… and joy

…there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted…

Mary Oliver, Morning Poem

‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

Luke 19.40

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror…

Rainer Maria Rilke, First Duino Elegy (tr. Stephen Mitchell)

Prayer often begins with grounding and awareness exercises: following the breath, the sensations of the body, listening to sounds. I contend that these are not mere exercises, but prayer. All attention is “praise, reverence, and service” (to use Ignatius’ phrase).

And, the purpose of prayer is to bring us to the Presence of God.

Which is to say, to bring us to Being.

All the mind’s circumlocutions continue: regretting and planning; sadness and anxiety; ruminating on the past and the future.

And then, a scrap, an in-breath, an inspiration, brings presence, to this exactly moment of being alive. The mind’s scattered awareness collapses into now: black hole of thought. A jolt of joy: knowing that I am. Not a thought (though in another flash it is a thought, for the mind does not stop). It is the body’s joy of Being. It is a portal to another world, which is this one.

Every being, every leaf, every feather, every pebble shouts out, “I AM!”

Pink cherry blossom, squirrels skittering spiralling the trunk, a chirping sparrow.

Sun on the roof, slate-grey, yellow lichen that adheres, emerald, dew-bespangled moss clogging the gutters.

This lapidary world.

And then I cannot bear it. This is I AM of the Big Bang, of every atom, planet, star, and galaxy. In the beginning, The Word: God: The Word still spoken, shouted, silently. I can only endure so much. 

I scuttle back to little old me, the anxious self-concern, the worry of the day, the exhaustingly, tirelessly-recounted complaint.

What stifles your joy? How do you sabotage your joy? Please comment below.

Photo: Azaleas at Virginia Water by Julian Maddock

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