Here’s a departure from my usual research-based reports. Although the Garden Atriums are net zero, with Verizon as my only utility bill, the #1 reason – by far – that our residents bought their Garden Atrium home was the aesthetics of the home and the site. I realized that “Sustainable Living” has to encompass both (1) living 100% with what Earth provides, which can be readily done, and (2) enjoying as high a quality-of-life-experience as we can provide. In fact, I believe it’s the latter that’s been the lure – and may be essential – for enticing people to live in a net zero fashion.
And what does a higher quality-of-life experience lead to? Joy. So, here are excerpts from a book that’s totally focused on how to live with greater joy. Enjoy them; I’ll add a few comments afterwards.
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The Book of Joy
Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams
P.14 “Sadly, many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us. The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.”
P.29 “Mind and heart. Materialistic values cannot give us peace of mind. So we really need to focus on our inner values, our true humanity. Only this way can we have peace of mind – and more peace in our world. A lot of problems we are facing are our own creation, like war and violence.
“Something is lacking. As one of the seven billion human beings, I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others’ well-being. In other words, kindness or compassion, which is lacking now. We much pay more attention to our inner values. We must look inside.”
P.33 Joy is associated with feelings as varied as:
- Pleasure (of the five senses)
- Amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh)
- Contentment (a calmer kind of satisfaction)
- Excitement (in response to novelty or challenge)
- Relief (following upon another emotion, such as fear, anxiety, and even pleasure)
- Wonder (before something astonishing and admirable)
- Ecstasy or bliss (transporting us outside ourselves)
- Exultation (at having accomplished a difficult or daring task)
- Radiant pride (when our children earn a special honor)
- Unhealthy jubilation or schadenfreude (relishing in someone else’s suffering)
- Elevation (from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion)
- Gratitude (the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary)
- Rejoicing (in someone else’s happiness)
- Delight or enchantment (a shining kind of contentment)
- Spiritual radiance (a serene joy born from deep well-being and benevolence.)
P.43 “As we were saying, if you are setting out to be joyful you are not going to end up being joyful. You’re going to find yourself turned in on yourself. It’s like a flower. You open, you blossom, really because of other people. And I think some suffering, maybe even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient for life, certainly for developing compassion.”
P.49 According to Lyubomirsky, the three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.
P.85 “Basically, I think we’ve got to accept ourselves as we are and then hope to grow in much the way the Dalai Lama described. I mean getting to know what the things are that trigger us. These are things that you can train, you can change, but we ought not be ashamed of ourselves. We are human, and sometimes it is a good thing that we have human emotions.”
P.96 “Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition. Then when we don’t fulfill that expectation or achieve that ambition, we experience frustration.
P.97 What is it we truly need? According to the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama, when we see how little we really need – love and connection – then all the getting and grasping that we thought was so essential to our well-being takes its rightful place and no longer becomes the focus or the obsession of our lives.
P.116 “Yes, we’re capable of the most awful atrocities. It is good also to remember that we have a fantastic capacity for goodness. It’s so wonderful that we can be distressed. That’s part of the greatness of who we are – that you are distressed about someone who is not family in any conventional way. And yet you feel distressed, equally. It’s incredible just how compassionate and generous people can be.”
P.127 “These differences between religions are personal matters. When we relate to others from the place of compassion it goes to the first level, the human level, not the secondary level of difference. Then you can even have compassion for your enemy.”
P.129 “The only thing that will bring happiness is affection and warmheartedness. This really brings inner strength and self-confidence, reduces fear, develops trust, and trust brings friendship. We are social animals, and cooperation is necessary for our survival, but cooperation is entirely based on trust. When there is trust, people are brought together – whole nations are brought together. When you have a more compassionate mind and cultivate warmheartedness, the whole atmosphere around you becomes more positive and friendlier. You see friends everywhere. If you feel fear and distrust, then other people will distance themselves. They will also feel cautious, suspicious, and distrustful. Then comes the feeling of loneliness.”
P.137 According to the happiness research, “Upward comparisons” are particularly corrosive to our wellbeing. Envy doesn’t leave room for joy.
P.138 The Archbishop then went on to offer a powerful remedy for envy: gratitude. “I think that one of the best ways you can begin to counter it is that old one of counting your blessings. That might sound very old, old, old, old, old, grandfather-style, but yes, it does help. You know you might not have as big a house as that person, but you know what? You’re not living in a shack. So being thankful for the things that you do in fact have can help.”
And then the Archbishop offered his final and most effective remedy: reframing. “The very best is being able to ask yourself, ‘Why do you want to have a house that has seven rooms when there are only two or three of us? Why do I want to have it?’ And you can turn it on its head and look at how we are in such a mess with climate change because of our galloping consumption, which for the environment has been nothing less than disastrous. So you buy the small electric car instead, and you say, No I don’t need or want the big luxury car. So instead of it being your enemy, now it’s your ally.”
P.140 The Dalai Lama describes the Buddhist concept of mudita, which is often translated as sympathetic joy and described as an antidote to envy. Mudita recognizes that life is not a zero-sum game, that there is not just one slice of cake in which someone else’s taking more means we get less. Mudita sees joy as limitless.
P.153 The Archbishop had once explained to me that suffering can either embitter us or ennoble us and that the difference lies in whether we are able to find meaning in our suffering. Without meaning, when suffering seems senseless, we can easily become embittered. But when we can find a shred of meaning or redemption in our suffering, it can ennoble us, as it did for Nelson Mandela.
P.166 “Our life is short. Now you see, we are guests here on this planet, visitors who have come for a short time, so we need to use our days wisely, to make our world a little better for everyone.”
P.193 As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
P.213 When we have humility, we can laugh at ourselves. It was surprising to hear the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama describe the importance of a proper sense of humor, and especially the ability to laugh at our own foibles, as essential to the cultivation of joy.
P.221 “Life is hard, you know, and laughter is how we come to terms with all the ironies and cruelties and uncertainties that we face. Jokes are funny precisely because they break our expectations and help us to accept the unexpected.”
P.223 “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied?”
P.242 Gratitude is the elevation of enjoyment, the ennobling of enjoyment. Gratitude is one of the key dimensions in the definition of joy. Gratitude is the recognition of all that holds us in the web of life and all that has made it possible to have the life that we have and the moment that we are experiencing.
P.254 “The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience. The incredible thing is that when we think of alleviating other people’s suffering, our own suffering is reduced. This is the true secret to happiness.”
P.293 “When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money.”
P.299 “So all of us, spiritual brothers and sisters, have a special responsibility, have a special role to make clear that the ultimate source of a meaningful life is within ourselves. If you live this way, until your last breath comes you will be a happy, happy, person. That’s the goal of a human life – to live with joy and purpose.”
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As you may know, for almost 20 years, Trina and I have had the gift of communication with “D”, the non-physical entity, or “deva” of our site. One of the daily “rituals” that D has encouraged us to do has been to complete each day with an expression of gratitude for whatever we were truly grateful for that day. When I saw this one excerpt from the Joy book, it rang true.
“Gratitude is the elevation of enjoyment, the
ennobling of enjoyment. Gratitude is one of
the key dimensions in the definition of joy.”
As we wind down each day, we think about things – even small, seemingly insignificant things, such as the day’s weather – that have made our day more joyful. Some days, a great moment or achievement quickly surfaces. Some days, it takes a moment to think of something – but – it does have to be something for which we are truly grateful, not just something we can say to “satisfy the requirement.” It needs to be genuine, not just “going through the motions.” The process takes very little time, and yet it actually makes a real, positive, and more joyful difference in how we feel.
And with all the turmoil, climate problems, pandemic, shootings and warfare, isn’t it time to think about all the things in our life for which we are truly grateful? Feeling some joy is truly a great way to end each day.