The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes……..

I wrote this quote down and I can’t quite remember to whom it is attributed. But I will tell you this, it is a very true statement for me. The word “joy” has significant meaning for me (as does peace, but that’s a story for another day). I have said a million times, you must find your joy to people who are unhappy. Joy, to me, means more than happiness. We can be happy from day to day but happiness is fleeting. You can be happy because you found a great restaurant or because you found the perfect present for your daughter. BUT to find your JOY is something that comes from within, something no one else can take away and it isn’t dependent on anything other than your perspective.

One day, as I was searching for more yoga books, I came across “The Book of Joy: Lasting happiness in a Changing World,” written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And I HAD to read it. These two great spiritual leaders, who survived incredible oppression and exile, wrote a book of Joy and the Eight Pillars of Joy!

As I read through the book that is well written and a story of their lives and friendship, it reaffirmed my definition of Joy and I highly recommend it for anyone but there is a description of each of the pillars but they offer a Joy Meditation that touches on each of the eight pillars. It is included below.

“Joy Meditation — The Eight Pillars

This is a meditation that allow you to review the eight pillars and to use them when you encounter a problem, confront pain, or face suffering, whether these are major life challenges or daily dissatisfaction. This meditation is meant to smooth the ride on the bumpy road of life. The eight pillars are the practices that lead to greater inner peace and greater joy.

  1. Sit comfortably. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or cross-legged. Place your hands comfortably on your legs or in your lap.
  2. Take several long breaths through your nose. Let your body begin to relax. Reflect on each of the pillars, and notice as your body relaxes even more and your heart feels lighter.
  3. Let your problem come to mind. Reflect on the situation, person, or challenge that is causing you pain or suffering.
  4. Perspective. See yourself and your problem from a wider perspective. Try to step back from yourself and your problem. See yourself and your struggle as if you were watching a movie about your life. Now think about this problem from the future, from a year or a decade from now. Recognize that your problem will pass. See how your problem shrinks as you see it in the wider context of your life.
  5. Humility. Now see yourself as one of the seven billion people and your problem as part of the pain and suffering that so many human beings experience. You can see your problem as part of the unfolding and interdependent drama of life on our planet and even see yourself from space, or from a God’s-eye perspective. See how deeply connected we are with one another. You are part of the flowering of the universe in your particular place and time. Your connection to others makes you much stronger and more capable of solving your problem. Let yourself feel love and appreciation for all of those who have contributed to who you are and who support you in your life.
  6. Humor. Smile and see if you can chuckle at your problem, at your shortcomings, at your frailties. Try to find the humor in the situation and in your struggle. Even if it is a very grave or serious situation, there is often some humor that can be found. The human drama is often a comedy, and laughter is the saving grace. This ability to laugh allows us to accept life as it is, broken and imperfect, even as we aspire for a better life and a better world.
  7. Acceptance. Accept that you are struggling and accept that you have human limitations. Remind yourself that these painful realities do happen to us, to those we love, and in our world. Acknowledge that you cannot know all the factors that have led to this event. Accept that what has happened has already happened and that there is nothing you can do to change the past. Now remind yourself: “In order to make the most positive contribution to this situation, I must accept the reality of its existence.”
  8. Forgiveness. Place your hand on your heart and forgive yourself for any part you have played in creating this problem or this situation. Recognize that you are only human and that you will inevitably fall short of your aspirations. You will hurt and be hurt by others. See the shared humanity of any others who are involved and forgive them for their part and for their human limitations.
  9. Gratitude. Think of three or more people or things that you are grateful for in this problem or your life right now. Can you find ways in which your problem is actually contributing to your life and growth? Are there people or things that are supporting you to face this challenge?
  10. Compassion. Put your hand on your heart or place the palms of your hands together at your heart. Have compassion for yourself and for how you are struggling. Remember it takes time to grow and learn. You are not meant to be perfect. Suffering is inevitable. It is part of the fabric of life. There are going to be frustrations in any life. The goal is to use them as something positive. Feel the light of loving-kindness shining from your heart throughout your body. Now send that compassion to your loved ones, to anyone you are struggling with, and out to all who are in need of love and compassion.
  11. Generosity. Feel the deep generosity that is in your heart. Imagine yourself radiating this generosity of the spirit to all around you. How can you give your gifts? How can you transform your problem into an opportunity to give to others? When we give joy to others, we experience true joy ourselves.”

My take away on this wonderful meditation: Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, shift your perspective, look at the problem from different eyes and the landscape will change.

Om Mani Padme Hum

~Heather Sharar, teacher @ Sangha Yoga