Best-selling science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson has his whole adult life trekked the Sierra Nevada in California. He has taken well over one hundred trips into those mountains and he writes in The High Sierra, A Love Story:

At the start of a trip, I sometimes laugh out loud. That feeling is one of the things I want to write about … crazy love. Some kind of joy.

What is it to feel the gift of joy? Where does it come from? Dare we share in another’s joy?

The great master Yuanwu, who provided commentary for a collection of koans called The Blue Cliff Record, was living at Wuzu’s temple when he had a sudden understanding of the light that shines in all things. Full of gratitude to his teacher, Yuanwu took a stick of incense to Wuzu and gave him the following poem:

The golden duck vanishes into the golden brocade,
With a country song the drunk comes home from the woods,
Only the young beauty knows about her love affair.

Wuzu responded, “I share your joy.”

I think we feel the deepest joy when we cross over unknown and unknowable frontiers, when we meet the inconceivable.

For some years, I saw sesshin retreats as a kind of struggle. It was a grim battle to beat down my ego and realize my Buddha nature. I remember one time, as I was headed off to a retreat, my young daughter said to me gayly, “Daddy, have a good time!” I snorted to myself, “Honey, you don’t understand, I am headed into war.” But things have since changed.

One time during sesshin I was in the dokusan line, watching the wavering light of a candle on the altar. The dokusan schedule was running late, and folks in the zendo set off for dinner. I could hear people standing in line, taking up plates and beginning to serve themselves. I realized that it was me—my most intimate self—that they were eating. Tears welled up in my eyes. It was a joyful sharing.

—Jon Joseph

Priceless Gifts

An empty day without events.
And that is why
it grew immense
as space. And suddenly
happiness of being
entered me.
I heard
in my heartbeat
the birth of time
and each instant of life
one after the other
came rushing in
like priceless gifts.

—Anna Swir, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan