“If you’re invested in security and certainty,
you are on the wrong planet.” 
– Pema Chödrön


Cultivating Joy – Alistair Shanks

Jun 18, 2023

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How does joy arise in our lives? Do we notice our experience of joy or do we minimize it as merely a fleeting good feeling?

In this talk, Alistair notes that we tend to naturally dwell on the negative, so it’s important to welcome and anchor the joy we encounter in life to incline ourselves toward it more and more in each present moment.

Recent science tells us that our brain is shaped by what we rest our attention on. This confirms what the Buddha said: “Whatever you think and ponder upon will become the inclination of the mind.”

Sympathetic Joy (happiness for the good fortune of others) is one of the 7 Factors of Awakening as well as the Brahmaviharas (the Divine Abodes or Great Immeasurables). But joy is more spontaneous than happiness, which often depends on outside conditions.

Alistair also explores joy’s connection with delight and gratitude, which can often give rise to joy. In much the same way, moments of awe and wonder, such as in nature,  can result in spontaneous feelings of joy.
Alistair Shanks is the Volunteer Program Manager at Zen Caregiving Project where he has worked since 2004, first as a hospice volunteer and training facilitator, and in his current position since 2016. He completed his clinical residency, (CPE), at UCSF and currently serves as a chaplain at both the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses. He has a Master’s degree from the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and has presented at the Association of Professional Chaplains conference and Harvard Divinity School.

Alistair has been a dedicated practitioner and teacher of the Daoist Internal Martial Arts of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Ba Gua for 27 years, something that has given him a deep appreciation for the wisdom and power of somatic practices to regulate and heal both body and mind. Past volunteer work includes leading mindfulness meditation sessions in the San Francisco County Jail and serving as a volunteer chaplain at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He has played and toured internationally with several Bay Area bands for the past four decades.