The Practical Buddhist Blog – Practical Advice on Integrating the Practice of Buddhism in Contemporary Life


I have written many posts about joy.   This is something I’ve obviously struggled with.   The monk in Michigan always used to say, “Take joy in everything you do,” and yet I found that very difficult to do, regardless how my concept of joy morphed and deepened over the years.

In my last post on this subject, I recounted my going to my spiritual advisor and her telling me that I wasn’t able to experience joy on a regular basis because I was raised as an adult and the joy was taken away from me.   I had to go back and reclaim the narrative of my life, reclaim that joy.

Which I did, but I did not sit with the new narrative for long and so its truth did not permeate the considerable barrier of my mind.

Recently I have again been troubled by my inability to experience joy as a regular part of my existence, despite my having come to know that I am sustained by the love of God, my true Buddha nature, within me.    And that I thus experience abundance and light, happiness and contentment, peace and equanimity, faith and strength.   

As I sat with this, I remembered what my spiritual advisor had told me and I went back and reread my reclaimed narrative.  updated by a recent trip to my boyhood neighborhood.   This is something I need to read again and again over the course of some time.   I need to create a new movie in my mind to supplant the old.

But I also came back to the question of the definition of joy.   I had said that experiencing joy was not the same as being joyful, which was a heightened state.   A look at the dictionary recently taught me that I was wrong.   Joy is defined as “the emotion of great delight,” “elation,” “a source of keen pleasure or delight. “

Certainly given what I learned about my being a Capricorn, that it is my nature, my birthright, to be serious, to expect myself to experience such a feeling in each passing moment is not realistic.   Indeed, I don’t know that it’s realistic for any person.

However, other words came to mind then.   I have always said that one of the challenges of spiritual teaching is how thoughts are expressed.   Using the wrong word can create a barrier where none should exist.

The first word I thought of was “value,” as in “find value in each passing moment.”  That is something that I believed without any hesitancy.   Even moments when bad things happen are to be valued because they are an opportunity for spiritual growth.   But when I used that phrase in my meditation mantras, I found that expression somewhat depressing.   Was that all there was to each passing moment – value?  It’s a cold word.

The second word I thought of was “cherish,” as in “cherish each passing moment.”  When I sat with that wording, I found it both right and uplifting.   It brought my mind back to a video I had seen several years ago about cherishing just being alive!  It was such a novel thought to me when I saw the video, and I must be honest and say that it still is today.   But that is what is at the heart of cherishing each passing moment.   Yes the moment may be of value regardless how painful, or it may just be a rather blah moment from most perspectives.   Or of course it might be a lovely moment.   Regardless, each moment is to be cherished because you are alive, breathing and feeling.

And so while i would still say that my purpose in life is to offer myself and others joy, I do that by modest things that all together result in experiencing joy, in the sense of pleasure and happiness.   

If I cherish each passing moment regardless what is going on, sustained by the love of God inside me.   If I connect with the positive energy in my heart.   If I release all desire that my life be different in any way from that way it is right now at this moment.   If I am aware of all the things I am grateful for.   If I love myself unconditionally and have compassion for myself.   

If I do all of these things, and if I reclaim my ability to experience the joy I had as a toddler, then I will experience joy.   Every human being, whether of a serious nature of not, has the ability to experience joy.


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