Discovering Joy in Our Everyday Lives


None of us are strangers to our woes and struggles in life. In fact, we seem to know them, as we know an old friend. All day long the list of worries runs around in our heads - how tired we are, all the work we have to do, how little Johnny is failing math class, Fido has worms, we are behind on the car payments...the list goes on and on. 

It is a lot easier to focus on our woes than our joys. When we think of joy, we tend to think major, grandiose events or accomplishments - birthdays, graduations, maybe buying a new house or getting a promotion. We forget that each new day gifts us with a plethora of small joys as well. 

Through mindful practice, we can appreciate even the smallest joys in our daily lives. They are everywhere once be begin to search for them, to actively seek them out. We can manifest joy in our own lives, in any way we choose. Whatever form they come in - the fragrance rising from cup of hot tea, feeling the warmth of sunshine as we turn our face to the sun, the sound of unbridled laughter from a small child, or the glint of the "ocean's shine" as Mary Oliver writes in the poem below. 

As podcast guest Betty Dodson and I discuss in this week's episode: "no one can make us happy, no one can make us have joy, we need to make it for ourselves.” This week I encourage you to explore and capture the joys you create for yourself in your own life. 

~ Susan Lambert

Circumnavigating the Sea of Tears

 

The homeless encampment along Beaudry in downtown LA is returning. Tent by tent, cardboard by cardboard. Brown homes popping up like urban Navajo hogans. I dread their return. I never know what to do when stopped at a red light confronted with a sign held by a homeless person begging for money. Do I have to give every day? And if so, how much? Like in the old days when the collection plate was passed in church. Does everyone know how much I’m giving? And more importantly, will it get me into heaven? I always end up feeling confused and bad no matter what I do. Guilty for what I have and they don’t.

But this time there was a tent that made me laugh out loud. There were pinwheels merrily turning in the wind, plastic flowers and pink butterfly wings climbing the chain link fence, a hibachi and a lawn chair locked together, and a sign in pride of place stating in big bold letters BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

The paradoxical whimsy of this sign, flapping in the breeze, visible to the gridlock on the freeways merging below triggered the echo of my mother’s voice yelling up the stairs when I was a kid, (and now from the other side), “Brush your Teeth!” It made me recall the recent voice of my seven year old niece as she watched my morning ablutions, “You must turn off the water when you brush your teeth!” High-five for water conservation!

Along with the laughter my heart swelled with compassion at the recognition of the human desire to create a home with whatever means necessary, the indomitable spirit that strives to make the square of sidewalk or patch of earth our own. Then I wept, thinking about those who have no home, human and animal; whether by natural disaster, war, economics, bad health, climate change, pollution, or bad luck.

I am so easily overwhelmed by the plight of the homeless. Perhaps because I have been close to that edge in my life, I readily identify. I imagine what it must be like to have no place to escape and recover from the slings and arrows of the day. I see the wear and tear on the bodies, the dirt and the grim. I smell the sour smell. I feel the waves of desperation, the empathy rising up in response that threatens to drown me.  

Years ago, a wise woman I was in conversation with introduced me to a practice she called Circumnavigating the Sea of Tears ~ keeping one’s eyes and heart open to the suffering ~ and crucially, not falling into the sea oneself. Can I use this practice to gain some detachment, rebalance myself when I am overwhelmed by the suffering I see? Can I stand still for just one moment, trusting my mind and my heart to lead me to what Buddhists call right action?

I stop at the red light on Beaudry at the end of the line of tents. A man holds a sign. I don’t give him a dollar, or roll up my window, or pray for the light to turn green. Instead I ask him his name. “Daniel,” he says, coming forward. “Danny.” We shake hands. I introduce myself. We chat about the weather, his bum foot, his day so far, my day so far, then the light turns green and I wave, drive off.  A human exchange. Two people chatting. Not one homeless and one not. In that moment we just are. Balancing together at the edge of the sea.

 

~ Megan Rose

Balance

Photo credit: Daniel Streitfeld

Photo credit: Daniel Streitfeld

Balance. We know we need it - we couldn’t stay upright without it. We know we want it - we feel better when our lives are in balance.

But what is it really? What is this elusive thing we call balance?

Balance is a state of equilibrium, a distribution of weight enabling us to remain stable and steady. Balance can also be defined as equanimity of mind, character, and feelings, enabling us to remain clear and buoyant even under stress. Imagine riding the waves of the ocean in an inflatable boat. That inflatable boat is going to keep you in buoyant harmony no matter what the mood of the waters. Simply put ~ Balance is harmony between the parts of anything.

Harmony. Equilibrium. Equanimity. Buoyancy. These are desirable states of being.

We hold our breaths as we watch a baby balancing on her own, wobbling on her pudgy little feet as we run for our cameras to document this momentous occasion ~ Baby’s First Steps!!! Soon after managing this first hesitant moment she is off ... and in the blink of an eye is walking, running, skipping, marching, dancing, and jumping for joy. At the other end of the spectrum we watch as those we love gradually lose their ability to balance; then fall, break bones and become fearful of walking.

And in between these two physical reference points, we struggle with our inner/outer balance almost every day. Work and play, friends and family, taking a hike and taking a nap, eating and not eating too much, solitude and community, spending and saving, giving and taking, striving for success and accepting failure, multi tasking and a singular focus … and on and on and on … in Buddhist terms, the eternal search for The Middle Way. 

In the Balance is a place where we can come together to listen, to talk, to think and to find ways to practice balance within our hearts, minds, and bodies to create a symphony, a synthesis. Picture yourself sitting on a three legged stool. Now imagine being supported by heart, mind and body as if you are sitting on this three legged stool ~ beautifully, calmly, perfectly balanced, remaining in buoyant harmony no matter what life throws at you.

Harmony. Equilibrium. Equanimity. Buoyancy. These are desirable states of being.  

Please join us here, In the Balance - searching for ways to help our minds to be clear, our hearts to be open, our bodies to be fit and buoyant - discovering practices to help us weave all parts of ourselves into a more finely tuned state of balance.

Megan Rose