Two More Tips from The Book of Joy

Two More Tips from The Book of Joy

In “Service, Support and Giving Lead to Joy,” I wrote about a first practice from The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu and Douglas Abrams. At the time, I had read about second and third practices from that book, but they didn’t click with me. The election changed that.

The Dalai Lama recommends a second joy practice: when we worry about our own suffering, take a broader perspective. For example, if he worries about suffering in his own country, but then, considers how people all over the world are also suffering, he realizes he isn’t alone, which reduces his own worry and suffering.

But I felt quite content with my life. The things I worried about were those happening at wider levels. How could it help to think even more of the thoughts that already troubled me?

In “From My Heart,” I described how the election results shocked me not only into a state of grief, but also despair.

“I felt that, if a woman of Hillary Clinton’s stature, experience, and all the support she had, can be defeated by American acceptance of bigotry, what hope was there for a little peanut like me? A little peanut who had hoped, eventually, to teach a critical mass of people to get what they need from others in ways that build bridges, rather than burning them.”

I felt like curling up in a fetal position, burrowing into my bed, and never moving again. Then, I thought, if I feel this bad, how must Hillary Clinton feel?

For reasons I still don’t fully understand, this thought got me off that bed to my computer. I used the first joy practice by making some charitable donations online. It helped, a little, but it helped.

Thinking about someone who had to be suffering many times more than I was broke the first chip through my despair.

Archbishop Tutu spoke about a third joy practice, an antidote to despair. “We feel optimistic, or we feel pessimistic…[H]ope is different…it is not based on…feelings but on the firm ground of conviction…To chose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass.”

At first, I stumbled over the firm conviction part. But as I worked through my election grief, I decided to no longer keep my blog politically neutral. I would overtly speak my truth about issues, but also practice my Silver Rule[1]—avoid name calling and sarcasm, minimize judgmental language, etc. I’d keep teaching others to practice my Silver Rule in telling their own truth.

Maybe I had not yet arrived at Tutu’s “unshakable” conviction that the storm will pass. But I knew that I could neither live with myself nor die in peace unless I tried. So, I’m sticking my chest out there no matter what.

I hope some of you will try the three joy practices:

  1. Service, support and giving
  2. Considering suffering beyond your own
  3. Moving forward with hope

Please let me know how they work for you.

[1] Margaret E. Anderson, Bridges to Consensus, Chapter 4

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