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.
We only have one life to live. What inspires you to make the most of it and live it to the fullest?
To be inspired is a key factor in creating or doing something new. Whether you are creating a piece of art or want to be a better person we all need inspiration. The source of inspiration may differ per person.
The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines
inspirationas: the process that takes place when somebody sees or hears something that causes them to have exciting new ideas or makes them want to create something.
inspire as: to give somebody the desire, confidence or enthusiasm to do something well.
Life is full of inspiration. Numerous things in life inspire me of which some are:
Nature, beautiful spaces, landscapes, animals…
The arts, music, poetry, films, language, books…
People that show commitment and against all the odds achieve their goal whilst remaining true to who they are.
People that are passionate and believe in their dreams.
I draw from different sources depending on the type of inspiration I seek. The following poem by Mary Oliver inspired me to write this blog. I hope that it will inspire you today:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
If I have made of my life something particular, and real,
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.
Healing question: What inspires me? How can I be an inspiration to others?
Learning: When we open ourselves to be inspired by life our life can inspire others to do the same.
The past month I was privileged to travel to different places in South Africa for work. What was significant to me was the diversity I experienced. Every place had a different landscape, energy and feel to it. The food, people, cultures and ways of living differed.
In one of the workshops that I facilitated, we counted that between the group of twelve we spoke 11 different languages. For none of us English was our first language. The variety of accents contributed to the richness of the conversations we had. It reminded me of Nancy Klein’s component of the ‘Thinking Environment’. She states that diversity adds quality because of the differences between us. I could not agree more.
I realised that we don’t always celebrate diversity. We don’t invite it enough into our lives. Sometimes I find myself in places where it feels as if everyone had gone through the same cookie presser. Everyone dresses the same and talks about the same things. If one looks at David Rock’s SCARF model one can understand why it is like this. People tend to like people that are like them. That is the way the brain is wired. We feel more comfortable when we can relate to people.
Yet, in reflecting over this past month I’ve learned more in the uncomfortable moments than the comfortable ones. The situations when I was challenged to leave my preconceived ideas and open myself to the amazing diversity of our country. I would like to challenge you and encourage you, even if it is only slightly, to step out of the comfort zone and experience the gift of diversity.
Learning: Diversity contributes to the richness of life.
Healing question: How am I celebrating and inviting diversity into my life?
What a relief when I read the words ‘ life compress chaos and orderliness together’ in the book The way of the wizard by Deepak Chopra. I like to think of myself as someone that easily goes with the flow but if I’m really honest, I can be a bit of a control freak. I like it when things are going according to the plan and everything is in order. But life is not always like that. At times life is uncertain, messy and even a bit chaotic. Flights get delayed; thunderstorms damage internet routers; meetings get cancelled, we get sick, etc. Life can throw all our plans upside down.
The problem is that all the plans we make and the rules we set in order to make things perfect only create a false sense of control. When it does not work out ‘according to the plan’, we get stressed and struggle with the “whys” in life. Why don’t things work out for me? Why is life so hard? Why do I struggle so much when others seem to have it easy? We start to beat ourselves down. This reaction can create a downward spiral, it triggers our nervous system and we become less creative.
When in fact, it is just the way life is. Real life is unpredictable. Feeling off balance or uncertain at times is part of life. The struggle starts when we don’t want to accept what is real and work from that place. Deepak Chopra writes that ‘if you want to be in the flow you cannot struggle against it at the same time.’ This was a big ‘aha’ moment for me as I always thought that I’m only in the flow of life if things are running smoothly in my life. Now I realise that the waves that crash on me and the times when I feel that I’m gasping for air are part of what it is when learning how to surf.When I’m stumbling it does not mean I’m not in the flow of life. However, the way I respond to the uncertainty or unpredictable things that happen in my life influence how I experience life.
I’m not saying that from now you can just sit back and don’t make any plans. Structure and order is also part of life but it is not all that life consists of. Observe how you are trying to control your life and how open you are for other possibilities. Next time when something unpredictable happens, acknowledge that life is uncontrollable, surrender to it, trust that things tend to work out (even if it is not according to your plan), celebrate the situation you are in and be open to what comes to you. Ride the wave!
Learning: The flow of life is like surfing; there are times when you surf the wave and then there are times when you need to paddle to get to the next wave.
Healing question: How can I ride the wave of life with more ease?
Who is sitting in your driving seat? I recently realised that my fears are sitting in the driver seat of my life and not my beliefs/dreams. I thought I was allowing my dreams to drive my behaviour but after some deep introspection I realised that I was fooling myself. I made a conscious decision to start shifting my behaviour. To allow my positive beliefs to fast track me to my dreams, instead of allowing my fears to keep me in first gear. The truth is that if we live from a perspective of fear we live smaller, close down our creativity and are not as open to the flow of life.
The activity I did to get to this insight was that of writing down what I’m afraid of, without judging or filtering. Once I felt that all my fears were written on the piece of paper, I started a new page with what I believe in and dream of. I would like to share some of my fears and beliefs with you. I do believe that we are more alike than we tend to think. My hope is that in sharing my vulnerability with you, you may reflect on your own behaviour. That we can all shift from first gear to fifth.
I am afraid of…
Not having enough money and not being able to look after myself.
Not living fully, playing it safe and not taking enough risks.
Always saying that I will publish my book but never doing it.
Allowing my thinking to hold me back and not changing my bad habits.
Not bringing my true self to life and unlocking my potential.
Not loving (others and myself) enough.
Wasting time on things that don’t really matter.
Not being good enough, beautiful enough, and clever enough.
Not making my business a success.
Not listening to the wisdom of my body.
Settling for second best and missing opportunities
Saying no and disappointing others.
I believe …
I am enough (good enough, beautiful enough and clever enough).
The world gives me what I need and I’m now exactly where I need to be.
God loves me and has a purpose with my life.
If I keep myself open opportunities will come to me.
In eating wholesome and nourishing food than depriving me to be ‘thin’.
Accepting all of me, and that non-acceptance causes suffering.
In loving relationships and that it builds bridges.
In beauty and the magic it brings in my life.
In creativity and how it opens possibilities.
In living my life from a soulful place, connecting deep with deep.
In my body and that it holds all the wisdom I need.
In the joy of being alive, that I can enjoy and trust life.
Learning: Live from the trust that you can create the life you dream of.
Healing question: How will you live differently if your dreams, instead of your fears, drive your behaviour?
My relationship to money has always been a complex one. The past few months I’ve started to work on changing my relationship with money. It takes time and is not an easy process. I realised you can’t change your relationship with money without changing your beliefs about money. In order to change your limiting beliefs about money you need to be prepared to dig deep and do the inner work. You have to start facing your demons, your fears about money.
I would like to share with you what I’ve learned so far on the journey:
Barbara Stanny shared in an interview, Sacred Success, with Chantel Pierrad that there are three types of work when it comes to your finance:
Outer work – This work is about meeting with a financial advisor and drawing up a financial plan, putting the necessary insurance or risk cover in place, etc. that will fit your needs and support your goals.
Inner work – Reflecting and reviewing your attitudes / beliefs about money as well as the decisions you make about money.
Higher work – We are all on earth for a purpose. Money is a great tool to assist you in making the change. When you make more money it can assist you in creating bigger change. Reflect on how money can support your vision and calling.
Unpacking my finances from the three different levels opened new ways for me to think about money.
During my ‘outer work’ journey I had a very interesting conversation with my financial advisor. He asked me whether I wanted to retire or if I wanted to be financially independent? Wow! That question made me face a limiting belief I had about money. I realised that my view of looking and thinking about investment and retirement are very narrow. I learned that ‘the concept of “financial independence” should not be connected to retirement.’ Talking with him and reading his article about paving the way to financial independence made me realise that I needed to make a mind-shift about money and investment. I also became aware of the importance of having a person you trust to support you with that mind-shift.
My ‘inner work’ quest led me to another pod cast of Chantel Pierrad from Emerging Women. This time she talked with Nancy Levin about how to boost your self worth to grow your net worth. What stood out for me was that money issues are directly related to self-worth. That we need to stop putting our worthiness in the hands of others or measure it by the amount of money we have. Self-worth start inwards. It starts with self-love. To grow your self-worth you need to start doing what you are scared to do and face your demons.
Learning: When you start to face your demons, that what you fear, it can no longer control you. You experience more energy, you stop giving away your power and you start to grow more into your true self (your calling).
Healing question: How are you trying to prove your worth?