Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cultivating Joy

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."
Alexander Pope
Spring brings the spirit of growth and renewal. It is physically evident in nature as the little green begins to rise up out of the earth. Our lives shift from a sleepy, wintery, hibernation and awaken into days that are longer, brighter and warmer. We begin to stretch and come alive again. In cultural traditions all over the world, spring is a time of re-birth and new beginnings. It is also a time to remember the cycle of life, honoring the inevitability of suffering and loss by finding joy in what remains.

Symbolically, the crocus flower represents the first signs of spring and stands for cheerfulness. The yellow, purple, and white flowers are peeping out along my hedgerow and my sons were able to spot the little pop of color and promptly rip them from the ground. Now they stand in a vase on my table and I am reminded of  the power of positive thinking. In my life, the glass is half empty and living in a world of uncertainty leaves me anxious at times.  With the help of friends and family, I have been taking small steps in rooting change in an effort to strive for happiness, positivity and optimism. What is my hard work for if not to celebrate life with the joy it can create?

We have all been on the dark road, long nights of restless sleep, a path leading nowhere, circling back around just to begin again. The options are to continue thinking bad thoughts or strengthen the power to choose not to think bad thoughts. There is nothing to lose by thinking happy thoughts.  In the face of adversity, we have to hope for the best. We continue on with the power of positive thinking. Courage, loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity and altruistic thinking are the tools for genuine happiness. Sympathetic joy, is the third abode in buddhist principles.  It is recognizing joy in the basic goodness of all beings.  One of the ways to share joy is to dedicate the merit of what is good in our own lives to the well being of others.

As I grow older, I am more affected by the outcomes of my actions, my speech, my thoughts and reactions.  I am humbled by the moment to moment awareness of my life. Recently, I attended a workshop on cultivating joy, it came at a crucial point in my life and impacted me by acknowledging the basic nature of myself which is pessimistic, impatient, sad and weary at times. Sharing an afternoon with women of diverse ages and backgrounds, I slowly began to discover the similarities of our lives as we discussed life, read poetry, experienced a guided meditation with sound therapy and found connections bound by the nature of what it means to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  At the conclusion of the workshop, we were presented with a joy journal to continue the fulfillment of recalling moments of joy in our day.  The awareness of these moments can be celebrated on an occasion of relevance, such as birthdays, holidays or the turning over of a new year.

The hope of spring is filled with emotions that are important in changing our perception.  Life is meant for living, enjoying, laughing, and finding connections.  The dark rabbit hole of sadness, depression, worry, negativity, and apathy in life is visible and within reach at any time.  Life is never perfect. Everything that exists eventually ceases to exist. Longing, loss, and suffering will also fade away.  We have the power to choose to live and to enjoy. Find love and happiness in life and breathe in the beauty around us.