Finding Joy

There is so much pressure to be happy and joyful and compassionate. It seems like it’s the cure to all ills. Yet, so many people in the world just struggle to get a meal on the table and protect their family.  I’m not talking about just third world countries; this happens right here in the US.  But, consider:  What if joy, love, compassion, and a  focus toward empathy toward ourselves and others, along with a connection with everyone (and I mean everyone) was all it took?

I’m reading The Book of Joy which recounts the recent meeting of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as told by Douglas Abrams.  I’m only on page 68, but the pages are already peppered with page flags noting nuggets of wisdom from two of the most respected men in modern day. Both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the background on these two men is fascinating.

Given the current state of global events, It’s easy to view having happiness and joy as being pollyannaish. In response, the Archibishop says,

“Discovering more joy . . . does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak.  In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. . . As we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard.  We have heartbreak without being broken.”  

One of the impediments to having joy is the attention on our suffering.  We wrongly think that:  “when I get a raise at work”, or “when my back pain finally gets better”, or “when my kid finally graduates from high school”, then I can work on joy/compassion/empathy.  Certainly, not until all the bad stuff goes away.  But you’ll notice, that we can always find bad stuff.  Once you get the raise at work, you buy a new car with a $500 payment, and now you’re got the same problem as before.  Some of our suffering is cause and effect. Some of it is just life.  We’re human, shit happens. Sometimes we naively or knowingly contribute to our pain and often not.

The Dalai Lama weights in,

“The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can.  We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. . . when it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.  

When the Dalai Lama was asked what’s it like to wake up with joy each morning, he shared:

As soon as I wake up, I remember the Buddha’s teaching: the importance of kindness and compassion, wishing something good for others, or at least to reduce their suffering.  Then I remember that everything is interrelated, the teaching of interdependence.  So then I set my intention for the day that this day should be meaningful. Meaningful, if possible, serve and help others.  If not possible, then at lest not to harm others.  That is a meaningful day.”

As I go through the book, I’ll continue to offer some insights that I think you might find inspiring.  Or, you can out and buy the book (at your local bookstore or borrow it from the library) and find your own nuggets!   In the meantime, I hope you have  meaningful day.  I know I’m going to try.