Sunday, May 17, 2015

Finding Deep Joy - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 20

For the 20th week in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I read Finding Deep Joy by Robert Ellwood. This is a book that is part of the "Joy" focus in the Spiritual Practices A to Z that I'm also doing this year.

Some of the things that I found interesting in Finding Deep Joy were:
- Joy lies hidden deep down at the heart of all things - boulders, trees, dolphins, zebras, and ourselves.
- Joy can be tapped in such a way that we can recognize its presence everywhere.
- When this deep joy comes, it is just there, independent of outer events....It is a pure joy of being that can well up in the most ordinary settings...even in a hospital bed or a prison cell.
- Joy is not only your right, your heritage; joy is you at the deepest level, and your joy is one with the infinite, timeless joy of the unbound universe.
- Yet so often we block joy. We get caught up in our routines, our little fears and goals. We merely skim the surface of little puddles of joy as we run by.
- After going through a great personal joy or sorrow - falling in love or losing a loved one - you come to a point where you just don't feel it so strongly anymore. You may even feel emotionally numb.
- Questing for happiness in the world of things turns our gaze away from the genuine wellsprings of deep joy, which have little to do with possessions, excitement, entertainment, or fun - though deep joy enhances all innocent pleasure.
- We ought to be able to know joy in each moment, in each person we meet, or each object we see, however transitory the event, unprepossessing the person, or trivial the object to the casual eye.
- Love or compassion is the supreme ethical value simply because it expresses the unity of the universe. Its opposite, hatred, which wants to alienate and separate and distance people and things, is at cross-purposes with the true nature of the universe and can never ultimately prevail.
- Compassion is simply expressing in action the interrelatedness of all life, all being; the person who talks about cosmic oneness but does not express it in compassion has not begun to understand it.
- Joy represents a state of equilibrium, one that is tension free.
- What the joyous person has is a radiance, a smiling serenity accented by a twinkle. That person may be of any religion or none.
- You should abstain from harming others, falsehood, theft, and greed; you should observe purity, contentment, study, and religious devotion....When you set foot on the spiritual path to deep joy, you must give up all that is untrue to yourself and all that harms others, all that caters to the self-centered appetites and passions, and all forms of excess, while taking on a simple lifestyle, an even-tempered frame of mind, and emphasizing higher things.
- The ill effects of negative thoughts, words, and deeds that might be no great sin for an ordinary person will be much greater for one seriously engaged in any spiritual path....That is because the higher your aspirations - or sometimes attainments - the greater the inner schism created by departures from them. The farther apart the poles of aspiration an behavior, the greater the chance that the whole system will fly off kilter and degenerate into chaos.
- It is said that you can break a bad habit or establish a good habit by carefully not doing the former and doing the latter for one month. Try it: do not overeat, drink, smoke, or whatever the compulsion is, for one month. Then do what you set yourself to do for a month - meditation, regular exercise, good eating, whatever. See if the negative dependency has not lost its power and the good become well established.
- So far as the rest of your life is concerned, the key is to live in a manner that is congruent with your spiritual practice.
- Your lifestyle and surroundings should be calming, tend toward joy, and foster a sense of living for more than sensual and material  gratification.
- If you want to find and keep joy, it helps to live in reasonable simplicity, neither in abject poverty nor choked with material goods.
- If you move toward simplicity - living in a clean and neat but unostentatious home, earning an honest living and spending within your means, eating wholesome food and keeping regular hours, you will set the physical conditions for joy.
- Living moderately and simply does not mean stifling creativity...No human activity is closer to the wellsprings of deep joy than creativity. Cultivate it in your own way. If you enjoy cooking, prepare your wholesome food as creatively as possible. Ornament your house with art or furnishings made by yourself or your friends. Spend part of your free time writing or painting. It doesn't matter so much what you do, but find something creative that you like and feel good at, and spend time with it.
- It is important to have a collection of books on topics consonant with your spiritual quest, the sort you return to time and time again for inspiration. Related pictures and symbols might be on the walls.
- You must not try to push anyone else in the household....into a lifestyle they have not freely chosen. If they choose to live less simply than you or around different values, you must accept this cheerfully and not let it become a source of contention, just as they must accept your way. All this is part of the love and wise moderation of the path to joy.
- Take time out to cultivate deep joy....In times of great suffering, poverty, sorrow, or anxiety - above all, of sadness - it is even more important.
- No obligations imposed by troubles are so great that they preclude all recourse to deep joy, even if for only a few minutes saved for prayer or meditation.
- In real engagement with life, the seeds of joy are always there, for engagement means looking outward rather than toward the self.
- Live here and now, in the present moment. Remember that deep joy is now; pain is mostly past and future.
- Past and future are not real. They are only constructions of mind. True, the mind may use certain memories as building blocks to reconstruct the past and to fashion the future. Still, what we are in the present really determines how we read past and future. If we are anxious and depressed, we will tend to drag up unpleasant and crazy-making memories from the storehouse of the past and build a future out of the darkest present trends in our lives. If we are full of deep joy in the present, we will make a past out of happy memories or of crises from which we emerged triumphant. We will look forward to a future in which everything that is now going well only grows in power.
- Clean up the present moment, fill it with joy, and let its sunshine dissipate the clouds of past and future. This does not mean that nay bad thing that objectively did happen or will happen is magically made nonexistent. But their power to hurt will be gone. They will just be there, but impotent.
- Don't worry about ten years or even ten minutes from now. Stay in touch with deep joy here an now, in the present, one second at a time. Nothing can destroy it so quickly as not allowing yourself even the present second of joy! Grief, heavy problems, and physical pain are real, but they depend on tight bondage to the past and future for their reality.
- Difficulties are opportunities.
- The bad times can aid you in learning compassion.
- It is the nature of compassion and caring to do all that is humanly possible to change the situation so that happiness rather than suffering is what is shared.
- Joy is ours by right and we are empowered to take charge of our lives.

In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon;
In summer, a refreshing breeze; in winter, snow will accompany you.
If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is good for you.
- The Gateless Gate (Zen text)

There were suggestions of things to do:
- Think back over your life and record the moments when you have felt the most joy. Perhaps they have to do with the smell of autumn...or the satisfaction of having helped someone. Consider keeping a journal for this purpose.
- Pain, disappointment, suffering, and death are realities in everyone's life. Thing about your own greatest heartaches and hardships. What can you affirm of value beyond these painful experiences? What can you affirm of value in them?
- Whatever your present circumstances, list 10 things for which you are grateful today.
- Find an image of (or simply visualize) your favorite saint. Look deeply into his or her eyes until you catch a little of that saint's joy - real sanctity is caught, not taught!

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