The Prophet on Joy and Sorrow
Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
-Taken from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Deep Attachments Bring Joy and Sorrow
Deep attachments bring us great joy and sorrow. When we feel deeply for someone or something, we form attachments. This in turn creates hope, expectations and desire. In the process, we invest a part of ourselves into that which we love. As a result, the very people or things we love dearly are also the very people and things that we fear to lose. That which gives us great joy can also bring us great sorrow. Such is the double-edged nature of attachments.
But to be without passion, to be without feelings is not true living. We cannot deny the side of us that craves for and yearns for attachment if we are not ready. To suppress it unnaturally is harmful to us. In the long run, this will only cause us great inner turmoil as we swing from extreme to extreme. Those of us who have evolved spiritually can let go of our attachments in a natural manner. For the rest of us, we must learn to cope with the joy and sorrow that our attachments bring as best as we can.
How to Manage Joy and Sorrow?
Joy and sorrow is a matter of perception. That which can bring us great joy and sorrow may mean absolutely nothing to someone else. The only reason it has any real meaning for us is the value we choose to attach to it. Being able to view joy and sorrow in this light helps us to detach from it to a degree. With this in mind, we should enjoy the moments where the people and things we love give us great joy. Such moments are special and make living meaningful.
But let us not forget that what can give us great joy can also bring us great sorrow. Even so, we can take heart knowing that time heals all wounds eventually. What may cause us great pain now might not affect us as greatly ten or twenty years down the road. It is up to us to choose how we wish to perceive an event, for the proper mindset helps to facilitate the healing process. We can choose to perceive things in a way that benefits or harms us. But the choice, no matter how great or justified our sorrow may be, is always ours. With great joy, comes the potential of great sorrow. Such is the nature of life.
2. Acceptance, Self-Compassion and Equilibrium
The more we resist something, the greater the effort we have to expend. This is especially so if we try to go against the current of circumstances or our nature. As our strength is finite, we are only delaying the inevitable at best. In such circumstances, it is better to go with the flow and to accept what we feel at a given moment. By doing so, we free ourselves from a struggle we cannot win. This is turn allows us to return to equilibrium quickly.
Here it is important to stress that we must make every effort to return to equilibrium as soon as we can. It would not do to give in to our impulses and swing from extreme to extreme. Not only is living in the extreme draining, we also do not have the energy to sustain it for long periods. Balance is the key to life. But such mastery does not happen overnight, so while we should work towards balance, it is also vital that we practice self-compassion when we fall short. Doing so will bring harmony to our lives.
3. Having No Regrets
When it comes to joy and sorrow, I have found that it is vital to do all you can to avoid having regrets. In the instance of joy, if someone or something makes you happy, embrace the moment fully. Do whatever feels right and treasure this bliss for it will not last forever. Having done so, you will have less regrets because you made full use of the opportunity with zest and passion.
Concerning sorrow, it helps to take massive action to find a way to deal with it. Whether it is a shift in perception or doing what you can to make things better, you must release the pent up energy within. Since this is the case, it is better to do so in a constructive manner. By doing all you can to make a situation better, you will also have less regrets adding to your sorrows. This in turns helps you to return to your calm and centred state in a shorter time.
As Kahlil Gibran rightly points out, “Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.” Because we are “empty,” there is nothing to upset our balance. Now, expending all the energy we have because of joy and sorrow can help us to return to equilibrium. But there is one other way to reach that “empty” state and that is through meditation. By learning to meditate, we gain mastery over our mind and selves. We are able to detach ourselves and let go of our attachments when needed. This makes it easier to return to our calm centre in a shorter time. In life, there is no substitute for self-mastery. If we want to manage joy and sorrow well, we have to learn to meditate and master our minds.
What are your views on joys and sorrows? How do you manage your joys and sorrows? What other ways can you think of to manage your joys and sorrows? Do share your thoughts and comments below!