Tasting Joy

Tasting Joy

Discussion date: Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

“What brought you here today?”

This check-in question was posed to me one recent Saturday at a daylong dance and storytelling workshop. I’d walked to the workshop, and so blurted out half-jokingly, “My legs brought me,” then felt embarrassed that I’d answered a serious question with a quip.

Afterwards, on a break, another participant whom I’d just met, approached me to relate a silly joke she’d recently made up. I laughed with appreciation, and she said, “Thanks! I don’t know you but I knew you’d get my sense of humor.”

A feeling of ease and playfulness blossomed between the two of us in that moment, like a colorful, fragrant flower by the side of a highway. The simple interaction that morning shifted my perspective on how I connected with the rest of the group. I found myself conversing lightheartedly with others, feeling curious, not judgmental, as I listened to each person share their stories, and adventurous in participating in dance and movement exercises when I would ordinarily have felt shy.

Children instinctively know how to play and take joy in ordinary things- like a ball, a flower, or a cookie. Jack Kornfield writes about this in his blog post ‘ The Return of Joy’ from his website jackkornfield.com.

No matter what you have faced, joy and renewal wait your return. When you remember, you can open your eyes to the mystery of life around you. Sense the blessings of the earth in the perfect arc of a ripe tangerine, the taste of warm, fresh bread, the circling flight of birds, the lavender color of the sky shining in a late afternoon rain puddle, the million times we pass other beings, in our cars and shops and out among the trees without crashing, conflict, or harm.

Spiritual practice should not be confused with grim duty. It is the laughter of the Dalai Lama and the wonder born with every child. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, depicts this spirit in the story of a boy who wrote to him. “He sent me a charming card with a drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters—sometimes very hastily—but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim, I loved your card.’Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

In Buddhism, Mudita (Joy)is one of the four Bramaviharas, the abodes of True Love. Thich Nhat Hanh describes Mudita in ‘The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching’.

A deeper definition of Mudita is joy that is filled with peace and contentment. We rejoice when we see others happy, but we rejoice in our own well-being as well. How can we feel joy for another person when we do not feel joy for ourselves? Joy is for everyone.

Reading Thay’s words reminds me that in opening to joy, I am not denying, ignoring, or making light of my suffering or the suffering around us in the world. Instead, in cultivating joy, I nourish both myself and my community. Still Water’s senior teacher Mitchell Ratner tells the story of an high-ranking Japanese Zen teacher who was at Plum Village in 1992. When Mitchell asked the teacher why he came to Plum Village, the teacher replied that Thay was one of the few people he knew who could hold the  suffering of the world and, also, enjoy eating a cookie.

This Thursday evening at our sitting and walking meditation at Crossings, we will explore and share our experience of of joy beginning with two simple questions: “What nourishes me and brings me joy?” and “How do (or can) I pay more attention to cultivating joy in my life?”

We warmly invite you to be with us!

An additional reading is below.

In Joy,

Eliza King


The Return of Joy
A blog post by 
Jack Kornfield, Jackkornfield.com

No matter what you have faced, joy and renewal wait your return. When you remember you can open your eyes to the mystery of life around you. Sense the blessings of the earth in the perfect arc of a ripe tangerine, the taste of warm, fresh bread, the circling flight of birds, the lavender color of the sky shining in a late afternoon rain puddle, the million times we pass other beings, in our cars and shops and out among the trees without crashing, conflict, or harm.

Spiritual practice should not be confused with grim duty. It is the laughter of the Dalai Lama and the wonder born with every child. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, depicts this spirit in the story of a boy who wrote to him. “He sent me a charming card with a drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters—sometimes very hastily—but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim, I loved your card.’Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Yes, we need to carefully navigate through hard times. But the whole world is also our temple, to be tended with love and dignity no matter what. As Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted us all, “If a person sweeps streets for a living, he should sweep them as Michelangelo painted, as Beethoven composed music, as Shakespeare wrote his plays.”

The world offers perennial renewal, in the grass that pushes itself up between the cracks in the sidewalk, in the end of every torrential rainstorm and in every newly planted window box, in every unexpected revolution, with each new morning’s light. This unstoppable spirit of renewal is in you. Trust it. Learn that it flows through you and all of life. The ultimate gift of our suffering is to teach us how to properly grieve, heal, and learn compassion. But finally we come to the realization that in any moment we can step out of the body of fear and feel the great winds that carry us, to awaken to the eternal present. It is within our power to experience the liberation of the heart offered to all by the Buddha in these words:

Live in joy,

In love,

Even among those who hate.

Live in joy,

In health,

Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy,

In peace,

Even among the troubled.

Look within.

Be still.

Free from fear and attachment,

Know the sweet joy of living in the way.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Mar 16, 2017


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