Putting the joy back in Joyful Effort
In Buddhism, we call a bodhisattva someone who’s intent on helping others in every needed way. He or she does this through what are called the Six Perfections, which are Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Joyful Effort, Meditation and Wisdom. This is, or should be, a path of unsurpassed happiness, and mature joy, because this is not a small ambition to have. Such great love is, in fact, the fulfillment of our lives here. Sometimes, however, we lose our zeal…
We may start enthusiastically, with a fine motivation, but there are times when we can get caught by the appearance that things are not happening fast enough. Our days can feel like a slog. Whatever the season, it can feel like deep Winter, with short days, and long hours of darkness and biting wind. It’s times like these that we especially need to bring out that vivifying quality we call joy.
Joy was there in the beginning, when we were first inspired to accomplish some good purpose. Unlike our other movements though, we saw something of great value, and we set our mind on achieving that for our family.
All along the way, we need to remember why we are spending our days and nights as we do. It is possible to have some feeling for the goal, even now. We can have this live inside us as we travel, like the vision of a golden city we carry in our heart on this Winter road. When we are able to tap into the pleasure of what we would accomplish, we can take the next step, and the next, with joy and with ease.
Our goals are what sustain us. They bring light to the mind and renewed inspiration. If we’ve gone to the mountain top, and even for a moment glimpsed a promised land, we need to keep this in our mind and heart. Sometimes our charts get covered over with dust, or we get lost on some back road, and we despair. The sky threatens, the streets empty, the stores shutter their doors. It’s times like these that we need to rest and recover the clear image of what we would do for the children of our world, for our friends and neighbors, for our close family and loved ones.
Fields are being planted, and fresh water is here. In time, all will be invited to this feast, and music will be shared. Have you seen the color of the fruit on the trees? Have you seen the metamorphosis on a branch?
Joy is the thread we use to weave the fabric of a noble life here on earth. We take up these gifts, so generously given by our ancestors and teachers, fashion them into other beautiful forms, and pass them along. The works of our hands, we must remind ourselves now, will outlast these bodies, made of food and drink. Light is what we have received, and light is what we give.
When we sit and walk, learn, speak and listen with the joy of knowing our greater purpose here, the way is easy. Whatever the situation, there is a center of peace and clarity, of light and well being we can draw from, as much as needed.
A vision is something we carry with us. Sometimes it is as vivid as holding a cup in our hands, and at other times it recedes to a faint memory. Our sight narrows at such times, and our shoulders sag. Then, like breath returning, we re-awaken the sense of why we are here, and a beautiful vision animates all we do, in stillness and activity, in silence and in speech.
What Thomas A Kempis said is true:
Love makes what is heavy, light,
and everything that is bitter,
sweet and tasteful…
So take the hand of your beloved, even now, take the hand of your child. Take the hand of your parent, and those who are in need of strength and sustenance. From wherever you are sitting or walking or lying down just now, re-member your gift of love, and this joy of our traveling together.
Photos by Frank Espada.