final-cover-return-to-joy

Editor’s Note: Andrew and I wish to thank Francis for his beautiful foreword to our book.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell often returned to a phrase in his teachings that came out of his studies of Buddhism. He said that the principle aim in life is to “participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.” For many of us, we are all too familiar with the sorrow, but rarely do we know how to cultivate joy. This makes our suffering something we attempt to avoid, overcome, or to rise above. There is something in Campbell’s phrase, however, that suggests that joy and sorrow are entangled, forming something akin to a prayer. At this grave time, we are in need of an education of the heart that can once again show us the ways that we may return to joy and be able to hold our suffering, and the suffering of the world, with compassion and generosity.

 

I have spent many years working with grief. In my writings and workshops, I have seen the wide range of sorrows that we carry in our hearts. Far too often, we are asked to walk with these losses in isolation. When we come together, however, in the company of one another and share these stories of sorrow, something begins to change. And then, in the container of deep ritual, we set our grief down and we return to joy. I have seen this over and over again in our grief ritual gatherings. It may be that we need a village to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.

This is a demanding book. Harvey and Baker reveal the wholesale changes we must make in order to find our way back to joy. We are often enticed to believe that change comes quickly and easily. Just a matter of shifting one’s perspective or thinking positively. In truth, real change is hard won. It demands everything of us, and only a thorough devotion will suffice. Carl Jung said that change requires three things: insight, endurance and action. Insight offers us a new way of seeing, a revised perspective about who we are or how the world works. To hold onto that insight, however, and allow it to ripen, requires endurance. We must be able to stay with the new way of seeing things or it will vanish like last night’s dream. We must keep it in front of us, write about it, dance it, draw it, mull it over with a close friend, meditate on it; whatever we can do to keep our attention focused squarely on the insight. Then, maybe then, the insight will have found a new way to express itself in the world as action. Jung said psychology is involved only in the first stage, that of insight. The second two steps are moral matters. To what will we choose to devote ourselves? What commitments are being asked of us which will enable this insight to deepen into an embodied change?

Return to Joy is a book suffused with moral courage, offering us scores of ways to work with the core insight the book offers which states that “joy is the ultimate nature of reality.” The authors declare that “the true task in life is to uncover this primordial joy in oneself and then live from its peace, energy, radiant purpose and embodied passion.” From this initial revelation, we are asked to take the second step and practice endurance, keeping this insight in front of us. Baker and Harvey say that we must commit everything to this cause. It is because of their steadfast conviction to the work at hand, that I am convinced of their sincerity. The return to joy, it turns out, is not a light matter: It is weighty and requires our ongoing effort. This effort is more of a shedding, however, a letting go of the cultural conditioning that has diminished the wider arc of our lives. Joy, itself, is always available and within our reach. It is, as the authors remind us, the very ground of our being.

We need this book. We need the wisdom and vision that it offers. Baker and Harvey have crafted a concise guidebook capable of reminding us of our deep time inheritance, which is joy. They offer many practices to help us recall that we are creatures shaped for delight, rapture and intimacy. Our entire makeup is designed to drink in the wonder and beauty of this world. But there are many forces that thwart this exchange such as the fact that we live in a “flatline” culture, the rise of the corporate machine, the degradation of the feminine and others. Baker and Harvey look squarely at these forces that oppress our spirit and imprison our minds that often result in an insidious forgetting of who we are, where we belong, and what is sacred. Fortunately for us, they also offer many remedies to this forgetting, an abundance of homeopathic tinctures to help us heal and mend from our long amnesia. Many of them are familiar and ones we might anticipate: beauty, creativity, the Earth, the sacred, but others will surprise us. We are invited to come to joy through conscious grieving, shadow healing, truth- telling and justice-making. Joy comes through many gateways and it is up to us, you and me, to return to joy.

To free the heart, to once again fall in love outwards, as the poet Robinson Jeffers suggests, is at the core of this book. The authors remind us over and over again, that joy is our natural state. It is the true home of the soul. The mystic poet Rumi echoes that statement when he declared the “soul is here for its own joy.” I want that in my life and in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and the wider community; joy that is infectious and that keeps our hearts fed during hard times; joy that enables us to step back from the feeding trough of consumerist society. When joy is present, we are enough, and we have enough. Our incessant emptiness is abated and we can cease the relentless search for more.

We need this book. This is a book that peels back the coverings over our hearts and dares us to touch the world again—to fall in love with moonlight and the blue of the sky, the caress of the wind and the smell of rain. Joy is a gateway to awe, wonder and enchantment, the heart enamored with the beauty of the world. We need this capacity now more than ever. When our hearts are aroused, we find ourselves living in a scintillating world, one riddled with wild and fragrant life. Joy illuminates the shimmering world that is, and we are granted a glimpse of the eternal in the here and now.

We need this book. We need what is found here to help us come home to ourselves, to each other, to the watersheds and the great wheeling galaxies. Joy is our true nature. This is cause for celebration.

francis-weller

Francis Weller, Marriage and Family Therapist, Russian River Watershed, Santa Rosa, California