To change our outlook, to change our disposition, to change our life, to change anything really, we have to, well…actually change. We have to do something different then we’ve been doing in order to get a different result. To keep on doing what we’ve always done and expect a different outcome is one of the definitions of insanity.
There are a lot of negative people in the world. And there are a greater number of people who aren’t necessarily negative but certainly aren’t positive, instead residing in some sluggish, disconnected in-between area that leans more towards the negative then the positive. From my experience we are collectively lacking in positive, happy individuals. I am reminded of a dharma talk that Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) once gave where he said: The world needs more happy people.
Over the last 2-3 years, as I’ve been intently focusing on the practice of cultivating joy, my outlook on things has transformed a great deal. And reasonably so! It makes good sense that outlook and disposition are interconnected with quality of life. What I see as good news is that neither is mutually exclusive. And what I mean by that is that we don’t have to do one to develop the other – practicing one IS practicing the other one too at the same time, and vice versa. So, when we’re practicing to be more positive we’re also practicing to cultivate joy and live a happier life and when we’re practicing to develop joy we’re also strengthening our ability to be more positive. They are intertwined, not separate.
This is a picture I took in Elliston, MT
Lately I’ve been cultivating a new practice skill – bringing joy and ease into situations when I’m really tired and worn out. This isn’t an all together new practice for me but perhaps a better way to put it is that I’m delving into a deeper level of it. The great thing about practicing anything is that with diligence you can find yourself discovering new levels and new insights that unfold as a result of the ongoing time you spend cultivating whatever it is you’re cultivating. Whether it’s learning a new job, instrument, craft, hobby, sport, or mindfulness practice skill the more we practice the more we keep practicing and the more possibility there is for benefits to arise.
I’ve recently started a new job, working as a TA (teacher’s aid) in a local middle school. I work part time, 3 days a week, which is just what I was looking for. Not only do I feel that working full time would be detrimental for my health (as I have an ongoing nerve disease and also an immune system illness) but I also want to have time to care for my husband and 15-year old stepson, and maintain time for interests and areas of volunteer work that are enjoyable and important to me. Naturally, all of this can sometimes lead to full days and getting overly tired (hitting that metaphorical brick wall).
Going with the flow of life for many of us does not come naturally, it’s something we have to practice. Our tendency, more likely, is to fight against what’s happening. I’m seeing this currently play out with many people in town who are dismayed at our recent arctic blast from the north which plummeted our mountain town into an early winter spell.
In talking with my husband Mike about the common, yet fairly ridiculous, notion of complaining about the weather he made a comment that I hadn’t thought of before, which helped to shed light on this rather challenging issue for me (I really don’t enjoy hearing person after person continually gripe about the weather). He said that people tend to complain about the weather because they’re uncomfortable and people aren’t used to being uncomfortable. This was a great insight for me. Many of us can spend our whole lives trying to avoid, cover up, forget, ignore, or otherwise distract ourselves when feelings of discomfort arise. So of course it makes sense that to be inconvenienced by the icy roads, low temperatures, and blasting winds is not a welcomed state of being! I used to think that an insight had to be some new, fancy, grand idea but, more often, insights are more unassuming and involve simply helping to develop a deeper understanding of something or someone.
Missoula City Cemetery
Today is the Day of the Dead. From wikipedia: Day of the Dead (Dia de los muertos in Spanish) is a Mexican holiday observed throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. According to wikipedia Day of the Dead begins on October 31st and ends on November 2nd every year. In Missoula we have a Festival of the Dead parade, which will happen later on today downtown, to honor and celebrate this honorable holiday, along with other workshops that go on around town in the week leading up to today.
Last Sunday a friend told me about a storytelling event that one of the oldest cemeteries in town offers every year around Halloween time. I had never heard about it before and was interested in attending so I brought my stepson with me and his friend and we met up with my friend Rhonda to go check it out. It was a nice autumn day last Sunday with hints of sun shining through the silver clouds, a spread of yellowing leaves on the ground, and a chill to the air. Upon arriving at the Missoula City Cemetery we were greeted warmly and given a map of the storytellers that were located around the grounds. The premise of the event was to have volunteers dress up in character and tell their story as if they were the one who had died and was buried at the particular gravesite they were speaking from. They would tell the life story of that individual or talk about a certain event that occurred or offer other important information about their life. They were all true stories and many of the volunteers also had pictures to show. It was very well done and incredibly enjoyable to hear stories of the past.