In A Daily Sip of Joy and Peace, Eleanor Hooks assures us that joy and peace are always present in our lives, in spite of daily challenges and failed attempts to make sense out of the pain and suffering. Each daily essay is a sip -- a small, soothing elixir much like a calming cup of tea. With the author’s guidance, we explore our relationship with a powerful presence; learn the importance of kindness and compassion; appreciate and honor all livings things; and set aside all worries and fears. We explore what it means to work with integrity, and to value the creative energy we all have within us. We learn to notice how love shows up for us and through us, and to ultimately become aware that nothing is lacking in our lives. Eleanor Hooks shares lovingly her insights into the nature of joy and peace, and invites you to enjoy the daily sips.
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A Daily Sip of Joy and Peace
By Eleanor Hooks
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Eleanor Hooks, PhD.
All rights reserved.
Silence Before Sound
Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation. – Rumi, The Essential Rumi
Most of us have never experienced a moment of silence, not real silence. Our lives have been quiet at times, but never completely quiet. When we settle down for a relaxed solitude, the sounds of the universe in our immediate environment soon overtake our consciousness. Imagine that there was a time when there was no sound. Existence is dependent upon sound, so we can assume that nothing existed.
Before the existence of anything in the universe, there was silence, voiceless silence. Out of that profound silence substance emerged, but silence remained. There is a way to experience that silence, the voice of the voiceless; we can sit and let silence come to us, embrace us, and remove the stress that interrupts our joy. When we return to that silence, we are aware of our being, our eternal existence. In silence, energy exists, spiritual energy; we come to know ourselves, our true self in that stillness. The energy of silence is our true strength. When we suspend our preoccupation with the sounds in our life they recede to the background of our consciousness, and we remember the true essence of the Self. Imagine how exciting it is to know that we are that powerful energy; we are the first love of the universe. Rest this day in that.
We are expressions of the universe, the necessary evidence of its power. – Ndidi, Tea Leaves
If we stand on the banks of a river and look outward to the horizon, we know that we cannot see beyond that horizon, yet we also know that the horizon is not the limit in the distance. It is an illusion to think that there is nothing beyond the horizon. Such a thought is pre-Galilean, an archaic notion that the world is flat.
Almost everything that we experience has a perceived limit; we get assurances from a world of objects that have a structure with boundaries, with a beginning and an end. We are told early on in our lives that we are individuals, so we too develop boundaries between ourselves and others. Because our individual bodies and personalities are expected in our cultural and social communities, we come to see ourselves as separate from others.
We are brief visitors on the earth as expressions of divine energy. Every moment is a transformative experience, an opportunity to feel the joy of being, and to know the interconnectedness of all creation. Our connections are so strong that death does not separate us. If we wonder about life after death, we can rest in knowing there is no beginning of the universe and no end; there is no end to love and no end to life born in love. What seems like a horizon is a limited view; so much exists beyond our conscious appearance here on earth. And we are not bystanders in the flow of life in the universe. We are creating and contributing to the beauty and diversity of the universe through the simple reality of our being, and through the legacy of love we express.
Sound of the Heart
Deep within the essence of our being is a love that must be shared. – Ndidi, Tea Leaves
A young child ambles along the beach searching for shells. He picks up a conch shell and holds it up to his ear. The sounds of the ocean fascinate him, so he begins to smile. He has stumbled upon the many illusions in life. The sound heard from raising the shell to one's ear is really the noise in the surrounding environment resonating within the cavity of the ear.
The sound in our environment is pervasive, so at times we listen closely; but it is the Self, our divine energy that hears the sounds of the universe. When we are aware of our being-ness, we hear the sound of our own heart and within that heart space we sense the infinite nature of life. With no fear of death, we can embrace the moment by moment transformation that is life's unending movement. Just as we breathe in and out, so do life events continue in a constant rhythm of coming and going. The beat of our heart reminds us that we are alive in each moment; and the sounds of our hearts remind us that life is an ongoing, unrepeatable cycle. Every moment is new, existing as a crucible for creativity and transformation. Everything in the universe, like a massive orchestra of sounds and silence, will continue the cycle of change and transformation. We are no exception. Our contributions are part of the symphony as we express love and flow as love in the universe. When we rhythmically allow universal love to flow freely in our life, we play music from our heart space. When love flows from us the entire universe applauds.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water. – Genesis 1:2 (KJV)
Water has enviable power; it endures by transforming itself based on conditions in the environment; it's adaptable. Water is a rolling ocean, a placid lake, a flowing river, gentle rain or escaping steam. It gushes and meanders, babbles, and seeps; it moves. We are partly water, and would die without it. Deep within the water of the universe is the energy of creation. The universe has been a relentless, although nuanced at times, movement of creation. The stunning biodiversity is visual and tangible evidence of a world that is committed to creating more, expanding and evolving. All the elements of creation are here right now — all thoughts, ideas, intentions, and creations – in this moment. As the universe constructs and deconstructs in its expansion, we are the opportunity for those precious elements of creation to appear in reality. Every experience, response or reaction we register as part of our life experience is part of the creation; it is our own compelling story, one that is critical to universal expansion. Every molecule of our being, every thought and every act of love and compassion is an essential expression of the spirit within us. Love is first nature, not second nature to us. When we are being who we are, love flows like a rushing stream that soaks every moment with joy.
Who We Are Not
Joy is knowing who you are in the unbounded beauty of now. – Ndidi, Tea Leaves
A young woman looked into her mirror one morning and did not recognize herself. Masks had obscured her face, and forgotten diets, prized possessions, past awards and unresolved feelings were plastered across her body like graffiti. She longed for the person she used to be.
When we give up our preoccupations with the body and appearances, we discover who we really are. Just as important as knowing who we are is knowing who we are not. Although we have a body, we are not the body. We are not the masks we wear to fit in or achieve some career goal. We are not what we do or what we have done. We are spiritual energy expressing within us.
We are not what we possess or know or even what we feel. Anything that comes and goes, emerges and recedes is not who we are. We are not a personality, label or a style. Labels and other attributes are empty attachments that do not arise out of the experience of being; they are social constructions that separate us from one another. We are not the boundaries we place on ourselves. If we think we exist within a perceived boundary, we miss the expansive opportunity to just be; limits constrict us.
All that we are in any perceived reality is transformational energy; we are not stagnant, stuck or immobile, so disturbing conditions or happy events are temporary stops along our journey. We are the beneficiaries of joy in each moment with no boundaries, no labels and no confinements. Joy is not something we seek; it is already here as who we are.
Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. – Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation
Personal introductions in French often include the expression, je mappelle; a literal translation is "I call myself." Je m'appelle" is the answer to "Comment appellez-vous?" What do you call yourself? We are named by someone else, and call ourselves that name. Parents, siblings and others call us names, some proper names and some shorter terms of endearment. We know ourselves, we think, by the names we are called. Names and titles are convenient ways to express our unique identity in the world, but our constructed identities are different from who we really are. As we live our lives, we become comfortable with the monikers that identify us; we think that we are a daughter or son, a mother or a father. We use titles to define our worth or names to define our relationships. Names and titles are given to us, or we give them to ourselves, but they always remain a mere representation of who we are.
Names and labels we give to ourselves in our constructed reality are simply our shorthand; universal energy simply is, and that's what we are. As Shakespeare wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Just as the rose does not separate from sweetness, you cannot separate yourself from universal energy. Without the boundaries we place on ourselves with names and other labels, we are free to be who we are. When we remember who we are, there is no name that can define us clearly; there is no shape to assume that tells the full story of who we are. Universal energy is nameless and formless and we are that. When we are aware of our true self, love is our true name.
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. – The Buddha
Each morning a man awoke with the same frightening thought; he grew so accustomed to the thought that when his morning reverie was interrupted by a pleasant call from a friend, he became surprisingly angry.
We have had recurrent thoughts that interrupt our sense of peace. These tough thoughts stick to us like sheets of cling wrap so we begin to believe these false ideas. The thoughts are sometimes fearful, but they can also be strong desires for something we do not have, or longing for a relationship we have not experienced. Trauma, tragedy or pain create the thoughts for our stories; we can draft elaborate scenarios written through the tyranny of our thoughts. The stories are rewound in our mind since our fears demand repetitive attention. If we give credence to the thoughts and act on their behalf, we allow negative thoughts, based in fear, to cloud our life experience.
Later, we are filled with regrets because of our behaviors, and blame others for our feelings. Because we are beginning to believe falsehoods, we begin to suffer. But we may not recognize the suffering as our created story, so we ignore the ever-present love that rests quietly in the midst of our suffering. We must not worry. The story is not who we are; it is a story we have created at the direction of a fearful, untamed mind.
As a continuing stream of ideas, images and sensations, the mind is a constructed concept that can shape what we perceive. A tree, river or a flower is pure mind without grasping for approval, safety or love; it is being what it is, mindlessly. With the pure mind of a flower, having no judgment of conditions or clinging to false stories, we refuse to give our pain more energy. A pure mind is an allowing mind, but also one that observes the energy of thoughts, and does not focus undue attention on them. Our pure mind does not attempt to control the streaming images and words. We allow thoughts to arise in the mind and then disappear, without giving attention to them. Thoughts come and go in reaction to what we perceive or feel, but when we let them flow, we can also let them go.
Find Strength Within
Deep within your consciousness you know who you were meant to be. – Ndidi, Tea Leaves
People often refer to Robert Frost's poem about a choice of paths to take. In his poem, "The Road Not Taken," a person walking in the woods arrives at a fork in a road, and is confronted with a choice. Even though he laments the possibilities of the path he chose not to take, and took a road "not travelled by" he realizes that his choice made a difference in his life. The poem has been used to show that choosing a less-traveled road could turn out to be the better choice. All roads lead to the same end; how we get to the end depends on what we choose to experience in life.
We may look outward for support from other people, friends and family. We may also seek help, guidance and information to help navigate the challenging conditions and frustrations in life. In the end, we make choices about what to do, even when the choice is not to choose.
As children we are often told what to do; choices may be limited. Yet, we wonder about alternatives, and sometimes long for the time when we can make our own decisions. We learn to find strength in the answers from parents, family members, mentors and people we respect. We trust their thoughts and take them as our own.
But when we get older, we learn to find the strength to make those choices on our own, and commit to living with whatever outcome emerges. Without attachment to or expectations of a particular outcome, we find the strength to experience our life as it is. We realize that we are the path, and that everything is as it should be.
We no longer gain any assurance of who we are from an external source; we look within. The path we choose is choosing us, so we are curious about the road less-traveled and make our way in the world.
Our reliance on an external source of direction denies our own efficacy, that energy to create that is within. When we find that assurance within, knowing that we are the ones we have been looking for all our life, the realization is liberating. We all have a reservoir of ideas, universal intelligence, and eternal love inside. Our only challenge is to remember, then we realize that the choices are simply as it should be.
The truth of our being is beyond the senses. – Ndidi, Tea Leaves
Reports of murder and mayhem in the news of the day disturb our peace and encourage our minds to embrace new fears. Each of our expressions of fear have one enduring theme: the fear of our own demise. News is not new but a repetition of past fears, displayed with a deceptive freshness in order to mask false messages about our world.
When we look deeply into the true nature of our life and realize that when we begin to feel uncomfortable with what we're hearing, seeing or doing, we have entered a shadowy cave. The cave casts shadows like Plato's metaphor, deceiving us at every turn. Our vision becomes obscured with negativity and we begin to look for truth in the shadows.
We may begin to identify with the people who are harmed or threatened, and behave as if it is a rehearsal for our own destruction. The events feel personal because we are participating as an observer in someone else's story. Like ogling a crash along the highway so long that we begin to feel the tragedy and suffering, we look at stories and think they are our own.
We can face our fears without attaching ourselves to them; they are not based on enduring events. We must let them go before those fearful stories begin to feel like the truth. Although we do experience pain in life, suffering is always a choice. When we let go of suffering, we enter a space where even if the pain remains as a reality, the release of suffering frees our mind for healing.
We must stop, be still and remember the power within us. In the present moment there is nothing wrong; appearances are deceiving images from the past or the future and neither time exists now. There is no condition or experience that does not at its core contain the potential for joy. Awareness allows us to recognize that we are potential, ready to experience deep abiding peace.
One of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask. – Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
As we hustle along through life being busy with activities and thoughts, we may become aware of simmering questions that seem to be unanswerable. Why do events happen as they do? What do we have to do to change the experience of our lives?
When we ask why or what happened, we are thrust immediately into the past, a time that no longer exists; so the true answers will always elude us. Some will attempt to explain the past, but our existence, in the past or future, is inexplicable. Even though we search for answers, the search continues without end, because answers change with changing times. Those changes create the adventure of life.
Know that the joy is in the questions. It is our curiosity that allows us to express ourselves fully. Intuition stirs in us; a voiceless, causeless mystery unfolds as the temporary answer. Since moments continue ad infinitum, each moment contributes new chapters to our mystery.
Questions are the fuel of our existence; they ensure the world's expansion and creativity. Not knowing is a gift and an opportunity, because curiosity is the bedrock of innovation and creativity. We can turn our attention to what is happening right now, and settle into the beauty of our life experience as it unfolds. Instead of living life in the absolute answers, we can live life in the ever-present, evolving questions.
Excerpted from A Daily Sip of Joy and Peace by Eleanor Hooks. Copyright © 2016 Eleanor Hooks, PhD.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPart I – AWARENESS – January 1 to April 30, 1,
Trust in our Relationship with All-That-Is,
Be Kind to Yourself and to Others,
Chose to be Peaceful,
Part II – BEING IN THE WORLD – May 1 to August 31, 160,
Set Aside All Worries and Fears,
Honor Every Living Thing,
Work with Integrity,
Part III – BEING LOVE – September 1 to December 31, 302,
Acknowledge the Love in Life,
Reveal Passion to Create,
Know That You Already Have What You Need,