Hello Homesong readers! I am delighted to have you joining us this late spring evening, or this morning, or wherever it is that our book club discussion finds you. Like our last discussions, I am going to put the questions below for those who care to reference. I would love to hear how you liked this book, things that made you smile, takeaways that you found to be inspiring, quotes you were drawn to, or questions you may have come across while reading. Write them below, spark discussion, and let’s go from there! You can respond to those who comment, leave a comment of your own, or do as you please. This is our book club, not mine, so I will start things off and let y’all go from there.
- How do you define ‘joy’? How do you define ‘suffering’? What is the relationship between the two?
- Do you consider yourself a fragile creature? How does this affect how you go about your days?
- Reflect and write your reaction to the following quote by Dalai Llama, “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 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.” Pg.14
- How can one widen their perspective to the collective human experience in order to reduce their own worry and suffering?
- Is your country a part of your identity? How has your perspective on this shaped your views of and reactions to the current refugee crisis we as a global community are facing all over the world?
- In what was can suffering be an ingredient for compassion? How about stress as an ingredient? Have you ever entertained these thoughts before?
- Reflect and write your reaction to the following quote by Dalai Llama, “Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.”
- Do you think that we humans have control over our emotions?
- How does ‘sensory joy’ play a part in your life? What do you think the boundary is between good and greed?
- What does a meaningful day look like for you?
- What is your reaction to the way the Dalai Llama describes the process of the mind that leads to fear, alienation, and ultimately to violence? Pg. 77
- Without thinking too much on this, quick list 5 current obstacles to joy in your life right now.
- Reflect on and respond to the following quote by Archbishop Tutu, “It is very hard to be joyful with stress and anxiety; we have a continual feeling of being overwhelmed and not being able to handle our work commitments, our family commitments, or the digital devices that are constantly reminding us of all the things that we are missing. Juggling so many things at the same time, we can feel like we are always one step behind.” pg. 95 In what ways does this statement reflect your life? Do you suffer from a general state of unease? What do both interviewees suggest is the main culprit of fear, stress, and anxiety?
- What grief stricken experiences, either occurring in your life or in the lives of others, have opened you up to the world in ways you have not expected?
- Do you feel that children today are going to school where they are not taught to nurture deeper human values, such as compassion, so their basic human potential becomes dormant? If so, what can we do about this? If not, share your situation. Pg. 127
- What brings you warmheartedness? Why is it that we are not able to achieve warmheartedness and wholeness when we are filled with negative judgement and anger? Pg. 129
- How has the grips of comparison paralyzed you on social media? What do these spiritual leaders say are remedies for envy?
- How can suffering make someone appreciate joy? How is this true concerning your life experiences?
- What is one thing you underlined from the chapter titled “Illness and Fear of Death”?
- Have you ever tried to meditate? How do you think meditating would specifically help you be more joyful?
- Do you agree with the quote, “With our minds we create our own world” with reference to cultivating a healthy perspective to experience joy? Explain. Pg. 194
- How does shifting perspective to see life through a broader lens help you in marriage? In motherhood?
- Do you consider yourself a humble person? Who in your life holds you accountable and is good at keeping your humble?
- Think about the last time you belly laughed. What was going on around you at that time that made you feel safe enough to let go and wholeheartedly give yourself to the funny situation? Lastly, how does laugher help you in life? In marriage? In motherhood?
- What in your life do you need to accept to be able to move into the fullness of joy? Do you believe that the acceptance of reality is the real place where change can begin, as the Archbishop states?
- Do you think forgiveness is a sign of strength? Who do you need to forgive in your life? How will forgiveness lessen the weight this relationship is causing in your life?
- Are you generally an optimistic person? What things help you practice gratitude on a daily basis?
- It has been said many times throughout this book that self-centered thinking is the source of suffering, and that a compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.
- Who is one of the most compassionate people you know? How do they keep their heart open in the midst of suffering and hardship?
- What are some of the traits of the happiest, most joyful people you know? How have these traits been reflected throughout this book? In what tangible ways can you begin to implement these virtues within your own life?
Also, our next book, “No Drama Discipline” will start tomorrow, June 1st, and if you are on the newsletter mailing list you will get your first reflection questions sent then. I will be sending weekly letters for our next book because I am anticipating heaps of discussion points. We will also be having two discussions, one halfway through, and one at the end to wrap things up like we did with “The Hidden Life of Trees”. Alrighty, let’s get started! Head to the comment section to participate.
admin - I want to share a little bit about a couple we know who, without question, are two of the happiest people Andrew and I know. The husband is battling cancer, and has for some time, and because of their difficult situation you’d think they would be bitter and withdrawn, or maybe even pessimistic. They are the opposite. These two are the most generous, easy-going, happy people who radiate joy despite their circumstances. They reach out whenever possible to lend a helping hand and never miss an opportunity to say “thank you”. They always give more than their means and will travel anywhere or do anything for you if they know you need help. I was reminded of their contagious joy and selflessness throughout this book and loved how much the Dalai Lama talked about joy being a byproduct of other things, like giving and gratitude.
Elizabeth - I have a wonderful 4 year old boy who has lately started testing us and I think I would majorly nerd-out on your next book club book. I’d love to read along!! I’ll order the book and look forward to discussion and learning from others. Thanks!
Kylie - Thank you Amanda for choosing this book! It felt like such a perfect fit for this season of my life. I felt like I was practically underlining the entire book from all the quotes that spoke to my soul! One of my favorites was in the chapter of perspective, “We see that in the most seemingly limiting circumstances we have choice and freedom, even if that freedom is ultimately the attitude we will take.”
Being a young twenty-something and not having a set path in life can definitely make me feel like I’ve fallen into a rut time and time again but this book has made me so appreciative of the life I am living and all of the incredible people in it.
Emily Musgrove - Oooh I so so agree! I just turned 20, but this time of life is so hard because everyone is doing different things that seem better or more productive/exciting than me. This book was a great reminder that I get to choose joy everyday. It really has changed the way i think about things, and realize how very blessed I am!
Lauren - Question 4:
I love this particular idea. I had never thought of it prior to reading this book. I was struggling with my birth experience somewhat (I’m 3 months postpartum), especially because of my labour. I was in labour for over 30 hours, but my baby wouldn’t drop and we ended up needing a c-section. I live in BC, Canada, and c-sections aren’t nearly as common as they are in the States, so it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I wasn’t suffering over the c-section, but reliving the pain of the labour itself, and how I knew it didn’t feel right. I kept comparing myself to other mothers who have natural births, thinking that mine must have been harder than theirs. This idea completely changed my perspective. Instead of thinking of how much “harder” birth experience was (all my perspective of course. I can’t really know this!), and how I felt unheard by my doula and midwife, I now think of all the mothers who have had a similar experience to mine. It’s different than thinking “oh, it could have been worse”. This doesn’t lead to less hurt for me. Instead, this new concept makes me feel connected to all the other mothers who have been in that situation, and to mothers in general. I feel so much healing after reading this excerpt.
On a similar note, reading Archbishop Tutu’s perspective on birth reminded me of how strong mothers are (whether you had your baby naturally or adopted!), and how much joy it brings us: “And even after the most painful labor, once the baby is out, you can’t measure a mother’s joy. It is one of those incredible things that joy can come so quickly from suffering”. So beautiful and so true. Thank you so much for this read Amanda. It was just what I needed.
Morag - Hi Lauren
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story, that really spoke to me. That unjust, or ‘harder birth’ feeling is one I can relate to and was a lovely nudge to remember to look outward..
Jessie - Lauren-
I too was reminded of the hardships of child birth, especially as I’m anticipating my second child in about six months. I too found comfort in the concept of joining with other mothers around the world giving birth and who have given birth for all of human existence. A very powerful concept indeed!
Lauren - Thank you for your comments Morag and Jessie. Always nice to know your comment struck a cord with others 🙂
Katie - In the chapter Generosity, I loved the remark when they were discussing the problems facing the world, “The only way out of this drunken stupor is to educate children about the value of compassion and the value of applying our mind.” It made me more mindful of ways I could teach my children about compassion and mindfulness. It also helped me to realize I’m not always as mindful as I could be. I will get distracted with stress/anxiety and this book really made me realize how much space that was taking up in my mind and I was missing out by allowing the stress/anxiety to take over.
Jessica - I loved this book and have already started recommending it to friends and family to read. I have lost count of how many times i’ve said to my husband “The Dalai Lama says….” It’s become a running joke.
In reading this book, every chapter was a joy! I loved the way that Douglas described the relationship he witnessed between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I felt like I was in the room with them all, witnessing those special conversations.
I was particularly touched by the chapter on the fear of death. This hit me personally, as I do not know anyone close to me who has died. I seem to be living in a bubble, and have never experience grief from loss of a loved one. As a result I have a massive fear about death. The words I underlined were “Everything is in a constant state of change – nothing remains static, and nothing remains permanent”. This I think tied in well with our previous book – The Hidden Life of Trees. We are ALL part of the natural world – trees, animals, humans, and this quote applies to all of us. It made me feel connected to the world and nature and humanity, and therefore giving me more of a sense of purpose on this earth.
Lauren - I too loved the part about nothing being static and everything in a constant state of change….I am so guilty of waiting for things to ‘settle down’ before doing A, B or C, instead of just embracing the changing nature of life and doing things now.
Anna - Hi Amanda, great discussion questions! I am wondering if you have the book “Hardwiring Happiness” on your radar? It would be the perfect compliment to this book as it gives all the scientific explanations for why all of the great wisdom in The Book of Joy helps us all neurologically. Also the book “the Molecules of Emotion”. I have learned so much about all of this due to a brain injury that I am recovering/rewiring from and its the truth we all should learn about. Its amazing to see how spiritual truths and scientific ones come together so beautifully. xo
Sophie - Hi Amanda,
Thank you so much for recommending this book, I would have never picked it up by myself. It has opened me up in so many different ways and changed my way of thinking.
Although there are many wise words in this book, one quote that stuck with me is Shantideva’s questions : “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it can not be remedied?”. It goes together with the idea of how change can only begin once we have accepted a given situation. Well, this speaks to me at the moment because I am in a moment in my life where I want to change things.
Like Jessica said, this book is wonderfully lined to the previous one in the sense that happiness and well-being comes from giving, sharing and helping. It comes from the others and this is a beautiful way of thinking.
Courtney - Loved this book so much. I’ve been a fan of both fellows and to read their conversations was so endearing.
One of the standouts in the book to me was when the Tibetan in the Chinese camp endured so much and said he was scared… of losing his compassion for his captors. That was really moving to me that he could still think like that after so many people around him were dying by their hands.
That has to prove we really do create our own realities with our minds.
Kelsey - Hi Amanda! I am on the mailing list but I didn’t receive an email for the new book. I just wanted to make sure I was still included as I’m loving writing all the reflection questions in a journal each week!
Janina - Hey there! I would love to join your book clue, am I too late to join for no drama discipline?
Morag - Hi, firstly yes I do want to thank you Amanda for suggesting such an amazing book. Honestly each time I picked up to read was like a meditation in itself, I could feel myself opening up and a release of stress and worry. Crying far too many tears of joy and sadness.
One of the main interest of the book for me was the way so often the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu were saying the same thing but coming from different paths. I myself have grown up in a Christen country but now an adult follow Buddhist teachings. They are not the same but both ways seem to come down to the basic fact of living your life for more than just yourself, believing in more outside of yourself, and.more so outside of those we associate with. I just want to shout at the book yes, yes, yes! From taking time to understand there is always compassion to be found.
I have now found I try and choose two words to set as my intentions for the day (today ‘calm’ and ‘delight’) and have found how I can ‘suffer’ when I find myself lost in thought and reactions but these intentions ground me back. Has anyone else tried any of the exercises at the back of the book? x
Stephanie - Morag, I love the idea of setting an intention for the day around a word or theme. I did some of the exercises in the back of the book and I really enjoyed the meditation practice. This is something I’ve been trying for the past year or so. I’m finding meditation brings me a sense of calm and peace I don’t usually experience in my day to day. I really enjoyed this book. There was so much wisdom within the pages. One of the concepts that really stuck with me was the idea of us all being the same, all being one, all being the “same humans.” So often we look to others and judge, criticize, assume we are better than “them” or maybe even put ourselves down and assume we aren’t as successful/beautiful/wealthy/lucky/have it all together as “them.” When I’ve thought more about this concept, I’m realizing we are all the same, regardless of how we perceive others. If anything, we could be perceiving others and ourselves with much more love. This book taught me I can connect with others in a more compassionate way.
Jessie - I am so happy this book was chosen for our book club. Over the last half a year or so I’ve really been struggling with the balance of finding my own joy within myself and my home life and doing my part in a country that is very broken and divided-where the suffering of many is prominent. Most often I would feel so selfish and privileged when I would experience the joy of the little things in life- part of my brain would automatically think of all those who do not have these simple pleasures and I would feel foolish and ashamed for feeling these happy thoughts in empathy for others. Recently I have learned that although empathy is extremely important in understanding the perspectives of others, compassion is what ends up being more important in terms of being productive and effective in helping others (rather than just feeling all the bad feelings with them).
One quote from the book really resonated with me in regards to this “Hey, remember you’re not alone, and you do not need to finish the work… It helps no one if you sacrifice your joy because others are suffering… Give the world your love, your service, your healing, but you can also give it your joy” (p273).
Anna White - Hello!
How do I get added to your book club newsletter? Thanks!
Jenna Bosscher - so i read the book but I am having trouble understanding what the specific argument that the book presented was.
steve marshall - Good questions this helps me focus on what I want to understand
Nancy Marano - I enjoyed reading your discussion questions.