Sometimes insight can come from the most unexpected of sources, as the Rev. Joshua Pawelek found when he explored the work of Harvard professor and psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, whose best-selling book is titled Happier. Rev. Pawelek discovered a resonance with his own vision of Unitarian Universalism in what he had dismissed as mere pop-psychology, exploring the idea of being joyfully determined in the way we live our spiritual lives.
You can also find an essay by Rev. Pawelek, who serves the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester, Connecticut, in the just-released Reverend X: How Generation X Ministers are Shaping Unitarian Universalism, from the Jenkin Lloyd Jones Press.
connection, gratitude, Joshua Pawelek, joy, living faith, meaning, sacred, spiritual practice, strength
To Be Joyfully Determined
by the Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek
Recall a time when things weren’t going well for you, when you didn’t feel quite right, didn’t feel quite like yourself; a time when you couldn’t hear the still, small voice, or when its song was faint; a time when there was some emotional or mental dissonance in your life; a time when you felt disconnected, depressed, anxious, weak, subdued, out-of-whack, broken; a time when your sense of purpose and meaning waned, and you sought help. You sought help from a therapist—a psychologist or a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional; or you talked to a social worker or school guidance counselor. Maybe you attended a twelve-step group, or an affinity group for bereavement, divorce, cancer. Maybe you talked to a minister, priest or rabbi; maybe your doctor. Maybe you turned to a self-help book or a friend you could trust to give good advice. I assume most of you have been in this situation at some point: you’ve sought help when something didn’t feel quite right.
Put that memory aside and recall a time when things were going great, when you felt exactly like yourself; a time when you could hear the beautiful, compelling still, small voice melody; a time when you felt emotionally and mentally healthy; a time when you felt joyful, happy, inspired, powerful, whole; a time when you had a potent sense of purpose and meaning, and you sought help. You said to yourself, “Wow, I feel so good I need help immediately! I need help to figure out what I’m doing right so I can keep doing it; so I can do it more, do it better.” We’ve all had that experience too, right? No, we haven’t. My guess is there are few people to whom that thought occurs. We don’t typically approach our lives this way. At least in the United States, it’s fair to say we spend an awful lot of time and energy looking at what’s wrong with us, what our diseases are, what our weaknesses are, how to overcome them. We don’t spend as much time and energy looking at what’s already right with us, what gives us joy and fulfillment, what our gifts are and how to use them well. To the extent I understand it, focusing on what’s right is the essence of Positive Psychology.