“As we attempt to invite joy into the [situation],” she writes, “we must always hold these two paradoxes: the coexistence of light and shadow; and the joy that may be intimately associated with pain, fear or even anger. Perhaps the word ‘poignant’ best captures this quality of joy.”
A dig into Kessler’s work and writing reveals compelling ideas and approaches. She’s author of the Soul of Education and founder of the Passageworks Institute that runs social and emotional learning programmes in US schools.
“I don’t think I experienced real joy,” she writes, “until I was 34 years old. ... I knew that from that moment on, my life was about discovering and expanding the joy in my own life and in the people I touch. … In the weeks that followed, the word spirit emerged from my mind. I did not know what it meant, since I had experienced no religious upbringing… My encounter with joy had awakened my spirit.”
When we go into that space of joy and what we might call ‘spirit’, Rachel has found, we often find all sorts of things other than joy.
“If we focus on joy, images of suffering may rear up and even take over. So often when I ask students or teachers to think of a positive story, several are flooded first with sad memories; when I ask students to think of their gratitude, they can remember only what they want to complain about.” (Kessler, Soul of Education, 2000 p73 – 80).
In The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma Some expresses a similar relationship between joy and sorrow in the Dagara culture of Burkina Faso.
“Villagers gauge the amount of grief that is built up in them by the barometer of their joy. When emotion has been fully unloaded, the rush of joy that fills you up can last for days or weeks. When that feeling of joy subsides, grief is again building up and will soon require another release.”
He argues that we need regular opportunities to release our grief so that we may experience again the joy that resides behind it.
This suggests that joy lives in the heart and soul, tangled up with many other feelings. Practices that open up the heart and soul, by implication, need to be ready to accept and welcome all that may be found there.
By extension, “Joy ok, sadness not allowed” may be a superficial proposition which is neither useful, effective, attractive nor realistic.
My boss is interested in peak experience. He wonders if there is a recipe.
"You will search in vain for a Maslovian recipe to create peak experiences," writes life coach and 'philosophical counsellor' Tim Lebon. "The reason is explained in Colin Wilson's New Pathways in Psychology (page 19). Wilson asked Maslow whether you can create peak experiences at will.
"No, Or almost entirely no!", Maslow asserted. " In general, we are "Surprised by Joy".. Peaks come unexpectedly .... You can't count on them. And hunting them is like hunting happiness. c's best not done directly. It comes as a by-product, an epiphenomenon, for instance, of doing a fine job at a worthy task you can identify with". "Colin Wilson thinks the above is only partly true. He thinks they have a structure that can be duplicated (p. 21). The preconditions are energy, vigilance, alertness, preparedness. "The fact that the full text of Religions, Values and Peak Experiences is to be found in the Psychedelic Library suggests another possible way to have peak experiences ... The current author would suggest that creativity, love, contact with nature, sport, meditation, parenting are other possible sources of peak experiences. There is also a connection worth exploring between peak experiences and flow, and between peak experiences and the writings of Viktor Frankl."
Jeremy Hunter has spent 35 years documenting ancient rituals and festivals in 60 countries. His photographs can be seen in his touring exhibition Let's Celebrate 365.
"Sing-sings in Papua New Guinea form an important part of cultural life as they represent an opportunity for the clans to express their tribal solidarity. I saw the black snake dance performed by the Apenda clan when they attended a sing-sing in Leh, near Morobe." The Guardian