Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.
Translated by Coleman Barks
I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy upon spotting small ladybug along the pathway. Her distinctive coloring, with bright reddish-orange and splashes of black, stood out on this foggy summer morning.
Only minutes before I had noticed the muted tones of the foliage and the fading shades of the flowers. Along with the soundless creeks, these were reminders of the severe drought absorbing the vibrancy of this part of the planet.
The ladybug disappeared quickly, but left a remembrance of that spark of delight which I had felt upon seeing her. It was that raw childlike enchantment and awe of life.
There was a feeling of kinship with the surroundings, sensing the thirst of plants and the creek and simultaneously the lightness of insects and clouds. Fueling that sense of kinship were memories, such as: feeling ebullient aliveness emanating from others – strangers, friends, family, and pets; and, even from that which we call inanimate – stones, soil, trees.
Along with those remembrances, I found myself imagining a world infused with a large dose of pure joy, seeding hope and compassion to begin anew. The ladybug apparently begins as a bland monochrome larva and then transforms itself into a round, colorful form.
Perhaps it is childish to imagine that we could disarm the deep grooves of hatred, greed, and jealousy with joy, but our human inventive capacity can turn wild imaginations into possibilities. For now, I am heartened to see the pre-school children in our neighborhood carrying ladybug backpacks. Maybe ladybugs will show us the way to the future.
For now, I’ll heed the wisdom of the timeless poets, prophets and sages, and appreciate that the world and we are intricately tethered together with a collective of small joys. Joy is not devoid of grief or sorrow: it nourishes and uplifts us like a loving mother. It is ours to share and treasure as lovingly as it graces us in the precious journey of life. I hope you will join me.
This practice supports awareness of joy.
- Remove any potential distractions. For example, remove non-medical electronic devices from your wrist and surroundings. Place them in another room. If you are using a device for reading, please place it on silence and/or airplane mode.
- Standing, stretch out through your arms in any way that feels comfortable. Then, gently shake each limb, one at a time for several seconds.
- Sigh a few times, also in any way that feels comfortable. Invite your shoulder and facial muscles to relax and soften. Smile for about twenty seconds.
- Seated, allow your lower body to settle into the support beneath you. Gently invite an awareness into your feet and legs that they are free to just be. For now, they do not need to be on alert in anticipation of moving of doing something. They can relax naturally.
- With ease in your lower body, invite a few easy breaths to flow in and out through your nostrils.
- Pause, allowing your breath to return to its normal background state.
- If it feels comfortable, invite a remembrance of your own personal experience of what felt like pure joy in your lifetime.
- Again smile for about twenty seconds, this time feeling as though your whole being is infused with remembrance of that joy.
- Then, invite a smooth, even, and gentle inhalation through your nostrils. As you inhale, imagine that joy is spreading to all of your cells – from your toes to the crown of your head. On exhalation, allow your breath to flow out with ease while sustaining that joyfulness in your tissues, muscles, organs, and bones. Continue this for several breaths.
Transition Back into Your Day—
- Sit quietly for as long as is comfortable.
- Perhaps touch your heart center in remembrance that joy is always within you and that it is always there for you at any time during the day.
- When you are ready, return to your day.
This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 8, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library. Photo by Neringa Hünnefeld on Unsplash. H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon. KateVogt©2021.
If you would like to know about the philosophical underpinnings of these H E A R T H reflections, I am offering an online study group, 1st Wednesday each month, 10:30 a.m. to noon PT, July, August and September 2021. Please contact me for more information.