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READ MY MIND © Book Reviews

May 01, 2017 12:16PM ● By Michael Harris

Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

The Book of Joy 

Every now and then a book comes along that is so inspirational and meaningful it becomes a must read. This list includes Viktor Frankl's Man's Searching For Meaning, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, and Ethan Hawke's Rules For A Knight. (By the way, if you haven't already read these treasures, what are you waiting for?) 

Last year, Nobel Peace Prizewinners His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote The Book of Joy, a most worthy addition to those marvelous books. The result of a weeklong celebration of the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday, this book provides their collective wisdom on how to find "lasting happiness in a changing world.” It is their special gift to all of us. 

They believe the purpose of life is to find happiness, and that the ultimate source of happiness is within us. Since we create most of our suffering, we can also create our own joy. Joy takes many shapes: pleasure, wonder, pride, gratitude, bliss, and satisfaction.

How can we live with joy in a world filled with suffering? Remember that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Sadness is the most direct challenge to joy. The way through sadness and grief is to use it as motivation to generate a deep sense of purpose. "Our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others." We are meant to care for and interact with others. The old adage "Money can't buy happiness" is wrong. It can if you spend it on others! 

They cultivated eight pillars of joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. Of these, compassion and generosity are the two qualities they believe lead to long-lasting happiness.

The Dalai Lama's approach to life is basically: Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? (Just fix it!) And why be unhappy if it can’t be remedied? (There’s nothing you can do, so why worry about it.) To be truly happy, you must accept the fact that frustrations and hardships are part of life. The question is not "How do we escape unhappiness?” The question is “How can we use it as something positive?”


Acceptance allows us to move into the fullness of joy. When we accept the present, we can forgive and release the desire for a different past. Forgiveness does not mean we are accepting the wrongdoing of others, but it is the only way we can heal ourselves and be free from the past. When we forgive, we take back control of own fate and our feelings. We become our own savior. Not forgiving robs us of the ability to enjoy and appreciate our life. Being trapped in a past fills us with anger and bitterness. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the past and appreciate the present. 

Gratitude is one of the key dimensions of joy as it connects us to other people. Compassion connects the feeling of empathy to acts of kindness, generosity, and altruism. Self-compassion is closely connected to self-acceptance. It's hard to love others as you love yourself if you don't love yourself.

Generosity is not just about giving money, but how we give our time. “Money can buy happiness if we spend it on others. That's the ultimate goal of human life – to live with joy and purpose."

The book ends with a series of "joy practices” to overcome the obstacles to joy and cultivate the eight pillars of joy. I agree with the authors that rejoicing in your day and your relationship with your community is the greatest joy. Try it and see for yourself!




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