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The book of joy

Gavin T. Murphy keeps a blog on ilovebipolar.com and he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.

At this joyful time of year it seems apt to quickly introduce one of my favourite books of all time. New York Times bestseller The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is the product of the deep friendship between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science, right down my alley!

Here I offer three pieces of wisdom from this gem of a book:

1. Compassion can be cultivated and nourished each day.

Although Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama come from very different traditions, Christianity and Buddhism, they both train their minds and hearts in cultivating genuine concern for the well-being of their neighbours. For example, the Dalai Lama refers to the Chinese oppression of the Tibetans. Essentially, he takes in their anger, hatred and abuse and returns this destructive energy with love, forgiveness, and peace. Archbishop Tutu speaks of a similar practice that he developed during his major struggle with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and he is now known as a model of compassion throughout the world.

2. Aligning with the suffering of others decreases our own suffering.

Many people have colds at this time of year and it can be tempting to give in to low mood, self-centredness and despair. But if we simply be mindful of others who are spluttering, coughing and throbbing with headaches it actually makes us feel a little better. This is also an incentive for getting involved in charity work: whether this means dropping a few coins in a bucket for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul or chatting with a homeless person on the street it all helps to reduce our own suffering.

3. Joy is an interdependent reality.

To experience the light of God in this world we must be in communion with all of God’s kingdom. We are born to share our talents and gifts with each other. Some of us have a great eye for detail, others are inherently intuitive, some have clarity of vision, and so on. When we truly express ourselves as members of the seven billion people on this earth we come alive with joy, light and love. If we find ourselves feeling lonely, it is helpful to remember the Ubuntu wisdom of South Africa that calls out: “A person is a person through other persons”.

In the spirit of Saint Ignatius, I look to this book as one of the many gifts that are showered upon us this Christmas!