Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gladdening The Heart

This picture doesn't do it justice but this is a wonderful painting by Vancouver Island artist, Coco Jones shown here in her book, "Surviving Great Expectations". This stunning painting was sold last year and all proceeds went to the Tibetan earthquake cause. I have always loved her art because it appears spontaneous and carefree, full of humour and colour and a passion for life. As an artist I know that sometimes the appearance of spontaneity comes with great effort and care (and sometimes not). In reading Coco's book I am reminded that to experience the joy in life we have to be willing to move through our pain and suffering. There is no other way. We can't hide from it or pretend it doesn't exist. I can give first hand evidence that humming loudly or hiding around a corner only works for a very short time when dealing with the personal potholes of life.

What I am thinking about today is "Gladdening The Heart" and Coco's work does gladden my heart. Don't you love that string of words, gladdening the heart? Today when I read the post over at Oxherding called "Just Say No", again the idea of gladdening the heart came to mind. I have heard it a number of times in the Dharma talks, at the Vipassana group where I sit and last week I listened to several recorded Dharma talks here and was reminded how important this principle is to me. The basic premise is that life can get grim if we don't sometimes take action to "gladden the heart" to uplift ourselves, to count our blessings, to see how full our glass really is, to remind ourselves of our strengths (in a non ego centred kind of way).

Now I have been told that gratitude and a glad heart will arise out of practice and sometimes even for curmudgeons like me this is true but I find I need a little help. Otherwise the way can become a bit heavy slogging for me (get out the gumboots). I need to see my defilements and where I wallow in the hindrances. I need to be aware of my personal neurosis (my Jewish mother used to say: "we all have our own mishigas", which means craziness). But I feel ever so much lighter when I do a little metta practice or gratitude practice. Even though I know this self is not solid and fixed I need to remind myself that this swiss-cheese like self has strengths that are valuable. This gladdening of the heart offers me the steadiness and courage I need to make wholesome choices, especially when the going gets tough. If I am feeling dour or down, my choices tend to be less helpful.

So I invite you to gladden your heart, to say something nice to yourself and those around you, to think something uplifting, even if it's only, gosh isn't it nice today, I don't have a toothache. How will you gladden your heart?


  1. I'll think about the heart tree :)

  2. Thanks for asking! You reminded me that I saved a tiny bug from drowning today. As I watched it crawl away, my heart was hugely gladdened. I'm thinking that with this bodhisattva stuff, size doesn't matter. Hmm - think I feel a blog coming on....

  3. One of my sons visited me yesterday. He has had a rough life that seems to be getting worse in this economy. He is so unhappy and depressed that it worries me. "Gladdening the heart" is not always easy when those you love are so unhappy. One has to look for and hang on to any little moment of gladness in these challenging times.Thanks for reminding me.

  4. we all need reminders. thanks. i just read this morning a note I wrote from somewhere: reach for the thoughts that make you feel better. it is a choice which thoughts we dwell on even though sometimes we forget that this is so.

  5. MeANderi - hearts to you!

    David - nice! warms the heart sometimes these small acts which require our attention and quietness to find.

    Eva - It can be difficult and our heart goes out. Finding a way to offer even something tiny to gladden his heart and your own. When I see your art I think it must gladden your heart??

    Suki - It is about choice, and yet sometimes we can get so bogged down we actually forget that we have a choice. My old Zen teacher used to say: "you have more options than you think"

  6. Very Glad. Read the inspirational reflections with ecstasy. And awakening, true to zen Profile.

  7. Wow, Carole! Indeed we must have been psychically aligned when we each wrote our respective posts on gladness, and the hindrances . . . at the same time almost :)

    It gladdens my heart . . .

  8. I had a wonderful bike ride on the waterfront trail in Toronto with my husband, then picnicked in the park. We were all smiles, and everything else just seemed to melt away. So many people - young and old, families, single, pets - so much happiness and "gladness" to go around.

    Sometimes, a little bit of sunshine is all we need.

  9. This is just what I needed to read today - it gladdens the heart indeed :) thank you.