It was quite a few years ago when I was in a small cabin at a hermitage in the Sonoma Hills. It was only for two days, and turned out to be the last retreat that I would take for a long time. On the second night, while asleep, I heard these words: So much color after the darkness of winter.
Several nights later, back at home, I again heard in the night, You shall know joy. This came so unexpectedly.
Through the next few years of divorce, loss of house, and the passing of my mother, I contemplated this possibility that felt like a seed that had been planted in my consciousness.
Then, one night some years later, I was putting my grand-daughter to sleep just before her sixth birthday. So tired I was, that I lay down at the edge of the bed for a few minutes. In the quiet, waiting for her to drift off, I too fell asleep, just for a minute or two. Long enough, in that brief time, to see, as if in a dream, words written in calligraphy – Make joy.
I write here, at this darkest time, about a deep internal change. But initially I didn’t want to speak about joy. Not in these times, with the immense suffering in our world, with the unbelievable sorrow for loss of habitat and life.
But it continued to unfold, this consciousness through words that came from such depths, showing me, guiding me, how to be. At one point, a deep and urgent prayer arose in me, How can I help the Earth? And that night, not expecting a response, I heard these words as I was drifting into asleep: A song for the earth of joy.
It was as if permission had been given, a wider scope of joy shown, so that I could embrace this mystery of being. That it is a way to be in relationship to life, even after a sleepless night. A reminder to listen to the crows as I awake, to appreciate the sunrise.
Recently at the safe-parking shelter for women here, where I sit in a circle with a few women, some from “the village” as it’s called, others joining as volunteers. Last week we sat in the large tent because the weather had turned cold. A small space heater was brought in, although it warmed only the person closest to it.
I don’t second guess myself anymore in these circles. I just sit, and offer myself as I am that day. And the hour unfolds, with silence, with sharing, some writing. Afterwards, I walked with one resident and her little dog back to her trailer. We talked for a few minutes, and then she said, “I couldn’t have done this without you guys.”
What was this, but a receiving of love and kindness from a small circle of volunteers and residents after the loss of her child. Over time, she moved through her own “dark winter.” A light returned.
So I return to the words I heard in the night about joy. It’s a mystery, how it comes, like a hyacinth in spring, when one least expects it.
Perhaps, at this time of year, when we light candles in the growing darkness, that this will give you pause to think about your own experience of joy. So I leave you with the reflections from a friend.
I feel for me, what is important is allowing joy when it arises, and finding the capacity to allow it fully, without feeling I’m ignoring the reality of suffering of these times. Then I can begin to authentically step into joy when it arises. And as the access is given, or the channel to joy opens, I begin to remember to breathe into that reservoir of joy, deep within, so my actions become bathed within it.
There are many ways to connect to the Sacred. It’s not limited to joy. But joy is so free – freely given. I don’t believe it can be captured, but if one feels it, one is opened and it can spread!
Thank you Anne!
Being a Granny to a 5year and 6mo old brings pure joy. Since they were born many longed for love and it was given.
I tell my grandson I witnessed all in his family and how our hearts grew the day he was born. Just like the Grinch, but bigger!
Thank you, Anne, for this beautiful essay! It is so good to know that we can hold the joy and the suffering simultaneously in our one Heart.🦋