Sharing Joy

Sharing Joy

The other day, I came across a band called Buena Onda Social Groove performing a concert in a local plaza.  I really liked their music and was particularly struck by their version of a song popular Colombian song called El Pescador (The Fisherman).  The song dates back to the 60s and is well known throughout Colombia.  Listening to them perform this song put a feeling of joy in my heart.

Here’s the thing about joy…we really ought to share our joy with other people.  We tend to be really good about sharing negative events in our lives with other people.  But I would suggest that we tend to guard positive events a bit closer to our hearts.  Perhaps we’re afraid that others won’t share our joy, our passion.  Perhaps we’re afraid of being rejected, ridiculed.

I don’t think kids have that problem.  It seems that kids are much better at sharing their joys with other people.  But something changes as we “grow up”.

Sharing joy ought to be natural.  It’s something we all ought to do.  Most things that put joy in our hearts are beautiful, wonderful things.  They deserve to be shared.  They lighten your load in life and they can lighten the load of other people in your life as well.

So in that spirit I’m sharing El Pescador with all of you.  The version I heard the other day by Buena Onda Social Groove isn’t available online.  So I’m sharing a version by a Colombian singer named Toto La Momposina.  She has an amazing voice that puts chills down my spine. The song also features some great saxophone and drumming.

If you enjoy the song, then share it with someone else.  Keep the joy moving.  If you don’t, then sit down and listen to a song that you know you enjoy.  And then share that song with someone else.  And if you don’t have anyone to share it with, share it with me!


Bad luck? Good luck? Who Knows?

Bad luck? Good luck? Who Knows?

I wanted to elaborate a bit on my last post, the one on looking for the bigger perspective.  I want to start by sharing an old Chinese fable.  The story goes like this.

There was an old farmer who had a horse for tilling his fields.  One day, the horse ran away.  The people from the nearby village sympathized with the farmer over his bad luck.  The farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later the horse returned, bringing a group of magnificent wild horses with it. This time the villagers congratulated the farmer on his good luck.  The farmer once again replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Later, the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses.  He fell off and broke his leg.  The villagers responded by saying the farmer had bad luck. But the farmer replied “Bad luck? Good luck?  Who knows?”

A few weeks later, the army arrived to the village.  Every able-bodied young man was forced to join the army.  But because the farmer’s son had a broken leg, the army left him alone.  The villagers once again complimented the farmer on his good luck.  And once again the farmer responded “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

I think the point of the story is pretty straightforward.  We tend to label events in our lives as good or bad.  But who really knows whether something is “good” or “bad”?  Unless we can see the entire chain of events in our lives, we don’t really know if something is good or bad for us.  Something that may appear to be bad may have future positive consequences.  And something that appears to be good may have future negative consequences.

We also tend to only focus on how events effect us personally.  We might perhaps expand to how those events effect those who are close to us.  But most events have much wider consequences.  So even if we can prove that a particular event is bad for us personally, that same event may have positive consequences when you look at how it affects other people, the community or the world at large.  As the Chinese farmer said “Who knows?”

Rather than labeling events as good or bad, I would suggest that we just accept that there are lots of things that happen that are outside of our control.  If something happens that we don’t like, it’s perfectly reasonable to work to change it.  But do so lightly, understanding that none of are omniscient.  And none of us can see the long-terms consequences of our actions or the actions of other people.

The bigger perspective

The bigger perspective

A few weeks ago, I received unexpected and negative news. As some of you know, I haven’t been working regularly for a few years, mostly by choice. Instead, I’ve been living off of my savings which naturally are slowly becoming depleted.

So I was quite happy when several months ago I was selected to be part of a contract with the US government. The project wasn’t a large one or nor was it long-term. But it promised to replenish my savings for 6-12 more months of living.

After working on the project for a few months, we hit an unexpected snag. It’s not worth going into all the details but we filed a dispute with the government. I expected things to be resolved within a few weeks. Instead, the dispute dragged and dragged and dragged. And then came the unexpected news…the government decided to cancel the contract and do the work in-house.

Finding out that your main source of income, however temporary, has suddenly been cut off is news that no one wants to receive. Needless to say, I went through a series of negative emotions – anger, frustration, grief, etc.

And yet, the initial perspective from which which we view a situation often isn’t the most helpful perspective.  If we take a moment to reflect, we can often find other perspectives from which to view a situation.

For example, in my particular case, I had already earned about half the  money from the contract.  Relative to never having been part of the contract, I was clearly better off. Secondly, I wasn’t really enthused about the work itself.  I primarily accepted being part of the contract because I wanted the money.  There was a part of me that was actually relieved that the contract was cancelled.  Finally, as some of you know, I’m in the process of transitioning to be a life and career coach.  Not working on the contract frees up more time and mental energy to get my business up and running.

Here’s the thing. We want to have control over our lives.  And yet the truth is that we have very little.  Take a look at the photo of the universe that accompanies this post.  Tell me again how much control you have over your life?

One thing we do have control over is how we view a situation.  We always have control over that.  And there are always multiple ways to view a situation.  Always.

So here’s my advice for today.  If something happens that you view as a “negative” event, try to find a different perspective, a bigger perspective from which to view the situation.  If you try hard enough, you will find at least one and probably more than one.  And once you do, focus on that bigger perspective and let go of the negative one.  The negative perspective will never lead you to happiness. The bigger perspective, on the other hand, will open you up to a universe of possibilities.

The Limits of Compassion

The Limits of Compassion

You may remember that my very first post was entitled I Teach What I Need to Learn. Earlier this week, I received a very harsh reminder of that, and of how much I still need to learn.

A friend of mine posted a photo on facebook.  It was a photo of a giraffe, a dead giraffe. Sitting on top of the giraffe was a woman, smiling, holding the rifle she had used to kill this beautiful, defenseless animal.  What struck me the most is that she seemed proud of what she had done.

It turns out she’s not alone.  Apparently, there are tour companies that take rich people to Africa where they can go on a “safari” to kill animals – giraffes, lions, rhinos, leopards, etc. These aren’t real safaris however.  These animals are being raised simply to be killed later on by someone with the financial means to do so.

So now it’s time for some honesty.  You may remember another post of mine where I talked about the importance of being compassionate towards everyone. Here’s the thing…I don’t want to feel compassion towards the woman who killed the giraffe.  Or anyone like her.

Instead what I feel is anger, hatred.  And I find myself wanting to feel those things. I want to think of these people as not really being human beings.  I can’t begin to relate to someone who chooses to do something like this, to someone who can enjoy killing a defenseless animal. And feel proud of themselves afterwards.

And yet I know it’s possible.  I’m reminded of the following story, a story that is true as far as I know.  A Tibetan Buddhist monk (Lopan-la) was captured and imprisoned by the Chinese.  He spent 18 years in prison during which he was tortured and forced to denounce his religion.  He was finally released and reunited with the Dalai Lama.  The Dalai Lama asked him if there was anything he was afraid of during his imprisonment.  Lopan-la responded: “Yes, I was afraid I may lose compassion for the Chinese”.

That’s deep compassion.  Of course, there are also the words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”.

I’m not Jesus, I’m not a Buddhist monk.  I still have limits to my compassion.

And yet, I also know this.  You’ll never change another person through hatred and anger. Never.  The only way to change another person’s heart, to change their mind is through a combination of compassion, education, and patience.  There’s no guarantee those things will work.  But there is a guarantee that hatred and anger will fail.

For now, I continue to feel hatred and anger towards the woman in the photo. (I’m not even willing to post the photo here because I don’t want to look at it again.) Meanwhile, I continue to work on myself and continue to teach what I need to learn.