Day 2384 – Day 2420
I think we all can agree that this pandemic has been difficult for many people. At the macro level, we’ve seen worse times. World War II comes to mind. On a micro level, I can’t recall a time when things have been worse, as a whole, for myself and those closest to me. For me, personally, being ill 18 months ago and watching my organs fail put so much of my life in sharp contrast and I was able to see things very clearly. Morphine helped. I remember feeling a heightened sense of awareness of every sensation and wondering if I had suddenly become “woke” from my brush with death. To an extent, yes, that happened, but it was at a sort of spiritual level, not at the level of heightened sensation. For that, I must thank the morphine. It may be a very addictive drug, but I will give it credit. For those who are facing death, the sense of wellbeing it provides is priceless.
I could use some morphine right now.
But, this is not Ten Thousand Days of Bitching, as much as I sometimes would like to shift focus. I told my aunt that this has been a very difficult time – and it isn’t just a difficult time for me, but for a group of us who are bound together in a bit of misery right now. She texted me back and said that she hoped I would soon return to my happy and grateful self. Oh no, I said. I’m always grateful. Otherwise, that sense of gratefulness would just be a kind of greed over good times, not true gratitude. Happiness, on the other hand is something that is fleeting and is dependent on circumstances. There is a lot we can do to boost our happiness and much research has gone into the science of happiness – both at the macro level of society and at the micro level of the individual. But in February, I led my followers on YouTube in a focus on Joy. Having taken the time to contemplate Joy more deeply, I had a few insights about the difference between Joy and Happiness. I would love to be known for my happy self but I’d feel it was a true life-achievement if I were known for my Joyful self.
Joy, it seems to me, is a bit different from the feeling of happiness. Joy, as I defined it, is a feeling of peace, contentment, vitality and an enjoyment of life, on its own terms, independent of circumstances. Joy is at the centre of just about every major spiritual tradition, even if it is not apparent on the surface. Dig deeper and joy is at the heart of the work and rewards of a spiritual life. I’m so grateful that I’ve always had a strong spiritual call. It makes Joy accessible even in the darkest times.
When I first started this work on gratitude, I had a chat with Professor Lord Layard whose work on Happiness was ground breaking and he is one of the editors of the UN World Happiness Report. I remember vividly one piece of advice he gave me. He challenged me to consider how to encourage gratefulness in those who were not people of faith. To whom, he asked me, are they grateful?
And so, I made it a point to speak to the secular majority, and to always focus on how any person could practice gratitude and the many other practices that arose as I observed myself in that first year of gratitude. Over the years, of course, new practices emerged as being part and parcel of the practice of a life of gratefulness. (Purpose, Meaning, Mindfulness, Authenticity, Empathy, Love). Joy arose so quickly, as an additional practice to couple with gratitude – it was part of the original Facebook challenge that I set myself in those first 3 weeks. But it wasn’t until I sat down and really did a deep dive on Joy this past month that I realized that what I was offering at TTDOG was a spiritual path for the non-believers. Essentially, these practices are spiritual practices and engaging in these practices is spiritual discipline. At the heart of that, there must be faith – in something.
For those of us who have a faith in the Divine Quantum (and who I consider fortunate to have that), faith is easy to define. But for those willing to do the work of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, without a God concept, the repository of that faith is a little different but it is there. Perhaps it is a faith in the innate goodness of humankind. Perhaps we might replace the word faith with a more palatable word ‘belief’ and it becomes a belief in statistical evidence for the science of happiness or a belief in the neuroplasticity of the brain. Whatever it is, there is some belief, some faith, some hope, that leads someone to decide to embark on a course of practices to improve their well-being or the well-being of the society in which they live.
And so, in the midst of Joy, I found another crucial component of a walk of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude, and that is Faith. With a renewed focus on Oneness this past month, it is clear that faith is an underlying element to all these practices. Faith in something greater than ourselves enriches all of our practices whether that something is some God concept, science or one another.
What keeps me from falling into a pit of despair with the current situation and what keeps me joyful, able to remember Oneness, and committed to looking for the good and feeling grateful for all of this wonderous, fragile and fleeting life – is faith. Faith allows me to be joyful, even when I can’t be happy. And so, this year, we will be adding a new practice and a new focus on finding and strengthening our faith.