What can I learn from my father’s suffering? Many things, but a prime lesson concerns the importance of cultivating the habit of joy. I like that phrase~~the habit of joy.
Our attention is a sun warming and enlivening whatever it falls upon. We can choose to shine this light on our capacity for happiness, thus growing the tendency into a steady habit. Why not do so now, while things are so much easier than they might one day be?
Certainly every life has its challenges, with some seeming to contain more than is fair or reasonable. Still, most of us live lives of luxury compared with our ancestors of even a few generations ago or with the majority of the world’s population today. Even on our worst day, there are many who would trade places with us in a New York minute. No, make that a Darfur, Laotian, or Afghani minute.
We have no bombs exploding around us and most of us are not scavenging for food. If our days were filled with such grim realities, how we would rejoice simply to wake one morning to their absence! And yet this very experience greets us daily, though we seldom notice.
In addition to such good fortune, we also are given quieter, more subtle pleasures. Like this very moment. Perhaps a loved one is nearby as you read this, or sunlight streams through the window to fall across a hardwood floor. Maybe you’ve just finished a satisfying meal or bathed in heated water that came from just a turn of the faucet. Or perhaps simply breathing life~giving air on a small blue planet is miracle enough for today.
I can’t know what delights surround you, but you do~~or can discover them with just a bit of effort. Perhaps you can stop right here, right now~~yes, in mid~blog~~to recognize the sweetness of what is. And if you find little to brighten your day, please look again.
As we strengthen our capacity to open to joys, large and small, each moment becomes enchanted. We also grow in our ability to consciously choose where to invest our precious energy, thus reducing negativity’s hold on us. By choosing wisely again and again~~throughout this day and the next, and the one that follows that~~joy and gratitude can become habitual. We then more consistently carry this perspective with us out into the world, hopefully softening the way for others.
As for my father, a weary man who seems unable to cultivate such a habit at this stage of his life, I make this promise. I will do it for you, Dad. I will gratefully accept the genes you have passed on to me, and I will regularly bathe them in joy. In your honor, I will grow this habit and weave it throughout the life you have given me, nurturing it consistently while transforming my own negativity.
And I will not wait another minute~~New York, Darfur, Laotian, or Afghani~~to begin.
May we all cultivate, like good little gardeners, this habit of joy!