Reflections on the focus of Advent three: Joy

Advent calls us, this week, to anticipate and seek JOY. Is this an emotion — or experience — that we are capable of growing and nurturing through spiritual practice? Is it an inner state of being or a way of engaging with the external world? Perhaps both are true. This reflection offers different perspectives, but what is your own wisdom and experience, when it comes to JOY?

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. — Rumi

Eagle Poem — Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. — Rabindranath Tagore

Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on its feet. — Anne Lamott

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Spiritual joy has nothing to do with anything “going right.” It has everything to do with things going, and going on within you. It’s an inherent, inner aliveness. Joy is almost entirely an inside job. Joy is not first determined by the object enjoyed as much as by the prepared eye of the enjoyer. — Richard Rohr

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. — Mark Twain

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away. — Dorothy Day

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. — Tecumseh

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. —Joseph Campbell

Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. — Albert Einstein

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. — The Dharmapada

He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars. — Jack London, The Call of the Wild

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living. — Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Our … contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries. — CS Lewis

Whatever joy there is in this world all comes from desiring others to be happy, and whatever suffering there is in this world all comes from desiring myself to be happy. — Shantideva

The Pursuit of Joy (excerpts)
— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Ashrei, the closest Hebrew word to happiness, is the first word of the book of Psalms … But Ashrei is not the central value of the Hebrew Bible. Occurring almost ten times as frequently is the word simcha, joy. … It lies at the heart of the Mosaic vision of life in the land of Israel. That is where we serve God with joy.

… How then are we to find meaning in life? not in happiness but in joy – because joy lives not in thoughts of tomorrow, but in the grateful acceptance and celebration of today. We are here; we are alive; we are among others who share our sense of jubilation. We are living in God’s land, enjoying His blessing, eating the produce of His earth, watered by His rain, brought to fruition under His sun, breathing the air He breathed into us, living the life He renews in us each day. And yes, we do not know what tomorrow may bring; and yes, we are surrounded by enemies; and yes, it was never the safe or easy option to be a Jew. But when we focus on the moment, allowing ourselves to dance, sing and give thanks, when we do things for their own sake not for any other reward, when we let go of our separateness and become a voice in the holy city’s choir, then there is joy.

… There are eastern faiths that promise peace of mind if we can train ourselves into habits of acceptance. Epicurus taught his disciples to avoid risks like marriage or a career in public life. Neither of these approaches is to be negated, yet Judaism is not a religion of acceptance, nor have Jews tended to seek the risk-free life. We can survive the failures and defeats if we never lose the capacity for joy …

Celebrating together binds us as a people: that and the gratitude and humility that come from seeing our achievements not as self-made but as the blessings of God. The pursuit of happiness can lead, ultimately, to self-regard and indifference to the sufferings of others. It can lead to risk-averse behaviour and a failure to ‘dare greatly.’ Not so, joy. Joy connects us to others and to God. Joy is the ability to celebrate life as such, knowing that whatever tomorrow may bring, we are here today, under God’s heaven, in the universe He made, to which He has invited us as His guests.

… A people that can know insecurity and still feel joy is one that can never be defeated, for its spirit can never be broken nor its hope destroyed.

Reflections on second week of Advent theme – Peace: inner, relational, communal, national/political

Peace begins inside us, then in our relationships, our communities, and our world. All of it relies on connection to something greater than ourselves: Godself.

If there is to be peace in the world, There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors, There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, There must be peace in the heart.
— Lao Tse

Making Peace — Denise Levertov
A voice from the dark called out,
‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

On Inner Peace

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. — Albert Einstein

Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there. ― Meister Eckhart

We are mirrors of our world. The world appears to us as we see ourselves. If it is a harsh place, we have, perhaps without understanding, nurtured a harsh place within. If it is a place of beauty, it is beauty we have nurtured within. — J. Wickham

Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it. — Unknown

Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without. ― Gautama Buddha

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart … live in the question. ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. ― Dalai Lama XIV

“Peace” can sound merely sentimental or clichéd (“visualize whirled peas”). But deep down, it’s what most of us long for. Consider the proverb: The highest happiness is peace. Not a peace inside that ignores pain in oneself or others, or is acquired by shutting down. This is a durable peace, a peace you can come home to even if it’s been covered over by fear, frustration, or heartache. When you’re at peace — when you are engaged with life while also feeling relatively relaxed, calm, and safe — you are protected from stress, your immune system grows stronger, and you become more resilient. Your outlook brightens and you see more opportunities. In relationships, feeling at peace prevents overreactions, increases the odds of being treated well by others, and supports you in being clear and direct when you need to be. — Dr. Rick Hanson, Huffington Post


Relational Peace
The only way we can make peace is for each of us to be the peace we want to see. — Susan Collin Marks

Happiness in relationships thrives when it involves people that already feel whole, secure and happy. These people do not depend on a relationship to give them anything. All of their relationships then reflect the wholeness of what they are. — Adam Oakley

If you approach someone with compassion, you will open their heart and mind. Show them you understand where they’re coming from, and they’ll be willing to see your side. That gives you a chance to express yourself and your expectations clearly. And when you let people know what you need at the right time in the right way, they’re more likely to give that to you. —  Lori Deschene, tinybuddha.com

Sometimes you need to know that you have good people at your back when things go awry in your life.  Good relationships can bring peace of mind, not to mention longer life, companionship, health, happiness, and a host of other benefits.  At bottom, we are social creatures who need each other. — Meg Selig, Psychology Today

Conflicts can’t be avoided. But we can learn to navigate them more confidently and use the tension as an opportunity to express our views honestly and peacefully. … When you have incorrect perceptions of others, it’s easier to fear, even hate them. Get to know the genuine in others. Find shared experiences, hopes, and beliefs. Connect on that holy ground, and peace will flow out from those moments.— Susan Skog, Beliefnet

Take steps to build better relationships (below). — The Living Well Network

  • Make a list of people you would like to see regularly.
  • Remove distractions, like cell phones, when you visit.
  • Be a better listener.
  • Support them in their own efforts.
While Peacemaking is an everyday activity – how you welcome new people at school, how you deal with conflict among your friends, and the daily decisions you make about how to react to frustrations and disappointments – it is also applying these commitments to tackle bigger problems you see in the world. In fact it isn’t enough to put peace first in your daily life; being a peacemaker means working with others to put these ideas to work toward bigger challenges. — peacefirst.org

Communal Peace
Many spiritual traditions and teachings throughout history have emphasized peace, both as an inner journey and as an outward commitment to live in mutual benefit with our families, our communities, and in the world. — Charter for Compassion

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. John F. Kennedy

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. — Desmond Tutu

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert F. Kennedy

Children, youth, and adults, even in communities in conflict, are choosing compassion and practicing peace, and they are learning to do this through the joy of play. Few things can provide a common link between people like laughter and play. Through cooperative play, we have a universal and non-threatening platform around which people can come together and learn. Play creates a gateway to moments when differences dissolve, fear melts away, and we see what connects us rather than what divides us. — PlayforPeace.org

Islam, especially its divine book holy Quran, demonstrates the prominence of peace and harmony between the communities. Through its verses as in the verse 5:16 (where with Allah guides all who seeks his good pleasure to ways of peace and safety) Quran seeks a peaceful situation  between the communities … All commentators of Quran urged through their works to ensure communal peace and harmony and to take forward the steps of conflict resolution in this society. Especially in secular country …  Musthafa Theyyala, Communal Peace and Harmony: Role of the Commentaries of Qu’ran with Special Reference to Risalae Nur

Communal harmony does not only mean an absence of communal tensions, strifes and riots. It is something deeper, something emotional. Communal harmony implies mutual understanding, peaceful co-existence, cooperation and coordination among all the constituents of a community. Harmony means proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole. — Neeraj Dubey, Daily Excelsior.com

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. Nelson Mandela

Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways. —Dalai Lama XIV

Political, Global Peace

A number of other terms and concepts are necessarily related to the creation of peace, including fairness, justice, inclusiveness, and human rights. These must be embedded into the community in order to foster agreement and harmony. Peace is strongest when derived from social justice, which can be defined as ensuring fundamental rights and equity to all. Strengthening civil society – the rules that bind us and allow us to live productively together, with established means of resolving conflict – is the means to those ends. — Charter for Compassion

Everyone must be committed in the matter of peace, to do everything that they can ….Peace is the language we must speak. — Pope Francis

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are. — Hafsat Abiola

If you want to end the war then Instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers. —  Malala Yousafzai, Noble Peace Laureate

To replace the old paradigm of war with a new paradigm of waging peace, we must be pioneers who can push the boundaries of human understanding.  We must be doctors who can cure the virus of violence.  We must be soldiers of peace who can do more than preach to the choir.  And we must be artists who will make the world our masterpiece. — Paul Chappell

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children . . . not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. — John F. Kennedy

More than just an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings. — John F. Kennedy

If there is a mystical chord in democracy, it probably revolves around the notion that unexpected music can resonate from politics when people are pursuing questions larger than self… I have seen that ennobling effect in people many, many times— expressed by those who found themselves engaged in genuine acts of democratic expression, who claimed their right to define the larger destiny of their community, their nations. — William Greider

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. —Elizabeth Cady Stanton

If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another. — Winston Churchill

We will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.(AND)
So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a “peace race”. If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.— Martin Luther King, Jr., Acceptance Speech: Les Prix Nobel en 1964

Reflections on the first week of Advent: Hope

Advent comes with yearning. The first week of Advent focuses on hope. When is hope helpful and tangible, grounded in the here-and-now as well as in what comes next? When does hope focus too much on the future and remove us from the present?

Note: Check out this ‘Guide to Grounded Hope’ from Option B.
Pragmatic approach to the practice of developing hope.

Only Hope
— song by Switchfoot, performed by Mandy Moore

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul
It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again
I’m awake in the infinite cold
But you sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of your galaxy dancing
And laughing and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that you have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I’m giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope


Advent Means:
Expectation, Yearning, Anticipation, Preparation, Waiting …
Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are of no real consequence–the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside. — Dietrech Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison–November 21, 1943It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. — Mahatma Gandhi

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. — Karl Rahner

This Advent, I want to warm myself by the fire of hope! — Christopher West

Once again we mark the arrival of Advent. This holy season trumpets God’s extravagant love for us, a love beyond reckoning. Into our beautiful yet wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts. No matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may sometimes seem, the Advent messages are rich with joyous expectation and longing, insisting that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible. ― Sr. Chris Koellhoffer IHM, Pope Francis: Living Advent With Joy and Peace: Encouragement and Prayers


On Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. — Toni Morrison, Beloved

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. — Robert Fulghum

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller

To announce, however, that the Liberator is sitting among the poor and that the wounds are signs of hope and that today is the day of liberation, is a step very few can take. But this is exactly the announcement of the wounded healer: ‘The master is coming–not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing.’ — Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us. ― Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Our time has a great need for hope! The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organizations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centeredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God’s Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation. — Pope Francis, Audience with Italian diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in the region of Calabria, 2015


Opposing Thoughts on Hope

We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Step


Prisoners of Hope — Omid Safi, Columnist (from On Being with Krista Tippett)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a line in Zechariah, often overlooked:

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Hope is powerful. Hope is different. It is more, much more, than mere optimism.

Optimism runs deep in the American consciousness. Many have commented on the inherent optimism of the American people. But optimism is….cheap.

Optimism is ultimately about optics, about how we see the world. It’s about seeing the glass half-full.

Hope is different. Hope is a cosmic quality. Hope is rooted in faith, with feet mired in suffering. Hope is a heart in agony that yearns for liberation.

As Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” For hope to exist, there has to be darkness. For hope to be real, there has to be a prison. And we, in the prison.

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Hope is tied not to how we see the world, but to the faith we have in how the world actually is and will be.

Hope is not about seeing the world, but about the heart behind the eye, the soul that sees.

We hope that light will, someday, triumph over darkness, that love will gain victory over hatred, that compassion will gain over apathy.

We need to hope, to bear the darkness.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

Hope is not a choice. Hope is not optics. Hope is not mere politics. We are wrapped up in hope. Caught up in hope. Imprisoned in hope.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

We hope in the moral goodness of the universe. We hope in the goodness of God. We hope in the victory of good over evil. We hope, even if we may not get to see the triumph.

Hope is planting a tree, knowing that we will be feeding the warms under the tree’s ground before the tree yields fruit.

Hope, real hope, not cheap optimism, mingles with suffering. Hope, real hope, has nothing Pollyannaish about it.

Hope recognizes the chains around our feet, hope yearns for liberation in the very midst of the prison. Hope sees the rays of light in the depth of the dark night.

Hope is an active act of faith, refusing to surrender.

Return to your fortress
O you prisoners of hope

Fortress is not a zip code. Fortress has no walls and moats. Fortress is a commitment to God and humanity, to the poor and to beauty. It is in this fortress that we, the prisoners, find hope.

We hope because without hope life would not be bearable.

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

In the “go back”, I hear the voice of Martin. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

“Go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Today, we say,

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Go back to Ferguson. Go back to Staten Island. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Chapel Hill. Go back to Syria. Go back to Palestine.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. Let us climb on ahead to the promised land of justice.

This is our hope. For us, the prisoners of hope.

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