Allow me to sum up our Lenten Study book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in a tweet. Self-centered living leads to stress, anxiety and depression. The more we think about the others, the more joy we find!
While simple to summarize, the challenge comes from creating a practice in our lives where we actively take ourselves out of the center of our lives and think about those around us. This mindfulness of thought requires us to pause and ask ourselves “why” are we having this thought and adjust how it’s impacting us.
Let me to give an example from my everyday life: A stressful thought pops into my head and my anxiety kicks in. With anxiety, the standard response is to address the task or situation that’s at the root of the issue (fight) or to run from the issue (flight). Our authors suggest that in those moments we should pause and think “why am I feeling anxiety?”, and then to remind ourselves that it is a good and joyous thing that our body is responding to this stress because it wants us to do something about it. This mindfulness is the same for moments of sadness (find other perspective on a situation) and anger (see the situation from the face of the other).
If you’re anything like me, your knee-jerk reaction may be “wow, this is a lot to think about when I’m feeling frustrated”, and you’d be right. What our authors are trying to teach us, is that these responses come easier over time as we practice them.
The question is: when do you find time to practice mindfulness? Do you have practice of daily silence to think and pray on the way you’re feeling? I must note, this is wholly different than stewing over your frustrations, but this is intentionally taking the time to find perspective, peace, and opportunity into your stress, anxiety, and anger. Most importantly this is a chance to invite God deeper into your life, so that while you seek deep joy, you do so alongside the One who we acknowledge is the source of all life and light.