The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams really puts things into perspective and I’m excited that it could make all the difference.
I’ve always been one to feel guilt for experiencing joyous emotions when I know others are suffering so much. This is especially profound when the one suffering is close to me such as a child or parent. How can I sit there having fun, relishing in my privilege, and appreciating the joy in my life when someone I love, or so many in the world, simply cannot right now?
The book showed me how wrong this thinking is. It’s actually my duty to seek and experience real, true and fulfilling joy because joy is contagious. As is sorrow and anxiety. Which emotion do I want to nurture and spread in this world? What emotion matters most when you are talking about the meaning of life?
What exactly is “joy”?
Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” That definition seems over simplified and doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of this important emotion.
Theopedia describes it more convincingly as “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.” This is resonating, as it is what we are all ultimately striving for.
I work for a nonprofit that helps kids experience more joy. We’ve gone round and round over the whole point of building this charity and the more I go over it the more I realize what’s most important to me. It’s about increasing the frequency and depths of joy they can experience, not only for them as kids but also in their lifetime and for their kids, since joy has a multiplying effect.
Of course, kids who are struggling do experience joy on their own but by reducing barriers and expanding their worldview, their joy can be boundless. Joy is a much easier emotion to come by when you aren’t anxious, hungry or homeless so it’s been society’s goal to improve all of these factors as well. These efforts are also crucial. But we shouldn’t stop there. Showing kids how to access their ability to feel calm and joy even when times are tough can positively impact multiple lifetimes.
This is a skill anyone can hone and even though it’s not always easy, it’s always a worthwhile effort.
Coming from the Dalai Lama who has experienced great hardships in his lifetime;
“We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.”
He goes on to point out that cultivating joy within ourselves helps us bring more joy to others. It truly has a contagious effect on humanity. You may think your effect is small, but you have no idea how far your ripple of kindness may go with one little positive interaction with a friend, family member, customer, student, coworker or even a social media post of hope.
Final quote on the importance of mindfully cultivating joy from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another.“
I hope you find this post thought provoking and I’d love to know your thoughts. HAPPY MINDING!