SnowFlower Sun June 2019

Cultivating Joy and Happiness

from a talk by Lisa Glueck

The Dalai Lama tells us that the purpose of life is to be happy. This is not a hedonistic statement, but is based on understanding that true happiness grows out of virtues such as universal good will, kindness, and generosity.

In our society, many people labor under the misconception that happiness is a matter of luck. If you’re lucky, you were born with a sunny disposition. If you’re lucky, good things happen in your life and this will result in happiness.

This attitude leads to a fatalistic interpretation of life: either you have the conditions for happiness or you don’t. An accompanying belief is that our personalities are pretty well formed by the time we’re five years old. Our heredity and the events that occur early in our lives are the determining factors. After that, not much can be done. I was taught this in more than one psychology class. (Hopefully, this type of instruction is no longer current as it leads to apathy and a hopeless feeling about the possibility of change.)

Buddhist psychology does not paint reality with such sweeping strokes. It takes a more pragmatic and common-sense approach. Thay says that a mindful practitioner can learn to touch joy every day. No matter the external circumstances, we have the conditions to be happy.

To cultivate happiness implies working in the historical dimension to bring about a particular result. Thinking and relativity are honored.

But for a long time, I practiced under the spell of a big misconception. Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts was naïve. As the Buddha said, “Where there is conception, there is deception.” I thought this meant that it was ineffective to bother with the fickle historical dimension. My spiritual practice was oriented toward transcendence. I didn’t want to deal with all the messy stuff. Why bother when all thoughts are deceptive?

Now I know that cultivating joy and happiness implies working in the historical dimension to bring about a particular result. Of course we have to honor the thinking mind, even as we understand that it is vitally important that we learn to touch the non-conceptual realm to refresh ourselves and widen our perspectives.


SnowFlower Summer Monastic Retreat “Harmony in our home, Joy in our world” led by four monastics from Blue Cliff Monastery.

Children’s Program, Tuesday June 18, 6:30 – 7:25 at Friends Meetinghouse

Communi-Tea Time – Tuesdays from 6:00-6:50 at Friends Meetinghouse

Enjoy a delicious and informal cup of tea and conversation before the weekly Tuesday gathering

Tea with Susan Pearsall

Quiet Conversation and Turkish Tea in Susan’s home. Contact Susan at

Tuesday and Friday Sangha Gatherings

The Friends Meetinghouse, 1704 Roberts Court, Madison, WI. 7:00 – 8:30pm.

Wednesday Daytime Sangha Gatherings

Locations Rotate, 1:30-3:00 pm – Refer to Wednesday listsrv emails for location information and updates. For more info, email

Sunday Morning Sangha Gatherings

Locations Rotate, 10:00 – 11:30 am. Refer to Sunday listserv emails for location and topic. For more info, e-mail

SnowFlower Sangha Mentoring Program

It is natural that newcomers to the practice may have questions. A mentoring relationship supports a newer practitioner by clarifying matters of personal practice and sangha practice. The logistics are up to the mentor and mentee. If interested, contact Susan Pearsall at

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