Heaven is where you’ll be when you are okay right where you are. Sun Ra
It was a snowy blowy Sunday evening, the kind of evening that you want to hunker in with a bowl of steaming hot soup and watch a good movie. And that’s what we did at Joy Center, the seven of us, several weeks ago now, at the last Dinner and a Movie Night. I thought that no one would show up, that it would be Cam and I and our pot luck offering of dal stew, the two of us watching the documentary, “One Track Heart” about “chant master ” Krishna Das. And the evening unfolding like that would have been fine — it’s an inspiring movie and Cam and I enjoy each other’s company — but what a delightful surprise when three cars plowed into the drifting driveway and five friends, carrying pots of homemade curry and fresh veggies and cranberry pie, hopped out and braced themselves against the howling wind and into the warmth of the Joy Center’s kitchen. As the wind and the snow swirled outside, we, nestled into the cozy warmth of our Joy Center cottage in the woods, feasted on salad and curries and mango-rice pudding and a cranberry pie that was sweet and sour and a perfect-tasting conclusion to a perfect-tasting meal. And then, filled with the the spice-filled curries and the homemade deserts, we dimmed the lights and sprawled out on the futon-thick yoga mats, with pillows and bolsters, and settled in as the movie, this journey of Krishna Das’s transformation from Jewish boy raised in Long Island to devotee of Hindu guru, Maharaj-ji, to the most well-known of the western-world’s singers of devotional Indian Kirtan-style music.
And, several times during the evening, one of the women, who, along with her friend, had made for us all the most glorious of green curries, exclaimed, “This is the best day ever!!!”. She came prepared for a relaxing good-time evening, for a best-time-ever-evening, in her colorful flannel pajama bottoms, with her enthusiastic smile. And it was contagious. Each time that she proclaimed that it was the best day ever, her arms would fly up in the air and we’d catch a whiff of it, the fun emanating from something deep inside of her, the joy bubbling up into the rafters, and this bubbling joy mingled with the joy emanating from Krishna Das, playing his harmonium and chanting his joyful heartfelt songs, in person and present for us projected on the Joy Center wall. “This is the best day ever!!!” We were all saying it, as we paused the movie for heaping helpings of more of everything, saying it as the movie came to an end, saying it as we slipped one of Joy Center’s Krishna Das’ CD’s into the CD player and began to dance, saying it as we washed the dishes and basked in an evening well-spent.
I thought of that mid-December evening a few days ago as I celebrated the new year with some dear friends. We were sitting around a table, exchanging gifts and setting our intentions for 2014 when one woman cried out, with the same genuine enthusiasm as my pajama-clad friend at Joy Center nearly a month ago, “I’m in a happy moment!”. And at least to my ears, it sounded as though she was emphasizing the “in” — not that this was a happy moment or that she was having a happy moment. She was saying that she was in a happy moment. I could feel it, the way a moment nestles around us, the way that we can hunker into it with the same level of ease that we hunkered into Joy Center on that snowy-blowy Dinner and a Movie Night. The moments are ours to enjoy in that intimate all-embracing way and it’s up to us to decide whether we see them as happy or not. Sitting in a circle with beloved friends who I have known for nearly twenty years, opening gifts and looking forward into 2014, I, too, felt the happiness of the moment, the moment that I found myself in. And another friend who was a part of that circle commented that it is a string of these moments that make up a lifetime.
And so here we are, welcoming in a new year, a necklace of moments strung together into days, strung together into years, into lifetimes. I smile when I think back to our rollicking heart-opening evening at Joy Center. I feel it in the present moment and it makes me happy. And I feel my heart open when I reflect on the way my friend, with such sincerity last Friday, proclaimed herself in a happy moment, and this moment, a moment after the last happy moment, it feels happy, too. And in this next moment, when I gaze out the window by my desk to a sky that is a clear blue at midmorning and think ahead to an afternoon ski in temperatures that are beginning to warm up, I feel happy. And so it goes. One moment after another. And later in the afternoon, I plan to play with my toddler grandson who calls me “Amma” and is silly beyond silly and wise beyond wise and tonight I plan to meander over to Joy Center and create and bind my own book under the guidance of my dear friends, Amber and Raja, at a Book Art Evening, and somewhere along the way, at sometime today, perhaps while being silly with Viren or while skate-skiing through these frozen woods or while choosing the paper to cover my hardbound homemade book, I’ll be like my pajama-clad friend, and raise my arms and cry out to the world, cry out to myself, “This is the best day ever!”