Book Review: The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams

Marriage and family therapy therapist psychotherapist graduate student masters degree doctorate phd MFT licensed prelicensed clinical social worker trainee intern associate

I'm going to be honest with you--I downloaded this audiobook because I felt like it was something I should read. I've never read anything by the Dalai Lama, I just know he is on the path to enlightenment and probably a pretty good person. It had been recommended in some Reddit thread on books for therapists, so I figured, what the heck. There are worse ways to spend in hours of traffic than listening to the wisdom of the Dalai Lama.

I am so glad I did. This book far exceeded my expectations.

First of all, I do recommend listening to the audiobook first. Douglas Abrams, the journalist who narrates this extraordinary summit between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reads his part, and two voice actors read the parts of the two spiritual leaders in accents I assume must approximate the real thing. The effect is utterly charming.

I think part of my eye-roll resistance to reading anything by "spiritual leaders" is that I find self-righteous seriousness insufferable. In my experience, a sense of humor is necessary to weather what life can throw at you. And I assumed the Dalai Lama and an Archbishop talking about anything would be mind-numbingly dull, even in something called The Book of Joy.

WRONNNNNG.

These two spiritual leaders are SO FUNNY. They crack jokes with each other, tease each other, and playfully slap each other. The Dalai Lama insists, "laughter is good for the heart."

Marriage and family therapy therapist psychotherapist graduate student masters degree doctorate phd MFT licensed prelicensed clinical social worker trainee intern associate

What makes their humor so charming, though, is their warm-heartedness. They are so loving--with each other and with literally all of humanity.

Marriage and family therapy therapist psychotherapist graduate student masters degree doctorate phd MFT licensed prelicensed clinical social worker trainee intern associate

Additionally, they emphasize how to be loving to yourself. Another thing I have resisted for a long time is meditation. However, there's a section at the end of the book with suggested practices if readers want to try to take action to increase their joy, and I was pleasantly surprised at how grounded the exercises are. There's nothing uncomfortably esoteric--rather, there are lovely suggestions for things like meditating in the morning to set an intention for the rest of the day. The Dalai Lama admits that sometimes, even he can't come up with an intention; on those days, he simply resolves to do his best to help others, and if he can't, at least he will try to bring no harm to others.

Perhaps the most encouraging conclusion these two great men come to in the book is that joy comes from not pursuing things but from living in community and helping others. This resonates with what has called me to pursue therapy at this point in my life--I have found it to be true, the most joyous moments in my life have come when I could be of service to others. Abrams, the narrator of sorts, includes some fascinating asides about why, scientifically speaking, we are hardwired to find service so satisfying.

No matter what else I tell you about this book, I can't possibly do it justice. I just really hope you'll read it. Its effects have been rippling through my life ever since I closed the cover, and I love how its impact is shifting my perspective. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with some of the most joyous humans on the planet.

 

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