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.
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?
How easy is it for you to let go? To let go of how you think things should work out? How your career should unfold? How you think your family should behave?
This past year I became more aware how difficult it is for others and me to let go of things. We tend to hold on to our plans, ideas, thoughts, and ways. It is usually the holding on that causes us the most suffering and keeps us stuck. A trapeze artist cannot swing from one bar to another without letting go
An important part of preparing for the New Year is to review the past year—to let it go—and to learn from it. In order to embrace the new, we must release the old. When you let go of something it does not mean that you give up. It only means that you are not attached to the outcome.
I want to challenge you to take some time during the holiday season and reflect on the following questions:
What causes me to hold onto things?
What might change if I let go more often?
Decide to let go of one thing that does not serve you any more (e.g. letting you feel joy, ease and true happiness). Do something practical as a symbol of this letting go. You can write it on a stone and throw it into the water or write it on a piece of paper and tear the paper up. After you have done( this exercise open your hand, look at your palm and see that there is nothing, the stone or paper is gone. You let go of something that you can’t control or change.
In the end, only three things matter:
How much you loved,
How gently you lived,
And how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you. (Buddha)