The Path to Joy

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  –Psalm 16:11

Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

These days, I hear a lot about mindfulness and being present in the moment. It certainly seems to have become a kind of trend; many people seem to agree that it is both “smart” and “cool” to cultivate mindfulness. Yet, I often notice that many follow these practices to be more effective and efficient at their work. Consequently, it could arguably be true that the very reason many are trying to be mindful and present in the moment is simply because many “smart” and “successful” humans acknowledge these practices as worthy, which means that they are instrumental in achieving success. Of course, here success means to obtain more money than others and/or to become famous. However, can we truly affirm that training our mind and body to be more effective and efficient in gaining money or a higher position is indeed being mindful and present as it was originally taught by the wise and enlightened?

I have been practicing meditation for nearly 33 years. One of the benefits of practicing meditation indeed is to be mindful and to be present in the moment. I can definitely affirm that the meditation practice enhanced my ability to focus and to be effective and efficient at what I do. However, I cannot affirm that mindfulness itself has ever made be happy or joyful. Truthfully, in my experience the real feeling of being happy and joyful always stems from one or both of two sources: 1. Relationship with other beings; 2. Selflessness, or the cultivation of my own inner strength to be and do things that are selfless. Mindfulness and being present in the moment enables my mind to remain calm and thus to be rational. Yet, there is no happiness and fullness of joy in being calm and rational. Rather, I often feel happiest when I am deeply moved by the love of others, and when I am able to act in loving way toward others despite inner or outer distractions and challenges.

One thing of which I am certain is that we cannot engineer true happiness or joy by any artificial means. Rather, happiness is something that happens when the proper conditions are right within and without our self. That is probably why the Psalmist expression exists, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” When love itself is present with justice and fairness, there is fullness of joy; and when the power of love itself embraces people, there are pleasures.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee