The Book of Joy
by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
To mark the recent World Day of Social Justice (Feb 20th), bringing you one of my all-time favorites, ‘The Book of Joy’ which taps into the wisdom of two spiritual masters who committed their lives to social justice and human rights: the 14th Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
Part I - the “obstacles” to Joy (a future newsletter will feature Part II - the “pillars” of Joy).
What genre? personal growth, self-leadership, spirituality
Why read? in a heart-warming dialogue facilitated by the author Douglas Abrams, two spiritual masters, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, having both overcome a multitude of hardships, discuss how to find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering, through trading stories and ideas, with humility, humour and light-heartedness
3 concepts that inspired me:
Embrace difficult moments as a gateway to joy and compassion. While pain in life is inevitable, we always have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. As the Archbishop expresses it: “We can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.” That doesn’t mean denying pain or suffering; in fact, allowing ourselves to feel the pain opens the gate to other feelings: “we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps, we are just more alive.” Indeed, feeling a moderate level of sadness has been shown to improve our judgement and memory, as well as encourage our empathy and generosity.
When it hurts, focus on others - feeling a connection and “oneness” with others will lessen the pain. We all are biologically wired to be compassionate: so when we’re feeling down, we can help ourselves feel better by simply recognizing that we are all connected (enlarging our identity), and that we are not alone in whatever pain we are feeling (others have felt it or are feeling it too at the same moment). We can also generally increase our wellbeing by acknowledging that we are ourselves thanks to others (by practicing the South African philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ - I am because we are), and finally, by taking joy in the good fortunes of others (by cultivating the Buddhist concept of ‘Mudita’, recognizing that happiness is limitless, not a zero sum game).
Helping others doesn’t have to be complicated - simply showing up, fully present, in an authentic manner, can be enough1. The Dalai Lama tries to be truly available in the moment to each and every person he encounters, and deeply connected to others as a fellow human being. This alone has a positive uplifting impact on others. In every interaction, we can help others by simply showing up to them fully present, “untethered by the ruminating memories of the past and not lured by the anticipatory worry about the future.”
2 excerpts I enjoyed reading:
On choosing a life of purpose2:
“I think maximum lifespan is about a hundred years. Compared to human history, a hundred years is quite short. So if we utilize that short period to create more problems on this planet, our life would be meaningless. If we could live for a million years, then *maybe* it would be worthwhile to create some problems. But our life is short. Now you see, we are guests here on this planet, visitors who have come for a short time, so we need to use our days wisely, to make our world a little better for everyone.”
On the virtuous circle of happiness:
“What does our happiness have to do with addressing the suffering of the world? In short, the more we heal our own pain, the more we can change the pain of others. But in a surprising way, […] the way we heal our own pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. It is a virtuous circle. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others. The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but […] to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.”
1 question I’m asking myself:
What is one small thing I can start doing right now to bring a little bit more joy into my life, in order to also better support others?
With love, Vanessa