Does it bring you joy?

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With one of my literacy teachers (the tall one) and three of her students.

I recently realized that life in my 70s has a guiding question that could have come straight from Marie Kondo, the tidy-up guru, though I have never watched a single one of her TV shows or videos and my house still retains pockets of clutter.

In fact, I apply the question, “Does it bring you joy?”, more to my life as a whole than to my dwelling and possessions, though I make sporadic efforts to apply it there, too. I use it to tidy up my life, so to speak, to focus on the things I really want to do.

It has not been an easy question for me to answer. One reason that it guides me now is that my answers to it have evolved over the years and shown up in surprising ways that I would not have guessed in earlier times. Continue reading

Nevertheless, joy persisted

Pictures pop up from a year ago. People are sitting around a table at an open-air restaurant on a busy street in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They are waiting for pizza. It is my birthday, but no one knows that until I tell them. The picture is taken before I tell them, and they are looking subdued. As I recall, telling them about my birthday, reluctant as I had been to do so, livened things up and it became a party. Continue reading

Joy to the fishes

IMG_1492A few days ago I started writing something more about the word I have adopted for the year: “Joy.” I didn’t publish it because I wasn’t satisfied. It was too picky and subtle, not quite joyful. I was saying that big Joy is really rare and you have to learn to get along with the little joys, like daffodils for $2.50 a bunch in the supermarket when real spring is still waiting to come out from under the snow and mud.

But right about then I was hit by a big Joy. Continue reading

Mysticism: Small, Medium, Large

It is a bright winter day. I meditate with my eyes open because I like to see the sun slanting in the windows, outshining the fire in the woodstove. Both make me happy. I can’t help see that the sunshine reveals a layer of dust on everything. That, too, makes me happy because it is Saturday, and I will think of my mother as I move through the house at her deliberate pace, getting rid of the dust. From early childhood I always helped her with the Saturday cleaning ritual.

Sun, fire, housecleaning. These are part of my treasure trove of mystical experiences. It is why I call myself a practical mystic. Mystical experiences are never far away, always accessible. I just have to be open to them.

What is mysticism, anyhow? A direct experience of the Divine, that’s the simplest definition. My mystical secret is that not all mystical experiences are big, transcendent experiences of Oneness. They come in different sizes. Small, Medium, Large. Today it’s the God of small things that I’m experiencing. Continue reading