wounded heart, and begin to shine from within. The more we hold on to it, nurture it, the more this creative joy comes to light, and back into our life again.

When that wise rabbi asks of us to be strong, and with all our force to banish sadness and bitterness from us, and Khalil Gibran tells us that joy and sorrow are inseparable, I like to believe that they both contain their own truth. We all have experiences of joy and sorrow to know that we need to be strong like the birds of passage, facing storms and losses, but also experiencing those moments of pure joy, of effortless soaring over the moonlit oceans.

Painting Joy and Sorrow by Kahlil Gibran


  1. Thank you for this most wonderful blog on joy. Emma touches on a deep, intrinsic spiritual truth. Unlike pleasure or happiness that occurs when certain events happen or do not happen to us, true joy always comes from within. Joy is not a transitory emotion or feeling but arises from our true essential nature, our Self, or what one may state the Divine within us, which is that which we truly are. In Sanskrit the joy aspect of Reality has been pointed to in the words Sat-Chit-Ananda and this has been translated as Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. The inner joy that Emma has written on is the eternal Ananda that is within us awaiting our discovery. This joy is not something that the personal self experiences as some unique form of individual happiness. It is something that wells up from within from an infinite and universal Source when our personal identity starts to dissolve thereby allowing the divine within us to come to the surface. Emma’s pithy statement, “The way of joy is a way to self-knowledge” contains a deep truth. She is pointing to the connection between knowing our Self and the discovery of our Joy within. Joy and spiritual liberation are also intimately joined together. Emma also points out the sorrows and obstacles that seem to lie on our path of Joy. Khalil Gibran’s quote “...and the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The hardships are lessons that strip away things within us that block the divine from expressing through us. It is in this sense that the greater the sorrow the more one must release and let go, and through this we become more and more free, allowing our true essential nature to shine through. Thank you so Emma for your words of wisdom on JOY.

  2. You are welcome, dear Joseph. I always enjoy reading your own input in the form of your comments on my blog posts. It's wonderful to share these things.