"awakening joy" is an experiential course offered every year that i participated in before moving to korea. about two hundred and fifty people gathered once a month for ten months in the jewish community center in north berkeley, ca. we were blessed with the guidance of long-time buddhist practitioner and teacher, james baraz and the many special guests he invited in throughout our time together. many more from all over the world participated online by downloading the audio recordings of the classes and doing the "homework" that we were all encouraged to do.
the focus was very simple: inclining the mind toward wholesome states of being. the buddha taught that whatever one frequently thinks about will be the inclination of the mind. as we incline the mind more toward well-being, gratitude, kindness, compassion, etc, these wholesome states become more accessible to us. as we practice cultivating certain states of mind, we actually, physically change the structure of the brain. in the class we were asked to not only focus on cultivating wholesome states of mind but also to fully experience the gladness that arises WITH those wholesome states. to relish the feelings of joy that come so naturally with gratitude and kindness.
something james said in one of the classes struck me so....it was about having compassion for ourselves....i scribbled it down on the back of an envelope i had in my jacket pocket that night. that envelope somehow followed me all the way to korea....
"when we are caught in confusion or fear or force of habit, if we could make a choice that wouldn't cause suffering we would."
for the times when i am heavy-hearted and crumpled in a heap on the floor....lost inside the scattered painful pieces....may these words soften the fall....reminding me to be gentle and kind with myself....especially when i think i was too monstrous to ever be worthy....may the memory of these words call forth the place inside of me that can lovingly gather my being up and say, "oh honey....you were so lost when you said those things....you were so afraid....there, there....it's going to be alright.....if you could have made a choice that wouldn't have caused suffering, you surely would have....you surely would have.
later that same evening james said, "there's something in you that's really rooting for your happiness."
-for more info on the course see the "awakening joy" link under "refuge and wisdom" on the right.