An ancient story depicting what happens after death, tells of two questions that will be asked each of us. The first is: Did you find joy? The second: Did you bring joy to others?
In a time when depression and discontent seem to be a growing epidemic, these are potent questions. Healthline reports that in the United States, the number of patients diagnosed with depression is increasing at the rate of approximately 20% a year – staggering numbers for a country that has so many resources available to it.
Max Strom, a champion author and speaker on joy and happiness, has much for all of us to consider. One of his comments in particular made me pause. He states, “Joy is the ultimate discipline.” How interesting to consider joy as a discipline, not something to be purchased or achieved. And what would joy as a practice of discipline look like in each of our lives?
Discipline is something we prioritize, we carve space for, and we attend to. We claim it as important and deserving of our attention, and we choose it at the expense of other things. Swami Rama reminds us that “to live is a grace from Providence, but to live happily is of your own making.”
The yoga masters tell us that joy is our innate state; it is the essence of who we are. This means that the discipline of joy is to remember and touch the very core of ourselves and the simple moment to moment gifts of being. It is to continually discern and expose any false pretenders claiming to bring a happiness that is ultimately barren. And perhaps most importantly, joy is something we boldly trust even as it seemingly disappears when hardship and challenge presents itself.
When it is time for death to take us, how will we answer the questions: Did you find joy? Did you bring joy to others?
It’s here again, that time of year when we can easily fall prey to self-judgment, taking a microscope to last year’s failures and idealizing our upcoming superhuman capabilities the moment the clock strikes 12. With goals in hand, we feel a renewed vigor that somehow faded last year.
But wait a minute; this doesn’t make sense. We have begun the journey into the New Year from a place of failure and idealism, two extremes that are neither supportive nor sustainable.
Of course reflections on the past and the future are important. If we don’t honestly look at what kept tripping us up last year it will continue to ambush us; if we don’t truly consider what it is that our heart desires, we will end up living in regret. But there is more…
As 2014 ends and 2015 begins, spend time pondering the wonder of you, of acts of kindness rendered over the past year, of the time you did spend on your yoga mat and meditation cushion, of your growing wisdom from another year of learning, of shared intimacies with friends and family, and of all the grace that found you in these lived moments.
To be grateful for this last year, to be grateful for the coming year, this is more than enough.
I was recently with my 2-month old granddaughter, finding myself captivated by her beauty and the marvel of new life. Mostly she slept, ate, and needed to be changed. Waking moments brought sounds and smiles, the exploration of movement, and an alert curiosity. They also brought a markedly different sound.
I admit it is hard to discern what a baby is communicating, but it sounded different than the cry of an unfilled need; it was more like the spiraling down that we can sometimes find ourselves in. Those moments when something goes wrong, and all of a sudden everything is wrong, and we find ourselves in a dark pit, unsure how to get out.
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Tomorrow I, along with most of the United States, will celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday is not unique to my country; it is celebrated in Canada, Grenada, Liberia, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and other countries in some form of expression of its cultural, religious roots. The intention of setting aside this day is to remember and to give thanks for the abundant harvest of crops, and the many blessings of the past year.
Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks; it is an overt acknowledgement and expression. It is a heart opener; a balm for soothing the greed and selfishness that finds residence within us. The act of giving thanks has no space for over-indulgence; it is focused on sharing all forms of abundance with the neighbor, friend, or family member who is hungry, lonely or grieving. It is focused on reaching up to the divinity whose love and compassion holds us all.
The act of giving thanks is an act of courage in a world of unrest. It is brave to say thank you. It is brave to risk the melting of our hearts so that hoarding and immobility can’t find us. It is brave to say thank you for what is and for what is possible.
May we all join in the radicalness of an open, grateful heart.
“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” -Pema Chodron, Buddhist Nun
“We have been raised to have beliefs; that means we have conclusions rather than experience.” –Richard Rohr, Catholic Priest
Definition of a Belief: Something I know to be true, but I can’t scientifically or objectively prove.
I have been thinking a lot about beliefs lately and how much they matter. Beliefs inform our actions. They both dictate and limit the possibilities of our lives. They kill people and they save people. And ultimately they both close and open the doors of our imagination. But what is a belief? How do I know if what I believe is true or not? And what is the purpose of a belief?
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I was recently invited to speak to a group of inmates on the subject of loyalty. After accepting, I realized how little I knew about the subject. So I did some research. The dictionary gives 3 components of loyalty: there must be a cause to be loyal to, there must be a steadfast allegiance to that cause, and there must be a heartfelt devotion to that cause. Continue reading
Guru: that which brings understanding to our ignorance.
Found: in a child’s wonder, a teacher’s guidance, an inspirational reading, a friend’s empathy, an embodied person, the teacher within….
The Guru is the hidden force in a poem, a person, a gaze, or a conversation that lifts our spirits, inspires us to be greater than we are, gives guidance to our confusion, dispels our delusions, lifts us from despair, and opens our eyes to wonder and our hearts to our neighbor. If we listen, we can hear this force nudging us towards clarity and growth. Continue reading
One of my favorite stories as a little girl was Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. I’m not sure why, maybe my tender little heart felt a surge of empathy for the little bear who discovered his porridge devoured, his chair broken, and someone sleeping in his bed…a terrible thing for a little bear. Continue reading