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"You Can Be More Joyful Right Now"

Date: 03/25/04

Thoughts For A Thursday
by Nancy Gerber
March 25, 2004

When times are difficult, and the fruits of our efforts have not yet budded (much less ripened!); when sad, discouraging or frustrating things happen that are out of our control, our default setting is to focus on and enumerate what's wrong. It's easy, and often downright seductive, to wallow in that pool of negativity. Life is unfair, people are distant and unfeeling, we are indeed sad specimens because of our continuing mistakes and failures. Even though we know that it's more useful to focus on gratitude and counting our blessings, we actually take a perverse pleasure in continually enumerating our misfortunes and shortcomings.

I recently read an article in the February 2004 issue of Yoga Journal called "The Wellspring of Joy" by Anne Cushman. In it, she talks about the quality of "mudita". She defines this as a boundless capacity to savor life's blessings, regardless of whether they're showered on us or on other people. Here's an excerpt that shifted my whole outlook:
During a rainy retreat in Dharamsala, India, I heard the Dalai Lama -- someone who radiates joy, despite the horrors he has lived through -- explain the benefits of cultivating mudita. "It's only logical," he said with an infectious giggle, looking out at the maroon-robed monks huddled under umbrellas in the temple courtyard. "If I am only happy for myself, many fewer chances for happiness. If I am happy when good things happen to other people, billions more chances to be happy!"

Imagine the possibilities! Those of us between achievements still get to celebrate -- a neighbor gets a promotion, a colleague's book is published, our favorite actor wins an Oscar. There may be illness in our family, or our business is having a slow spell -- and we can still delight in a friend's engagement, a child learning to ride her bicycle, our cat enjoying her sun bath on the windowsill.

The truth is, we always have a choice. What are YOU choosing right now -- joy or despair? Celebration or self-flagellation? Faith or gloom? Are you where you want to be?

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Copyright 2004 by Nancy Birnbaum-Gerber. All rights reserved. Re-transmission, printing or distribution of part or all of this publication permitted as long as authorship, copyright notice, subscription instructions and complete contact information are included.

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