Love & Light Blog by Diane Donovan-Vaughn 8/31/2019
First of all, joy does not really have to be obtained just like enlightenment does not have to be earned or found and time does not exist. Joy and enlightenment are not lost. We are. An obstacle or obstacles are blocking our remembrance of joy and enlightenment. What are these obstacles that hinder our ability to experience joy? The obstacles are forms of blindness and deafness created by lifetimes of programming and the belief in time. It not as if one is doing something wrong. It is simply that one is focusing on a tiny slice of pain while an immensity of joy is waiting.
The Buddha explains that the mind has many ways to distract humans from the truth and the middle pathway. He calls these distractions hindrances, which can be mindfully observed as distractions from joy and enlightenment.
Think about one of these obstacles called aversion. Aversion is hatred. Something happens like body pain or an annoying human, or a slow computer, or loss and we dislike or hate it. Notice that these feelings can be called our suffering. Encounter something disliked and suffering begins. A thought, a feeling and usually some adrenaline get released almost simultaneously. One can notice adrenaline has been released because one can observe the body tensing, the breath becoming shallower and then the thoughts and feelings associated with this trigger begin. At any point, mindfulness practices can aid in the observation of the utter despair, dislike or hatred along with more hatred beliefs about time being too long or too short.
In fact, humans accept these feelings or this form of suffering to be normal, without question. When suffering arises, it is spontaneous. Like and dislike occur. However, with observation, one can actually begin to move away from the suffering according to the Buddha.
The steps for removing the obstacles to joy and enlightenment are easy but not easy to practice. First, observe that the obstacle is present. It could be desire, greed, hatred, confusion, helplessness, worry, or negative thinking. The hard part is observing because the mind is very convinced that its view is correct, that the view is reality rather than the view and filter create the reality.
Suffering is present and the mind is sure this is an absolute necessity. Remember the mind defaults for placing all its resources on negativity while completely ignoring everything else that might be positive or neutral. I am a fan of saying that if is it neutral, it is positive but again the mind has been programmed and biologically selected to turn its complete focus on negativity or chaos, finding neutral realties possibly boring. Boredom is not real. Boredom is intolerance of the present moment.
The second step, after observing the obstacle is to notice the conditions leading to having an obstacle and the conditions it would take to remove that obstacle.
For example, I have fibromyalgia, which can cause ongoing body pain for weeks. The pain gets my attention and I could hate it. As the mind turns its focus on the suffering, the pain intensifies and the suffering increases. I could say that there is no other choice but to suffer from this condition. I could be a helpless victim who feels sorry for myself knowing I will always suffer this way. I could blame the doctors for not finding a cure or helping me or blame my family for these genes. However, to move away from this obstacle is to observe how the mind itself is not helping, how the tension itself is not helping and how hating my body pain is not helping, how seeking escape is not helping, how giving up is not helping and on and on. The obstacle would be my hatred. The removal of hatred would change the focus and open up a pathway for healing.
Of course, it might help to have a loving conversation with the body and see what it is trying to say to me but that would require a change of focus from fear/hatred to love.
Where is joy hiding? Humans seek pleasure and relief from angst. The angst is often not even created by a real pain, but by thoughts, feelings, the emotional suffering of another or any other painful reality it might perceive. Suffering is inevitable but suffering is not the only reality available even as it is happening. Right besides suffering, right inside your very being, joy is waiting. It is waiting for some attention. Imagine when you suffer that you move your attention to joy and while you are at it that you remember you are already an enlightened immortal with an infinite amount of time.
When seeking pleasure, observe as carefully as you do when you are suffering. Are you seeking an escape from suffering? Are you looking for some fun because everyday life is painful? Do you want to forget the pain for a while? If so, you will suffer even in the happiest place on earth.
Seriously, without moving an inch right now, you can have joy. Joy requires a simple move in focus to everything neutral or positive. It is the shift again from fear to love, from putting attention on what is wrong to what is right. It should be easy but the mind holds onto to its pain and suffering with tenacity, self-righteousness and even pleasure. Yes, pain can be addictive as well.
Finally, after observing the obstacle and its causes, one can anticipate and prevent obstacles from taking over in the future. Ultimately, love and self-compassion heal every type of suffering, yours and the world’s because there is no world but you.
The selection today from Living a Life of Awareness by Don Miguel Ruiz JR. is titled “Having Fun” on page 63.
I decided to write about the obstacles to joy today. Then, I looked at the book for the lesson and it is about having fun.
Ruiz said, “I often tell people to ‘have fun’ when we are saying our goodbyes, and sometimes I get a strange look or a remark such as, ‘I’m going to work! It’s not supposed to be fun.’
“It reminds me of when I was a child, and my friends and I pretended to be grown-ups. We would each choose a role, such as a lawyer, a doctor, or a bus driver, and our faces quickly adapted to the role by getting very serious. After a few minutes, we would finish the game and our smiles would come back. Then we would say, ‘That was fun.’
“But somewhere in time, our smiles didn’t come back. The games never ended, and, more important, we forgot we were playing. We all have responsibilities –work or school, chores, bills that need to be paid. Though these activities sometimes aren’t the most fun, we’re still spending time with the person who matters most in our life: ourselves.
“We can choose to enjoy what we are doing or not, regardless of whether it is the most mundane or stressful job we have ever experienced. The choice is ours. I hope you choose fun!”
“How do your want to experience your time today? With awareness, make fun a part of your activities today.”
Close your eyes. Take deep connected breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax as you think about your suffering either presently or some time in the past. Maybe the mind is fretting about something in the future or agonizing about the past. Maybe a person is bothering you or an illness. Bring your attention to the present moment and imagine that you are an immortal without any time restrictions. Imagine a bright energy, a light at the center of your being, that your immortal self is a bright and beautiful light energy permeating the cells of this human body. That light contains peace. It contains joy. It is love. You are already an enlightened immortal. Now, relax as you allow joy to permeate your complete awareness. Namaste.