“The Most Contagious Activism is Linked to Celebration and Joy”–Alice Walker
“My activism – cultural, political, spiritual – is rooted in my love of nature and my delight in human beings. It is when people are at peace, content, full, that they are most likely to […] be a generous, joyous, even entertaining experience for me. I believe that people exist to be enjoyed, much as a restful or engaging view might be. As the ocean or drifting clouds might be. Or as if they were the human equivalent of melons, mangoes, or any other kind of attractive, seductive fruit. When I am in the presence of other human beings I want to revel in their creative and intellectual fullness, their uninhibited social warmth. I want their precious human radiance to wrap me in light. I do not want fear of war or starvation or bodily mutilation to steal both my pleasure in them and their own birthright. Everything I would like other people to be for me, I want to be for them.”
That’s Alice Walker writing in her book Anything We Love Can Be Saved. I can think of no better description for the emotion of ‘sympathetic joy‘–one of the four boundless emotions cultivated in Buddhism. Howard Zinn, commenting on Walker’s book in 2006, wrote that Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks all “represent activism at its most contagious, because it is linked to celebration and joy.” (Original Zinn, p. 103)
The Buddha’s favourite word for meditation was ‘cultivation’ (bhavana, in Pali); wouldn’t it be great to spend more time cultivating sympathetic joy, and the other boundless emotions together? The week after next is Valentine’s Day, a time usually focused on our ‘bounded’ specific love–not a bad thing in and of itself–but why not try something new? Next week is also Losar, Tibetan New Year (Feb.11), a time for new beginnings, so what better time for a…
RETREAT AT THE MORIN HEIGHTS DHARMA HOUSE Feb. 10-Feb. 15.
I’ll be leading a retreat at the Morin Heights Dharma House on the Boundless Emotions, aka the Four Immeasurables–friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity (the Brahmaviharas) from noon Sunday Feb. 10, till the morning of Fri. Feb. 15.
All are welcome.
There is limited accommodation at the Dharma House (for a nominal fee $20/pers/night), and other accomodation like B+Bs close nearby. There is also a nice sauna+spa down the street. The retreat is open to newcomers and veterans; it will be offered in ‘social silence’ (that is: silent without being oppressively so).
Food should either be brought or prepared on site with the possibility of shared pot-luck style meals. Marche Vaillencourt, a lovely grocery store is a 1/2 block walk down the street.
Please contact Jane if you are planning to attend or if you have any questions:
Jane Marenghi (450) 226-6453
If you want to join us, it would be ideal if you can come at the beginning rather than part way through so as to get the benefit of easing into the experience with the group. However, if that is not possible, do not hesitate to come at the time that works in your schedule but be aware that social silence might then be well in progress and will need to be respected.
Classes in the Theravada (Burmese) and Tibetan Buddhist tradition will be offered by Derek. The Teaching is free.
Donations (dana) will be accepted according to tradition.
PS. here’s a lovely post by Susan Kaiser Greenland describing Paul Simon’s look of sympathetic joy during a Toronto concert when he spontaneously invited a shocked audience member on stage to play and sing a song.