“Take time to enjoy the beauty of nature all around us. Go outside and look around. Do it now; our world will never be like this again.”
–– Richard Heinberg, The Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism & Community
At a recent sangha gathering, I was asked if the intentional practice of reflecting on what we are grateful for in our lives––those things that bring us joy––has any place in the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, a basic dharma teaching that our community is now studying. My answer was a simple, resounding “Yes!” Savoring the times of gladness and the warmth of feeling cared for, connected to the world around us, is essential to our well-being. To accomplish the Four Ennobling Tasks described in these teachings, we must become intimately familiar and at peace with our direct experience of joy.
There are two sections to this teaching called The Four Noble Truths. One is covered within the first two Truths; it addresses the fact that dissatisfaction and reactivity arise in us at times, in response to various events in our lives. It is not our fault that they do, but it is important that we notice, monitor and modulate our mind’s reactions to these moments in order not to be swept away into anxiety, depression, or anger. We want to avoid fostering behaviors that can do further harm to ourselves or to others. The point of these teachings is to recognize, establish and cultivate feelings of health and well-being, as well as a “relational resonance” with others.
In a more proactive way, the second section of the Four Noble Truths builds on this intention of nurturing happiness in our lives. In working with tasks three and four, we are reassured that distress and pain are impermanent. Having less suffering in our lives is not only possible––it is advisable. There is a method we can learn to replace the mental habits that perpetuate suffering with new habits that support mental health and wisdom. Peace and joy are to be experienced and savored. In fact, they are to be cultivated. The Fourth Task is to engage with the Eightfold Path, which will help us to stabilize a kind and joyful mind, and which forms the basis for our encountering the ten thousand joys and sorrows that make up everyone’s life.
Starting in June, VIMS teacher Peg Meyer will be facilitating an in-depth, eight-month study of this Eightfold Path. Click here for more information on this wonderful opportunity to join with others in creating a culture of awakening to joy.
“Peace is all around us––in our bodies and in our minds––it is not just a matter of faith; it is a matter of practice.” Thich Nhat Hanh