Words from an old campfire song (with third verse revised by Cynthia):
I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay
I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart
(Repeat above refrain)
I’ve got the love of all the little children down in my heart
So, we ask the question – from where does joy come? Down in my heart.
Rudolf Steiner (and more recently Joseph Chilton Pearce) gave indications of thinking with the heart. Now this is being discovered in science – that the heart shows signs similar to brain activity.
In the human Heart
There lives a part of Man
Which contains matter
More spiritual than in any other organ;
Also a part of Man
Of which the spiritual life
Is made more manifest in matter
Than that of any other organ.
Hence in the Microcosm that is Man
Sun is the Heart,
And in his Heart is Man united
Most of all with the deepest fount –
The fount of his true Being.
~ Rudolf Steiner
What do we know about this wonderful organ of the heart?
It responds. We are taught in standard education that the heart is a pump; it pumps the blood. Embryology would tell us differently. The blood begins to flow first and the heart responds.
We might ask the question in our everyday life – how is my heart responding? Does it respond the way I want it to just because I want it to? Am I so free of life’s baggage that at any given moment I can, will and do respond out of my highest and best self?
Rudolf Steiner thought we might need some help with this. So he gave us some exercises to help out.
He valued thinking, seemingly above all else, as a pure spiritual activity. Yet he knew that to control our own thoughts might not be as simple and straightforward as we would wish. Thus he offered an exercise to help us be in charge of our own thinking.
He also knew that to do anything in life involves the activity of our will. Yet he even said that weakness of will would represent the illness of our times. Thus he offered another exercise to help us be in charge of our own will.
The two exercises for thinking and willing are followed by three other exercises that seemingly have more to do with feeling or, one might even say, the thinking of the heart. They are as follows:
Openness of mind and heart
Meet every new experience without prejudice. Previous experiences and judgment must not obscure new truths!
Can I see you, not as weird, but as different?
Not as broken, but as mending?
Not as lost, but as seeking?
The Dalai Lama said: “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road does not mean they are lost.”
In all experiences of life, seek the good, the ideal, the beautiful.
Driving out to the conference from Oklahoma, I knew we would encounter a massive cattle processing center outside of Amarillo, Texas – acres and acres of cows in tiny pens, unable to move, waiting to be “processed.”
My heart began to sink as I knew I would be outraged and heartbroken when I saw it again. But it was hours away. We passed ranch after ranch of free-range cattle, and, at last, I realized I had a choice: I could focus on the upcoming outrage or take note of the beauty that lay before me.
This is a choice we must make EVERY DAY!
Equilibrium in pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow. Recollect a mood that can bring you inner peace.
We probably need this in order to support our capacity to do all the other exercises. Out of that place of balance within myself, I am more – there is more of me available now to you. One can begin to think of these exercises as soul food – as heart food!
Still, one can feel that the heart has its own mysteries. I love the idea of the chambers of the heart. When I think of chambers, I think of times long ago when a chamber was a special room for receiving guests. What guests do I want to invite into my heart’s chambers?
Modern medicine is full of warnings about what we put into our body that might have an effect on our heart. Let us focus, through positivity, open-mindedness, and equanimity on activities we want to tuck into those wonderful mysterious chambers! By doing so, this might help us to find the Peace that passeth understanding mentioned in our campfire song above.
I had the very interesting experience of falling down the rabbit hole of discontent not long after Faith and I chose the theme for this conference – Joy! Not so unusual, right? We make a resolve, anticipate something wonderful coming and BAM – we find ourselves swimming in a murky swamp of discontent, depression, unsettledness.
How do you climb out of such a slippery slope?
With the Peace that passes understanding.
And where might we find that? In the Spirit of Pure Love.
Tomorrow is Whitsun and marks the end of the Easter Season. Waldorf children in schools around the world celebrate with images of peace doves flying in the wind. For us adults the images include not only the dove descending from the spiritual world announcing the peace that passes understanding in the form of comfort-bestowing grace. Another image is that of the flames that lit up the hearts and minds of the original apostles; in that moment everyone understood one another! Can we renew the capacity to awaken to one another, regardless of barriers of language, religion or other differences?
To the outer ear, we sometimes sound like we are babbling to one another. But if we learn to listen with the heart, to develop joy through positivity and open mindedness, and welcome the Spirit of Peace to wash over us, then comes LOVE. And that brings us back to that Bigger Joy mentioned in the song – “the love of all the little children”.
How can we describe the Joy of the young child? We have all heard the verse that states, “Lest ye become as a little child ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” Say what?! How can we possibly accomplish that? Well, let’s pretend that the kingdom of heaven is all around us. That is how it is for the small child – everything is wonderment! Watch how they watch, see how they see, drink from the elixir of being “in it.”
Our colleague Mary O’Connell sent two stories yesterday about the reaction of two children who had spent the day at her farm. She wrote:
“When Jonah, age 6, got home, his mom heard him screaming at the top of his lungs outside. Alarmed at his sudden burst of excitement, she looked out the window and saw that he had scooped up a huge mound of dirt from the garden with both hands, and he exclaimed loud enough for all of the neighbors to hear: ‘LOOK AT THIS!!!! THIS IS BEAUTIFUL DIRT!!!!’”
“Aura, age 4, said: ‘I am looking at the onions before I put them in the ground because I want them to know who planted them!’”
When was the last time you were thrilled by the soil in your garden or hoping to make a personal relationship to your harvest? Rudolf Steiner tells us that we can see miracles every day, but it is a matter of having the eyes to see. Children are our role models in this regard. We can look to them to see what open-mindedness, free exploration, unstuck thinking and freewheeling embracing of life look like!
And, as we learn from them, let us reflect it back to them. We are their models of adult living. We lay the foundation for their observation of resiliency.
Is it worth the effort – all of this work to find joy? Yes. We learn in anthroposophically-based child development that joy hatches the organs of the young child. So we will do all we can to fill our wellspring of joy, to which these little ones can come for deep refreshment!
I encourage you to write down these three words – JOY, PEACE, LOVE.
Now take a moment to think of some encounter you had with another person, something you observed, something you felt that represents each of those words. Where did you experience Joy? Peace? Love?
Now please take those moments, those encounters, and tuck them — where? — down in your heart to stay.