Working on… Joy
Posted on October 9, 2016
My azaleas are still blooming and here we are into October. Crazy, I’m thinking. Still, like most things Southern (meaning SLOW) it is beginning to feel like fall. While fall foliage in “Bama”-land is varying shades of boring brown the temps are finally inching down. Just the other morning the chill was enough to kick my walking pace up a notch so as to keep my hands warm.
“Time to get the Uggs out,” I happily say to The Poodle. The sun has just poked its head over the mountain in the distance as we walk down the hill in the quiet of the early morning. It’s also windy, so The Poodles’ ears are flying straight back. He looks like he is ready to take flight.
As soon as that thought passes my lips I let out a heavy sigh. I can feel my mood already taking a turn and not in the direction that I want. The changing season means swapping out summer clothes for winter. In my glee for our anticipated move, back in March I packed away books, odds and ends and winter clothes filling three small wardrobe boxes. I taped and marked those boxes with the full expectation that the next time I opened them I’d be moved. Well, we know how that’s all going.
In an effort to soothe my soul, I marched myself over to Barnes & Noble®.
I bought another book.
What spoke to me this time?
The Book of Joy: Finding Enduring Happiness in an Uncertain World, published by Doug Abrams. The book is co-authored by two great spiritual leaders: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Apparently, they’ve been friends for many years.
So far, it’s been a good little read. These two souls have certainly endured adversity and hardship in their lives and yet they are filled with joy, wonderment and deep compassion for all souls. How do they live joyfully given the pain and suffering all around them? I want to know! The conversations between the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama are refreshingly sweet and simple, their banter back and forth playful and even mischievous, like two little boys playing in the schoolyard. I’ve been reading a page or two every morning over coffee in an effort to step outside of my head more and to gain greater insight into how best to cultivate more joy and gratitude—and therefore less complaining about things great and small.
It seems deceptively simple: Joy and happiness are both within reach at this very moment if I simply look within (not externally). Intuitively, I know this. Consistent application and execution of a few commonsense principles (including meditation and even prayer) seems to be quite another matter, especially now as I look at those packed moving boxes with heals dug in: I WILL NOT UNPACK THESE BOXES BECAUSE WE ARE MOVING.
Lately, the more time I spend in my head the more stress there seems to be. Well duh, right? Running everyday was my one and only “drug” of choice that kept most tension at bay. Running allowed me to zone out. Well…I can’t do that anymore so it’s a bit more challenging to keep stressors at bay…especially as my life seems to continue to be in limbo. It doesn’t take long for a single thought about my parents or former friends, (ex-anyone!), or even my children to spiral into past-centered thoughts. So too, when in the wee hours of the morning I find myself almost dizzy from some video-loop playing in my head… filled with notions and emotions that certainly don’t do anyone (especially moi) one bit of good. And, when I’m stuck in my head I’m also reminded of that stark reality that there are—and always will be— assholes just around the corner and around the world.
Nothing is gonna change that so… breath deeply… get over it…forgive (not forget)…and then move on.
The Dalai Lama says that “the only thing that will bring happiness is affection and warmheartedness.” IMHO, I’ve got those attributes covered—most of the time. It’s when buttons are pushed that the little Purple Minion monster surfaces in a snap-of-a finger-kind-of-moment.
I’ve clearly got work to do…but so do about seven billion other people on this planet. I am not alone! Yoga—and well, OK…. a punching bag too—helps knock the purple beast to the curb. The moment I close my eyes and take a deep, long breath, releasing it with slow and purposeful measure, that Purple Minion moment passes and centering (and forgiveness) returns.
And, when I’m in a complaining rut, I’m comforted knowing that even the Dalai Lama complains. It cracked me up that he thinks the Japanese can be “too formal”:
“The worse thing is the formal lunches. I always tease them that the meal looks like decoration, not food. Everything is very beautiful but very small portions! I don’t care about formality so I ask them more rice, more rice! Too much formality, then you are left with very little portion, which is maybe good for a bird.!”
Made me smile. Made me laugh out loud.
There you have it. A moment of bliss (been lots of them today) and even better… JOY.
My Ugg boots are not packed in a box!