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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cultivating Joy

~by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you want to garden, you have to bend down and touch the soil. Gardening is a practice, not an idea. To practice the Four Noble Truths, you yourself have to touch deeply the things that bring you peace and joy. When you do, you realize that walking on the earth is a miracle, washing the dishes is a miracle, and practicing with a community of friends is a miracle. The greatest miracle is to be alive.

We can put an end to our suffering just by realizing that our suffering is not worth suffering for! How many people kill themselves because of rage or despair? In that moment, they do not see the vast happiness that is available. Mindfulness puts an end to such a limited perspective. The Buddha faced his own suffering directly and discovered the path of liberation. Don’t run away from things that are unpleasant in order to embrace things that are pleasant. Put your hands in the earth. Face the difficulties and grow new happiness.

One student told me, “When I go to parties, people seem to be enjoying themselves. But when I look beneath the surface, I see so much anxiety and suffering there.” At first, your joy is limited, especially the kind of joy that is just covering up suffering. Embrace your suffering, smile to it, and discover the source of happiness that is right there within it.

Buddha’s and bodhisattvas suffer, too. The difference between them and us is that they know how to transform their suffering into joy and compassion. Like good organic gardeners, they do not discriminate in favor of the flowers or against the garbage. They know how to transform garbage into flowers. Don’t throw away suffering. Touch your suffering. Face it directly, and your joy will become deeper. You know that suffering and joy are both impermanent. Learn the art of cultivating joy.

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