Last year, the residents of the Institute began to choose one spiritual practice to integrate into our lives for each month. We chose gratitude in Nov and generosity in Dec…..once before, we practiced contentment. I thought it could be fun to share this with all of you so you could join us in integrating a theme if you’d like.
This month, we chose joy and we will be exploring what it means to be joyful in our lives and what prevents it. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer a teaching called Mudita, often translated as delight in the virtuous. This could be one way to practice. The Buddhist teachings also mention Mudita, referring to it as sympathetic joy. In both traditions, we are encouraged to take joy in the inspiring behavior or happiness of others, rather than harboring envy or jealousy.
Sri Swami Satchidananda often spoke about peace and joy as our birthright, our very nature. He exhorted us to understand and avoid anything that would disturb that natural condition. Sri Swamiji once said, “Just be happy, have fun, enjoy life, and don’t get caught…..Choose the kind of fun that won’t bind you. If a certain kind of fun will bring you unhappiness later on, then it ‘s not fun at all. Our goal is unending joy.”
One of the primary obstacles to experiencing joy is the way we get caught up in our heads–constantly planing, judging, and worrying about ourselves and the things we think will bring happiness. A mind that is preoccupied this way is effectively cut off–both from the heart, where we experience love and connection, and from the present moment, the only moment in which true joy can occur.
When we open our hearts to others and make efforts to serve and give, we find a deep sense of fulfillment that is free of dependency on people or things. And through a practice of Yoga asanas and meditation, we learn to quiet the incessant activity of the mind, and sense that inner peace that is there already inside us. Both sitting still and serving are forms of Yoga practice that can reveal to us our immense potential to enjoy life.
Rabindranath Tagore, a famous Indian poet, put it this way. “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Even though it may not be easy to consciously cultivate joy when we all struggle in some ways, I plan to enjoy trying. I really like the idea that it is my nature and birthright to know joy now, and that I can choose to enjoy this moment as it is without needing anything to make me happy.
May we all taste that joy and let it manifest in all we do.