How do we live with joy amidst all the suffering? Is the question that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archpishop Desmond Tutu discuss in The Book of Joy. A relevant question in a world filled with so much suffering.  In this blog I would like to share with you what I’ve learned from the book.

All of us wish that we could find a way to be happy and avoid the suffering. Unfortunately that is not how life works. The beautiful things in life usually come from some sort of suffering. In fact it is the suffering that enable (or forces) us to grow and to develop.

“Discovering more joy does also not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak’’ according to Desmond Tutu. However, we may not be able to control the unavoidable facts of life but we can control whether we want to add ‘chosen suffering’ with what we create in our own minds and heart.

In the book they highlighted that joy is a by-product of deeper qualities of the mind and heart. If we cultivate the following qualities it will allow us to experience joy:

Qualities of the mind

  • Perspective – We can gain a wider perspective if we take a step back, within our own mind, and move beyond our limited self-interest, look at the bigger picture and the perspective of others. This enables us to empathize with others and we start to see the interdependence that surrounds us all.
  • Humility – Comes from the Latin word humus that means earth or soil. Humility “brings us back down to earth” .
  • Humour – The ability to laugh at ourselves and not to be too serious. “If you start looking for the humour in life, you will find it. You will stop asking, Why me? and start recognizing that life happens to all of us. It makes everything easier, including your ability to accept others and accept all that life will bring.”
  • Acceptance – Enables us to stop resisting that life is not as we would wish and allows us to engage with life as it is in a more relaxed and clearer way. ” When we accept the present, we can forgive and release the desire for a different past”

Qualities of the heart

  • Forgiveness – In forgiving others we choose not to develop anger and hatred. If we forgive the person that harmed us we take back control of our happiness and free ourselves. It does not mean that we can’t oppose the action (that what has been done to you).
  • Gratitude – Allows us to see what is good in the world and not just what is bad. It enables us to see the gift in the difficult times and the opportunities that may exist.
  • Compassion – The basic human nature is to be compassionate. The word compassion means ‘suffering with’. “A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.”
  • Generosity – We are interdependent and need one another. Giving to others (whether it is our time, money, skills, etc.) brings meaning to our lives and is the fastest way to experience joy.

When we choose to heal our own suffering we are more able to turn to others and help them in their suffering. The more we are able to sit with and transcend our own suffering. The more we will be able to live with joy in a world filled with suffering.

Learning: I can choose to cultivate joy in my life no matter the circumstances.

 Healing question: How can I choose joy today