GNL number 17


A report of doings at meeting #17, Sunday, December 14, 2008
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


While pursuing happiness, we escape from contentment.
—-Hasidic saying

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.


Sue opened this holiday-season conversation on Happiness Available Now by rereading the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh that gave us the theme.
She then described her morning prayer ritual with traditional form and her own variations, something that has the power to tilt her day toward happy.
She said she tends to be of an upbeat disposition herself, and recalled the example of “Aunt Shirley”, who was happy no matter what, and would notice with pleasure all kinds of small wonders that she and Jay and most people missed. She also reminded us what a happy-maker food is, or can be if we take the time. For her quotes and further thoughts on the theme, see AFTERWORDS, below.

Anna remarked on something we’d all been gaping at in awe, the beauty of the post-icestorm magic show. She spoke too of another pleasure, perhaps necessity—of human contact and friendship, which she felt especially in these gatherings. And she remembered that she’d thought for many years of Jack as her model of peace, openness, and joy, in other words model of happiness as well. She also brought a show-and-tell that had made her happy, and us too: the current issue of the SUN magazine, wearing on its cover her charming Two Santas photo.

Ann made us happy with a report she read on research that shows that happiness is contagious, spread “like a virus through social networks”.
(See details in Afterwords.) She also read a wide-ranging list of her personal happiness-bringers—from funny stuff and beauty in nature witnessed to the sense of community and nice little surprises in the day. She brought another quote from the Jack Kornfield book and several great 6-wordies:

1, 20, 09, yes! oh joy!
Pass it on if it pleases.
Actually, life is mostly Plan B. )

See AW for the rest.

Adair said she’d found happiness was related to one’s sense of dignity. She told us about a program where prison inmates learn to be trainers of therapy dogs, a project that is making happiness for all involved. And she reported about a research project that had shown that the color most people felt happiest living with, was surprise, pink! Adair also referred to the breathing meditation Jack had described in earlier meetings (and Dr. Andrew Weil’s saying the one health measure he’d advise everyone to take is learning better breathing). This led to a sub-theme discussion on the different kinds of meditative breathing, including the Buddhist practice of tonglen, where one inhales the sense of suffering and exhales the aspiration for healing. (Sue and Nancy have CDs about this to loan.)

Jack spoke again of his breathing meditation that begins Breathe in Christ, breathe out joy, e.g., and quoted the Proverbs 15 description of the person with the “merry heart” which he gratefully acknowledged also describes himself. He then referred to a recent unexpected phone call from an estranged family member, and the deep pleasure of this conversation that returned them to a loving relationship. Jack also spoke glowingly of his tender caregivers, one example of whose care is his daily head-to-toe washing—and his feeling he’s surely like a king in heaven.

Cynthia was just recovering from a long URI and said the illness process had left her with the pleasure of a new appreciation of healing—a sense of the negative, struggling strands pulling together into response and eventual breakthrough, and gratitude. In addition, being stuck indoors had prompted not only a lot of cleaning, organizing, sorting and reducing of stuff that made her very happy, but a lot of discoveries in the process (including a jaunty little drawing she called the Skippy spirit).

Gail described herself as someone who’s a constitutionally happy person, rain or shine, the child of her optimist mother and realist father. She spoke of her and Virginia’s getting-up routine in the morning, and her own conscious “steering” the getting-up with songs, games, playfulness, which Virginia then picks up leading, and the morning has begun happily. She cited her need and pleasure of doing new things, especially after the gap left by the sale of the store, e.g., she and Nancy will be auditing the Iroquois History class at SUNY next term. Gail had also checked the word happiness in Wikipedia, found it rich, and urged us to do that too.

Nancy said the world was full of things that make her happy, especially outdoors, where nature and seasons keep making gifts of beauty to drink in. That word beauty was key for her, and her own luck in tools to witness it, in not only nature, but music and people doing kind, funny, brave, loving, playful things. Something else that she said often appears with her delights is the element of surprise—some unexpected little encounter that brings you back home, to your faith in life. And not only taking the leap of doing new things, but the slowing-down step of doing anything mindfully. And, of course, playing, being silly, laughing. In illustration she read an excerpt from Swami Beyondananda’s biography. (More on the Swami in AW, below, including link to SB’s website, highly recommended for happiness.)


May it be delightful my house,
from my head may it be delightful,
to my feet may it be delightful,
where i lie may it be delightful,

all above me may it be delightful,
all around me may it be delightful.
—-Navajo chant

NEXT TIME: Sunday, January 11, 2009 (1030) at Jack’s place again, and for the winter, as long as he can tolerate us! The topic, fitting for the New Year, is WHAT REALLY MATTERS (which surely includes food for lunch).

And inbetween, more future theme ideas for your cogitating pleasure: Boxes, Buttons, Creativity, Teachers/Lessons, God, Art, Something Hard You Made Yourself Do, More Than One Right Way, and…?

Plus Ann’s reminder that it’s fun to check back through the old CoSnewsreports at the blogsite.


  • from Sue:

    • “Every happiness is the child of a separation
      It did not think it could survive.”
      ~Rainer Marie Rilke, “Song of Orpheus,” Part II #XII, In Praise of Mortality, edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
    • Also a definition of Nagual and Tonal (Don Juan’s teachings by Carlos Castaneda):

      Nagual (pronounced nah-wa’hl) is a term used in the books by Carlos Castaneda to describe a person who is able to lead people to new areas of consciousness. Carlos Castaneda’s guide, Don Juan Matus, often referred to himself as the Nagual for his “party of warriors”. Nagual is considered by Castaneda’s followers to be related to Eastern concepts of Tao, meditation, or infinity. In Casteneda’s books, one reference to the meaning of nagual is: “… Turn everything into what it really is: the abstract, the spirit, the nagual…..The Nagual is considered an alternate “unknown” side or dimension of reality, as opposed to the Tonal, which can be considered the everyday “known” dimension of reality. It has also been said that the Nagual is all that is, and that it condenses to form what is called the Tonal.

    • Since we met on Sunday, my mind keeps thinking about the conditions for happiness. I’ve always had a need to hear/read the stories of people who have had absolutely horrible things happen to them and still found a way to be at peace and know joy and happiness. I think it’s partly because I can then think, if those people can manage it, then I certainly can in my very lucky life. I do firmly believe that it is (should be?) possible for me, no matter what the circumstance to have at least moments of happiness every single day. So I study those stories and the people in them to try to learn how they manage it, to learn what I need to do when I get overwhelmed by my own miseries.
    • Another afterthought–here’s a passage from an article by Diane Strausser, a Buddhist practitioner, writer, therapist & speaker. She’s repeating stuff Thich Nhat Hanh has said about smiling:

      “One of the best ways to relax is to smile. when we smile, it is impossible to be upset. When we smile, our throat relaxes, our cheeks rise and our eyes lift. The muscles of our face send message to the nerves at the base of our skull. Those nerves send relaxation messages to our brain. Our brain is happy because the signal is sent that communicates, “all is well” to the “fight-or-flight” centers. Oxytocin is released in our brain because we are wearing a smile. Oxytocin is the chemical released when a parent cuddles an infant or when lovers hold each other. Oxytocin is the medicine that Nature gave us to help create compassion and love. Your smile is a miracle. Your smile has no negative side effects. Your smile is absolutely free. Your smile is a sacred gift to yourself and to others because that one little gesture helps you to make space for the presence of joy.”

      To help this all sink, watch this 5 minute video. As an after afterthought: check out this site if you want to laugh.

  • from Ann:

    • What conditions do you need to be truly happy?
    • What does truly mean?
    • How do we know if it is true happiness, what is happiness? A sense of joy, bliss (dictionary definition), satisfaction, calm, contentment, humor, LOL, love, serenity, combination of colors, sound of waves on the rocks or beach sand, kids giggling, dog/cat antics, great shot in volleyballl, a grand slam, a full freezer, plenty of firewood ffor the winter, sese of community with the group you’re in, COS, Katherine getting her book finished to her satisfaction, fall leaves, spring rain, driven snow, snow cornices, fences in rural NY, the car being repaired for less than the estimate, giving a hand whether asked for or not, a favorite movie with no interruptions, wild birds at the feeder, etc., does happiness end? What would make me happy? What would let me be happy?
    • Sadness, chaos, stress, disappointment, loss, deflation of expectations, cancer, death, the flu, war, pain, lies—-yikes! All these and more badnesses, poke holes in the fabric of happiness.
    • Conditions for happiness? Security, stability, trust, fresh air, all 5 senses in good working order—but how do i know that, if I were missing a sense or 2 whether i would not be truly happy even so? The ability to recognize happiness or what makes me happy, is it just around the corner or staring me in the face–I’ll never quite get there, always waiting for it, to be unable to see/feel it. Favorite things? (“raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens…”)
    • What would make/let me be happy right now is knowing what would make/let me be happy so the issue isn’t another fret-maker, don’t need more of those.
    • “If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?”
      —Maha Ghosananda, from Jack Kornfield’s The Art of Forgiveness
    • 6-wordies:
      Happy today, at least for now.
      What’s that light? Oh, the sun!
      It’s from my folks, the laughter.
      Wish i could paint…oh well.
      TGIF, happy, happy.
      Dancing while driving, thanks, cruise control.
      Don’t like me, pass me by. (Credit Peggy Lee’s song, Don’t Happen to Like Me, Pass Me By)
    • …and from an internet report:

      The LATimes fronts, and everyone covers, news that happiness is contagious. A new study found that happiness spreads like a virus through social networks. If you know someone who is happy, that makes you 15.3 % more likely to be happy. But in order for it to spread effectively the happy people have to be physically close. If your neighbor is happy, that makes you 34% more likely to be happy, but other neighbors on the same block have no similar effect. Even better is to have a happy friend living less tha half a mile away, which gives you a 42% bounce. Surprisingly, having a happy spouse only provides an 8% boost, and happy co-workers provide no boost at all. One of the co-authors of the study tells the NYTimes that the made him think twice about his mood knowing that it would affect others. But there are limits. “We are not giving you the advice to start smiling at everyone you meet in New York,” he said. “That would be dangerous.”

  • from Cynthia:

    This article appeared in YES! magazine (which has just put out its whole winter issue on Sustainable Happiness): 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy.

  • from Nancy:

    • Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps this abiliity to see beauty never grows old.
      —-Franz Kafka
    • From Thich Nhat Hanh, in Peace is Every Step: At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem —

      I have lost my smile,
      But don’t worry.
      The dandelion has it.

      If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that a dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. You only need to breathe consciously 1 or 2 times and you will recover your smile. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping your smile for you. In fact, everything around you is keeping your smile for you. You don’t need to feel isolated. You only have to open yourself to the support that is all around you, and in you.

    • A bird sings like a flute
      in a hidden grove of willows.
      The golden-threaded trees.
      sway gracefully.
      The mountain valley hushes
      as the clouds return.
      A breeze carries the fragrance
      of apricot flowers.
      Here I have sat the whole day,
      enveloped by peace,
      until my mind is cleansed inside and out.
      Free of cares and idle thoughts,
      I wish to tell you how I feel,
      yet, words are lacking.
      If you come to this grove,
      we can then compare our notes.
    • From The Sword in the Stone, by T.H. White (Merlyn the magician, to Wart, the young and future King Arthur):

      “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you….”

    • And from another sage: (Fortunately we have Swami Beyondananda to help us maintain our jestive health in a world that has become less and less funny. As the Swami says, “Indeed, the world is in a grave state—and the best way to overcome gravity is with levity.” Following are excerpts from Swami Beyondananda’s Guidelines to Enlightenment—Drive your Karma, Curb your Dogma.)
      • —-Life is like photography. You use the negative to develop.
      • —-It is true. As we go through life thinking heavy thoughts, thought particles tend to caught between the ears, causing a condition called “truth decay”. So be sure to use mental floss twice a day. (And when you’re tempted to practice “tantrum yoga”, remember what we teach in the Swami’s Absurdiveness Training Class: don’t get even, get odd.)
      • —-If we want world peace, we must let go of our attachments and truly live like nomads. That’s where I no mad at you, you no mad at me. That way, there will surely be nomadness on the planet. And peace begins with each of us. A little peace here, a little peace there, and pretty soon all the peaces will fit together too make one big peace everywhere.
      • —-If you’re looking to find the key to the Universe, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, there is no key to the Universe. The good news is, it has been left unlocked.
    • Check the Swami’s website
  • from Judy Scott:

    is not the fulfillment
    of what you want,
    but the realization
    of how much you already have.


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