In Part I of this series on Your Spiritual Path Is the Solution, I wrote that I’ve learned so far on my path that the more we approach our lives as a spiritual path and the more we make choices through a spiritual framework, the more meaning, love and joy we experience along the way. In this Part II, we will explore how walking your personal spiritual path can lead to greater joy.
I am indebted to my dear friend and fellow monk, Rita Regimbal, for providing a wonderful opening into this question. At the recent Celebrating Life Ministries East of Heaven retreat in New Jersey, she spoke about the difference between happiness and joy. She said that happiness can be understood as the inner experience we have in reaction to something that happens to us. We may feel happy seeing a beautiful sunset. We may feel happy when we have financial abundance. We may feel happy when we enter into a new friendship or romantic relationship. In each case happiness is a reaction to something which happens to us from “out there.”
This also means if that something is taken away, we lose the experience of happiness. If we are looking forward to watching ta beautiful sunset and it’s completely overcast, we may feel disappointed. If we have trouble paying our bills we become unhappy and perhaps fearful. If we lose a loved one through a breakup or death, we feel sad, grieve, and may become depressed.
All of these are natural human feelings in reaction to events in our lives. Walking your life as a spiritual path does not prevent you from experiencing these very human feelings, just as it does not blunt your positive experiences of happiness.
So what does change when you engage your life as a spiritual path?
To begin with, you recognize yourself as having a spiritual essence. As you walk an ever deepening spiritual path, you come into personal contact with a deep, unshakeable core within you from which you can never be separated, a core that always has been, is now, and ever will be at one with—now words fail and you must choose language that can only point to what you mean—one with that which is most Ultimate/Source/Spirit/Divine/God. In this process, as your spiritual path evolves, you come to know with ever growing certainty that the nature of that which is Ultimate/Source/Spirit/Divine/God is love, a love of greater power, beauty and light than can even be imagined on our space/time level of existence. Yet we can directly experience it from this level, which itself is a miracle.
The more you follow your spiritual path with courage and openness, the more direct, compelling and moving becomes your connection to the love and light of the Ultimate/Source/Spirit/Divine/God. The natural inner experience of this connection, this oneness, is joy…joy that grows…joy that is within you…joy that can never be taken away from you regardless of what happens “out there.” In every moment you have access to what Chade-Meng Tan calls “Joy on Demand” in his book of this title.
So happiness is reactive to the ever changing occurrences in your life and as a result waxes and wanes. Joy is abiding and resides within. The more you walk your life as a spiritual path, the more this will become your experience, your reality. You truly will live with joy on demand every time you choose to connect with your spiritual essence. And yes, this is a choice, a choice you get to make in every moment. Awakening to this truth and exercising your free will to make this choice become ever more available to you the more you walk your life as a spiritual path.