Appreciative Joy: The Fingers and the Moon

There is a metaphor used often in the Buddhist teachings: it’s about how words spoken and written about experiences are like a finger pointing at the moon. We need the directional aid of the finger to discern the moon—to see what and where it is. The sharper and clearer the instrument doing the pointing, the easier it will be, both to have, and to know we are having, the direct experience of moon. So both finger and moon are Dharma teachings, and, in this way, both finger and moon become path.

Valley Insight’s Board President Michael Stoner’s “State of the Sangha” essay is a wonderful description of people working together to create and sustain an organization devoted to wakefulness, kindness, good will, and caring. He uplifts our energy and work in this world by naming and thanking some of the programs and individuals involved, as well as by carefully explaining our well-balanced, gift-based financial picture. The “fingers” of his words are naming and implying so many essential components of the dharma—mindfulness, metta, dana, compassionate action, diligence, wisdom, etc. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the fullness of the essay is pointing to Michael’s direct experience of joy, and thereby, giving us all the possibility of feeling an appreciative joy ourselves—right here and now—as we pause and savor the overall directional effect of his words.

The Pali word anumodanā refers to a nuanced aspect of gratitude: that is, “the thanks for the joy of receiving.” It points to the felt-sense of “delighting in the goodness that’s been done.” Gratitude can become exponential, with a life of its own, free from words, when it is known mindfully. Thank you, Michael, for this essay and for the moon, and for all that you have given Valley Insight this year.

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