Lighten Up!

Buddhism's not such a raw deal.

James Baraz

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Awakening Joy: A Guided Meditation
Sit quietly in a relaxed posture. Focus on the heart center. As you inhale, visualize breathing in benevolent energy from all around you. With each exhalation, allow any negativity to be released.

Reflect on a person or situation in your life you’re grateful for. Begin with the phrase “I’m grateful to . . .” or “I’m grateful for . . . ”

Invite into your awareness an image of that person or situation. Fully experience your gratitude, taking time to feel in your body the energy of that blessing in your life.

Take a moment to silently send a thought of appreciation to that person or that situation.

Repeat this for ten minutes, reflecting one by one on the various blessings in your life.

End with the intention to express your gratitude directly to those who’ve come to mind.

Notice the feeling of well-being as the meditation ends.

As an experiment, do this as a daily gratitude practice for a week and notice its effects.

—James Baraz

Live in joy. in love,
Even among those who hate.

Live in joy, in health.
Even among the afflicted.

Live in joy, in peace,
Even among the troubled.

Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of the way.

—The Buddha, from the Dhammapada, Thomas Byrom, translator

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This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.'s picture

Happines, joy and delight are the core of being centered while remaining grounded. Psychologically it can be very healing. Sometimes the practice of buddhism helps us to feel genuine freedom to love life, this is helpful when the focus is on stability, if you have suffered from a mood disorder for which you are treated for. There is a flip side of this coin which comes when maturity fails age and we are left with anxiety. Does any one else know when we are enlightened or depressed. I suppose the truth is does any else really have to know, and the answer is no, it helps us along our way of dealing with stress. There is joy and release from punishment, abuse and bullying in the practice. I suppose in my case I receive anxiety from questioning my practice too much, and asking questions as to if I can sse myself sitting that day. Zazen is and it isn't work, it is the sole experience of soul gathering and self reflection. Those who have learned from the Dharma and Sangha are living proof that we can survive our own lives, when it appeared the chances were so slim.

MindfulnessTherapistOnline's picture

It is always worth remembering that the purpose of the path of mindfulness practice, meditation and awakening as taught by the Buddha is to realize the liberation of the mind and heart from suffering and the causes of suffering. But, the end game is to be free to completely enjoy every moment of our life and to experience the true joy available to us through our senses and our mind; but to do this the mind must be free. The freer the mind, the greater the joy.

Tree201's picture

I'm glad I read this.
However, I am not so sure this joyfulness is available to people who suffer from depression.

fbartolom's picture

Once you have labelled it as such, there is abolutely no possibility to overcome it.

John Haspel's picture

1. There is SUFFERING
2. SUFFERING originates in CLINGING
3. Cessation of SUFFERING is POSSIBLE
4. The EIGHTFOLD PATH is the the path developing the cessation of SUFFERING.

Tree201, Joyfulness is certainly available to you!

John Haspel

C's picture

I've suffered from depression most of my life. I've found that Buddhism is the answer to depression. It's saved me more than once....and that includes the happiness that comes with it. Doesn't mean there won't be dark days. But coping because more doable, and there has to be a conscious effort to pull out that sword and take a stab at the darkness. Depression is largely ego-based. If you think of it in those terms, meditation and putting yourself "outside the situation" and into the moment can help. And...sometimes you feel a glimmer of happiness and release while doing it!

roboutwest's picture

I found my depression loosened it's grip when I finally surrendered and said "what if it's always going to be like this." Most of my efforts had been toward eliminating the depression. Now, I actually explored what it was like without an agenda. That wasn't the end of it, but that realization had joy in it and over the last few years, there has been joy and further lessening of depression as I've continued mindfulness practice.

rawson.terhaar's picture

I can relate both to the above comment and the one above that. My experience has been that practice has strengthened my mind, and therefore my ability to withstand life's hard parts. Nonetheless, the teachers of joy, in my view, must be either happily married or happily unmarried. Being happy for a spouse whose behavior brings pain to oneself -- although certainly an opportunity for intense investigation -- is likely beyond the capability of most practitioners. Most often the release in this condition comes only after the hardest and most painful effort at letting go -- a letting-go that feels just short of a death.

gdenney's picture

I have learned that neither being happily married nor happily unmarried is a prerequisite to having joy in one's life: one learns to detach with love and continue to discover fullness in oneself.

MindfulnessTherapistOnline's picture

Actually there is great joy to be found through the resolution of the underlying process that creates depression. This joy is likened to the joy of putting down a heavy load after a long trek. In Mindfulness Meditation practice and during Mindfulness Therapy we learn how to develop a completely different relationship to our emotions such that we no longer become slaves to our emotions. This is called citta viveka and is one of the necessary conditions for developing samadhi and for the resolution of dukkha, including depression.

John Haspel's picture

No doubt that many feel that “Buddhism” is a pessimistic or nihilistic practice. Much alteration to the original teachings arose from this misunderstanding and aversion to understanding suffering.

The Buddha was interested in only one thing, with two aspects: Understanding suffering and developing the path leading to the cessation of suffering. He recognized that all human beings wanted happiness but were so distracted by disappointment and uncertainty that their entire lives were wasted in preserving that which brought (temporary) satisfaction and avoiding anything that might diminish individual satisfaction.

It is the preoccupation with dukkha that leads to mindlessness and continues suffering and confusion.

Of course understanding suffering is the key to the Buddha’s Dhamma and developing a life of lasting peace and happiness. In teaching the nature of suffering, its causes, and the path to cessation of dukkha, the original teachings of the Buddha are simply realistic.

Not being willing to acknowledge and understand suffering has caused the Buddha’s original teachings to be characterized by later-developed schools as primitive or rudimentary in order to justify the alterations, embellishments or complete dismissal of the Dhamma. Many exercises and rituals have become a part of Buddhist practice as a way of avoiding the issue of suffering. Of course this only prolongs confusion and suffering while developing the appearance of relief.

The Buddha taught that it was in developing understanding of the Four Noble Truths that anyone could gain liberation and freedom from suffering. Diminishing or disregarding the Four Noble Truths is diminishing or disregarding the only path for developing lasting peace and happiness found in the original teachings of the Buddha.

In the Samyutta Nikaya 56.11[1], Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Truth in Motion, The Buddha describes awakening very simply and directly:
• The noble truth of dukkha has been comprehended.
• The noble truth of the origination of dukkha has been abandoned.
• The noble truth of the cessation of dukkha has been experienced.
• The noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha has been developed.

Through whole-hearted practice of integrating the Eightfold Path the first noble truth of stress is comprehended. The Buddha is not referring to an intellectual understanding of the concept of stress in the phenomenal world. What the Buddha is referring to is a deep and profound dispassionate awareness of  truth of stress.

“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose WITHIN me with regards to things never heard or seen before: This is the noble truth of stress … This noble truth of stress is to be comprehend … This noble truth of stress is comprehended.”

Rather than being pessimistic or nihilistic the Buddha’s dhamma inclines the mind to joy by first developing the understanding of dukkha and then providing the means to abandon all causes of disappointment, disillusionment and confusion. True joy is achieved and maintained by understanding and abandoning the causes of unhappiness.

The Eightfold Path, the Fourth Noble Truth, the great jewel of the Dhamma, is the path the Buddha presented as the way to develop lasting peace and happiness. Once this is truly understood, enlightenment can begin to develop. Lightening up has taken hold.

John Haspel

fbartolom's picture

In fact it is a common tendency of aversion biased westeners to focus on the first two Noble Truths as they seem to confirm their catholic ingrained belief in guilt, either original, or imbed.
Notwitstanding the Buddha insist worldlings consider pleasant the unpleasant, and unpleasent the pleasent. What is the unpleasant fools consider pleasant? Condition depending on many conditions most of which unstable. Like a young body, power, property, partying. And what is the pleaseant the fools consider unpleasant? Peace, seclusion, moderation,blamelessnes, meditation.

There seems therafter not to exist objects in the intersections and any energy put in one direction is drained from the other. Surely is better to be happy fools and sad fools, but still fool one is.

jackelope65's picture

Thank you. The joy of Buddhism has allowed me to be happy despite multiple medical and surgical setbacks. In recovery I have enjoyed the lovingkindness and compassion of family and friends, the joy of watching my grandchildren play. I notice they have also learned lovingkindness and compassion. I have more time to deepen my practice. Suffering, in my case, has even brought me joy.

jackelope65's picture

It is always good to be reminded to be joyful. Enlightenment is nowhere to be found, seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled, felt, yet always present and not holding misery's hand. Thank you for the article and practice.

Bagdad's picture


Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
Up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
Here's the joyful face you've been waiting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small
Contracting and expanding,
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
As birdwings.

- Rumi

hmrosen's picture

I am GRATEFUL to TRICYCLE for all this great "stuff".

hmrosen's picture

A sigh of JOY.....a sigh of LOVE

bsalie's picture

Wonderful wonderful article! Thank you!
I have been blessed in life. While the Buddhist community in my area is small the Bhakti community is overflowing with welcoming and joyous people. By attending Yoga classes and Kirtan's with my Krishna devotee friends I have cultivated a wonderful practice and beautiful friendships. For me it's clear.

sschroll's picture

Bowing in Gratitude.

gribneal's picture

Beautiful language, Hipbone. Poetry, too, awakens a path to the heart. I've always loved the word "ululating." I took part in James Baraz's on-line course of Awakening Joy, and it has been a wonderful experience. Such gentleness and joy.

buddhajazz's picture

Lovely, Hipbone, so beautifully stating the wild blend of joy and grief often
too difficult to understand

hipbone's picture

**That grief is among the flavors of joy**

The palette of joy is wide and glorious,
each stepping back from the canvas granting insight,
each brush-stroke deftly placed,
space silence stillness
between each and other across time, place,
intimate, awesome –

and so the dance goes, unending,
ululating, sinuous…
touching, yet tangential,
the spume, merely, of a greater and deeper sea
in which we are drops:
a salt sea, spilt blood, tears.

Count grief, too, among the many flavors that dance
on the ever shifting face of joy…