Where is the Joy?

by Marcia Schekel

After 8 weeks of painful side effects from treatment, I looked at the CT with my oncologist to see the tumors growing and new ones coming in. I have felt crummy and have limited my activities and my spontaneous availability to friends. My husband is a great gardener — and I grow tumors. Oh well. Maybe I can learn to live with this news and still love my life.

I am learning about mudita, a Buddhist “supervalue.” This is sympathetic joy — joy at others’ joy. It takes intention and effort. It is the opposite of jealousy. Mudita practice works! It reminds me I am not the center of the Universe. (When I am ill, it is all about me.) So all of the good news of family and friends, community and neighbors gives me a lift, instead of sinking into ‘poor me.’ (Though I do still hang out in poor me occasionally … just not too long.)

Also, I have evidence of the joy in my own life, lest I forget. Several weeks ago I downloaded photos from my cell of summer moments and made myself a Summer Bliss photo book. I knew I would need reminding that I had many wonderful moments before I entered this study. I look at the book, smile and applaud my brilliance at doing this.

Now that I am feeling a little better, my practice will be to once again see the beauty in the ordinary, among the everyday grumpiness and complaints. I know I have what I need. I am cultivating gratitude for what I do have. Please no halo for me. These are just survival skills that I may live without making things worse than they are.

My spiritual director recently blessed me with this: “May you extract every drop from the grape.” And so this is my intention. She also sent me a Rumi poem to reflect on and share. And now this ‘advice from Rumi’ is yours as well! Posted for you with love:

Pomegranate Laughter by Rumi

When you go to buy a pomegranate, pick the one that’s laughing,

that has its rind cleft, so that through its broken-open you get some information about the seeds.

Listen for the laughter that shows the inside, that cracks the casket-shell and lets you see the pearl.

There’s another kind, an unhappy laughing like the red anemone’s that shows its inner blackness.

But pomegranate-laughing is blessed, like the companionship of good people.

Even if you’re a common rock, when you join them, you’ll become a precious stone.

Keep the love of holy laughing in you.

Don’t visit sad neighborhoods.  Let laughter lead you to the right people.

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