Joy Without the Hangover

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The “trust in our fresh, unbiased nature brings us unlimited joy– happiness is completely devoid of clinging and craving. This is the joy of happiness without a hangover” (Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You, 2009).

To experience the unlimited joy of every moment, we trust the innate goodness of our open heart. Joy is no more an adrenaline rush than it is an attempt to keep a moment from passing, no hanging on or yearning allowed, only gratitude. It is a matter of equanimity in all matters in all moments.

In revisiting Buddhism through Pema Chödrön, I am reminded of just how basic joy is and just how difficult. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Nowhere is this more evident than in practicing the “four limitless qualities” of joy, equanimity, love, and compassion where ego never dares to tread.

In this past week, I knew moments of suffering in the Buddhist sense–any feeling or action outside the four limitless qualities–I also knew moments of happiness. In either, I did not want the hangover of holding onto the happiness or avoiding the suffering. I just wanted to be.

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Unexpected as the events were, I practiced staying and not straying from each moment, difficult as it was. Equanimity in any moment—trying to remain unbiased—allows us to receive what each moment offers. We look within ourselves to our open heart for our compassionate response.

In opening ourselves to our own worth, each of us finds our way “to the truth that we have always been warriors living in a sacred world” (Chödrön). Within our truth is “the ongoing experience of limitless joy” if we will just trust ourselves within that experience.

At the beginning joy is just a feeling that our own situation is workable. We stop looking for a more suitable place to be” (Chödrön). When we stop looking outside for what is inside us, we immerse ourselves in reality. No matter what is occurring, we are alive, and we rejoice in all that we have and all that we are for “it is easy to miss our own good fortune” (Chödrön).

The practice of unlimited joy is our life’s work in every moment we have. “Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts… Everything we see, hear, taste, and smell has the power to strengthen and uplift us” (Chödrön). All we have to do is show up and be amazed, moment by moment.

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As unique as each one of us is, we are all connected in our suffering and happiness of our everyday lives, our source of unlimited joy.  “In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others. If this is the only training we ever remember to do, it will benefit us tremendously and everyone else as well” (Chödrön).

Our connection with one another is the expression of our love for the unlimited joy inherent in life, in whatever way it is served to us. We keep life simple, as it is, and not simpler, making it something it is not.

This simple way of training with pleasure and pain allows us to use what we have, wherever we are, to connect with other people. It engenders on-the-spot bravery, which is what it will take to heal ourselves and our brothers and sisters on the planet” (Chödrön).

To face every moment with equanimity is not always possible but doing the best we can with what we have lessens any hangover and increases unlimited joy.

20 thoughts on “Joy Without the Hangover

  1. Wonderful as always, Karen and yet another reminder to just be or as the saying goes, keep it simple. Although that can often require much more attention than just allowing things to run wild. The Places That Scare You, was my introduction to the wonderful teachings of Pema Chödrön and a book that remains one of the treasures of my collection. The four limitless qualities is a teaching that I revisit often and the practice of equanimity, although challenging, can bring great joy indeed. Thanks for sharing another insightful lesson.
    Steph

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    1. Ah, thanks so much, Stephanie. For me, equanimity is the key that opens the door to the other three for it keeps me present and unattached. I am thoroughly enjoying the book, and as you say, it is a treasure to be mined again and again. Thank you for all the support you give my blog. It is so appreciated.
      Karen

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  2. Another wonderful post! IYour words inspire: “joy, equanimity, love, and compassion where ego never dares to tread” – this is the recipe for kindness. And such a straight-forward one, if only humanity would allow itself to follow the path. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Matthew. As you say, kindness is straightforward; all we have to do is show up without an agenda. Perhaps therein lies the rub. Always enjoy your responses, and you know how much I enjoy your blog.
      Karen

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    1. Yes, joy is so difficult for it seems as soon we recognize it, we anguish over how long it will stay but as you say, joy is. Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for stopping by. I really enjoy your blog.
      Karen

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  3. Hello, Karen. Your words take me on an inner journey to confront/accept my limitations and to celebrate each moment, not an easy path. But your images take me out of myself and into the world of nature, where I am amazed over and over again at the sheer beauty and scope of wonderous life!

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    1. Again, thanks so much for commenting from on the road, Beth. As you say, nature reminds us of the life we have been given, and it is wondrous! Be safe and thanks for the kind words.
      Karen

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing these concepts and your explanations of them with us, Karen. You help me in so many ways. I’m not sure if the intention of this post was to help others, but it certainly helped me. I love the simplicity of “show up and be amazed.” Thank you for reminding me that joy without a hangover is right at my fingertips/thoughttips. {{{hugs]}} Kozo

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    1. I really believe that remembering our connection with one another brings out the best in us for we all connect in suffering and happiness. That connection is our greatest strength; it brings out the warrior in us. Such kind words, Kozo; thank you so much. Peace, my dear friend. .
      Karen

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  5. Hi Karen! I really dig your post today! Serving others is such a privilege. When we put other first regardless of our present circumstances, it does give us purpose and joy. I love the way you put it, “Our connection with one another is the expression of our love for the unlimited joy inherent in life, in whatever way it is served to us. We keep life simple, as it is, and not simpler, making it something it is not.” I am all about lessoning the emotional hangover. Thank you for this post! 🙂

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    1. Hey back at ya, Karen! Always great to hear from you. I agree, celebrating our connection with one another reminds us of our purpose and joy. Thanks for your kind words.
      Karen

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