Memorable Quote: “I want to have the full richness of life. I hope I get to do that without getting slammed and torn every time something happens that I like a lot or want to push away.”
Synopsis: JoAnna starts her talk by asking a hypothetical question: what would it like to attain ultimate liberation? What would it be liberation from? What would that liberate us to do? She then proposes that we can have full enlightenment while still engaging in the richness of life. We can experience the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of our lives, but not be attached to them. Without clinging or attachment, we can still bask in the abundance of every moment; we just have to not fall in love with the good times nor cultivate hatred of the bad. Between us and this liberation is the voice within us that asks us to be greedy, that tells us we’re not good enough as we are, and tells us that our lives are inadequate.
Ultimate freedom has nothing to do with our bodies, our jobs, our partners, our spouses, or any other worldly things. These temporary forms lead to short joys, and can interfere with longer-lasting freedoms. If we examine what keeps us suffering, we are able to use that to our benefit. Do we like the stories that we tell about our suffering so much that we are attached to them, and see our struggles as part of the “excitement” of life? A life without suffering, from one perspective, may be seen as boring, devoid of “action” and “suspense,” and that may be the most difficult renunciation of all. If we see suffering as necessary for great art, passion, and beauty, then we may cling to it as an essential part of our “selves.” Thus the question we have to answer for ourselves is: do we really want liberation?
I like: I liked JoAnna’s full embrace of the richness of life.
I wish: One thing I was left wondering at the end of her talk was what, if anything, we do need to renounce in order to be free? Or is it that we can want basically anything at all, as long as we are not attached?
More about the Speaker: JoAnna Harper has been exploring and practicing multiple traditions since 1999. In 2005, her focus landed on Buddhism and vipassana meditation, which is the premise for most of her current teaching. Although her main focus is on working with youth through her bi-weekly children’s and teen sanghas, teen daylong retreats, residential retreats and work in the juvenile justice system, she is also co-teaching adult residential retreats as well as leading a ‘Year to Live’ practice and teaching one-on-one sessions. Her favorite teaching tools are working in Council and relational mindfulness. Find more of her talks here.