Peggy Burt, Spiral Heart Yoga 9.3.22
I recently rediscovered The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu et al.
In 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness's eightieth birthday. They determined to enter into a deep and meaningful exploration of the question, “ How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering?” The fruits of this conversation are indeed a gift to the world. I can only imagine what those conversations must have been like – filled with humor and wisdom, as well as sadness and joy. The full range of long lives so well lived.
A key anchor of the book are the 8 Pillars of Joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
I find in my yoga practice, that these pillars speak directly to the journey of the yogic path. As I began to think about, meditate on and speak about these pillars I decided to bring one pillar into yoga class each week, and to share my thoughts on the blog. As I grapple with these facets of a fully developed life of joy, I see them in daily life, both on and off the mat.
Pillar of Joy 1: Perspective
The idea of perspective within the yoga tradition closely aligned to non-attachment or Vairagya. Non-attachment simply means that we are not attached to the expected outcome of our actions. When I thought about this in the context of perspective, I thought about all the common phrases that we use when we talk about perspective such as “you may be too close to this” or “perhaps it would be wise to talk a step back…”. We know intuitively that if we hold or cling too tightly to the outcome of a situation, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment. We are advised to stay in the wise effort of the present moment and not worry about the “fruit of our actions”.
“ How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering?”
In the context of yoga, we can approach this idea of taking a broader perspective as it relates to our physical body. As we scan the body for the felt sense of comfort/discomfort, ease or pain, lightness or heaviness, we can begin to release judgement and breathe into the places where our perspective and judgement may need to expand or soften. As we move in and out of poses, we can approach each one with a perspective that allows all to be included: the effort, the ease and the breath.
When it comes to the mind, we can check in on our opinions and judgements of the yoga pose, or any person, place or situation that is troubling us. We can take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. We can look through the eyes of compassion at ourselves and others in our community. A broader perspective allows us to honor each other, even if our opinions differ. A wise and open perspective allows us to stand in our truth and stand up for the rights of others.
In the heart, we can notice if we are holding on to past hurts or grievances that weigh us down. A more expansive perspective on the heart may allow the light to flow into the broken places and allow compassion to fill in all those places of aching. Living and loving from the abundance of a heart with a wise perspective allows us to truly expand our compassion and grace.
As you move through a yoga class, a walk in nature or another practice that supports you, take a moment to feel from within, noticing the state of the body, mind and heart. Then imagine that you can see yourself from a great distance and gain the broader perspective of your circumstances from afar. When we notice our rightful place, on the earth, reaching for the sky, with our feet firmly planted on the ground, our hearts may expand just a little bit more, creating a wide open perspective.
Peggy Burt, Spiral Heart Yoga 9.3.22
The 8 Pillars of Joy from The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu et al. Random House Publishers.
Sunset Photo by Eric Burt
Photo of Peggy by Gerry Puhara