In my late 30’s I participated in a dance performance that had been danced before the Dalai Lama. The dance ritual, still practiced today, invites women to dance the “The 21 Praises of Tara”. The 21 Praises is a mantra honoring the female aspect of the Buddha. The Tibetans have fabulous word combinations attributed to the Goddess Tara like: sublime intelligence, triumphant joy, auspicious beauty, ferocious compassion, and irresistible truth. I love those concepts. They’ve expanded my awareness as a woman, given me dignity and power.
In the performance, each ritual dancer gets dressed up in different colored saris, adorns herself with jewelry and makeup and dances one virtue. The virtues are “randomly” assigned by picking them out of a hat. I picked Triumphant Joy. The thought of dancing triumphant joy was a challenge. I was in a difficult marriage with little children. I was struggling hard to manage my life. I probably was depressed. Even though I struggled to embody triumphant joy in the moment of the dance, the dance helped me realize triumphant joy later in my life.
Last year, I suffered a deep depression and exhaustion. I was going through the late stages of menopause. I was doing a 5 month long detox from Lyme disease, yeast and parasites. The medicine and dietary protocol was very difficult on me. I became physically and emotionally exhausted. The final blow to my health came when my boyfriend broke up with me, in what seemed to be, out of the blue with little or no explanation. I was completely wrecked, My body was burned out. I was emotionally devastated. I had no energy left. My hormones were out of whack. I thought I was dying.
Here I was the healer, Mother, person who takes care of everyone, feeling like I was dying! I had to heal myself and change my life. But I had no energy to do so . I slept on the couch for 12 hours a day for three months, I got up only to work and eat.
I did go to all of my best doctors, healers, herbalists, therapists, and did every therapy they told me to do. I took every supplement, every herb. I breathed into my heart. I contemplated my childhood, relationships, wounds and soul purpose. Every night, when I woke up with anxiety and night sweats, I prayed, did qi gong, did healings on myself. I practiced lucid dreaming and creative visualization. In the day I ate cleanly, did yoga. I started to pay off some old debts. I did everything I thought I could to heal my life. Everything!
Toward the end of the third month I began to feel like I would recover. I could sleep 8 hours a night and feel rested. The pain in my heart was subsiding. My physical body showed signs of strength again. One morning, while eating breakfast, a song came on the radio and all of a sudden I was dancing around my big kitchen table! I was happy. I was happy to be alive! It was then I remembered the words triumphant joy!
I’m on the lighter side of the healing journey now. The detox is over. I’m stronger physically and emotionally. I’m more peaceful in my heart and mind. I’m committed to taking good care of myself again. I am grateful for friends and family and for the life we share.
The Buddhists say life is suffering. They also offer us the concept that triumphant joy is real. Maybe to attain triumphant joy, we only need to let go of our suffering. Maybe it’s attainable through some sort of Zen detachment.
Within the words “triumphant joy” some work, sacrifice or struggle is implied. We like to think that joy comes easily and naturally like the breeze on a summer day. But I’ve come to have respect and reverence for the happiness that is well earned from effort. I can’t tell you how to heal your self, your heart or find triumphant joy. I only know that it’s possible. I know I had to be focused, committed and work diligently. Even then, joy came to nest in my heart like a little bird coming home after a long migration quietly, silently and with great relief.