If It Doesn’t Make You Happier, You’re Not Reading It Right

My #1 Book Recommendation for 2017

When I got this week’s “Weekly Prompt” in my inbox, there was no question what book I would write about. 

This book is an amazing blend of East and West, wisdom and humor, life and death. It is the epitome of friendship, humbleness and humanness. The number of highlights in my kindle edition mean that when I open up the ‘notes’ section, nearly the whole book is there. The book isn’t short and every yet word felt poignant. 

The Book Of Joy is a masterpiece. In it, Douglas Carlton Abrams sits with two of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders for a 5 day conversation on Joy. The Dalai Lama hosted Desmond Tutu for this meeting that almost didn’t happen due to health issues. I am so glad that these two masters were able to come together for such an in depth look into their lives, practices and beliefs. 

To whet your appetite, here are a few excerpts with a few notes from me: 

“Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say,” the Archbishop added as we began our descent, “save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we my cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet 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.”

This, though spoken by the Archbishop, is a central idea of Chinese medicine. All of the emotions are meant to be felt and experienced. As soon as they are, they should be transformed and released. Only emotions that are held within the body cause pain, emotional difficulty, life stagnation. 

“From the moment of birth, every human being wants to discover happiness and avoid suffering. No differences in our culture or our education or our religion affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment.” ~HH Dalai Lama

If this isn’t a lesson for the times, I don’t know what is. NO DIFFERENCES to who we are change this fact. We all want to experience joy. 

“There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is something I discuss with patients often. As someone who has coached many women who were struggling on their journey toward motherhood, this question comes up a lot: How can I avoid the disappointment if it doesn’t happen again? Can I hope less so that I hurt less? 

We, however, cannot lessen disappointment, pain and hurt by lessening hope, joy and contentment. The point is not to avoid the pain, but to move through it as gracefully as possible (even if graceful for you means shattering wine glasses against a brick wall). The next step is to ADD meaning. 

I don’t always believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that things happen and then we add meaning and reason to make sense of the events. I also believe that adding sense and meaning is our responsibility and it was allows us to transform emotions, to grow and to avoid being heartbroken, bitter and angry. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from HH Dalai Lama:

“So, on that level, I have tried to make people aware that the ultimate source of happiness is simply a healthy body and a warm heart.”

Go on and read, with warm hearts and open minds. 

Make 2018 more joyful, more compassionate and more content. 

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