originally published July 2018
The doctrine of the Five Phases, used frequently in the practice of Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) to understand the interconnectedness of all body systems, associates the emotion of joy and the season of summer with the Fire Phase. Thus do we have the subject of today’s post.
While we tend to think of joy as a positive state to be sought after and maintained, TOM recognizes the potential for any excess (i.e., persistent &/or high intensity) of emotional energy to be a causative factor of disease. It is said that excessive joy renders the qi slow-sluggish-slack. If you know the slow-rolling stupor that follows a night of partying hard, then you get the idea. Or as it’s said, on the wheel of fortune the higher the high, the lower the low.
Today’s focus will be on the yang (positive) end of this spectrum of experience. Take a few moments to feel into what joy is for you, an exercise that requires us to access self-levels other than the rational, logical intellect. What comes to mind? Free-associating, here’s what I think of:
light, happy, exuberant, uplifting to self, uplifting to others, altruistic, willingness to give, unbound, elated, at peace, unagitated, grounded, conduit for All-Pervading Consciousness, friendly, not angry.
Now what is a life without the right dose of this energy? Cold, boring, lonely, meaningless, depressing, bitter, angry, judgmental, selfish, stingy, delusional, prone to error come to mind. What would you add to this list?
We can only experience durable joy to the extent that there are levels of self wherein joy is missing–just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, we remain mindful of avoiding the trap of this common logical fallacy: I am joyful, therefore I am not unjoyful.
The fact is, we are like a jewel with myriad facets–richly textured, complex, not quickly understood. There are indeed self-levels where we flow in durable joy borne of living our truth, and it is equally true that there are places with in us which are deeply unhappy, unfulfilled, lost.
Whatever joy we have in our lives today, isn’t it perhaps possible to increase that by some amount? It’s like, no matter how smart we are today it is always possible to level that up somehow.
We increase intelligence by exposing, admitting our ignorance and subjecting ignorance to another level of information; in just the same way, we increase joy by exposing, admitting our lack of joy and subjecting our lack of joy to another level of information.
Hanging out with good friends who radiate joyful warmth into our lives is an important practice, but dear friends, there is the potential for us to form the dangerous habit of minimizing, denying, suppressing that within us where joy is lacking and most needed. It’s tantamount to locking someone up in solitary confinement and denying them love. The results are disastrous.
When it’s done right, it’s not that something is added to us; rather, what doesn’t belong is subtracted out so that more of who we are shines forth naturally! Kinda like a hunk of ore subjected to the furnace in the process of getting 24 karat gold.
A few action items come forth from this line of mentation:
>> recognize the importance of regular self-inquiry and self-assessment; honor the reason why self-study is recognized as a form of yoga in the Yoga Sutras (svadhyaya); recollect both the benefit accruing from these practices (e.g., increasing joy within ourselves and spreading that to others) and the harm accruing from failure to practice (e.g., remaining unhappy and suffering ill health in the body-mind)
>> recognize that with respect to self-inquiry and self-assessment there exist possibilities of fostering 1) an already present bad habit of unhealthy self-centeredness, 2) the good habit of discerning what belongs and what doesn’t belong, 3) a mix of 1 and 2.
>> recognize just how crucial it is to choose wisely, discerning choices we make out of self-gain and choices we make aligned with a win-win for all involved; recognize that mistakes are part of the learning process and practice the important skill of forgiving self, other, past, and present.
>> recognize that forgiveness is not usually some grand, one-time proclamation we make with outstretched arms and then it’s over and done with forever; forgiveness usually requires we re-feel a painful experience as it makes its way out of us and back out into the Lifestream.
>> ask deeply, honestly, and regularly: where in my life are relationships with persons, places, things cold, boring, lonely, meaningless, depressing, bitter, angry, judgmental, selfish, stingy, delusional, &/or prone to error?
>> recognize that purifying our mind of the bad habits giving rise to relationships that are cold, boring, lonely, meaningless, depressing, bitter, angry, judgmental, selfish, stingy, delusional, &/or prone to error is like clearing an acre of land overgrown with weeds to make room for a garden: not a short-term process, and sometimes requiring we ask for help from those with experience.
>> through prayer and meditation rendering ourselves teachable to our own Higher Self; this requires exposing our faults to air, light, water, and earth which is quite painful to the little ego and its ideal picture of itself.
>> recognize that sometimes the Higher Self speaks to us in ways we were not expecting, and sometimes through the teachings of others.
Hope this helps you in your work. Catch you down the road, J*
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Justin Jaucian is a practitioner of Traditional Oriental Medicine and NJ Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist specializing in preventive wellness and pain relief. Follow the links for appointments and upcoming events. Thanks for your interest!
copyright (c) 2018, 2019 Justin Jaucian