Joy and Service as a Paqo

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve
the world and a desire to enjoy the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day.
—E. B. White

Paqos have two predispositions that direct them on their personal path: they are beings of joy and beings of service. These two approaches to life are evident in all the major teachings (as I have been taught them through the lineage of which I am a part).

E.B. White says he is “torn” between these two desires, perhaps believing that service toward the improvement of self or others or the world is difficult, and thus not inherently enjoyable. He may see enjoyment as disengaging, taking a rest, indulging the self, even being a bit slothful. At the very least, he sees it in opposition to the desire to be of service.

But, for several reasons, paqos know these impulses are not at odds. First, and most fundamentally, there need be no conflict because one is a way of being (interior self, cultivating joyfulness) and the other is a way of action (exteriorization of self, taking action). While both are desires, each expresses itself through a different prism of the self. Enjoyment, as I said, is feeling whereas improving something is doing.

Secondly, in the Andes, paqos understand that these desires can be seen as yanantin—different energies that are complementary. From this perspective, paqos use personal power (intention and will) to integrate the two complementary energies into a japu, the perfectly harmonized relationship of two different things. Thus, joy and effort/action flow in tandem to inform our being until they reach integration within as a new impulse—that of khuyay, the passionate engagement of life.

The underpinning of authentic service is joy. One of the pitfalls in our emotional life is to mistake happiness for joy. Happiness is an emotion, whereas joy is a feeling. I make a distinction between the two. An emotion is transitory and dependent on external circumstances. You’re happy one moment and not so happy the next. Happiness (or unhappiness) is grounded in the flux of your thoughts, perceptions, judgments, and the like. It is also rooted in the environment and other external conditions. You’re happy when there is wind to fly your kite and unhappy when that same wind blows away the blanket and plates of your picnic.

In contrast, joy is a state of awareness and being that is immune to what is happening in your life. It emerges unbidden from the heart, from the soul, from the life source of your being. The English word “joy” arises from the root “to rejoice.” Whereas the root meaning of “happy” relates to luck, fortune, and chance. The difference in these root meanings speaks volumes.

When happiness turns to pain, disappointment, or some other emotion, your workac30f30e-d2a5-456a-a467-f4e1a78dfbf7 as a paqo is to become conscious of your state of mind and being, and then to take action to go beyond circumstance and recover your awareness of joy. You may still not like what is happening to you, but by recovering joy you will be able to put circumstance into perspective. We all experience pain and heavy emotions, but we can, as mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “Find a place inside where’s there joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” And as musician Carlos Santana wisely said, “If you carry joy in your heart you can heal any moment.”

You don’t deny your emotions, but you shift perspective to realize that emotions are transitory and subject to your will. If you recover some kernel of joy that lives inside you, acknowledge it, expand it, and let it wash over you like a healing balm, you help shift from emotions (which live in your qosqo/belly area) and move that energy up to your sonqo (heart), where feelings (the Platonic virtues) energetically reside.

You can’t fake joy, but you can fake service. You can no doubt remember many instances when you undertook a task with a smiling face and a grumbling mind. Your inner and outer states were in conflict. Your action and state of being were at odds. That’s normal. But as part of your conscious evolution, you would benefit from cultivating awareness of these miscues in your being. As a paqo, you want to “see reality as it really is,” and that starts with the self and your personal state of being. If you are conscious that you are doing something in service but don’t really want to be doing it, that’s better than being unconscious to the rift within. Better still is to become aware of the rift and then go within to find a kernel of joy and expand it to inform your action.

Service is not all about doing for others. In fact, it starts with doing for the self. The more you love yourself, honor yourself, know yourself, the more authentic your drive to be a beneficial force in your family, at work, in your community, as part of a hand with keynational or global action. It’s become cliché to say that we can only give to others what we first give to ourselves. But that is a core truth.

Start by knowing yourself and what makes your joy blossom, and then translate that joy into action. On a worldly level, as the poet Rumi wrote, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” One the level of the spirit, as poet William Wordsworth wrote, “With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”

When you see into the life of things, you will discover how and where you can best serve both yourself and others in the most genuine and meaningful ways—and with joy. We can turn to an Indian poet and philosopher for illumination on how to overcome the perceptual dichotomy we started with in the E.B. White quotation. His is the wisdom of japu—the harmonization of complementary differences: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”


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