One of the new disciples sat down for his meditation. His cushion wasn’t as comfortable as usual. The air he was breathing in was hot, and his robes were making this meditation feel like he was in a sauna.
Minutes passed before he felt the urge to move around. His mind was vigorous and all over the place. He allowed everything to wash over him. Although the circumstances weren’t the best, his mind soon slowed down.
He resided back into the silence. Peace. That’s what he came here for. That is what he found. Yet he wasn’t content. He was missing something in his life. The joy of being alive.
He felt at peace. Yet the joy of being alive wasn’t there. He felt constricted. Less free. Less alive. The daily routines and struggles persevered. A few hours past and then the gong was struck. It was time for a personal class with his mentor.
What is Joy?
“How are you?” His mentor asked. “I’m okay,” Shi answered. “Are you?” The mentor asked. Shi knew that lying to his mentor never worked. He always seemed to know exactly what was going on in Shi his mind.
“Well…” Shi began. “To be honest I haven’t been feeling that great. Now I know that I shouldn’t identify with my feelings, but I was wondering…” Shi paused for a moment. His mentor patiently waited.
“Why is it so important to be at peace? You see, I feel at peace. Yet I don’t feel content. I feel restricted and less free. It kinda feels like my life is becoming dull and boring. Less lively, and most certainly less joyful.” Shi said, and instantly regretted the way he said this.
He looked at his mentor hoping that he hadn’t taken his critique personally. When he saw the generous smile on his mentor’s face he remember that it was very hard to offend his mentor.
“So you want to know why you can’t enjoy your life?” The mentor asked. “Well…” Shi said. “Yess. Because shouldn’t life be a joyful experience as well?” He asked.
His master shrugged. “So what makes you believe that being at peace doesn’t go together with being joyful?” His mentor asked. Shi thought about this for a brief moment.
“Because doesn’t it mean that to be at peace we reject all worldly attachments? And doesn’t that mean we live dull and boring lives?” Shi answered.
Peace is doing everything in life without attaching yourself to it or its outcomes.
“I see.” The mentor said. “I understand that you see it this way. Many people outside of this monastery and across the world believe that being at peace means you live a boring and unenjoyable life. But this is only because our minds create this illusionary state of peace. A peace that is linked to rejecting all worldly activities and doing everything in silence. But that is not peace, Shi. Peace is doing everything in life without attaching yourself to it or its outcomes. When doing the dishes you do the dishes, but also when you go out for a fancy diner you also just eat the food and talk with the people you go with. That is peace.”
“So what’s joy then?” Shi asked.
“Joy is peace dancing, Shi.” The mentor said. “Joy is when you can be at peace in life, and focus on the present moment. From that, joy arises, cause there is nothing in your way of enjoying life as it is. There are no worries or fears in your way of what is happening right now. That sets you free to enjoy sitting in silence but also sets you free to enjoy going to the movies or read a book. Peace isn’t restricting, it is only an internal realization that you shouldn’t attach yourself to any worldly things, yet fully indulge in them and enjoy it. Now you go off and enjoy the rest of your afternoon in peace. There is nothing holding you back.” The mentor said, and he gestured Shi to leave.
Joy is when you can be at peace in life, and focus on the present moment. From that joy arises, cause there is nothing in your way of enjoying life as it is.