“We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table or that when we walked out in the morning, the flags weren’t up, and that when we came back, they were flying. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting.”
Pema Chödrön, the wise, gentle and funny American Buddhist nun says in her beautiful book “The Wisdom of No Escape” that our greatest obstacle to connecting with joy is resentment.
“On the other hand, you could just relax and realize that, behind all the worry, complaint, and disapproval that goes on in your mind, the sun is always coming up in the morning, moving across the sky, and going down in the evening. The birds are always out there collecting their food and making their nests and flying across the sky. The grass is always being blown by the wind or standing still. Food and flowers and trees are growing out of the earth. There’s enormous richness. You could develop your passion for life and your curiosity and your interest. You could connect with your joyfulness. You could start right now.”
She talks of how meditation helps give us a bigger perspective on our lives. It helps us connect to our joy by bringing us out of our shell, from wanting to make life go our way to giving us the ability to delight in life as it is. It brings us into the here and now, out of the cages of our fears and desires which keep us enormously resentful about life and blind to its exquisite beauty. It brings us face to face with the human experience.
“In Buddhism we talk about mindfulness and awareness. We’re taught mindfulness through oryoki, and through bowing, and through being with the breath, labeling our thoughts “thinking.” There’s a lot of precision, but also a lot of gentleness. Along with being very precise about our world, there’s also always space around us that is called gentleness: we allow ourselves to experience how large and fluid and full of color and energy our world is.”
“When we talk about mindfulness and awareness, we’re not talking about something stern, a discipline that we impose on ourselves so that we can clean up our act and be better and stand up straighter and smell nicer. It’s more that we practice some sense of loving-kindness toward microphones and oryoki bowls and our hands and each other and this room and all the doors we go in and out of. Mindfulness is loving all the details of our lives, and awareness is the natural thing that happens: life begins to open up, and you realize that you’re always standing at the center of the world.”
To achieve enlightened joy, we have to return to now. The more present we are in our present, the friendlier we are with our bodies, minds, the people in our lives and the places we visit, the more we appreciate the gifts of life, like the chirping of birds, the sheen of a new car and the smell of coffee. Everything becomes miraculously wonderful.
On the other hand, trying to resist the reality of our lives, is like swimming against a powerful current. It is painful and pointless. Even change must start with acceptance, and then the obstacle will become the way.
“There isn’t any hell or heaven except for how we relate to our world. Hell is just resistance to life…Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into the circle wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will. It’s going to stick around until you learn your lesson, at any rate. You can leave your marriage, you can quit your job, you can only go where people are going to praise you, you can manipulate your world until you’re blue in the face to try to make it always smooth, but the same old demons will always come up until finally you have learned your lesson, the lesson they came to teach you. Then those same demons will appear as friendly, warmhearted companions on the path.”
Read Pema Chodron on vulnerability here.