Spontaneity, Joy and Spirituality

"How does one develop the silence that allows for the blossoming of organic joy? By closely observing the activity of our internal discourse and by becoming conscious of its ongoing repetitiveness. We know how to escape the drivel of everyday life, but why is it that we are completely unable to escape our internal discourse which is so predictable and boring?" Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

What is spontaneity in spirituality? What is joy? And how can we talk about these without disappearing into a graduate seminar on the philosophy around these concepts?


The Cambridge Dictionary provides a simple definition of spontaneity: "The quality of being natural rather than planned in advance." This definition suggests something basic about spontaneity: it doesn't happen as a result of imposing our will upon reality. Spontaneity is something that occurs in life when we are open to the moment and, we might say, go with the flow. Spontaneity is an effortless openness to what is. It's the opposite of saying, "I don't want things to be the way they are. Things should be the way I imagine they should be, instead."

"The more rigid our certainties become, the more problems we have with a reality that refuses to enter into our plans." Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

One way to look at frustration is that it is something that happens when our experience of life is not occurring as we want it to. Reality is unfolding before us and we aren't satisfied with it. We had a carefully laid plan, a belief about ourselves or others, an ideological demand, or a fervent hope, and reality isn't taking any notice. Because we expect reality to conform to our hopes and dogmas, when reality unfolds stubbornly without reference to our demands we become frustrated.

"Our lack of suppleness puts us in permanent conflict with reality." Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

So, the ultimate cause of our dissatisfaction with reality is our refusal to accept what is--this breathing, pulsing, moment--and insisting instead on an alternate reality that would be in accord with how things should be. And it is this rigidity, this inflexible demand that the contents of our minds should provide a pattern, a template, for the unfolding of what is, that leads us to a constant and panicked state of denial, of frustration, of feverish reworking of beliefs and ideologies.


And is it any surprise that the grim True Believer institutes punishments and reprisals against those who will not accept their templates and constructs for reality--seeking to eliminate heretics and unbelief, creating programs for "re-education" or "training" to impose the fervently desired uniformity of belief that is their only anchor in a world that does not--will not--conform to their mental constructs?


And is it any surprise that so many people flock, desperately, to structured systems of belief to acquire an anchor in the world? An ideological anchor that is consistent and well-structured even when the chaotic unfolding of what is will not conform? When reality is not conforming to belief, indeed, the commissars of the system just double down on the business of imposing the ideology. And is it any further surprise that the commissars, in their desperation, embrace the punishment of unbelief, since unbelief=chaos=terror in their world?


Perhaps wisdom resides in the opposite path!

"...[W]ould wisdom not advocate abandoning the weight of this mental machinery? This is one of the central teachings of Chinese Zen: to leave behind any conception of the world and to enter fully into reality. This is the key to freedom and creativity. It is also the key to joy. When you give up the idea of having a concept of the world, there is no problem with dealing with reality since there is no mental formation giving you a signal that reality ought to be different from what it is." Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

Indeed, what if true creativity was not the result of applying and compulsively refining mental systems and templates, but the acceptance of the creativity of life, itself? The capacity to be open to what is, the capacity to find in what is the primal energy of living? What if opening fearlessly into what is, was also opening into all that is possible and all that is real?

One shrine to the next, the hermit can't stop for breath.
Soul, get this! You should have looked in the mirror.
Going on a pilgrimage is like falling in love with the greenness of faraway grass.
(I, Lalla, the Poems of Lal Ded)

What if (pardon me for this repetition!) the experience of living in the flow of what is, beyond the constructs and templates of the mind, resulted in a profound and uncaused joy? An experience of joy that depends on no circumstance or reciprocation for its existence? A joy that blooms, spontaneously, from our acceptance of what is?


Openness. Flow. Passion. Desire. Receptive and welcoming. Alive and fully present to what is. Is this not the most profound creativity? The most profound freedom? The joyous and spontaneous opening into possibility even as it unfolds before you?


For many of us, that is what spirituality means. Spirituality is not a system of beliefs, dogmas, scriptures, gurus, or communities--communities which all too often resolve themselves into a grim and "religious" conformity. Spirituality is this pathless path, this poem or dance of living, that seeks only to glide fully and fearlessly in the flow of what is. Meditation, Sufi poetry, a song, a joyous passion, a mystifying koan...

The goal was to become a human being again, to be fully open to the world, alive and full of desire and passion, without the smallest pretension of being anything else but spontaneous.” Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

Spirituality does not mean, for some of us, a search for certainty or the safety of belief. Quite to the contrary, it is often the realization in some point in our lives that believing in the power of our mind-constructed world was one of our biggest disasters in living.

“I became more and more iconoclastic, and transformed myself into a spiritual anarchist whose only ambition was to reach an authentic freedom by forgetting the path that had always been followed. I would often recall the words of Montaigne: ‘ I am a man and nothing that is human is indifferent to me ’.” Daniel Odier, The Doors of Joy

Meditation and spirituality are--or can be--a path to a joyous freedom. A spiritual friend--dost, in Persian--is someone who also wants this joyous freedom, and who wants to laugh and explore with you as you feel into what is. That is why Dost Meditation exists.

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