CHOOSING JOY


It's hot. It's dry. It's dusty. It's March.

Even heat tolerant cows imported from India prefer to crowd under the one green tree in the pasture rather than nose around in dry brown stubble imagining they might find something good to eat.

I came to Guanacaste, the province where we live, for the first time in the dry season. My initial reaction to seeing the countryside was to feel a little gypped. I had imagined rushing waterfalls and sparkling blue morpho butterflies and and lush tropical green everywhere, and instead everything I saw was brown and blanketed with dust. I'm always a little sad that most people come here when it's so hot and dry because it's so much prettier in the rainy season. At least when it's cold up north, visitors can count on non-stop sunny beach days, and it's much easier to spot animals without all those leaves in the way.

In New England, March is the time when thoughts turn to spring and warmer weather. Here in March, everyone is pining for rain and cooler weather. It hasn't rained more than a few drops at our house since the beginning of December. The earth is so dry and parched it roils into a mini dust storm at the slightest provocation. A vehicle bumping down the road can conjure up images of the dust bowl of the 30s in America.

Well, okay, it's not as bad as the dust bowl, but in March it feels as though we have more than our share of dust, much of which settles onto our feet and our dashboards.

On our way to walk on the beach this morning we found the people in Javilla spreading molasses on the road. When it dries, it forms a hard crust that will help to keep the dust down for the next few weeks. Javilla smells like cookies this morning!

We're not due for any real rain for another month and a half or so. When it does start raining, we'll go from dust to mud in no time. Nothing is perfect, but everything is perfect. Looking at this situation from a human's point of view, we could complain that it's too hot and dusty and brown in the dry season and too rainy and humid and moldy in the wet season. Or, we could look at it from a cosmic point of view and see the perfection in it. At the end of the dry season raindrops feel like the greatest gifts life has to offer. Then, by the time our belongings have all grown fur from the dampness, the rain stops rather abruptly, and hot sunny days feel like vacation time.

In order to not drive ourselves crazy being humans, it's best to keep our focus on joy. The more we look for it, the better we get at finding it. Yesterday when I was out for a walk I noticed this tiny purple flower peeking out from all the dead stuff on the side of the road. A flower and a bud from a carao tree had fallen next to it, creating a tiny still life of inspiration on the parched landscape.

Up north, the flowering trees of spring bust out in bloom at a time when they are most appreciated. The same is true in Guanacaste. Assorted pink and yellow trees start to pop out of bleak brown hillsides weeks before the rain comes, to remind us that beauty has many faces. The drab monotony of the landscape at the close of the dry season glorifies each blossoming tree so we can fully appreciate its magnificence. It's yet another example of the old yin yang thing; we need the bleakness to highlight the beauty. The same holds true for joy. Often those who have experienced the most sorrow are the ones who can feel the deepest joy.

I think a lot of people have trouble distinguishing between pleasure and joy. Eckhart Tolle teaches that pleasure is derived from external sources, whereas joy comes from within. Each moment offers an opportunity to experience joy. The trick is to remember to choose it over everything else, no matter what. The joy of being that is deep inside never goes away. It's always right there, where you can find it in a second if you know where to look. It takes practice, but each time you succeed with stepping back from the drama going on in your thoughts and feel the thrill of that quiet, powerful peace, you feel the intense joy we are all born with and are one step closer to living in a constant state of grace.

I stopped to allow those tiny flowers in the dead grass to share the beauty of the season with me. Just one of an infinite number of ways to keep my heart filled with joy.

Any time you're agitated in any way, about anything, just stop, stand back, and say I choose joy (instead of this bullshit). Really, really mean it. A smile will grow on your face and you'll feel better right away. Each time I choose joy instead of aggravation I want to hug myself (and sometimes do). It's such an overwhelming relief to break away from grumbling and fretting to feel joy. Do it again and again and again until you can't imagine not doing it and it becomes your way of life.

What if everyone in the whole world started choosing joy every moment? True joy feels really good and is very contagious. This is how we counteract hate. Ready? Start now!