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The Happiness and Joy of Practice


Rev. Shuji Mintzmeyer

Hello!  Rev. Shuji Mintzmeyer, teacher for the Just Sit sangha in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gave the talk today.  Here’s her summary of her talk.

A few weeks ago, I went to Lake Michigan. It was a sunny, windy day with waves that were so big and beautiful! Green water glowed amidst nearly seven-foot waves.   I am just always shocked at the beauty and strength of the water, and I feel pure happiness and joy.

It’s important to notice our joy and happiness. Our Grand Rapids dharma study group is currently reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s, Old Path, White Clouds, in which he tells this story:

One night while sitting in meditation beneath a tree, Bhaddiya experienced a happiness greater than any he had ever known. He exclaimed, “O, happiness! O, happiness!”  

The next day, the Buddha asked him, “Bhaddiya, late last night while sitting in meditation, did you call out, ‘O, happiness ! O happiness!’?  Can you tell us why?”

“Lord, when I was the governor, I lived a life of fame, power, and wealth. . . . My palace was never without armed guards, day and night. Even so, . . . I was almost constantly filled with fear and anxiety. But now I can walk and sit alone in the deep forest. I know no fear or anxiety. Instead I feel ease, peace, and joy such as I never felt before. . . . I am as happy as a deer living freely in the forest.

We don’t talk about this joy enough as practitioners.  Indeed, we have been acculturated to think that we should see power and wealth as achievements that give us happiness.  But, being free as a deer is where Bhaddiya found true happiness. That’s nice.

 This joy in our practice can bring joy and happiness to all aspects of our lives. Don’t discount it because of its simplicity.  And, don’t take it for granted.

Science also bears this out.  As part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which began in 1938, 724 young men were tracked throughout their lives to see how their various life events affected health and aging.  While the study group initially consisted of Harvard students, another group that included inner city Boston men and also women was later added.  

What did the researchers find?   They discovered that it was not wealth or prestige which appeared to keep people happy throughout their lives, but rather close personal connections and the ability to “let go,” and not become emotionally mired in the day to day bumps of life.  Quite reminiscent of Bhaddiya’s experience!  “O, happiness!  O, happiness!”

This sounds like our approach to practice as articulated in the Four Noble Truths.  I like to say them like this:

1. To be human is to not be happy all the time

2. We can be happy, maybe…

3.  We need to let go in order to reach happiness.

4. Here is how to do it, by following the 8-fold path.

Sometimes, we in the Zen world have the reputation of being a bit stern, but that sternness is not necessary.  When I was a kid in rural Nebraska, a neighbor would have us kids visit each week to sing.   There was a song which ended, “The joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart.” By the time we hit this final verse, we all would be laughing and smiling with such pure joy.  I still sing that song sometimes on my cushion, with the same laughter and smiles.  

What would happen if we shared the joy of our practice?  This joy that’s so everyday, but also so magical.   Let’s embrace each day with our practice as we sit zazen and share this delight with all who surround us.


Zuiko sits in the zendo at every zazen period listed below.  Please sit with her whenever you can.  Just sitting quietly can be helpful in times like these.

Sunday zazen and dharma talk are live-streamed on Zoom.  Contact us if you’d like the link.

Our Monday night dharma discussion group is continuing through Zoom.   If you’re interested in joining, please contact the Center.

You can connect with us through email or phone.  And you can listen to our dharma talks online and read our posts on Facebook.  To find the dharma talks, click on the “Resources” tab above, and you’ll see the link.

Upcoming Events

Monday Night Dharma – by Zoom – Monday nights , 7:00– 8:00 p.m.  Contact us for the link.

Dharma talk by Shuji Mintzmyer – May 9
Shuji is being considered as Zuiko’s successor at the Center.  Please come to her talk and let us know what you think.

All-day Sitting — May 16 5:00 am to 4:40 pm — please register

Introduction to Zazen – by Zoom – Wednesday, May 19 , 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Contact us for the link.

Sangha Meeting May 23

Weekday Activities

Noon Zazen

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
12:15 – 12:55 zazen

Evening Zazen

Tuesday evenings – 20 minute zazen periods
6:30 – 6:50 zazen
6:50 – 7:00 kinhin
7:00 – 7:20 zazen
7:20 – 7:30 kinhin
7:30 – 8:00 zazen

Wednesday and Thursday evenings – 40 minutes zazen periods
6:30 – 7:10 zazen
7:10 – 7:20 kinhin
7:20 – 8:00 zazen

Weekend Activities

Sunday zazen – by Zoom

9:00 –  9:40 sitting
9:45 – 10:15 dharma talk
10:15 – 11:00 check in and discussion

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Quote of the week

Feel as a Meditator
There might be periods—a year or even two—when we can’t get to the cushion, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up . . . We can still carry meditation inside, still see and feel as a meditator, but physically practice differently.


From  The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life 

by Natalie Goldberg

CEDAR RAPIDS ZEN CENTER 1618 Bever Avenue SE Cedar Rapids, IA