Jan 1, 2019

Here's to More Joy in 2019!!


And just like that it is 2019. Here's to more joy!!!

This is one of my intentions for the upcoming year...cultivating more joy. This has always been a challenge for me because I hold a lot of guilt around experiencing joy when I know that so much of the planet is suffering. But, what I am learning is that it is possible to experience joy even when there is suffering. 

The study of yoga has taught me this. Yoga, at it's core, is about removing the obstacles that prevent us from experiencing more sustained joy. And many of these obstacles are created in our own minds. But, is this available to all? Or just those of us who have the privilege to contemplate joy?

I have traveled to many places over my lifetime. And many of these places do not have the resources that we do here in the U.S. I have traveled to Haiti on four different occasions, twice since the devastating earthquake of 2010, which claimed the lives of at least 200,000 people and left the already struggling country in shambles. I spent several months in a small village in Tanzania working with women who are providing care for children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, a disease that in some parts of Sub Saharan Africa, has taken the lives of 2/3 of that generation. I lived in Guatemala for three years and had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Central America, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica. Each of these countries deals with their own struggles including poverty, violence, political upheaval and natural disasters.

And what I have noticed is that although there is certainly suffering and most definitely trauma....there is also joy. I wanted to find out how to cultivate more joy in my own life without looking away from the suffering. I don't want to pretend or bypass. I want to stay informed and I want to stay engaged in work and conversations that will disrupt the systems oppression and injustice.

AND I want to experience joy.

Who better to learn this from than Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama? They and the people that they represent both have experienced enormous suffering. They are not ignoring the suffering of the planet, they are actively fighting oppression and injustice.

AND they both exude more joy than most of us.

"The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop are two of the great spiritual masters of our time, but they are also moral leaders who transcend their own traditions and speak always from a concern for humanity as a whole. Their courage and resilience and dogged hope in humanity inspire millions as they refuse to give in to the fashionable cynicism that risks engulfing us. their joy is clearly not easy or superficial buty one burnished by fire of adversity, oppression, and struggle. The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop remind us that joy is in fact our birthright and even more fundamental than happiness." (The Book of Joy)

The question is how do we peel back the layers to reclaim this joy? And how can we possibly live with joy in a world so full of suffering? It turns out that these two great leader came together to have a conversation about the most important principles to find joy...and there is a book that attempts to answer these questions. 

"The Dalai Lama's and Archbishop Tutu's teachings on joy: Is it really possible to be joyful even in the face ofour daily troubles--from frustration with morning traffic to fears of not being able to provide for our families, from anger at those who have wronged us to grief at the loss of those we love, from the ravages of illness to the abyss of death? How do we embrace the reality of our lives, deny nothing, but transcend the pain and suffering that is inescapable? And even when our lives are good, how do we live in joy when so many others are suffering: when croshing poverty robs people of their future, when violence and terror fill our streets, and when ecological devastation endangers the very possibility of life on our planet? This book is an attempt to answer these questions and many more." (The Book of Joy)

I spent this time between Christmas and New Year's reading and reflecting on the Eight Pillars of Joy that these two spiritual leaders came up with and it has been profoundly impactful. Now my intention is to put them into practice and I would love to invite you to come along with me. For the next 8 weeks I am going to unpack each of the Eight Pillars of Joy and create tools to practice them. 

Eight Pillars of Joy:

  • Perspective
  • Humility
  • Humor
  • Acceptance
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Compassion
  • Generosity

According to yoga (and both the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama) many of the things that undermine joy and bring on suffering in our lives we create ourselves. So if we can create suffering we should aslo be able to create joy, right? And this is not just for the individual. Research shows that cultivating one's own joy and happiness benefits others in our life as well. When we can move beyond our own pain and suffering we are more available to others. Pain, whether mental/emotional or physical causes us to be extremely self focused and allows us very little space to care for others. 

But, one of the things I continue to go back to is how will cutivating more joy in my life impact the planet? How will it combat injustice and inequality?

"In short, the more we heal our own pain, the more we can turn to the pain of others. But in a surprising way, what the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama were saying is that the way we heal our pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. It is a virtuous cycle. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others. The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but, as the Archbishop poetically phrased it, 'to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.' As we will see, joy is infact quite contagious. As is love, compassion, and generosity." (The Book of Joy)

We cannot bring peace to the planet if we do not have inner peace. 

Welcome 2019. Here's to more inner peace, more joy and therefore more peace on earth. I hope you will join me to cultivate more joy and inner peace in your own life so that together we can spread this throughout our communities.


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