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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