It is said that history repeats itself until we learn the lessons needed to change. We may ourselves feel we have learned important lessons from the past, but each day millions of new souls are born. What then is our responsibility?
We ask, how could the great catastrophes of world history have been allowed to happen? It is not the blatant march through conquered cities we denounced, the box we marked on the ballot, the human in crisis we stood up for, or the hungry mouths we fed that ultimately matter. It is what we chose to ignore; the subtle rumblings of bellies, the quietly enacted policies which bore us, it is the blame placed upon others, or the rise of sensationalism and normalized ignorance over arduous research and curiosity which have become our folly.
Whether it is politics, social justice, relationships, or addiction – history always repeats itself. Not because new people who do not remember continuously join this world, but because those of us who do, fail to see that remembrance is not enough.
Our responsibility lies in walking the talk. We must be willing to be uncomfortable, willing to listen, willing to relate painful lessons, willing to reach out to others – ultimately, we must be willing to live our beliefs, to be an example, and to remind ourselves and others of what we have learned.
In a world filled with competition, tension, and a seemingly endless amount of tragic news and negativity, is it possible to feel more fulfilled than ever? Could we make more confident choices, living with a sense of peace and happiness? Is it possible to accomplish more while also being at ease? How can we maintain the mindset of being enough, of having enough, rather than suffering from a sense of scarcity, yearning, and grasping?
What if the simplest answer is “Know thyself”?
Think of that! How well do you really know yourself? We spend a great deal of time focused outwardly by taking on the expectations and goals of our families and society — sometimes without much thought. But what do you truly value? What do you find beautiful in life? What brings you joy? Do you ever think about your own personality or the reactions you tend to have when something bad (or good!) happens? Read More. . .
It wasn’t my best day. Mondays are always a bit crazy, but this one was one of those especially crazy days. I always knew when my father was having one of these because after murmuring several profanities under his breath, he would remark, “Everything I touch turns to shit!”
So this particular Monday began at 4:45 am and didn’t stop. Between teaching yoga classes, running errands, trying to get to every email, appointment and dirty dish in the sink, I somehow also managed to also try to kill myself with an airborne pair of scissors and a pressure washer. There was a bit of an explosion, but no yoga teacher was harmed in trying to wash her house.
I’m not complaining. My life is blessed. I am healthy, protected, and loved. But in the normal course of life, we all have those days that we feel anxieties rise and start attaching to stories of failure. We all have those moments of feeling like if one more thing doesn’t go our way, we will explode.
Recently, during a coaching session with my teacher and mentor, I was advised to meditate on the “joy in the present moment.” I remember thinking that the assignment made perfect sense as it often does when you are having a conversation with a wise, studied, and grounded person. For a week and a half, I did just that or at least I thought I did. But then, there was that challenging Monday.
It was then that I realized, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IN THE HELL JOY IS! My picture of joy is one of exuberance. Those people winning the lottery on tv or the occasional person you come across with a sparkle in their eye and a mystifyingly positive outlook on life. One reason I was attracted to the study of yoga were those encounters with seemingly joyful, content yoga teachers. I wanted some of what they were drinking!
But sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns with glitter streaming behind them don’t seem to suddenly appear in my world. Am I incapable of finding joy? Do I know what it even really means?
I sat on my cushion that afternoon and began to meditate. More accurately, I sat there for what seemed like forever, with the crazy in my head. Twenty minutes in, foot tingling and mid-back burning, I wanted out. I stayed. Gradually, as I continued to sit, things seemed to shift. I noticed the slight breeze through the window. The warmth of sunshine on my knee. There were birds chirping and cicada singing. And the sounds of vehicles as they passed along the street. I could follow the sound of a far off car as it approached, stopped at the corner and then listen as it drove further. I gradually rested in the more subtle symphony of life happening all around me. I felt calm. My thoughts quieted. I did nothing. And as the chime sounded on my phone, I did not want to leave this new found peace.
An English monk from the Thai Forest tradition, Ajahn Sucitto describes joy in this way,
“Receiving joy is another way to say enjoyment, and samadhi is the act of refined enjoyment. It is based in skilfulness. It is the careful collecting of oneself into the joy of the present moment. Joyfulness means there’s no fear, no tension, no “ought to”. There isn’t anything we have to do about it. It’s just this.”
Receiving. Nothing to do. The beautiful thing about joy is that it exists all on its own. Joy remains with us until we are ready to see. Ready to sit. Ready to acknowledge what we enjoy, what we find beautiful about our lives.
Joy is simple. It is not always loud and bubbly. Joy for me is resting in the knowledge that I am safe and loved. Joy is walking into a good bookstore, kitchen store, exploring a new city or the woods. Joy is cooking for my family or tending my garden. Joy is a good laugh, a snuggle with my daughter, or a hug from my husband.
Joy is sitting on my meditation cushion and knowing I have the power to back away from the edge of doubt, anxiety and self-criticism by simply resting in the present moment.
There is power in sitting and doing nothing. There is power in acknowledging the impermanence of anxiety and agitation. As Tuesday dawned, not much had changed. I still had lots to do, a traveling husband, classes to teach, chores and errands, emails to read. I began my day sitting in stillness. Tuesday felt very different.