When I started this post on Friday night I was in a state of genuine perplexity about the concept of joy, and apoplexy about Shonda Rimes.
I had watched her TED talk earlier in the day where she goes on about her brand of “Year Of Yes (not my brand, but hey…) and I was not feeling generous. I was comparing her to another “titan”, a lunatic one running for a high office? you know? (Decidedly ungenerous).
The whole talk felt so disingenuous to me, “take 15 minutes a day to play with your kids and you find out it’s about love and that’s all you need then go back to being a titan of show business like me ( let me list the reasons 7 or 8 times)”. Blergh. Not reading THAT book anytime soon.
Obviously I’m still not feeling too generous, huh?
Anyway, once again there is a lot already written below what I am writing now, and it will be deleted because...SCREEEEDD! I’m doing a lot of that lately and it’s AWESOME! I say that because it seems when I just spew it all out there and then walk away, the answer or antithesis or solution will come to me post-haste. Therefore awesome, because this shit gets worked out. I see things in a new way, or find the capacity to look at things differently, which is, in fact, the catalyst for change.
So let me throw in a word here: MUDITA. This is a Buddhist term and a Pali word that has no literal English translation but essentially means a pure joy unadulterated by self interest, or sympathetic joy. When we can be happy for the joys other beings feel, it is called mudita; the opposite word could be envy or even schadenfreude (for the fancy!)
I’m linking to the master of Mudita, Sharon Salzberg, and her Dharma talks on the subject on Mind/Pod network. Look for the talks on sympathetic joy, parts one and two
Anyway….Mudita practice is not about denying darkness and sorrow. It actually works hand in hand with the practice of compassion and focusing on opening our hearts to pain and suffering. Joy is made all the brighter when we truly let ourselves feel how fleeting life is—how filled with loss and grief and terror. And that awareness of sorrow and impermanence helps sensitize us not only to our own joys but to the joys of others.
And that same awareness of sorrow and loss can de-sensitize us (well, me) to the fact that I might be able to feel joy, true joy, ever again. Happy, oh sure, that’s back. Contentment obviously, but joy; bugger!
I know, I know, it sounds dramatic. I AM dramatic, have you not figured that out yet? I also go through life with very particular blinders on, those grief blinders, and they do not serve me well. Until I take them off and suddenly I see the light, the truth. (Blinded by the light…pretend song is inserted here).
Saturday was not going to be an easy day. I had a memorial service to go to in the afternoon, an old friend who I had recently re-connected with through yoga killed himself. You know, that is so sad in every possible way and I was…so sad.
I decided to go to my woman’s AA meeting, hoping for some laughs and lunch after with friends, before the service. I got both, and I got something much more.
Upon arrival I spotted some sweet friends who I had not seen for a while. I had actually helped them with their wedding last Valentine’s day and I was so pleased to see them. And then, while I was hugging one of them she said “hey, did you hear I’m pregnant”? And I was overcome, jumping up and down and hugging her and her wife, so overjoyed for them, truly…..and I caught that mudita. I thought of my
tantrum post from the night before and thought “in this moment I feel JOY”.
I promptly forgot about it of course, and went back into dreading the memorial mode, which was several hours away (future tripping? yeah)
And then I was at the Memorial and a moment came when I was thinking about joy again, although in a different context, in the context of where a true lack of joy could easily lead. And as I was thinking this two of my dearest friends in the world stood up at the front of the Church to sing a song written by another friend and were accompanied on the piano by ANOTHER great friend. It was a song I had not heard them sing for a very long time; a song they sang beautifully 10 years ago at my sweet Tom’s memorial service, in the very same church.
I admit my first thought as the music started was “no, I can’t hear this now, my heart will break” but then something switched as their beautiful voices so sweetly joined together, as the piano was played with such grace and talent. I began to feel that joy swell again, hand in hand with deep sadness for the loss of my friend John and Tom, but I was also filled with memories of Tom and his life and it was exactly mudita, a blend of joy and compassion that was so powerful in the moment.
But this time I didn’t forget it. I stayed there for a bit and then it passed it passed, but not without teaching me a great lesson. And I got it. I got the idea of Joy and the way it is and has been, accessible to me. In the moment and in another’s joy, and in compassion, both of which can translate right back into joy for me. What a gift! A pregnancy, a death, a song, friends, a memory, all bringing joy in different but equal measure. JOY
Joy IS available to me, in each and every moment. It’s at my fingertips, and I have felt it countless times over the years, but was unaware of that because of my limited belief about the nature of joy.
And then I remembered what a another sweet friend of mine always says in her gratitude list, that she is “grateful that gratitude brings joy and not the other way around”. I’ve always loved that and thought it true but it feels cellular today if that makes sense. If I can stay open and grateful in the moment (and I know that’s a TTTAAAALLLLL order!) that those glimpses of joy won’t be lost on me; that I will be able to recognize them when they come and revel in them versus negate them because they don’t look like what I think they should, or what they used to look like.
Everything is different now. Joy is just different. It looks and feels different than it did years ago, but then that looked and felt different than years before that.
In the moment, awareness in the moment. That’s where compassion and sympathetic joy collide and burst into moments of complete, unadulterated joy.
OH, and just because…..Tom’s favorite candy bar. Et voila!
And to make amends and attempt to practice mudita :