Buried Joy

Buried Joy

“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”  Wendell Berry has written a lot of words that eloquently illustrate basic truths, but I think these seven words are some of his most important for humans to hear and embody.  Everyone has the opportunity for joy, even if it’s fleeting or hard to recognize or stuck under melancholy. The joy that is stuck or buried is even perhaps the joy that persists when things are challenging – it’s the joy that refuses to let go even when our human experience is wrought with hardship and despair and searching.  It’s the joy that is still there even when we can’t see it, or when we let our focus go to the thing with the loudest voice – sometimes joy tends to be soft spoken.  This is the joy that makes us human, the joy that is the love at our center, the joy that reminds us that though our emotions are real, we don’t have to let them control our life experience.  We don’t have to let our life situation and how we feel about it dictate how we perceive what happens, or what doesn’t.  We can be joyful simply because it’s  possible.

Years ago I worked in a fitness facility that was set up to support the efforts of people affected by physical disability.  There were special adaptive machine settings to accommodate wheelchairs, straps to secure a weak grip onto a bar and a warm water pool for bodies that craved the way swimming allows for limitless movement.  The facility attracted all sorts of people – a lot of older adults recovering from stroke, children who were learning to live in a body that just wouldn’t cooperate in doing activities of daily living, and individuals who needed a place to exercise that saw them as whole instead of broken.

There is one woman who I will always remember.  She was in her mid 40s and came rolling into the fitness center every Thursday at about 2pm.  An accident 10 years prior left her with no use of her lower body, and limited use of her torso and arms.  We spent the hour she was there each week moving from one piece of equipment to the next, and I helped her get situated by swinging the seat out so she could roll into place and strapping her hands to the bar or pulley so she could manipulate it.  Every workout was the same – I don’t remember ever increasing the weight or seeing any progress in her strength or ability.  She just showed up every week, did her circuit and moved on to the rest of her day.

What makes me remember her is that she didn’t convey frustration or anger.  She never showed disappointment in the lack of noticeable physical progress.  She didn’t complain about the ice in the winter and how her wheel chair slipped on it, or about how long it took to get in and out of her van, or about having to move from the home she loved because she couldn’t get to the bathroom on the second floor anymore.  She spoke of her life before the accident not with longing and regret, but with gratitude for the experiences that she had when she could walk.  And she spoke of her current life in the same way.  Not with longing for her past, or with anger that she no longer had a body that would do what it once did, but instead with gratitude that she had a body that could carry her through life, and the new experiences and opportunities that occur because of the change in that body.

She took the joy that could have stayed buried under grief and hardship and used it to move through a really difficult transition.  She took what could have easily become an avenue into bitterness and turned instead onto a path paved with beauty and appreciation for what the world can be .  She didn’t let the accident and its outcome shout louder that the joy that was a part of her core essence.  She didn’t let her life situation and how she felt about it dictate how she responded to what happened, or to what didn’t.   She chose to be joyful because it was possible.

Embody Abundance

Embody Abundance

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Embody abundance. I heard someone say those two words the other day. What does that mean, really? To truly embody abundance, do we need to have everything we want? Or can anyone who holds space for truth experience a way of being that is free of lack?

Maybe to embody abundance is to recognize the realness that underlies the illusory film that covers much of what we see in our day-to-day lives. Maybe abundance is always there, but we forget to see it.

In my day-to-day work, I usually get to practice from a home office. After moving 60 miles outside of the metro to a more rural area, I hardly ever go into the city anymore. I tend to like it that way, spending most days at home, either in a quiet space indoors or outside in the woods or garden.  When I do find myself navigating a more urban area, or even just venturing out of my familiar, natural spaces, my vision tends to get clouded with traffic, crowds, and consumerism.

When the clouds roll in, it is all too easy to forget the abundance that I am usually good at recognizing. Sometimes I forget to remember to see what I want to see.

What if I could remember to look past the traffic, past the crowds, and past the consumerism? I wonder what that view could be like. I imagine it might show me wildflowers in the freeway ditches, insistent at opening their petals to the sun, despite the concrete that mars their view.  It might show me a person, or two people, or a group of five, interacting with themselves, each other, and creation in a way that honors honesty and cooperation. It might show me vibrant new ideas that refuse to be pushed aside standing next to the whisper of peace that always keeps watch under the dull hum of advertising and shopping malls.

What if instead of seeing poverty, despair, pain, and cruelty in the world, we saw opportunities for growth, seeds of hope, room for healing, and the sharing of compassion? What if we could truly embody abundance in every thought?

Maybe it would make a difference in the reality that we live. Maybe—even when in unfamiliar, chaotic territory—if we look past the veils, under the illusions, and through the empty material desires of the current human experience, we will recognize everyday abundance in all things.  Perhaps then we can embody our abundance to experience and remember all that is, absent limits and free of lack.  Perhaps we can each take our life situation for what it is—a situation—instead of a sentence or definition; busy or not, and let it be a way for our being, our true self, to experience all that is worth experiencing.

Each life situation is a unique chance to embody the abundance that is already present. I can embody abundance. So can you. We just need to remember to do it.

So walk through a grove of aspen trees. Stand in a ray of sunlight in the middle of the city. Marvel at the way your physical body helps you carry out the mission of your soul. Focus. Spend time loving the present. Take some time off if serves you. Enjoy silence. Be loud when being loud helps.  Dance with your baby, talk to your neighbor, let the snow or rain melt into your skin, and see the art in the world. Look past the to-do list to what is. Find your abundance, and honor it.

This post first appeared at TinyBuddha.