The second of three pieces of wisdom from a ground-breaking book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The New York Times bestseller is the product of the deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science.
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.
The first of three pieces of wisdom from a ground-breaking book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. The New York Times bestseller is the product of the deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Along with author Douglas Abrams, it attempts to blend contemplative wisdom and modern science.
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.
As things revved up in Dublin, I decided to unwind with another retreat. Notably, I forgot how to spell the word ‘beginning’ after my first evening meditating – a subtle reminder to start again. On the second day, I met for a few minutes with a facilitator. I told her how I had exerted a lot of energy in my career, that I was probably too wilful and that I felt drained, unmotivated and dry. To my surprise, she said that wilfulness was totally understandable for a man of my age and that I was placing a lot of judgement on myself. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked her for her comments and saw things from a different perspective. Continue reading
Advent (from Latin meaning ‘coming’) is a time – about four weeks – of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and is practised among many Christians throughout the world. Mary, mother of Jesus, is a central figure in this story. I look to her as someone who embodied a ‘big heart for a big world’. I imagine that God wanted to give new life to the people of earth through her willingness and cooperation. She completely opened her heart by saying “Yes” when the angel requested her to become the mother of Jesus. Continue reading
The mindfulness movement, it seems to me, was once an unconventional practice among Buddhists until it was discovered that its wisdom could be imparted to the world. Similarly, there seems to be another movement – a Zen-Ignatian movement – that also has the capacity to impart wisdom to the world.
Zazen and non-reactivity
Zen is a meditative way toward the infinite emptiness (who some may call God). Zazen is the name of the silent sitting meditation and it is done effectively in the half-lotus position which I have yet to master. Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson has shown that mindfulness meditation, similar to zazen, may improve affective responding and emotion regulation associated with the almond-shaped area of the brain known as the amygdala. Comments of meditators who scored higher on non-reactivity include: “When I have distressing thoughts or images, I just notice them and let them go”, and “I watch my feelings without getting lost in them” (Richard et al., 2018). Continue reading
There seemed to be an integral connection between my mood and the weather this week. I experienced a period of low mood and depression while at the same time feeling the wind chill and dampness in my bones. I already came across research showing a strong overlap between physical pain and social pain, so perhaps there is scientific evidence for my pondering too.
Carried by generosity and compassion
I was consoled to find two of my brothers chatting away in the living room one evening. I decided to plonk myself on the couch beside them and to simply absorb the atmosphere. I didn’t feel like talking and there was no pressure to do so. They welcomed me, accepted my low state and emitted their positivity. I am reminded of the prayer for generosity that includes the line: “To give and not to count the cost”. My brothers shared their views and opinions without expecting me to share mine. I felt comfortable in their presence. They laboured for me – helping to alleviate my emotional pain – and sought no reward, and that strikes me as particularly generous. I eventually said “Goodnight” and went about my bedtime routine. Continue reading
According to Dr David Hamilton, an act of kindness produces the hormone oxytocin which in turn causes the release of chemicals to reduce blood pressure and combat stress damage. These physiological changes create an atmosphere of bonding.
Acts of kindness
My mother said “I am with you” as I explained my PhD proposal to her on unconventional wisdom for well-being. I was used to feeling tension on this subject, but as I communicated in an honest and heartfelt way I was surprised to find that she was on my side. Her tone was soft, her gaze was gentle and we later hugged. I don’t need her approval to be happy, but it makes a difference.