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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

“The Book of Joy”: by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

Here’s another good book you might enjoy: The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. These two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and international spiritual leaders were also very close friends. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu visited the Dalai Lama’s home in India to celebrate His Holiness’s 80th birthday. It was their last meeting. Tutu passed away on Dec. 26, 2021. Author and editor Douglas Abrams was invited to their meetings to create a book based on their week-long conversations which centered on this vital question: How do we find joy amid life’s inevitable sufferings?

What struck we most about the book was the joyfulness of these two elderly men—despite the significant trials of their long lives. As Abrams says, “These two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our times and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.” Throughout the book, the men teased each other continually as they discussed the nature of true joy, the obstacles to joy, and shared their daily “practices of joy.”

As you probably know, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, yet he has lived in exile for more than fifty years. Desmond Tutu, an Episcopal priest, worked tirelessly to deconstruct the evil policy of apartheid from his beloved country of South Africa. In 1994 he was appointed Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where he fashioned a new way for countries to move forward after experiencing civil conflict and oppression—a way that excluded retaliation and vengeance. (I wish we in the U.S. would learn from South Africa’s experience.)

I would like to share with you a few excerpts from this book:

Both men agree: the fastest way to being joyful is to start with love and compassion.

What is the solution to the intolerance and fanaticism we see flaring up all over the world? Says the Dalai Lama: “Education and wider contact are really the only solutions.”

What turns people into “bullies”? The archbishop described this chain reaction: With a self-centered attitude you become distanced from others, then you distrust, then feel insecure, then fear, then you feel anxiety, then frustration, then anger, then violence.

There is a Buddhist teaching that says what causes suffering is this pattern of how we relate to others: “Envy toward the above, competitiveness toward the equal, and contempt toward the lower.”

Archbishop Tutu calls his prayer room his “living room.” In that room he has a 7th Century Tibetan standing Buddha and a black Madonna from Mexico. He feels comfortable praying with both images even though neither image is from his Anglican tradition.

The two men converse on some of the obstacles to joy: fear, anxiety, sadness and grief, illness and fear of death. There’s also a chapter on each of the Eight Pillars of Joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

Perspective: Says the Dalai Lama, “For every event in life there are many different angles. When you look at the same event from a wider perspective, your sense of worry and anxiety reduces, and you have greater joy.”

Acceptance: Acceptance is not the same as resignation or defeat. Tutu worked against apartheid–but he first had to accept apartheid as a reality in his country. He says, “Acceptance is the only place where change can begin.”

Compassion: When we close our heart, we cannot be joyful. When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience.

And finally, I’ll end this reflection with this quotation:

Gratitude: Says the Dalai Lama: “Every day, think as you wake up, ‘I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it.'”

For reflection:

Did anything in this reflection stand out for you? If so, what?

From your own lived experience, what helps you to be a joyful person?

What do you think is the greatest challenge to joy in today’s world?

If you have read this book, what was your opinion of it?

Earth Day, April 22, 2024

I cannot let Earth Day pass without sharing with you a few “earth quotes” to commemorate this important day:

The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth. Chief Seattle

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. Marshall McLuhan

Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money. Cree Indian proverb

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Native American proverb

The universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event. Thomas Berry

How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?

PS: A big Thank You to all who made the zoom retreat this past week in Great Bend, Kansas! I appreciated your presence, attentiveness, and participation. A special thank you to Sr. Renee and Ann, codirectors of the Heartland Retreat Center, for all the work they did to help make the retreat such a smooth-running and inspiring event!

Here’s an intriguing video called “Joy” by King and Country a contemporary Christian group with many popular Christian songs. I’m offering two videos. The first is the official music video–but it has no captions. I’ve listed a few lines from the song after the video. The second is a version of the song with just the lyrics. The song to me says, “Amid the gloom, look for the GOOD! The good IS present if we have the eyes to see! Choose JOY!”

Gotta get the fire, fire back in my bones

Before my heart, heart turns to stone

The time has come to make a choice and I choose joy.

Oh hear my prayer tonight, I’m singing to the sky.

Give me strength to raise my voice, let me testify…

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of night,

Oh, with You by my side, I’m stepping into the light. I choose joy…

Here’s the lyric video:

I invite you to respond to today’s reflection. Even a sentence or two would be fine! We love hearing from you!

40 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    What a great way to start the week! Joy! In my World Religions class, we just finished watching “Seven Years in Tibet,” a film that came out in 1997 featuring a very young Brad Pitt, who befriends a very young Dalai Lama. The young actors who play the Dalai Lama from the ages of 5 to 14 are wonderful. In fact, my students most enjoyed the film when they were on the screen! Why? His playful joy!

    1. John, Thank you for reminding us of this film! Joy can be immensely attractive in a human being! Melannie

  2. Love the “Joy” song! Just got finished working an ecumenical prison ministry retreat where there was joy in the darkness of those prison walls. God is good.


    1. Kathleen, God bless you and your prison retreat ministry! I appreciated your personal testimonial! Melannie

  3. I loved this book so much that I bought a copy. There is also a movie, Mission:Joy — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times. It’s on Netflix and other streaming services. It’s wonderful to watch the interaction between these two spiritual leaders.

    Have a blessed day!

    1. Cathy, Thanks for the recommendation to see these two spiritual leaders in action! Melannie

    2. I’ve read this book and loved it. I think it’s time to re-read it. There are so many good things to learn.
      There is a prayer I say daily: Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today When I’m disturbed it is because some person place or situation—some fact of my life is unacceptable to me and I can find no serenity until I accept that person place or situation as being exactly the way it’s supposed to be at this moment. Nothing absolutely nothing happens I’ve God’s world by mistake…

      1. Mary James, I’m so glad you have read the book and found it so worthwhile too! I appreciated your words on acceptance too! Thanks for reading my blog and responding to it! Melannie

  4. I am a PE Teacher, and when I worked at a Catholic School, I used this song as a warmup with pushups and jumping jacks, etc. and the students loved it!

    1. Mary, You must be a great PE teacher! I could just see your students “jumping” to this song! Melannie

  5. Thank you for once again connecting the dots. This time in, through, and around JOY! Great way to launch Monday! Gracias.

  6. “Envy toward the above, competitiveness toward the equal, and contempt toward the lower.”
    This Buddhist teaching brought to mind “Caste: the origins of our discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson. Yes, more truth and reconciliation would bring about Divine Joy. Happy Earth Day!

    1. Barry, I too was moved by this Buddhist saying. I also devoted my blog to the book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson. It was an eye-opener to me! Thanks for your comment today! Melannie

  7. Good morning, Sr. Melannie. Thank you for your thoughtful reflection. I loved the book, and also the movie mentioned above. I start every day with that quote from the Dalai Lama.
    Happy Earth Day!

    1. Thank you, Ellen, for underscoring the value of this book–and the movie cited above. Melannie

  8. I read this book several years ago and have shared many of the thoughts within it. And I have given the book as a gift! These two friends who have been through so much hardship, share with the world their take on a joyful life. And they love to laugh!!
    Thank for reminding me of this great book to reread.

    1. Donna, I’m glad to hear this book touched you so deeply too! Thanks for writing! Melannie

  9. We so enjoyed you, dear Melannie, in Great Bend last week. You have the remarkable gift of meeting the needs of every person wherever they are in their life journey❣️. You welcome, inspire, comfort, challenge, and encourage— usually all in the same conference❣️

    Our gratitude and prayers are with you each day as you continue your beautiful ministry to so many♥️🙏♥️

    1. Thank you, Renee, for your kind and beautiful words! And I appreciate your prayers for my ministry too! Blessings on your lovely Retreat Center in Great Bend, Kansas! Melannie

  10. Good morning Melannie and Everyone,
    Thank you for your prayers during our retreat last week.
    God certainly answered your prayers as Melannie lead us on a in-depth spirituality experience retreat. We were grateful for your prayer support. I hope each of you felt our prayers of thanksgiving.
    I give thanks to our God of earth for the many gifts we receive for the planet 🌎 we live on and are blessed to be apart of and share together.
    May your joys of today to plentiful.
    God’s blessings

    1. Jane, It was wonderful having you on the retreat last week… I totally agree with giving “thanks to our God for the many gifts we receive from “the planet we live on and are blessed to be a part of and share together.” Amen to that! Melannie

    1. Char, I checked out your link to the song and it’s wonderful! Just seeing all those young people singing together the beautiful words was so uplifting. Thank you! Melannie

  11. A small porcelain sink in our home growing up held a sparkling reflection when the powder room light was turned on. The letters J-O-Y were evident in the bowl, an ever-present reminder of a lesson we children were being taught in prioritizing our days: First “Jesus,” then “Others,” and then “You.” Decisions were to be made with this in mind: Choose to honor and delight Jesus, show respect, kindness, and compassion to Others, and then consider Yourself, even if it required some sacrifice! After all, Jesus was our example in joy!

    Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful man, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    Just five days ago our first granddaughter was born, following three boys. She has been given the middle name “Joy” and that she is! It is a delight to see soon pink this spring!

    1. Deb, I, too, have always liked J-O-Y as a reminder: Jesus, Others, You. Keeping that balance in our lies is vital… And congratulations on your new granddaughter with her middle name Joy!

  12. Dear Sr. Melannie,
    Thanks for these recent reflections on difficult people and on joy.
    Difficult people are a blessing because they challenge us to love and joy
    they purify us.
    For me a key to joy is acceptance and gratitude. Hope is in there too.
    I pray each day to the Holy Spirit to increase me gratitude and acceptance
    and hope and joy and I pray each day for the people who are difficult for me
    because I know they are part of God’s plan for me and that I am meant to love them
    and to find ways to a better more wholesome relationship with them.
    Everything is a gift but we need to search our the gift sometimes. It
    is there challenging us to find it, to see it to identify it.
    B Luke OSB

    1. Dear Br. Luke, Once again, your words are filled with wisdom. A chapter in one of my books (I can’t remember which one right now) is entitled something like “The Blessing of Difficult People”–precisely for the reasons you give. And I certainly believe that gratitude is a vital key to joy! Thanks for writing! Melannie

  13. Thank you once again Melannie for a powerful reflection. My sister lent me this book a few years ago and the messages within left a deep impression. Mostly the reminder to find joy and laughter in every day.
    I find to begin and end each day with gratitude helps.
    The music video was quite unusual but I love the lyrics. Like God shouting His blessings to us.

    1. Loretta, Isn’t it wonderful how sisters and other friends can nourish our spiritual lived by sharing or recommending a good book with us? This book was recommended by one of my friends–as I acknowledge in my response to her comment above! Melannie

  14. This book sounds like one that should be on my short list. Thank you for these excerpts,
    Sr. Melanie. You have “struck it rich” in sharing deep meaning with us once again. Thank you!

    1. Pat, Thank you for your positive response to this reflection–which tells me a lot about you! I hope your painting is going well and you are bringing more beauty and truth into our world! Thanks for your comment! Melannie

  15. Sr. Melannie, this was another wonderful reflection topic. These 2 areas struck a cord with me & they are closely tied, especially when you listen to the song watching the video. In watching the news we get a 1% view of the world…the unfortunates, the devastating & the destructive, but when you move the camera out just a little further you can find Peace, Hope & Joy. If more of that was shown in the nightly news the chances of “Before my heart, heart turns to stone” would become less likely.
    Perspective: Dalai Lama, “For every event in life there are many different angles. When you look at the same event from a wider perspective, your sense of worry and anxiety reduces, and you have greater joy.”

    Gotta get the fire, fire back in my bones

    Before my heart, heart turns to stone

    The time has come to make a choice and I choose joy.

    Thank you for your weekly gems of inspiration!!!

  16. Melannie, I look forward to your weekly blog and am so blessed by your ministry! 🪻a day late for Earth Day, but wanted to share a Hawaiian perspective:
    Āina (pronounced: eye-nah), or the land. Hawaiians have a deep respect for the āina, knowing that if they take care of it, that it, in turn will take care of them.
    “He aliʻi ka āina; he kauwa ke kanaka”. (“The land is chief; man is its servant”) – Hawaiian Proverb

    1. Ann Marie, Thank you so much for providing a Hawaiian perspective to my blog today! Native traditions seem to have a far greater respect for the land than we do today. And I loved the proverb: “The land is chef; we are its servants.” Thanks for your rich contribution! Melannie

  17. Hi Sr. Melannie!!

    Thank you for this great reflection! I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments too. I love the idea of the “wider lens” and perspective. So often we only see what we see instead of a panoramic view! Thanks for always keeping us tuned in with your weekly blogs. I look forward to them and share them as well!

    Hoping you are doing well!

    Nancy Frederico

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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