The Portland area meteorologists must be having some hard days this week. This snowstorm caught a lot of people by surprise and turned Portland into an ice-skating-demolition-derby-
Portlanders secretly LOVE how everything shuts down except the grocery stores and the ERs. We easily surrender to Mother Nature and are not expected to be able to get anywhere, so that we can put on our snowshoes and cross country skis and take pictures of the snowy roads all over town.
Kids and dogs innately understand that this dramatic change of scenery: This turn of events must be met directly! On sleds, or throwing snowballs, or building snowmen, the sights, the smells — getting out in it and participating is the way! I can remember in grade school, one of my classmates named Eddie (a very rambunctious and energetic kid), would always be the one to shout: “IT’S SNOWING!” And no matter what, all the kids would leap up and run to the windows, drowning out our teachers’ doomed attempt to restore order.
Snow can help us remember our innate capacity for joy if we let it. There’s simple joy in appreciating what is new. The mischief of an 8-year-old boy might evoke joy (though maybe not if you’re the teacher. Patience perhaps). And it doesn’t have to be some kind of euphoria. Joy can be subtly delightful: Clearing off and refilling the bird feeder. Pulling up a chair by the window to write a long-overdue letter to a friend. This is the low-key joy of an unplanned and yet totally permissible day off work.
Buddhist teacher Jill Shepherd says, “It’s precisely because there’s so much suffering in the world that I’ve needed to make the effort to turn toward non-suffering, toward gladness or joy, in order to restore myself so that I can face life’s challenges.”
Experts on JOY
Indeed, there are a couple of people who are great examples of this: Here’s a brief trailer for a movie called “Mission: JOY” about the sweet and profound friendship of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. These two leaders of nations, people who experienced so much loss and suffering, who led their people through such oppressive conditions are yet so thoroughly joyful. And when they’d get together, their joy was amplified, and they were, as Tutu’s daughter noted, as mischievous as a couple of 8-year-old boys. The movie is totally worth it. So much laughter!
We can cultivate the mind of joy. His Holiness and Archbishop Tutu have found a way to transmute what would have been totally negative into goodness. They don’t ask, “How can I be happy?” but instead, “How can I spread compassion and love?” They encourage us to change the way we see the world, spreading joy instead of resentment and bitterness. We can at the very least, start by generating some compassion for the Portland meteorologists.
Read on for some upcoming opportunities to learn and practice. There’s a poem at the end. My spring MBSR class will be online. If you are in the area, we’ll be doing the day-long retreat as a hybrid event — held in-person and live-streamed for remote participants! See more about that below. There’s also some information about the upcoming spring retreat for healthcare workers. Thank you for your interest, your curiosity, and your practice!
Spring MBSR will be held April 11 – May 30, with a day-long retreat on May 20. The class is virtual (live) and the retreat will be a hybrid event. Sign up for an orientation for March 28 or April 4 to hold your spot. Graduates of MBSR or MBCT get 50% off tuition (and don’t have to do an orientation).
I am a co-teacher of the Mindful Medicine retreat, which is coming up at the end of April. It is a retreat for medical professionals, and is based on the well-established Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. This is a highly accessible and valuable program for anyone seeking to improve health. Our interactive retreat fosters an atmosphere of respect and appreciation.
by Toyohiko Kagawa
I want to be ever a child.
I want to feel an eternal friendship
for the raindrops, the flowers,
the insects, the snowflakes.
I want to be keenly interested in everything,
with mind and muscle ever alert,
forgetting my troubles in the next moment.
The stars and the sea, the ponds and the trees,
the birds and the animals, are my comrades.
Though my muscles may stiffen, though my skin may
wrinkle, may I never find myself yawning
(from Songs of the Slums. Translated from the Japanese by Lois Erickson. © Cokesbury, 1935)