Life Skills #15 – Cultvating Joy

The Welcome
“Welcome to our group! We’re meeting together in order to learn practices that will inform and form our lives. (“Life Skills”) Our group intention is to cultivate an atmosphere of safety, compassion, and respect for each individual’s unique experience and contribution.”

The Prayer
“We know you are already present to us, O God, so we ask you to enable us to be equally present to you, to each other–and to ourselves. We consent to your work in us. As we learn new practices, may we be delivered from the ‘pace, power, and priorities’ (Villodas) of our world.” (60 seconds of silence)

Managing Expectations
This is not a Bible study or a counseling session. Our time together is as much about “unlearning” as about learning, more about members sharing their experience than a leader giving insights or principles. In being heard we are helped. We change, and others are usually helped too. (This model is tested and proven in 12 step groups. The approach may be unfamiliar at first, so give it some time. It works!)

Expectations regarding other Group Members
Members of the group will come from different regions, ethnicities, ages, and religious backgrounds. Additionally, everyone is on their own timetable and journey. Don’t assume everyone shares your faith or perspective or that you can speak for them.

Suggested Guidelines
*Come to the group with an expectation of learning something new and helpful.
*Keep your sharing at the “I” level–make it personal (what you think or feel), not preachy (what you think others should think or feel). 
*Please keep the focus on your own experience.
*Resolve to practice patience and exquisite tenderness toward others.
*If you feel judgmental or defensive when someone else shares, “turn to wonder.” For instance, “I wonder what she is feeling.”, “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself.”
*Stick to the topic. Avoid controversial comments.
*Refrain from commenting on, correcting, advising, or offering solutions to the person who is sharing. No ‘fixing.”, no “cross talk.” (Not even compliments.)
*Trust Silence. Treat silence as a member of the group. Times of silence slow down the group and give people time to reflect.
*Be sensitive to how many times you share, and for how long. We may have a large group at times. Let others have their turn.
*Hold what you hear in confidence. Help us keep this a safe space for everyone.
Specific to on-line meetings:
–Mute your microphone when you’re not sharing, even if you’re home alone!
–Please don’t make video or audio recordings of our meetings.
–Keep your background as non-distracting as possible.

Life Skills #15 – Cultivating Joy

WFTM, May 12, 17, July 1

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.”
Proverbs 3:13

(1) Priming the Pump on Cultivating Joy
*Pick something from below that touches you, and talk about why that is.

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” Martin Buber

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” Julian of Norwich

“Joy is the perception of beauty, unlike happiness, which is because of something. Joy is singing of the heart, a feeling of praise.” Dick Only

“I think the main reason we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously.” Thomas Merton

“I’m old enough to know that the world can delight me, so my expectation is not of the world but of myself: Delight in the gift of life and be grateful.” Parker Palmer

“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

“From the deep well of silence, joy is constantly bubbling up and flowing out.Practice reveals that we are immersed in that joy.Practice also reveals what is blocking the flow.”
Gunilla Norris

(2) Digging Into Implications Around Cultivating Joy

*As a group, take these statements one at time. What is the point of each? What are the implications for the way you live?

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” Psalm 126:2

“Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.” Henri Nouwen

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.” Matt Haig

“Enlightenment is not an escape from reality. There are joys and sorrows. When we cling to them, we suffer. We want the joys to always be there, and to avoid the sorrows altogether. But there will be both. Feel them, accept them, and let them go. Don’t get too attached to what has shown up in the present moment, remembering that there’s a new moment awaiting. Be happy. Be sad. It’s the nature of life and our feelings to cycle through many joys and sorrows. Press through them deeper still, and know that all is well in a way that never changes and is never diminished. At last, peace.” Jim Palmer

“One of the ways I’ve learned and am learning to press back comparison and enter into the joy God has for me and my house, is to lean into the gift he has given instead of the gift he hasn’t. He has given us time, space, and resources. That is the gift we have in the lack of the gift of children. It is not a better gift or a worse gift or a more sanctifying gift or a more difficult gift. It’s just another and different gift. And I want to receive it with joy. I don’t always. But I want to. These practices help me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.” Lore Ferguson Wilbert

“The only solution that God has to offer to all our problems is himself, is the fact that he is, that he is the kind of God that he is, a God who has a Word to utter, which he utters in an ecstasy of joy, an ecstasy of giving, which we call the Holy Spirit…. God has only the one thing to say, which is himself, he has only the one thing to give, which is himself. And he invites us to hear that Word, to treasure it in our hearts and find in it the source of all our bliss.” Simon Tugwell

Closing Prayers

“Grant us, we pray you, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.” Walter Rauschenbusch

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the
presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,

before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude :24-25

For Further Consideration (before our after our discussion)


  1. Recognize. It takes a bit of effort to figure out what I’m feeling because the thoughts swirling around my brain are so vivid and powerful. When I feel my negative thoughts careening out of control, I’m learning to stop and try to discern the feelings that lie behind the thoughts. Most often those feelings are fear or sadness, but I also sometimes feel anger, hopelessness and frustration.
  2. Acknowledge. After recognizing the emotion, I sit with it for several breaths. I focus on my breathing and let myself feel whatever it is.
  3. Investigate. I try to identify where the emotion is located in my body, because this helps identify emotions the next time they happen. I also try to figure out what the emotion wants. Sometimes it wants to dominate my life. Sometimes it just wants to be acknowledged.
  4. Non-identify. When the feeling wants to dominate, it wants to be pervasive. It wants me to identify myself with that feeling. When I non-identify with the feeling, I might think about feelings as weather. They come and go. . . . Or I might focus on other feelings I’ve had that day – such as contentment, joy, happiness, or gratitude, no matter how fleeting – to demonstrate to my brain that this strong negative feeling is only a part of me, a part that needs to be acknowledged, but a part that does not define me.

If our ordinary, self-centered viewpoint is dominant, rocks and tree roots are undesirable. But if we change our point of view, then the very fact that there are rocks and tree roots makes the valley stream more beautiful and the sight of waves breaking upon them beyond description. When we perceive joy, anger, happiness and sorrow as enriching our lives, just as rocks and tree roots and water spray embellish nature, then we are able to accept whatever happens and live like flowing water, without clinging to anything.” Shundo Aoyama

Daily Riches: Aging and “Invisibility” (Paul F. Morrissey and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

“It is strange to feel invisible. I don’t remember exactly when it began to happen. The only thing I know is that I am not seen much anymore when I walk by people on the street. It is a little discomfiting, a little bittersweet. I am now in my late 70s and rather healthy, even athletic for my age, so it came as a shock to realize people rarely look back when I glance at them. Not just women . . . . Men do not see me either. . . . this invisibility happens in smaller gatherings, too, even with people I know. Conversation whirls around the table. Snippets of this or that experience are shared. Chuckling to myself, I remember when I competed in the same way for the storyteller spotlight. Now I often sit and wait. It is not a bad space to be in. It can be rather peaceful if you can get over the need to speak in order to exist. . . . The world belongs to the young. “Yet I’ve got so much to share if anyone wants to know,” I muse to myself. . . . Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., says that this “diminishment” is how we prepare for the great merging with the cosmos that occurs when we die:

. . . there still remains that slow, essential deterioration which we cannot escape: old age little by little robbing us of ourselves and pushing us on to the end . . . . In death, as in an ocean, all our slow and swift diminishments flow out and merge.

. . . I began to tell a friend about this invisibility recently. Before I could explain what I meant, he immediately acknowledged that he, too, experiences this, even though he is only in his mid-60s. The way he described it was that he hardly sees anyone looking at him with a glimmer of sexual or relational interest anymore. We all enjoy seeing a flicker of—let’s call it personal—interest in another’s eyes as we go through our rather regular days, don’t we? A sign that we are still a little intriguing. . . . That we might be worth having a cup of coffee or glass of wine with. To be seen—to be desired . . .—is a beautiful human need no matter what our age is. God created us this way. . . . In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, ‘Sawubona.’ It means, ‘I see you.’ The answer is ‘Here I am.’ In other words, you are not invisible to me. You are someone. You are God’s beloved child . . . .” Paul F. Morrissey

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Mark 10:21a NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you sometimes feel invisible? Is there anything good that can come from that–hidden beneath the pain?
  • Must you be seen “in order to exist?” Mull that over.
  • Do you go through each day in a way that conveys to others “I see you.”?

Here I am Lord. You see me. When necessary, may that be enough.

For More: “Becoming Invisible” by Paul Morrissey


Daily Riches: The Slow Work of God … In You (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Carl Jung) *

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some states of instability – and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”   Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine,
even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25:40

“What if you discovered that the least of the brethren of Jesus,10171841_10151987010386851_1794316792549983598_n
the one who needs your love the most,
the one you can help the most by loving,
the one to whom your love will be most meaningful –
what if you discovered that
this least of the brethren of Jesus … is you?
Then do for yourselves
what you would do for others.”
Carl Jung

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Think of all the ways you are “impatient to reach the end” of something or other. Now think about the inevitably “slow work of God.” Obviously, patience is necessary!
  • It seems to me that Teilhard’s words make a powerful springboard for prayer. Read though what he says slowly. Let it sink in, and see if you can let it turn into prayer, phrase by phrase.
  • Teilhard counsels us to “accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” Think about “accepting” anxiety, and feeling yourself “in suspense and incomplete.” Can you do that? How will you?

Abba, help me to trust in your slow work in me – to not give up on you, or on me. May I find you in my incompleteness and the anxiety that so often comes when I look in the mirror.


For More: Hearts on Fire by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to provide you with something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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