If you are reading this, you have many more reasons to be joyful than you might think. You are alive, which is probably pretty basic, but all too ofLive life joyfully (TOI photo)
ten we don't realise that it is the most basic things that bring us the greatest joy.
We often forget to celebrate the things that are most important because they are so much with us. One of the few really wise people I have ever met once asked with great puzzlement, “Why isn't everyone dancing with the sheer joy of being alive?” Everything we do celebrate is a celebration of life, whether it is a birth, a wedding, or an anniversary. Religious festivals all celebrate some aspect of life as represented by the attributes of the deity, or the passage of some event of our lives. What we need to do is remind ourselves to consecrate every day, take time out at least once a day to quietly experience being alive. And the simplest way to that is to just pay attention to our breathing, which is another wonderful reason to be joyful.
Breath is the key to life and almost every spiritual discipline starts and ends with the breath, as does life itself. Every moment we are meditating. With every breath we are partaking of all the mysteries of the universe. Mathematically there are six molecules of Buddha in every square foot of air. A foolish friend of mine used to like to breathe in real deep to try and get some Buddha in him.
It seemed to work for him. Just for a few minutes pay attention to a gentle indrawn breath. Within that action is the key to sustaining our life. How does that happen? Whenever I think I need a miracle just to keep going, I stop and pay attention to one or two breaths. Each breath feeds the fire of the heart. Amazing.
Odds are that if you're reading this you have enough to eat. Most of us don’t eat gourmet food three times a day, but we are blessed with sufficient food, and I don’t just mean enough to provide the basic calory intake to keep us alive. We are blessed with all the associations of a loving mother that comes with the taste of some food, the memories of discovering new wonderful tastes every time we eat them again, and the love that we imbibe with food made by those who care enough about life to prepare good food, a spouse or a friend. I believe that food made by people who love to feed people has special nutritional properties.
If you think that nobody cares enough about you to prepare delicious food, let me invite you to go and get a banana, and pay attention to it. What a marvel of packaging, flavour and nutrition. I am not implying that that particular banana was grown just for you as an act of love, or may be I am. It grew, it made its way to you and it will sustain you. Now I can hear you arguing that it was provided by a chain of commerce.
What if that chain was forged to get that banana to you without any of the links being aware of the chain’s purpose? Might be, and even if it isn’t, the banana is still pretty amazing in its color, utility, taste and ability to keep us alive. I once knew a man named Rudy who only ate bananas, all different kinds and he was very healthy. And think about bread. I know that it is not much more than grain and salt and water but think about what that means. Bread, naan , chapatti, tortilla, pain, hobz, brot, or whatever you call it provides us with the elements of the earth. The process of growing, threshing and milling the grain transforms the earth into a form that we can use.
Almost every spiritual tradition uses the fruit of the earth to impart spiritual nourishment along with the calories, whether as communion, Prasad,Live life joyfully (TOI photo)
dates at Iftar or Karah Prashad . I would invite you everyday to take a few minutes to pay attention to the joy that is food. Find something simple to eat, maybe a piece of fruit and take time to eat it with focus, eat it slowly, pay attention to the color and texture than the smell, and the taste. Charles Camilleri, Malta’s greatest composer once told me he had learned not do anything while he ate; not listen to music, watch television, or read. I think he wanted to experience the transformation of one form of life to another. What a wonderful lesson.
All of us reading this article have enough to drink and I hope that everybody enjoys at least one drink a day as much as I enjoy the first cup of tea. Throughout the day we en joy a wide variety of things to choose from; tea, coffee, lassi , juice and a whole lot more. But how often do we appreciate the miracle that is the liquid we drink? We are 70% water. Without a steady supply of water we would only live a few days. Having access to water is really a reason to be joyful, throughout the day. My friend, the fool had a way to remind himself of the miracle of liquid. You could do the same.
Sit in a comfortable chair with a large glass of water and take a small sip of water. Notice something about the water as you swallow. Feel it with you, feel the water’s presence. Take more small sips, noticing something different about the water each time until you drink one third of the water. Now take more small sips, this time noticing something about yourself each time. Keep sipping and noticing until two thirds of the water is gone. Now spend time with the remaining third of the water, notice its relationship with the glass, its relationship to you and your relationship to other things in the room.
So, there are a number of really elemental reasons to be joyful. Celebrate them everyday. Is this simple? Yes, but that doesn’t mean easy. We are all too often caught up in the drama of the day, our pain, the effort of work, the demands of family and friends to be full of joy. Yet, we each have a few minutes to celebrate the fire, earth and water and remind our selves to dance.
But there are more than elemental reasons to be joyful. You’re reading this in the Times of India, which means you know English and most likely at least one other language. Every language is the key to wisdom that only that key can open. Whole worlds are yours to explore, and I don’t just mean Shakespeare or the Vedas, you also have the keys to the Marx brothers and humour in Hindi, Marathi, Kanada, French or whatever language you might know. Laughing can cure more things than you think.
Norman Cousins recounts in Anatomy of an Illness how he cured himself by laughing after doctors gave up on him. So, everyday find something that you can laugh about or look for the local chapter of Laughter Club International. Founded by Dr Madan Kataria of Mumbai. So even if you don’t have time to breath slowly, eat purposefully or drink mindfully, laugh out loud. How foolish would that be?
(Pierre Lavalle is a Canadian therapist)
6 months ago