Nourishing Joy?

Sitting home today with brutal cold falling evermore outside, I’ve been doing something I hope to do more of this year — (not to be confused with a Resolution, which, for me, is made only to be broken) — Reading.  Not that this is really a chore for me (another reason it’s not a Resolution).  I love to read, but have had so little time to do so — especially in the last three years which have seen every moment taken up by school work.

But now, it’s 2010, my degree is completed and Kitty is determined to read what she wants to.

So, today, I’m working my way through Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”.  In Chapter Eight, Realizing Well-Being, Hanh suggests we ask ourselves these questions: 

“What nourishes joy in me?  What nourishes joy in others?  Do I nourish joy in myself and others enough?”

Of course, he speaks of Joy, not “happiness” — Joy that is unattached, Joy that does not depend upon people, things, circumstances for its existence; Joy that few of us know.

When I asked myself these questions, I found they were not easily answered… There are many things, many people, many places that make me happy, that might even make me ecstatic, but do they nourish my Joy? 

My gut responses were, “animals — especially dogs, my patients, sunshine, seashores”, and initially I dismissed them, thinking of them only as things/beings to which I am attached.  But then I looked deeper.   I looked past each of those entities as forms to try to see what they all have in common — and really it was amazingly easy to see:  they all share an openness, a transparency to the consciousness they all share — and that we share with them.

All my life, I have felt that animals are a far more highly evolved form of life than humans.  Unfettered by form and all the chains that go with it, animals Be without thought, without being driven by the insanity of thought.  And there is no more perfect example of that than a dog.

People most often assume upon seeing my nickname (CatGem) that I am a rabid admirer of cats.  This is not so.  Oh, I love them — as I love all animals — but I have been compared to some form of a cat for so much of my life, that I included it when I first created that nickname years ago.  So, I am called “Cat” or “Kitty” possibly more often than “Stephanie” not because I love the creatures, but because I am one.

Not something of which I am proud.

Cats are vain, skittish (except when they’re being stubborn), finicky (yes, it’s true, even though I am loathe to admit it), quick to swipe, slow to obey, nocturnal and very fond of sleeping in the sun — not exactly qualities to which one would aspire, and all of which I share with them.

But dogs!  Dogs are Compassion with fur.  Who hasn’t experienced the unfettered bliss of a dog’s greeting?  If you haven’t then you must run out immediately and do so.  Dogs love with no thought for gain, no thought for return even — their only concern is to be near you, to continue to be part of your pack, to play with you and delight in that play, to share their body heat to warm your coldness, to love you even when you don’t love them.

No, given the choice, I would rather have the attributes of a dog.  Because those attributes reflect the consciousness alive within the being, something that humans all too often must be near physical death to do.  Which is why I next thought of my patients.

A human being who knows he is at the end of his life has two choices — accept it (not to be confused with “giving up”) or fight it (not to be confused with “not giving up”).  As humans and certainly as Westerners, we balk at the first choice.  “Accept death??”  “Are you crazy??” 

Perhaps I am, but not about this.

There are few things… beings… places… circumstances… in the universe as beautiful — or as sacred — as a human being who has accepted his own mortality.  And by accepting it, I mean has turned to look at it, full on, facing any fear, facing the unknown.  One who has almost involuntarily opened his clutched fists and allowed everything he has believed was “life” to fall from his grasp.  These people are translucent — age, gender, race, religion matter not, they glow — literally — with the soft light of consciousness.

As do the sun and the sea.  The sun is consciousness (or God, if you prefer) playing with the form of Light as it does with the form of Water in the sea.  Where those two touch the form of Earth, is holy — and nourishing — ground for me.

The answer to the third question is much easier and is, unfortunately, “No”.  But what is enough, really, when we speak of nourishing joy in ourselves and others?  Is there a limit?  A goal?  A set amount when reached we can then say, “Whew, that’s done, no more nourishing joy for me?”  (Again, my insane Western mind at work.)

At any rate, I am here to thank you all — the seen and the unseen — for the nourishment that you give me each time you read me.  And in the hopes that I might somehow repay you, I ask,”What nourishes Joy in you?”

©s rogers 7 january 2010

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