Joy Is Not An Afterthought

An idea that was presented this weekend at my meditation
retreat is that Joy is just like any other form of sustenance. As we need food
to maintain our body, we need Joy to maintain our soul.
Joy isn’t a bi-product, a dessert, a reward; it is (or can
be) the mode from which we live first. Like breakfast as the most important
meal of the day, so can Joy be as important.
A friend recently wrote to me that most people don’t get to
see the kind of love that people have for them, the kind of support and
outpouring that I’ve had during this time of illness. Someone else told me
yesterday, after visiting through a few hours of revolving door visitors that I
am “pop-U-lar!”
I began to say to him that I simply have good people in my life,
that they’re just doing their jobs as good people, good, service-oriented folk.
But, I stopped myself.
It is true. Not everyone has this kind of support, the kind
of support that I’ve gotten from the beginning of this ordeal, and I have to
take a step back and acknowledge that this is for me. That it isn’t everyone
receiving this (although, they could, potentially), but that perhaps I have a
role in what I am being given and am receiving.
I say all this in processing one of the meditations we did this
weekend. I’ve talked about this one here before; it’s called The Jewel Tree of
Tibet meditation, and the guided meditation basically leads you to a tree where
all the folks and teachers and ancestors and wise people sit in a tree and
focus all their love and light and support toward you, filling you up with
their joy that you exist, that you are here.
I’ve had trouble with this meditation before.
There is a point after this infusion of light from those
folks during which we turn and recognize all these other folks around us, from
friends, to strangers, to people we have difficult relationships with, and we
become a channel from the light on the tree outward and into these folks.
Before, in the past, I’ve completely rejected the light that
comes toward me. F’ you, take your light elsewhere, I don’t trust it, don’t know
what to do with it, you can have it.
But, I will certainly
turn around and help to feed those behind me from my limited, finite bucket of
power and love, etc.
Sure, I have
no problem giving to you, but you cannot give to me.
So, this weekend, I told the facilitator that I had problems
with this meditation, and she invited me to just push into the discomfort, but
not to push too hard, like holding a yoga pose far enough to stretch, but not
so far as to pull something.
So, okay. Fine. I’ll try. And I did. I let all that muck
that I seen as love and support come toward me. I sat in its path and light as
someone being force-fed pureed vegetables. Yech, but okay, fine. It was emotional. It
was too much. I still don’t know what to do with it. I’m overwhelmed by it, how much love there is.
But. I sat with it, And now I have to turn around and give
it to someone else? What if there isn’t enough? I’m just getting used to
holding it, and you want me to give it away? I don’t think I can do that.
After the meditation, I shared about my experience, and the
facilitator asked me which she felt was the most wise place for me to focus
right now – on the receiving, or on the giving. I said the receiving (and then
questioned if that was the “right” thing to say!). But I think it is, for me, for right now. I have
the most awful time in recognizing the things that are coming to me.
I was reflecting this morning about how singularly focused I
have been in my life about making things happen my way, or how I think they
should be. Focused so much on work-a-day, paycheck-to-paycheck, that I have had
ZERO room for abundance, for joy, for relaxation.
I have been absolutely, without a doubt, plucked from my
normal life. I have been allowed for the first time to let the blinders fall
away, and what I see is glorious and new. New, as a little frightening, and
yet, new as plain and simple WOW.
Wow, someone brought me a fuzzy blanket on my first day in the
Wow, my landlord is waiving my rent while I get better.
Wow, someone gifted me a flight to Hawaii.
Wow, a friend brought me healthy food to eat.
Wow, a friend is paying my cell phone bill while I’m not
Wow, someone connected me with a professional possibility.
Wow, someone is lending me a real piano keyboard.
Wow, all the outpouring of cards, gifts, love, support.
Where has all of this been??
It’s been right here. ALL A-FUCKING-LONG.
It’s all been here, all along. But I have been so centered
on what I think, on what I need to do, on doing it by myself, that I’ve missed the whole thing.
Does one have to have cancer to recognize all this support
that may have been present the whole time? I hope not – otherwise things’ll get
pretty back-to-the-old when this is all over.
Can I hold the space for the possibility that all this was
available all along, and that means that it will be available going forward? It
may not look the same way; my needs with be different, but it will be there, if
I let it.
Allowing help, allowing love, allowing the reception of the
goodness of the universe was as alien to my family growing up as escargot is to
… a community that doesn’t eat escargot.
I learned that vulnerability was hidden away, or masked by
rage. I learned that you had to figure things out on your own, no one was
available to help, and there was no one to ask. There weren’t things coming
toward you that were good; you worked and made it happen, and if it didn’t
happen, tough shit. That’s life, you be happy with what you wrench out of the
Many of us are modeled this way of living and thinking in
the world. A way which tells us we are separate, and must exist by what we make
I am learning how far off base that lesson was. (Not to
criticize, just to acknowledge.) I am acknowledging and learning something much, much different lately.
Help is always
available. Beyond the bounds of what I think is possible.
I would never have imagined the love that people are
offering me. I would never have let myself be vulnerable enough to see or need
Cancer, as teacher. Cancer, as humbler. Cancer, as changing
my fucking life. 

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