In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes:
“Cling to what is good.”
Over 2000 years later, his advice is still relevant, still wise.
“What is good” is that which has a high or positive vibration.
“What is good” affirms us, brings us joy, eases our minds, stokes our imaginations, and rejuvenates our spirits.
When we are not feeling the good, we should aim to raise our vibration; when we are feeling the good, we should aim to keep it that way. Abraham Hicks advises us, “Nothing is more important than that you feel good. Period.”
It is not a superficial commandment–and it is not selfish either; clinging to what is good–keeping our energy or vibration high–forms the basis of our well-being, and our well-being encourages the well-being of others.
Yet for most of us, clinging to what is good is so much easier said than done because it actually takes a retraining of our minds and an opening of our hearts. It requires us to regenerate our ideas about happiness and then commit to being happy.
There is no greater example of clinging to what is good than that which can be found in The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism, has been in exile from his homeland since 1959, when the Chinese government ordered him to leave. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Christian spiritual and civic leader, was one of the most vocal and courageous figures in the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa and the reconciliation hearings that followed.
Both men have contributed greatly to the betterment of the world –and they continue to do so. Both men also experienced, overcame, and led others through extreme adversity and oppression—and they continue to do so. In April 2015, these long-time friends spent a week together—along with writer Douglas Abrams— and The Book of Joy is the result of that visit.
You Don’t Have to Settle for Crumbs
Their book opens with a deep spiritual truth: “Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It resides only in the human mind and heart, and it is here we hope you will find it.” Through their conversations, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop tell us that lasting happiness, otherwise known as joy, is a state of being, not simply a reaction. It is a choice, not an emotion, and it is fully possible no matter what we are experiencing. As the Archbishop proclaims: “We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.” The Dalai Lama concurs and adds: “There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? The question is: How can I use this as something positive?”
Neither the Dalai Lama nor the Archbishop actually offers a concrete answer to this question. Yet the question itself is more important than the answer because the question represents a specific orientation to life, one that focuses on higher vibration, one that points us in the direction of what is good. Each of these leaders embodies and exemplifies that orientation. In fact, their own joy–a mainstay in their unmitigated fortitude–can be felt in every single line of the book. Their own joy is actually the very best reason to read the book at all. In their stories and in their relationship with each other—which is authentic and sweet—they clearly demonstrate what the late poet Mary Oliver suggested: “Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
Why settle for crumbs when there is a whole meal waiting for each of us? Let’s point ourselves in the direction of the feast with the full intention of eating every last morsel.
Jill A. Lahnstein is a mother, a teacher, a writer, and a jewelry artist. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her teenage daughter Angel and their little canine sidekick Sunny. She has spent over 20 years teaching English to college students. Most of her experience has been with those students who are first-generation, economically disadvantaged, or disabled. She fervently believes that every moment–inside the classroom and outside the classroom–can be a healing moment.