It’s been about a month since I completed the “Book of Joy,” and I have needed its wisdom these past few days. Visiting my Mom with Alzheimer’s at her nursing home while my husband is traveling means working on my patience and putting aside expectations. Not having my husband there means I have no buffer when the moments get rough. I’ve relied on the wisdom of Bishop Tutu and The Dalai Lama to help me move forward this week.
The wisdom practices have been really helpful. One thing that sets this book part for me is that there is a section on Joy Practices- things to do daily to allow joy to leak into your life more. While there are a lot of exercises, I wanted to share three that have allowed more light into my days:
- Intention setting: This is a way to check-in every morning with your main intention, or ideals, for the day.
- You sit, you breather, you ask ‘What is my heart’s desire? What do I wish for myself, my loved ones, for the world?’ and answer with honesty.
- Then you state the intention to the Universe. Mine this weekend: “Today may I be more patient.”
- Then there is reading or prayer, whatever encourages you to act upon the intention
- Lojong: This is a way to use suffering and adversity for growth. We all suffer in some way.
- Think of what is bringing you sadness, frustration, anger- why are you suffering?
- Think of people who are suffering as well. Try to walk in their shoes in your thoughts. Feel empathy for people who suffer, and then ask yourself, “What can I gain from this experience?“
- Then, and this is extremely hard, try to be grateful for your adversity. I’m not grateful for my Mom’s Alzheimer’s but I am grateful that on Mother’s Day weekend, she shared memories and was happy. Her illness has helped me to be grateful for the times we have.
- The final step is to use your suffering to help alleviate the suffering of others. For me that will mean talking to friends whose family members are in the hospital, really listening and letting them know someone understands. It may mean raising money to fight Alzheimer’s or taking some other action. Action is key to fight the feeling of helplessness.
- Compassion Fast and Prayer
- Bishop Tutu has a very long prayer list. I have one too- there are people in my life I pray for regularly and then people who pop up on my prayer list as Guest Stars. This week, I wanted to focus on more than my anxiety, so praying for others helps keep the focus off me. Lighting candles and saying a prayer for the well-being of a friend, or even a stranger, at my church is a practice from my childhood. My Mom taught me that it was a way to show you are, even if that person never knows about your prayer.
- Sometimes, you don’t even need to know what you are praying for exactly- if you sense that a person is in trouble, just ask God/The Universe/Higher Power to send him/her strength and peace.
- Fasting is something I’m not great at, so giving something up and even fasting for a half a day has been a small beginning. As both The Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu point out, there are millions who do go hungry every day- being with them in unity for even part of a day is meaningful, and may force us to act in small ways, like taking part in a fundraiser to end hunger.
If you seek a simple, often fun guidebook on lasting happiness, I urge you to read this book. It’s really changed my life this year. Anxiety is a constant battle, but the more tools I have the more free I find myself to focus on what matters.