Tuesday, April 21, 2015


What is laughter? What is laughter?
It is God waking up! O it is God waking up!
It is the sun poking its sweet head out
From behind a cloud
You have been carrying too long,
Veiling your eyes and heart.

It is Light breaking ground for a great Structure
That is your Real body – called Truth.

It is happiness applauding itself and then taking flight
To embrace everyone and everything in this world.

Laughter is the polestar
Held in the sky by our Beloved,
Who eternally says,

“Yes, dear ones, come this way,
Come this way toward Me and Love!

Come with your tender mouths moving
And your beautiful tongues conducting songs
And with your movements – your magic movements
Of hands and feet and glands and cells – Dancing!

Know that to God’s Eye,
All movement is a Wondrous Language,
And Music – such exquisite, wild Music!”

O what is laughter, Hafiz?
What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?

It is the glorious sound

Of a soul waking up!

10 Steps to Greater Joy

In Awakening Joy (2012), Baraz and Alexander describe ten steps to happiness, based on ancient teachings and current research in psychology, science, and habit change. Their Awakening Joy program offers a compelling overview of resources and practices to create greater joy - and release those habits and perspectives that no longer serve us.  

Step One: Focus Our Mind on Joy
When we focus on achieving goals and gratifying our desires as pathways for joy, the satisfaction rarely lasts very long – and we may find ourselves on an endless quest for the next moment of pleasure or met objective. Because everything is in a state of continual change, no experience or object can provide endless happiness. Therefore, awakening joy is not about changing our lives but is instead about training our mind to “live in a way that allows us to be truly happy with our life as it is right now” (pp.6-7).    

Step Two: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a gentle observance of things as they are.  Mindfulness invites us to pause, notice our ever-changing thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, and bring curiosity to our interactions and experiences of living. When we cultivate mindfulness, we become present for our life. “When we are mindful, even the most ordinary experiences become wondrous” (p.35).

Step Three: Practice Gratitude
Positive Psychology and gratitude researchers have found that people who write down three to five things per day that they are happy about and grateful for are 25% happier than those who do not. 

Step Four: Find Joy in Difficult Times
Life is stressful, and many things happen outside of our control. When we are facing challenges, we do not want to pretend we are happy or deny our pain. We are happier when we allow ourselves to be mindfully present with our feelings as they arise, practice gentleness with ourselves, keep a wider perspective, and learn strategies to “stop the spin” of worry and fear.

Step Five: Act with Kindness and Integrity
When we are on autopilot, we may speak and act in ways we later regret. When we recognize that all actions have consequences – and choose to act and speak consciously with kindness and integrity, we can experience the “bliss of blamelessness” (p.121). Choosing to act with integrity also includes being true to ourselves and making choices that do not harm other or self.

Step Six: The Joy of Letting Go
This can include letting go of “stuff” we don’t need, beliefs we hold too tightly, our habit of being busy, our expectations of ourselves and others, stories that limit us, attachment to drama, and our need to be right. When we let go, we create space for generosity, creativity, and a greater sense of well-being.

Step Seven: Loving Ourselves
While we may easily identify a few things we like about ourselves, fully accepting and embracing ourselves as we are is often far more challenging. This practice may begin with forgiving ourselves and opening to the love and appreciation others have for us. It can also include taking good care of ourselves, practicing loving self-talk, and learning to treat ourselves with the kindness we would bestow upon a beloved child or pet.

Step Eight: Loving Others
Sharing a loving connection with others requires us to shift the focus off ourselves. Without a self-focused agenda, we can remain curious and open, allowing the person before us to be who they are and at ease in our presence. This step also includes forgiveness. When we open our hearts and practice lovingkindness for all beings, we move towards greater joy.

Step Nine: Compassion
“At its core, compassion is a recognition that we are all interconnected, that your suffering is my suffering, that when I see you in pain, my heart trembles” (p.240). Keeping our hearts open to the suffering of others takes courage, patience, and practice. Mindfulness practices can greatly support us in staying present with compassion, without shutting down, running away, or becoming overwhelmed.

Step Ten: The Joy of Simply Being
As we learn to deeply relax our body and mind, our natural capacity for well-being and happiness emerges. The experience of being may be described as resting in this moment, spacious, calm, restful, aware, and light. There are many pathways to sink into this relaxed, effortless presence. Some include connecting with nature and listening to the voice inside.