For me lying in bed and reading a good book, particularly on these cold winter days, is absolute joy. And so was reading this tome of spiritual wisdom; being reminded how we can create that soulful sort of enduring joy, not dependent on the quality of our circumstances and not utterly battered when life turns cruel and careless.
The Book of Joy is a week-long love-fest between these two spiritual leaders as they chat, eat and turn to each other with glee conversing about how we create joy. According to these masters creating joy rests on 8 pillars: humor, humility, perspective, appreciation, gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. Generosity and Community are also players to keep us steady when life’s storms come. At the back of the book are practices to more deeply develop these qualities, mostly meditations that open our heart.
I took notes going through the book to remember its most salient points. So, here, in no particular order, are extracts from the notes I took.
“We are meant to live in Joy. This does not mean that life will be easy or painless. The question is not how do we escape life’s hardships and frustrations, but how can we use them as something positive.
Joy comes from:
- Ability to reframe situations more positively
- Ability to experience gratitude
- Choice to be kind and generous
- Maintain/meditate on love and compassion
Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied.? And what is the use of being unhappy about something if it cannot be remedied?
Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ wel-being is the source of happiness.
We need goals to be inspired, to grow, develop, be enlightened, but at the same time we must not get overly fixated or attached to these aspirations. If a goal is noble, your commitment to the goal should not be contingent on your ability to attain it, and in pursuit of our goal, we must release our rigid assumptions about how we must achieve it.
Peace and equanimity come from letting go of our attachment to the goal and the method. This is the essence of acceptance.
So while we should do all we can to realize the goal we seek, whether we succeed often depends on many factors beyond our control. So our responsibility is to pursue the goal with all the dedication we can muster do the best we can but not become fixated on a preconceived notion of a result. Sometimes, actually quite often, our efforts lead to an unexpected outcome that might even be better than what we originally had in mind.
When we accept what is happening now, we can be curious about what may happen next.
It is not happiness that makes us grateful; it is gratefulness that makes us happy.”
At this age I’ve been fortunate to reach, I find when I take the time to make others feel seen and important, I get tremendous joy.
As in the book – When you wake up thank God for anther day. Hope to serve, if impossible then not to harm.
And maybe that’s really my life’s work. The littlest thing like thanking the girl who rings up my groceries, really looking in her eyes and offering a smile. A little zing happens in my heart, hers too I am sure as she smiles back. That zing is the human connection happening in real time. Something we so rarely experience these days. So take it from me – if you take the extra minute to create such interactions, you will have more joy.
Of course now I am on to my next book, This Close to Happy, Daphne Merkin’s memoir of living with depression. I expect I’ll have to practice my joy exercises every day to stay righted reading this one.