Awakening Joy: Life Skills for Living, Loving, and Serving Life to the Full


“Don’t miss it!” says James Baraz, author of Awakening Joy and creator of the very intriguing 5-month Awakening Joy course. “Don’t miss it” refers to the present moment—the gladness, the beauty, the uniqueness. James explains that in order to awaken our joy, we need to savor the wholesome moments and not turn away distracted, slipping back into our habitual mental ruts. James’ teachings take us deeply into states like gratitude and compassionate presence, to where we can focus our attention on how it feels to feel good somatically, thereby creating new neural pathways that strengthen awareness and aliveness. James has witnessed a lot of people learn to love themselves and turn their lives around as a result of this teaching. Why are we the last ones to see the goodness inside ourselves? he wonders. How can we so radically underestimate ourselves?

Rest in the landscape of gratitude when James guides a short meditation in part 2, and be inspired that transformational change is indeed possible for all of us—to where we can know the joy of loving ourselves, of connecting with others, the joy of letting go, of service, and the joy of simply being—as we undertake the fundamental experiment of discovering who we really are.

Recorded September 14, 2022.

Topics & Timestamps: Part 1

  • Roger introduces James Baraz, creator of the Awakening Joy course and dedicated Vipassana meditation teacher (01:31)
  • What is it like witnessing so many people in the midst of their transformation? To James, all are bodhisattvas in training and there’s nothing quite like seeing people transforming their pain (04:27)
  • We are the last ones to see the goodness inside us, to see who we really are, we need to see ourselves through our friends’ eyes! (09:04)
  • How can we avoid feeling righteous anger towards people we see as ignorant, who seem to be living in a world of alternate facts? (11:20)
  • Anyone can change and learn how much better it is to love than to hate—though the intention to change is key (22:02)
  • Recognizing we are divine expressions of life with an innate inner goodness (24:50)
  • How can we be the one mistake? How can we so radically underestimate ourselves? (29:14)
  • Look in the mirror, look deeply, and see who you really are (30:30)
  • Opening to pain, metabolizing grief: Awakening Joy is not a feel-good program, it’s a feel-everything program (33:52)
  • With the right tools, we can integrate our pain and the pain of the world; we need to practice grief together as a sacred act (36:51)
  • Awareness heals; whatever part of you you’re not willing to embrace will run your life (39:49)

Topics & Timestamps: Part 2

  • Train your mind to be on the lookout for the good and notice how it feels to feel good somatically; this will deepen the neural pathways (00:59)
  • James guides a short experiential gratitude practice, where we deepen into feeling how gratitude itself actually feels (05:14)
  • When James lost his joy: how unwholesome states lead to more suffering (11:27)
  • Cultivating wholesome states: maintain and increase wholesome states, but don’t hold onto them (16:06)
  • Awakening Joy’s 10 steps to happiness relate to the 10 states we want to cultivate (18:52)
  • Intention is the beginning; choosing how to process what’s happening (19:49)
  • Mindfulness: presence deepens the healthy states (21:44)
  • Gratitude “opens our satellite dish to all the blessings in life”(23:00)
  • Opening to the hard stuff, all the suffering in life (23:13)
  • Integrity, the foundation of well-being (23:31)
  • The joy of letting go: of stuff, of busyness, of our stories (24:52)
  • The joy of loving ourselves and learning to see who we really are (26:47)
  • The difference between narcissism and loving yourself, and the Judeo-Christian myth of needing redemption (27:41)
  • The joy of connection with others, includes forgiveness (31:07)
  • Compassion, the caring heart that wants to relieve suffering (31:34)
  • The joy of simply being and the underlying nature of reality (32:13)
  • States of contraction vs states of expansion: Sat Chit Ananda (34:39)

Topics & Timestamps: Part 3

  • Joy and awakening take a lot of courage; fear is really saying, “About to grow!” – Jack Kornfield (00:51)
  • Reaching out for support is a reflection of health, not weakness (05:25)
  • We are all transmitters of the energy of life: the ripple effects of joy (08:34)
  • Why doesn’t everyone see the power in seeing the good? (14:00)
  • What are the most life-changing discoveries that people make in the Awakening Joy course? (15:57)
  • What are James’ practices today? Showing up for the world: joy and activism, opening to the pain in the world (19:32)
  • Looking through 3 lenses: gratitude, compassion, and equanimity—to avoid denial, overwhelm, and disengagement (21:02)
  • How can we be agents of healing, agents of consciousness? (25:47)
  • This is the moment we were born for (27:41)
  • We have made the face of the world into a reflection of the state of our minds (30:17)
  • The wealth of giving to life, serving life (32:41)
  • One Earth Sangha, virtual ecodharma center (34:59)