The last couple of months have been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster this side. There came a point in the middle of the year where I seriously sat back and started to re-evaluate where I was going with my life.
It was perhaps a combination of stress and work-pressure, end-of-the-year fatigue and a general lack of balance between work and my social life, but I also had the feeling that something big had to move. Something in my mind and heart was searching for more meaning, a bigger purpose, for a path that would bring me true joy.
I started to go back to some of my favourite inspirational authors to tap back into a source of creativity and positive thinking. Then, as if in answer to all this, I heard about The Book of Joy.
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have co-authored The Book of Joy in the hopes of bringing a positive message of shared humanity, compassion and forgiveness to a world that is plagued with anger, fear and violence. The hope is that this book will turn into a global movement that can bring people together.
The book documents a week in Dharamsala, the city home of the Dalai Lama where he and the Tibetan people have been living in exile since they were forced to flee their country in 1959. It was an historic moment when the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama could finally meet again; two friends who have been kept apart by governments, health issues and hectic schedules, and so even though they were there to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, the rare occasion to have them in one place needed to be used in full. These two men, both nearing the end of their lives, have faced incredible hardships and yet they are known as two of the most inspirational, joyful figures in the world. How?
That is exactly what this book sets out to ask. How do you find joy when there is so much pain? When you see people around you suffer? When you suffer? When your loved ones pass on? When you are angry? Tired? Dissapointed? When life just keeps handing you lemons.
The book consists mainly of conversations between the two world leaders, each weighing in on these important and difficult topics with wisdom they’ve gained in their lives, from their struggles, and from their religions. These conversations are weaved into a type of diary by the author, Douglas Carlton Abrams’ as well as pieces of research he has compiled. Then you’ll also find a section giving you practical exercises to train your mind against negative thought patterns and towards a point of strength.
There are so many significant things I have learned since I started reading this book. At pretty much every page I stopped to take down a quote or paragraph. The first thing that hit home is that you won’t find joy by seeking joy. Instead you find joy by bringing joy to others. However, and just as important, is cultivating an inner joy and love for yourself because you can only be a source of joy to others if you are filled with light.
You won’t find joy by seeking joy. Instead you find joy by bringing joy to others
Another incredibly important message is that of compassion and shared humanity. If we see people as strange, other, different, we create a barrier between us and them. But if you see people as people, as similar to yourself, with a shared humanity, your compassion grows.
Of course things are not that simple. I get it. The book, luckilly, gets it too and it talks about the most difficult scenarios. What it all comes down to is that you need to change your mind – you need to train it, transform it, work at it everyday to fight base emotions like anger, envy, irrational fear and hatred, and to see good instead of bad. It is not easy. It is hard. But I believe it is worth the effort. I believe it is crucial.
The strangest thing has happened since I started reading this book. I have started to see things differently. A couple of weeks ago I was convinced that I needed to make big changes in my life if I were to find joy. Now I have started to realise that the change has to happen in myself first. And when I started to turn myself away from myself, to focus less on my own joy and more on how I could bring joy to others, it was as though a light switched on. As though somebody took my overloaded backpack off my shoulders and reminded me that I’m not alone, that we’re all in this together, and if we share the burden we can make it a whole lot lighter.
I think this is an important read for everyone, and anyone who is looking to enrich their lives (aren’t we all in some way or another?) These are without a doubt two of the wisest men in the world right now, who have managed to overcome, who can preach love and forgiveness despite seeing the worst sides of people. If anyone can offer an opinion on the matter it is them.
9Lives and Penguin Random House SA is giving away one brilliant book hamper worth R1000! Get The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, Quiet Power by Susan Cain and Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett.
To enter, tell me what brings you joy. Post in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Competition closes 15 November.
You can also join the conversation online with #ShareTheJoy