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Heartcore Dharma: Always (and Only) Be Cheerful

By Stillman Brown

This week’s Heartcore Dharma discussion at the I.D. Project ended with a short contemplative meditation and discussion led by Juan-Carlos on the Lojong slogan of the week:
Always Maintain Only a Joyful Mind

This particular slogan, and our discussion, have resonated for me all week. There is the potential for the exacting language – always, only – to be misused by the judging mind to club you whenever you’re not being joyful (“You’re not being joyful again: Fail.”), but I’ve found the opposite to be true.

There is something powerful about being instructed, in no uncertain terms, to be joyful, to embrace cheerfulness. I’ve listened to teachers return again and again to the same theme: we westerners are hard on ourselves, and it can lead to meditation being used as a tool of self-criticism rather than liberation, spaciousness, and getting in touch with one’s inherent goodness (still waiting to find mine, by the way). 

Hearing Juan-Carlos instruct us to be cheerful gave me permission that I rarely give myself. Permission to allow a sense of humor and lightness seep into the spaces between my thoughts. It sounds obvious, but I’m amazed at how often I forget that if I don’t allow myself to be cheerful, to smile even though I’m stressed or coping with difficulty, than those heavy thoughts can seem interminable and permanent. And of course, that is the opposite of what they are: impermanent, products of a mind grasping for certainty, less real than woodsmoke dissipating into an October night.
The problem, then, is giving ourselves permission to let the Dharma do it’s work, do the sitting, find the sangha, allow the compassion inherent in the teachings to penetrate the harsh, self-critical mind. 
Try it: be cheerful. Seriously, by the power vested in me as a blogger on the internet, I give you permission to be joyful. The muck you’re trudging through is still muck. Fine. Be cheerful.
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Detached Observer

posted October 31, 2009 at 7:29 am

Excellent point of view. This might be obvious to many readers, but for me, I just realized how we (I ?) attach ourselves to our suffering in a misguided effort to bring permanence to that state. I have been aware of attaching to people, places and situations that are pleasant or give me joy in an equally misguided effort to hold on to “good” stuff, but not so aware of the opposite.
It has been easy for me to recognized “Drama Queens”, female or male that have crossed my path, who seem to thrive on negative situations and emotions. It is just now that a light went on regarding myself and the part I play in perpetuating my own unhappiness at times. Is it our fear of change that leads us to cling to wherever we are at?
“Be joyful” as you trudge through the muck – and I say Why not? What a brilliantly simple concept for letting go. It brings to mind “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
Thank you for this insightful posting.
In love, light and peace.

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posted October 31, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I’m sure the word “cheer” will continue arising more than usual in the coming weeks. This article by Ed Halliwell ties the Buddhist approach to “cheer” to the more conventional one.

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posted October 31, 2009 at 3:12 pm

D.O., I like that: “we attach ourselves to our suffering.” It’s true. If suffering is habitual it can become a perverse kind of comfort. Sometimes happiness is frightening because it means changing deep mental grooves. It’s amazing how we get turned around like that!
Pat, nice link!

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Your Name

posted November 2, 2009 at 4:15 am

joy is so very important.
as long as that joy does not become a mask for selfishness.
where “my joy” trumps everything else…including calls to compassion.
happens all the time…in so many ways, when people’s individual desire for what they perceive as happiness, conflicts with a moral duty…and they chose to serve their own personal need, rather than obey conscience.
of course that “personal need” is really just a more superficial desire and not a need at all.
balancing joy with moral duty is, I think an interesting area. Because, I do think that everyone does need, at times, to shut themselves off from the world of outer demands and find some personal joy. Not sure how to balance the two, but I think it is an interesting area to discuss.

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r4i kort

posted November 19, 2009 at 6:57 am

I am participating in a distance learning Project of 10-week class called Heartcore Dharma.As part of the class.I have struggled the past month with consistency in daily practice, and I am glad to have something concrete, and an anchor of a weekly pod-cast/class to help recommit.

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posted June 13, 2010 at 1:59 am

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