While I was visiting a high school this week I noticed banners posted on a classroom wall that the students had made. On the banners the teens wrote statements about their aspirations for the future. "I want to be a pharmacist," "I want to be a lawyer," "I want to go to medical school," some read. But surprisingly the majority of the students wrote something like, "I want to be happy," "I want to know what I want," "I what to figure out what I want."
Even as young people, the need to just be happy is a yearning desire. Beyond the desire to be happy, the longing to be clear on what one wants is equally prominent. As we grow into adults, we find the same quest for joy and the same longing to become clear on what would bring such a state of mind.
Unfortunately in today's society, we go about cultivating joy in a haphazard way. We live in a materialistic culture and think that the newest gadget, computer, car, clothing will bring us joy. Our human perception is limited and the focus is on attachment to form when joy comes from the exact opposite: non-attachment to form. Yes you can attain moments of happiness and pleasure from the material world, but the only way to cultivate true, deep abiding joy is through connecting with and nurturing of your spiritual self. You see, joy is sacred, deep and peaceful. It is not only the absence of suffering, it transcends suffering. It is a state of calmness that abides while the world is going crazy around us.
So then the only way to cultivate this deep joy that remains at the center of our being when things are going awry is through spiritual practice, specifically meditation. I heard it said that what we do with our lives - our work, our hobbies, our activities - are to be sandwiched between our morning and evening meditation sessions. We want our meditation practice to become part of our everyday routine, as natural and regular to us as washing our face or brushing our teeth.
Here's the formula for being joyous and for figuring what you want to give to life: go to the mats and practice. If you are starting out with meditation, it doesn't have to be long. Ten minutes each day will get you started on the road to joy. For some this will take discipline and others will find it so enjoyable that they do it again and again for the rest of their lives. A meditation teacher once likened the practice to eating chocolate cake. It's so good that it's not a sacrifice to eat it; rather, we look forward to eating that chocolate cake every day. For me, meditation has always been that luscious piece of chocolate cake. If a skip a session, I feel those human qualities rearing their headsand I know I have to take to the mat again, but it's the first thing I do in the morning and the final thing I do when the day of activity is ending.
My desire is that each one of you incorporate this simple practice into your everyday lives for your own personal spiritual growth and for the peace it brings to the world. This week ask yourself what would you write on your banner? And e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org to share what you come up with.
Work With Me
If you are ready to live in deep, abiding joy, I invite you to work with me. We can work via phone, Facetime, Skype or in person to activate the power within you to fulfill your heart's desires. Email me at email@example.com to get started.
Dr. Barbara Gulbranson is one of the nation's leading spiritual teachers, author, spiritual coach, ordained minister and director of the Suicide Prevention Center, a program of United Health Services.