Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Joy and Satisfaction

Over the past few weeks, the question has become more active in me of the difference between joy and satisfaction; what they mean, and how the two experiences relate to our inner search.

“Joy” is, apparently, what we seek. We all wish to be free of negativity, of suffering, of the pain and challenge of life. And indeed, if the deus ex machina of enlightenment arrives, we are to presume, we will be freed of negativity and feel this “joy unending.” Those who attain such states dwell in the joy of the Lord and speak from the joy of the Lord; they call us to joy, and they assert that joy is all there is. I hear about this a lot in the church; as far as it goes, it’s wonderful.

But how far does it go? I first put the word in quotation marks because our “ordinary” understanding of the word is insufficient. What does anyone who repeats these words actually know about joy? And how do we relate this idea of joy to the demonstrably more complex understandings of reality, existence, and religious experience offered to us by Gurdjieff, and by Dogen?

Here’s the difficulty, symbolically rendered: just how do we square it with the image of a Man nailed to a cross?

All of the statements about how amazing spiritual joy is are, insofar as they go, true. There is indeed such a thing; there is a state where we can be completely free of negativity, and a joy so deep and fundamental that it overrides all other inner conditions.

There is, however, a catch-22 to the experience of true joy--joy without quotation marks. Joy, like all other cosmic arisings, has not one but three aspects. The joy religious people and teachers generally speak of experiencing is the affirming joy--the joy of yes, the joy of the positive, the joy of fulfillment: affirming joy. This joy bubbles up within the being like fresh spring water, conferring spiritual immunity.

There is a second joy, however. It’s a darker joy, of a vintage rarely sipped by man: denying joy. This is the joy of anguish, the joy of sorrow. It is the polar opposite of affirming joy, and is as far from it as anything one could imagine. But it is still joy.

The third force in the arising of joy is the inextricable intertwining of these two forces, where affirming joy and denying joy (sorrow) become one within man. In this is created reconciling joy, which balances the two states and creates a transformative experience of Being.

This deepest “joy,” as I have mentioned before, consists of equal measures of joy and anguish. One absolutely cannot have one without the other; they are inextricably intertwined at the heart of the universe. It is a food far too rich for us to swallow under any ordinary set of circumstances. A man has to have real courage to swallow much of this ambrosia, because it’s fatal to all that we are in our present state; the sweetest, but deadliest, poison to the ego. I daresay few would drink it willingly.

I cannot say it any more clearly: Joy is born from sorrow.

Bliss, the ice-cold touch of the divine upon the parts of ourselves that we cannot know with the ordinary mind, is a divine substance that expresses itself in the human body under certain conditions. Bliss attunes the nervous system to receive this experience that arises at the heart of reality itself. That arising is the simultaneous arising of both joy and sorrow, ecstasy and anguish, from the One Well where All that Is arises.

Bliss, in other words, prepares us to receive something, and that something is food. This is where we reach the question of satisfaction.

Satisfaction is to be sated; and to be sated means to be filled, to have a hunger met and satisfied by the arrival of food. So if we are satisfied, literally, it means we have eaten well.

What is it that we eat, that can bring inner satisfaction?

This goes back to one of the core teachings Gurdjieff offered us: the law of reciprocal feeding. Everything in the universe feeds everything else; and in this case, what feeds is impressions. So once again we come back to our current theme of ingesting the impressions of life. Satisfaction- to be sated, to be filled—is to be filled with life. This does not mean to be happy, or sad, in any conventional terms, and to confuse “the joy of the Lord” with our conventional ideas or experiences creates mistaken understandings. Inner joy and outward joy are quite different.

Ordinary life, outer life, brings us ordinary food of three kinds: the solids we eat, the air we breathe, and impressions. Of the three, the most refined food is impressions.

At the same time, with proper preparation, we can receive inner impressions. These are a higher, finer kind of food. A great deal of the question of joy versus satisfaction centers around the question of this spiritual food, which was incidentally the heart of Christ’s mission, and a continuing interest of Paul in his letters. The question itself is still found at the heart of the Holy Communion in Christianity, which asks us to participate in the receiving of spiritual food in the body and blood of Christ. This spiritual food is not just what brings us joy, but what fills us; and if it arrives, it is literally received in the vehicle of the physical body and the vehicle of the blood itself—what Gurdjieff called Hanbledzoin—because this is the tool we are given to eat of this food.

To receive is not just to feel joy. It is to suffer, that is, to participate in taking on the burden of the sorrow of His Endlessness.

Of all history’s many avatars, Christ’s sacrifice alone offers us a stunning visual allegory of just how much suffering exists, and what is called for. Christ, in his efforts to save mankind, pulled off the blinders: we were offered a true picture of how much God pays for our existence.

So to experience joy is not the ultimate, heartfelt purpose of existence. It’s a step on the path; a big one, to be sure, but to stop here is to stop while enveloped within rapture, rather than to take one step further and ask, “what is required of me?”

In craving joy, the spiritual seeker asks “how much can I get?” This, while magnificent, is no more than a form of desire.

In accepting suffering, the seeker asks, “what can I give?” This is a form of non-desire: detachment.

Perhaps this is why Gurdjieff asked man to cultivate non-desire, and why Buddhist practice seeks detachment.

In opening the soul to the root of Being, where the two forces join at a single root, we may begin to approach the idea of satisfaction, that is, eating enough of the right food, and thereby fulfilling man’s inherent purpose on earth.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lee:

    Your post helped me thru my recent confusion. I wrote this about myself a week ago and thought you might enjoy it.


    The Dollar and the Rock

    I thought you might enjoy reading a story about a man that was once lost within the sins and iniquities of man, brought to place of complete destruction and emptiness by the way he lived in the world, then saved thru the power, love and compassion of Jesus Christ so he may find the beauty and grace within the true life that God has always been holding for him to accept. This man is a friend of mine, now, as he loves God and I am able to see him thru the eyes of Jesus Christ. The friend I see is me as this story is of me, for I have found friendship for myself within my faith of God. This being a truth, I hope it will also be true, that I can call you friend.

    The Dust

    I can say that I spent a good portion of my life in the 46 years I was not alive, trying to obtain all the things we are suppose to by the rules and customs of man. I never realized that the way we live now is not much different than the people of the Old Testament. The intelligence and knowledge of man has brought us new things to play with and to “want”, to reveal in our accomplishments about and to use the newness of these things to destroy ourselves within the evilness they bring. I was leading a charge of my own in the growing betterment of myself by there gain.

    The pain, stress and disillusionment of my life caused great hardships on my family. I looked upon my wife’s tears, as weakness, which I could remove from her. She would stand alone, shivering in all the problems I had created in our life. My hand was always cold in her touch and her strength, within the weakness of our life, came from only one thing, her faith and devotion of the love we once had and the truth that God gave her that I would return to her one day. I was living for myself, not others and felt I could conquer all things on my own. My kingdom was as large as my ego would make it, built on sand, without the rock solid foundation that comes within the word, wisdom and love of God.

    Problems began to occur that I could not wave my hand over and make them disappear. As cracks formed in all my beliefs, I filled them with the false hopes and strengths that alcohol will bring while you swim in it, but as my arms and legs grew tired and my spirit died, I sunk to the bottom of the pit we fear as men, without the salvation of Jesus Christ. I decided there was nothing within this world I had created to live for and found peace in thoughts of not living anymore. As God waved His hand over the world I thought I had created, my wife moved me to a place of sanctuary where the other people in attendance had also collapsed within the ruins of the worlds they had created.

    I spent my week in the detox unit of the hospital trying to unravel myself from the dead and broken vines and branches of my past and replant myself in the same old soil I had been living while looking for a peace from the fears and anxieties I still had. I sat at breakfast one morning, still half asleep from the medications they had me on, when I looked up to see a man sitting across the table from me. He was praying over a bowl of oatmeal. His hands were clasped and touching his brow, his eyes closed and whispering to the Lord. This was the first time in my life I felt a moment within the peace of God.

    The man and I spoke throughout breakfast. He was 44 years old and had spent 27 of those years in prison. The earlier portion of his incarceration was spent for stealing and selling drugs and breaking other laws of God and man, whereas the last portion of his stay, which ended a year earlier, was due to attempted murder. He had “so to say”, signed himself into the hospital for fear of his current drinking habits and the effects the continued use of the evil spirits within the bottle would have on his life. He viewed his time in prison as a blessing, for without it he would not have found Jesus Christ. If he had nothing, he truly had everything, within his faith with our Lord.

    “A seed, which came to me in the form of a man of sin, had been planted within me.”

    I returned home to begin anew. The alcohol had drained me of all things, good and bad and I was the empty vessel the Lord had waited for. I woke up one Sunday, or “The First Sunday” of my true life and opened a phone book to search for a church. There are no coincidences, only God, and it was God who brought me to our home at Beacon Baptist Church. In my second moment of peace and complete stillness, in the time when all my searching ended, when the true beauty and relevance of my life unfolded, God thru the power of Jesus Christ our Savior, filled me with light and love and held me for the first time as a starving, scared child would be held by his father, I was home the moment Pastor Dexter prayed with me for my salvation.

    I have found my Life with God is not defined by the individual moments or miracles He performs in my life. The times I see them are only when I am not blind, when my eyes are open wide, as He has meant for them to be, always. Jesus healed the blind and we are the blind that were healed thru our salvation. My life is filled with breathing, loving, seeing, hearing, touching and helping others, each of these things are one miracle He has given me. As I experience all of His miracles in combination, one after the other, one breath connected to the next, one hard step after the other, day after day, year after year, all while being aware that it is God, always, doing this for me, I become a constant, never ending miraculous moment within my life with living as Jesus Christ is. This, the true moment He desires of me, for His glory, as others to see.

    The Wilderness

    “The life I know is gone but the things I have obtained in it are still with me. They are not who I am. God will not have me known by my possessions and stature in which they bring in the eyes of men, for my life with Him should be simple, without fear and desires of man, as not to confuse the truth of who He truly wants me to be, cloud my heart or confound the purpose of my life as He called it to be.”

    The beginning of my life occurred when I was saved. Now standing somewhere in my sixth month of age, I can look back and see how far He has taken me.

    It was very painful for me when I realized that I was to be saved thru Jesus Christ, lifted up and placed on a hill viewing a stark wilderness and realizing that this is where He wanted me go. It looked so overwhelming in my opened eyes the first time. So barren, dry, without the moisture of life I knew. Confining to the pleasures and the ways of life, I thought I needed. The bleak harshness of it brings great fear and anxiety at first. I would not accept it as He removed pieces of gold and silver from me. It made me angry and depressed. I argued with my loving wife about things we did not truly have control over as if in the midst of the argument I could find a truth that would answer- “why?”

    Somewhere in the middle of this question “why” I realized that the “why” was God, always. The lack of money, losing our house and possessions, our separation was by God, for His purpose. In the wisdom He had already given me I also knew He loved me and He would always take care of my needs. Not the needs “I” thought were necessary to survive and live, not my “wants”, just the needs a man truly convicted to a life of God would be given by a God of our needs. Anything more would be abundance. I surrendered completely and forever. I new this was the God I had looked for all my life and if the pain and sorrow I went thru was for Him, I could live thru a lifetime of Job’s single day of hardships knowing this.

    The next day, a day that would seem most desolate to most, I came home and jokingly emptied my pockets on a table while my wife watched. There sat only two things present which I realized were very symbolic to whom I was, and who I had become. The table held a single dollar, our last until the Lord decided we would “need” more, and a stone I had received from MIT that had a beautiful cross on it. My wife and I stood there looking at seriousness of our life that God had reduced to the single dollar that held all our fear and stress within it and the peace and joy this rock of God was. I began to laugh, as did my wife and I was happy to know that she had found the peace of who Jesus Christ is, within us. I will always use this example as a test to the amount of peace of God I live with. I believe that if our Lord Jesus Christ stood before this table of seriousness, He would give His last dollar to someone truly in need and smile within the peace of God it gives Him.

    All the gold and silver that God had removed from me, He took to make my journey “lighter”. When I knew I no longer needed it, a strange thing happened. God had kept all the gold and silver, melted it into liquid, poured it out upon a anvil, folded, pounded and shaped it, tempered it with fire and water returned it to me, as me, as the sword I will carry and need in my life. “From your gold and silver you are given steel, and become joyful from within its weight, for it is the joy of God you carry.”

    When you live in the wilderness being fully surrendered to God, without a clouded heart to view it from, it becomes the Garden. The insanity of the world we live in is not of God, but man. It is when we live within the peace of God we are able to “see” the sin and the insanity of it that surrounds us and become sane by the life we live within our growing faith for Him. As God takes us to the wilderness, it is not to punish us or put us in captivity or bondage. It is to show us that with Him in the wilderness there are no bindings to hold us in our life. You will not want for leave. The bonds in which we live with are of man.

    Our sacrifices that we think are hard to endure for God are but for the purpose of why we are here. I would not be like our Lord to take our sacrifices and suffering lightly or for Himself. As Jesus Christ suffered, sacrificed and died for us, we too will suffer in our lives. We should be willing to sacrifice all things to see the lost sheep of this world saved. To lead them into the light and brightness of Jesus Christ that dwells within us. This being “the” only purpose God has put us here for, as “we are and of Jesus Christ.” As Jesus was and is and we are to become Him in our path of righteousness, the “last dollar” is not about having it but the truth and understanding God gives you when you let it go, give it to another and have the faith that He will replace it with a rock of His world. That, being all we need.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.