I took this photo in Japan, in the fall of 2014, in the Hakone area. It never fails to delight when I see their happy faces. It feels like yesterday.
Creating Joyful Moments in the Midst of Suffering
I think alot about creating joyful moments in the midst of suffering. I suspect it stems from having grown up with my particular clan in the Maritimes, where we learned to accompany each other through the tears. It wasn’t about denial of difficulties nor forcing a false front, rather it was about broadening the view to see what else was true. There was an understanding that things would change; feelings would fade; noone escapes sorrow and that somehow things would get better around the corner. Love and laughter helped.
What I have found is that things change on a dime. During times of illness and difficulty we are hopeful one minute, despairing the next and hopeful again. This cycle repeats itself and it is natural, considering the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in.
And yet…there is always more, when we have our circle of friends and family. For instance, last week a small group of friends came together, for two nights. More than one was grieving loss, so both the tears and the laughter spilled over through the music, poetry, games, spa and heart wrenching discussions. And still, everyone left feeling more alive, loved and grateful.
It brought to mind the Japanese concept of “moai,” a concept attributed to the greatest longevity in the world, particularly for women. Maoi is essentially a lifelong social network of friends who support you into old age. Although we don’t have a “word” like that, we all experience the essential nature of our important friendships.
Our western research is unequivocal regarding the improved health metrics of those who have a close and committed group of friends whom they can rely on. And although ideally we would all live in the same area, that is not the case in North America. We are often widely seperated from our old friends and family.
And still, we can help and count on those friends from afar. Not in the way we could if we lived down the street but this is where technology really helps. For all of our complaints and fears about devices, we have never had it so easy to stay in touch with loved ones.
My cousin reads books to her granddaughter several evenings a week. I have had one Birthday dinner with my Mom using our iPads, when I couldn’t span the 4500 KM distance between us that year. It’s not better than being there, but it is certainly the best alternative.
Last Friday my friends in Vermont drove to Montreal, while I took the train, and we met for coffee at a pre-arranged location. We had a fun-filled day of conversation, good food, and a surprising event – a spectacular and immersive VanGogh exhibition in the heart of Montreal. They drove home in the evening while I had the luxury of sitting back and enjoying a two hour train ride. In other words, we can instigate opportunities to strengthen friendship even when we don’t live near to each other.
We are all getting older and I consider it a privilege, so I want to live my older age, as long as I can. I found this video, which was part of a larger piece and I was touched, inspired, and delighted, by this six minute segment. I knew about this group of women but I didn’t know this aspect of their story.
Their effort and their joy make it worth sharing and not just because they are all in their 80’s and 90’s but as a reminder to all of us to reach out and find the spark and the love that makes life worth living. A reason to get up in the morning. (sub-titles)
Finally, circling back to the title of this post, from Tricycle’s Daily dharma:
“Joy creates a spaciousness in the mind that allows us to hold the suffering we experience inside us and around us without becoming overwhelmed, without collapsing into helplessness or despair. It brings inspiration and vitality, dispelling confusion and fear while connecting us with life. Profound understanding of suffering does not preclude awakening to joy. Indeed, it can inspire us all the more to celebrate joyfully the goodness in life. The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu are good examples of people who have seen tremendous suffering and are still able to inspire others with an infectious joy.” ~ James Baraz
Note 1:) It is no credit to me this winter that I have kept my vow for not complaining about winter. It is January 22nd and the weather has been amazing compared to the previous winters and compared to elsewhere in Canada. I feel the weather gods have conspired to help me keep my vow. I am grateful!
Note 2:) My tiny habits experiment (from last week) was only moderately successful. Let’s say 1/3; so, I have tweaked my exercise to see if I can do better this week.
Note 3:) In my family we are planning our Chinese New Year celebration for Saturday night, the 25th. This is always a fun-filled time with friends and family. It is the year of the rat and there are two of them in the family – my daughter and son-in-law. And I believe that two of my Japanese friends, Yoshie and her husband are also rats. Must be a good sign because they are all wonderful people.
Note 4:) Thank you so very much for reading this blog. I consider it a great honour and I deeply appreciate you all, dear readers. Warm regards, Trudy