In the first phase of my Mindfulness training, I was taught acceptance, being with difficulties and blocks unconditionally. This was rather gruelling as in those early days there was a lot to be accepted: rage; rejection; jealousy; fear of failure; self-criticism & lack of self-worth. At that time, not seeing these subtle thoughts or emotions I was controlled by them and there was a lot of needless suffering for me and those around me. While there are still echoes of these in my mind, some stronger and some weaker, I know them all well and seeing them, there is sometimes a choice not to believe them and an opportunity for something different to unfold.
However, at times this process of acceptance seemed relentless.
Then I was taught to practice Joy: to practice appreciating all the good things in my life and my strengths, rather than focussing on all the problems and the things that were wrong with me. I was taught to be grateful for my good fortune and the good fortune of others, rather than fuelling resentment about the opportunities and successes of others.
Cultivating Joy has made me a lot happier. I have many wonderful people and opportunities in my life and the more I appreciate them, the more seem to emerge and the happier I get.
But the more Joy I feel, the scarier it gets – what if I lose all this happiness? I find that the fear of loss is the biggest block to the cultivation of Joy. We humans are superstitious – thinking that enjoying things too much might lead to their loss – or is it just me? As Buddhist sage Tilopa said: The problem is not enjoyment: the problem is attachment! Can we be grateful for and love what we have, while it is here and yet cultivate a calm, strong equanimity when it inevitably goes – as it all will?
I remember having a heated discussion with my babysitter as a child. I was of the view that it was better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all. He took the opposite view. After much love and some loss and more to come, I am still of this view.
When we truly recognise that we will inevitably lose everything we love at some point, the logical conclusion is to love it better now and prepare ourselves for the loss, so that it is not such a shock when it comes.
So I aspire not to be scared, but be brave and cultivate joy and appreciation. You might find yourself appreciating the strangest things – annoying things that make you uniquely you and that make others uniquely themselves.
What I have discovered is that Joy brings energy to get things done that need to be done, an energy to fuel compassion for myself and the world, an energy to make the process of acceptance much less gruelling and relentless.
Oh and don’t forget the laughter lines, so much more flattering than the frown lines!
At our Compassion in Action weekend last year at Samye Ling, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche invited us to join his joyful club. Inspired by this, we are running our membership weekend in early July 2018 on this theme. Information about this will follow, but a great opportunity for us all to come together again in Joy and celebration, not least because we are part of a community committed to cultivate compassion for all (including ourselves)!
In the meantime, here are some top tips:
- Put an alarm on your phone each day reminding you of your intention to practice gratitude and appreciation.
- When you wake up remind yourself of three things you are grateful for in your life and set an intention to appreciate those things. Examples might be: friends or family, something in nature or a simple cup of tea.
- Visit Rick Hanson’s website and listen to some of his teachings.
We can practice being joyful and learning to tolerate our fears, all the while remembering the Marianne Williamson poem:
“And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same
As we liberate from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”
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