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Kabbalists teach that our true spiritual work is not supposed to come easily or naturally. The job we are meant to do in this world exists outside of our comfort zone; it goes beyond the limits of our everyday activities. And so we come to think about spiritual work as, well, work. Consequently, we often forget to approach our spiritual path with a joyful heart. The Creator sends us challenges and obstacles regularly that can spark transformation. But how are we to stay joyful when a task at hand forces us to be in an awkward or uncomfortable situation? It takes a shift in perception to embrace joy in these situations.
Imagine yourself on the receiving end of an apology. No matter how sincere, an apology given begrudgingly is not much of a comfort. Michael Berg points out, “In the absence of joy, even great acts of sharing and kindness are severely diminished. The good we are able to do in the world is limited when we are not happy in our spiritual work.” This doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to feel disappointed, sad, or frustrated. We are human, after all! It simply means that with consciousness, we can keep our eyes on the big picture and maintain a joyful heart, even in the face of hardship.
Here are a few tools you can use to help you find the joy in your spiritual work:
The list of things we should be grateful for is never ending. Still, the blessings in our lives deserve our attention and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Taking time each day to reflect on gratitude can positively affect one’s approach to life. Try keeping a gratitude journal by jotting down a few things you are grateful for each night or each week. Over time, you may find that you feel more optimistic, joyful, and engaged in life—even when you experience hardship or are in the middle of challenging spiritual work.
An essential key to embracing joy throughout even the greatest of challenges is having certainty in the Light of the Creator. Certainty does not mean expecting events to unfold exactly as we want them to; it’s knowing that blessings await us and that the Light is guiding us in the right direction, even when it feels like we’re lost or have taken a wrong turn.
When we encounter difficulty in our spiritual work, uncertainty makes us more likely to experience pain and discomfort as we muddle through. “Our true destiny is not the pain and suffering that can seem so pervasive in the world,” says Michael Berg, “but a joy and fulfillment beyond imagining.”
Look for the Good
We choose whether to see the good or the bad around us and in doing so, we define the reality we experience. When we focus on what someone did or said that was wrong, we step dangerously close to judgment, which can distract us from seeing one’s positive traits or the bright side of a situation. When we see only the negative, we connect to the negative and when we see the positive, we connect to the Light. The choice is always ours.
Kabbalists teach that each day is an opportunity to move one step farther down the road of spiritual growth; each day is an opportunity for transformation. It’s a chance for a new beginning if we choose to see it that way and if we choose to embrace the joy in each task. “When an otherwise positive act is performed with a joyless heart, it’s as if a blanket has been thrown over a burning lightbulb,” says Michael Berg. “The bulb may be illuminated, but the covering prevents the light from illuminating the room—and the light might as well not be burning at all.”