by Sameena Khan
We are all here on this planet searching for something, evolving, waking up. In a world where we are trying to survive everyday struggles, wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to have more joy in our lives as we learn our lessons and gather experiences? How would your life change if you were happier? How would you change?
The Book of Joy helps us to understand how to attain joy and teaches us that we are here to thrive, not just survive. It’s an empowering dialogue between the Dalia Lama and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of South Africa that underscores the concept that our happiness really does lie within ourselves and that we have the power to create a more blissful reality.
Why read yet another book on Joy?
We’ve heard this before but what sets this dialogue apart from much of the existing literature is not only the content, but also the process in which it is presented. The dynamic between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu is instantaneously uplifting as they use respect, authenticity, and humor to interact with one another and impart their wisdom on such topics as the obstacles and pillars of joy. There is a lightness to the heavy subject matter that helps us, the reader, absorb, process, and hopefully incorporate into our every day lives. Not only do they teach us how to create more joy in our lives, they are living examples of it.
The path from suffering to lasting happiness.
This book illustrates is that we have the power to transform our suffering into joy. It is not easy; it requires going into the wounds and feeling those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and then shifting our perspective to that of forgiveness, or gratitude, or compassion, or love. One might long for a specific formula, one that is directionally linear where we can check off certain boxes along the way, but it’s a squiggly line as we work through the many layers of feelings and looping thought patterns we’ve internalized since childhood.
That being said, if one is committed to the process of replacing destructive thought patterns with ones that are healthier—ones that focus on things such as compassion or love instead of anger or fear, then you are well on your way. The Dalia Lama and the Archbishop refer to this as Mental Immunity, which doesn’t mean we need to be Tibetan Monks to achieve joy, but it does require shifting our perspective, accepting where we are at, and doing the internal work to get to a place of compassion and gratitude in order to reach a more enlightened state.
Find meaning in the experience.
One way to get through our suffering is to find meaning in our experiences, whether it is heartbreaking grief, a physical illness, past trauma, or everyday stress and frustration. When we are consciously committed to finding the lessons in a given hardship we are more likely to feel as though the pain was worth it, which in turn provides us with a sense of purpose for the suffering. Furthermore, we are more likely to not repeat a harmful pattern of thinking or behaving. In doing so we honor ourselves, the experience, and find the higher perspective for it. We can then work it through, and become more aware should the issue arise once again. And it likely will just to test us on our progress, but according to these two men we are now more equipped to remain in the state of Joy.
Drop into your heart.
The Archbishop goes on to say that joy is a not only a state of mind but a state of the heart as well. The authors highlight compassion as a wonderful way to stay in our hearts. Sometimes humanity can be in so much fear and anger that this leads to a disconnection from one another and ourselves. This is highly destructive to our well-being. Many psychologists posit that disconnection is even the leading cause of addictions. If we tend to focus solely on our own pain and struggles and lose the space to have compassion for others we run the risk of interacting with others in harmful ways. By understanding that we are all connected and that we all experience the spectrum of human emotions and hardships, we can better relate to one another and form more authentic and healing relationships. It is important to note here that having compassion for others and for ourselves and what we are experiencing is very healing, and leads us to a more joyful state of being.
There’s even more.
These are just a few concepts that The Book of Joy asks us to consider. It also highlights the importance of forgiveness, generosity, humility and humor and demonstrates how we can get to make the changes to be in these states of being. The psychological and spiritual content of this book are presented in a, well, joyful way, and one that does not come off as blaming or shaming. or preachy. The dialogue is easy to read and inspires the reader to do the internal exploration or self and make positive changes in our hearts and minds as we learn how to transcend our suffering.
Book Source: Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu & Douglas Carlton Abrams. “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/WDXkbb.l
About the author:
Sameena Khan is a Clinical Psychologist, Writer, Holistic Lifestyle Consultant, and Alchemist. Her intuitive psycho-spiritual work helps others explore and work through their psychological, emotional, physical, and overall energetic blockages in order to live a healthier and more joyful life. You can visit her at HolisticSoulPsychology. Sameena is also a Content Manager at Instaread, a genius app that provides key takeaways and summaries of best-selling books. “Learn something new today!”
Light on the Mountain tells the tale of the Ancient One, a spiritual being that has been asleep for 1000 years; according to prophecy he awakens to lead the people of the city plain out of despair and governmental oppression. Offering a spiritual message of hope and renewal, he helps set in motion universal forces which correct the balance.
In our world these are difficult times. Much is in disarray, we are involved in a war with terrorists and countless millions are in poor health and do not get enough to eat. Yet the solution to these age-old problems lies within us. We can make a better world by improving ourselves and helping others. As a society, we must begin to offer numerous programs/experiences which help to maximize human potential.
Personal excellence is the basis upon which spiritual development systems are built, and this training must be brought into the forefront of daily life. This multi-level training does not replace other trainings; it helps enhance them.
The missing ingredient is spiritual learning. This learning helps complete a person, and a by-product of this learning is service and personal excellence. The completed individual seeks to serve self and others, equally. Realizing we are all connected; and when service to others becomes common place it will be as a result of human and spiritual awakening.
Come join the Ancient One. Enjoy how he liberates the people of the city plain, and in the process, learn about our collective human potential.
Stewart Bitkoff’s Online Store: www.StewartBitkoff.com/books
About the author:
Stewart Bitkoff grew up in New York City and spent most of his professional career living and working in the New York City area. An expert in therapeutic recreation and psychiatric rehabilitation and treatment, Dr. Bitkoff has been on the faculty or served as field instructor for multiple colleges and universities. He has written work centering on the topic of the completed person and the original human development system. For years Dr. Bitkoff studied in two modern mystical schools. Professionally he worked to help the mentally ill integrate their altered states of consciousness into the physical world; recently he worked with children and their families as a behavioral consultant.
When you face ongoing struggle and disappointment, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. Maybe despite countless bad dates you just can’t find a suitable partner. Maybe you lost your job and can’t find a new one. Maybe you’ve poured your life into your children only to be disappointed by their lack of gratitude, ambition, or empathy. Whatever the circumstances, when you face frequent rejection, strife, and loneliness, it can take a toll on your self-esteem.
Can you feel good about yourself even if no one else recognizes, validates, or otherwise acknowledges your worth? Absolutely yes, says author and speaker Maria Nhambu. “Life will wear you down if you let it, but people who fully love and nurture themselves can face the hard parts of life without it damaging their core,” says Nhambu.
In her book, Africa’s Child (Dancing Twiga Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-9972561-0-9, $24.95)—which includes a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman, the president and founder of Children’s Defense Fund—Nhambu describes a childhood with more than her fair share of heartache, abuse, and sorrow. Raised in an African orphanage for mixed-race children, she experienced routine physical abuse, poverty, sexual exploitation, and illnesses that nearly killed her—all before her eighteenth birthday. Further, she was frequently reminded by the nuns running the orphanage that she was a “child of sin.” One might predict that such trials would all but destroy a person’s self-worth for good.
Nhambu rejects the idea that the brutality of life can sabotage the human spirit. “I always knew I had the inner resources to deal with whatever happened to me,” she asserts. “I understood very early that I was responsible for my own happiness, and that happiness begins with loving myself unconditionally. And if I can love myself after everything I’ve endured, anyone can.”
Keep reading for Nhambu’s advice to find your way along the path to self-love.
First, make sure you’re really “showing up” for your life. If you’re feeling worthless or beaten down by “failure,” ask yourself if you’re giving anything less than your best in all areas of life. If you’re not giving your best, vow to make a change today and put forth the effort and passion required to achieve success.
Remember that you have a choice. Regardless of what happens to you, you ultimately choose how you feel about yourself. Make power choices instead of giving in to self-pity or feeling useless. Each day, resolve to treat yourself in a positive and supportive way and dwell on what you know is good about yourself.
Respect your own uniqueness. Stop comparing yourself to anybody else and never, ever put yourself down, instructs Nhambu. “People tend to judge themselves mercilessly,” she says. “We constantly get messages from the media telling us how we should be, but don’t listen to them. Accept yourself as you are and don’t waste your time rating yourself in relation to others.”
Be present to yourself. “Tuning in and being present with yourself is one of the greatest ways to love yourself,” explains Nhambu. “Go within and listen carefully to how you are feeling when things are happening around you. Because that space within is where you will find the truth and be comfortable.”
Figure out what makes you happy and focus on that. Imagine situations and activities that give you the most happiness. It could be hiking, singing, reading, or anything that energizes you and brings you joy. What activities make you feel best? Nhambu points out that doing what you love is a powerful way of caring for yourself.
For Nhambu—who is the creator of the popular Aerobics With Soul® African dance workout—dancing is soul-restoring and brings release and happiness. Dance helped her survive and find joy in her difficult childhood. “For me there’s no judgment in dancing,” says Nhambu. “Everything flows and I’m very present. I send my mind on vacation, and let my body just dance freely.”
Be proud of your talents and gifts. Don’t sell yourself short by overlooking or downplaying your natural strengths and talents—even if no one is acknowledging them.
“Accepting your gifts shows that you know and trust yourself,” points out Nhambu. “Remind yourself of your gifts, whatever they are, and feel gratitude for them. Keep in mind that when you learn to appreciate yourself, others will sense and be attracted to your confidence.”
Find someone to talk with. As a child, “Fat Mary” (the nickname given to Nhambu by the nuns who ran the orphanage) created another “Fat Mary”—part friend, part consoler, part counselor—who loved her unconditionally and held her sorrows, traumas, and joys until she was able to understand them. For Nhambu, Fat Mary was a steadfast source of love that carried her through the highs and lows of her life.
“Talking about events and feelings is important,” asserts Nhambu. “As a child, I talked to Fat Mary, but also with friends and adults. Finding someone you trust to confide in when you’re feeling sad or depressed will lighten the burden.”
Create a “family” of your own. Being raised an orphan taught Nhambu that “family” doesn’t always have to mean your blood relatives. She encourages people to create intentional families of friends and to find belonging in the community you make together.
“I’ve learned that my friends were really my family,” reveals Nhambu. “Your family doesn’t have to be the one you were born into—it can be the one you intentionally choose.”
“Despite the negative external messages I so often received in my life, I never allowed them to alter how I feel about myself,” concludes Nhambu. “If you are walking through a valley of sorrow and self-doubt, know that you already have the tools to love yourself again. Though it may not always be easy, you can reconnect to your own goodness and become the strong, confident, and capable person you were meant to be.”
About the Author:
Maria Nhambu is the author of Africa’s Child, the first book of the Dancing Soul Trilogy, as well as a speaker, dancer, and educator. Born in Tanzania, East Africa, and raised in an orphanage run by German nuns for mixed-race children, she sustained her spirit through dance and kept alive her dream of further education in the United States. There she created the popular workout based on African dance (Aerobics With Soul®). To learn more about Nhambu, please visit www.marianhambu.com.
About the Book:
Africa’s Child (Dancing Twiga Press, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-9972561-0-9, $24.95) is available from major online booksellers.
By Andrew Bloomfield, author of Call of the Cats
Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” That certainly was my experience. Thinking I was destined for greatness in Hollywood I found my life purpose instead in caring for a colony of wild cats.
My life as a down-on-my-luck aspiring screenwriter in Hollywood seemed uncomfortably close to that of Joe Gillis, the failed screenwriter in the classic film Sunset Boulevard. I ended up homeless as did he, but instead of escaping into the arms of faded movie star Norma Desmond, I was welcomed by an old love and her sister who lived ten miles from downtown Los Angeles. In the security of their small bungalow I could finally catch my breath, and spent my precious time (unsure of when I might get kicked out!) pecking away on my laptop, trying to manufacture the visions and dreams and high-concept twenty-word pitches I prayed would interest mercurial studio executives, mercenary independent producers, and beautiful, narcissistic rising stars.
Though the setting stimulating creativity, I became distracted by the horrific sounds of predators decimating kittens from a large colony of feral cats that made their home out back. Our backyard was a mini-jungle, burgeoned from what perhaps began as a lush backyard into a micro Amazon forest, replete with nonindigenous fronds, old-growth trees and thick veils of ivy oozing white sap. Normal neighborhood sounds dissolved here, replaced with chirps, caws, screeches, and the constant rustling of critters that called it home, including the feral colony. Had monkeys one day appeared and begun swinging from branch to branch, or the occasional rhino passed by, I would have taken it in stride.
These cats were not strays—abandoned domesticated cats; these were wild animals—untamed and, for the most part, untamable. They displayed a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes. They were stealthy and skittish, shadows at night, ghostlike flashes in the trees, peering under the high wooden fence that separated our yards. Occasionally I would spot a startled eye, a black nose, a wispy tail through the broken slats in the fence. The felines were as wary of human contact as any wild animal. Though most looked like domesticated house cats, they were unequivocally feral.
I came to learn that their predators, coyotes and raccoons, lived in the latticework of dried arroyos that ran down out of the San Gabriel Mountains. And they knew where to come for fresh meat. Newborn litters and young kittens were particularly vulnerable. Their numbers would grow and then diminish. We reasoned — albeit uneasily — that this was nature at work and none of our business. The cats had been there before the sisters moved in and would probably outlast them.
However, one day the colony sat in semi-circle around a dead kitten, holding my gaze, seemingly asking for my help. Feral cats do not approach humans, and they do not make eye contact. So I knew this was an important moment. It had all the familiar earmarks of the universe stepping in to supplant my personal plans. And I do believe in intervention when called.
So began the tumultuous saga of my relationship with this group of skittish, wild, and sometimes fierce felines. I began to name, nurse, feed, house, rescue, and neuter them. Sleep was a rare commodity; I rose from my bed countless times to fend off their attackers. I maxed out credit cards on vet bills, and emergency-room visits for myself when mauled by the very cats I was trying to help.
I made mistakes along the way certainly, and I’m sure feral cat caregivers will cringe when they read about certain choices and decisions I made in trying to keep the colony safe. But sometimes that’s how one learns. But trusting one’s intuition, jumping in and doing.
I had found my purpose. And it looked strangely different from how I imagined it might when I was younger —or for that matter even a week before moving into the house! While obviously not many will be called to care for feral cats, I do believe one key in discerning one’s true purpose is by simply doing the thing right in front of one’s face. The thing closest at hand.
Our civilization is skewed toward unease. An unease born of not looking like, having, or accomplishing whatever an advertiser deems indispensable at the time—or what the idol-of-the-day embodies. Thus many strive to look like, or be like, or have the things we’re told will bring us satisfaction. But what is lost in that search is authenticity. Authenticity is being true to oneself—being comfortable in our bodies and content with our skill sets. I’ve met parking garage attendants who take great pride in their work and are more fulfilled in their lives as a result, than some Fortune 50 CEOs.
By committing oneself to the task at hand one finds freedom. Even is that task may seem mundane or trivial. This is exemplified by a group of spiritual aspirants from ancient India called the 84 Mahasiddhas who lived over a thousand years ago. They became accomplished masters in a single lifetime, and attained high levels of mastery through their vocational pursuits. That was the medium through which they became perfected. And surprisingly many of them worked at very mundane jobs. Some were beggars, gamblers, prostitutes, rice thrashers, washer men, cow herders and even thieves. The deeper meaning of their life stories still has relevance today: that one’s job or calling in life contains the potentiality for perfect contentment and satisfaction. No matter what the outer appearance.
About the author:
Andrew Bloomfield is the author of Call of the Cats: What I Learned about Life and Love from a Feral Colony. After running his own bookstore in Seattle, Washington, where he hosted spiritual teachers from all over the world, he caught the film bug and moved to Hollywood. It was there he found his true calling — caring for a colony of feral cats. He lives in Southern California.
Based on the book Call of the Cats. Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Bloomfield. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.NewWorldLibrary.com