I noticed recently that we don’t like talking about joy or happiness very much. We love talking about our problems.We also love hearing about others suffering. I was in the bookstore the other day and I was struck by the fact that most books in the ‘have you read’ and bestsellers section had to do with suffering of some kind. Suffering is important and it has the ability to open our hearts to compassion. And yet…
What about Joy ? We don’t often talk about what makes us happy or joyful, and when we were happy. Its like we assume that happiness and joy is simply a natural state of mind that we can take for granted. Nothing special. And yet, it is this state of mind that most of us long for. We pursue what we think is happiness. We long for joy. But we don’t pay very much attention to it.
If we didn’t pay attention to when we are joyful or happy, and what brings us that joy, how will we know when it happens ? Paying attention to joy sustains us, it balances us. It reminds us that there are good times as well as bad. And it nourishes us.
A few days ago, I read a beautiful paragraph by one of my teachers Doreen Schweizer. Titled “Cultivate Happiness and Awaken to Joy,” she wrote, “Moving toward happiness and contentment does not mean that we ignore the suffering around us. It means that, to the extent we can, we come face to face with it and respond wisely and kindly. Trust small steps: Look for joy in yourself and in those you share the world with. Notice dog joy, baby joy, student joy, teacher joy, old-person joy…… Notice how you feel right now. Is there joy?”
I loved these words, and the past few days, I have been holding it in my thoughts. As I walked into a surprisingly sunny spring like day in winter, I noticed my joy at sunshine. (I called it puppy joy, I felt like one! ) Doing yoga after a long time yesterday, I noticed how happy I felt in class. Small things like eating a mango, an unexpected phone call. My own generosity and good acts. It is a very rewarding practice. It’s also neat noticing other people’s joy. It makes your heart feel warm and naturally wish them well. People’s joyful moments are touching. How simple they are.
One of the magnets I came across sums it up: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”– Thoreau
May we pay attention when that joy comes and sits softly on our shoulders…
with Joy, S.