The Book of Joy – Book Review

Be your best self. Share the joy.

If you are a human being, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is for you.

The Book of Joy Book CoverYou might expect a book written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be religious in nature (they do speak of their faith), but this book crosses all political, religious, and ethnic boundaries speaking to us as human beings living on Earth with other human beings. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu embody kindness, courage, humility, compassion, and joy and they inspire us to be our best selves.

Not long ago, I had finished reading four excellent books for a post series about GMOs and bioengineered food and I still had one book to go. However, I found I just could not read another book right then about pesticides or corporate ownership of the food system.

I wanted to read something that would be uplifting and hopefully enlightening. Scrolling through my ever-growing “books to read” list, I spotted The Book of Joy and I thought, “Yes, this is the book that I need.”

It was.

Book Review

“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. That is the power we wield.” —The Book of Joy

The dialogue in The Book of Joy occurs between April 18 and April 24, 2015, when Archbishop Tutu traveled to Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday and to engage in a multi-day conversation with him about joy.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are both world-renowned spiritual leaders and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who are rarely in the same place at the same time and may never be again so that week in April was a momentous occasion for the two of them and the world. Constantly surrounded by a film crew, they seemed to be able to ignore all the hubbub talking and teasing each other as if they were just two people having a conversation (which they were).

The Book of Joy covers the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu’s teachings on joy, the latest science on joy, and stories of being in Dharamsala that week.

Day 1 – The Nature of True Joy

From the beginning, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu included all of us, the entire human population, in the conversation and reiterated repeatedly that we are all responsible for developing a happier more joyful world.

They expressed concern that today people focus too much on external, materialistic values and not enough on inner values like kindness and compassion and that unfortunately; this is what we are teaching our children.

Days 2 and 3 – The Obstacles to Joy

Two days were devoted to all the ways that human beings suffer from fear, stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, loneliness, envy, illness, and fear of death.

It might seem like it would be depressing or distressing to read these chapters, but the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu approach suffering from a different perspective and share how joy can coexist with suffering and that suffering may actually lead to unexpected joy.

Days 4 and 5 – The Eight Pillars of Joy

The last two days were devoted to talking about the foundation of joy including qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance and qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

“Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live. And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.” —The Book of Joy

The Bottom Line

The Book of Joy is a beautifully crafted work of inspiration, hope, and joy co-created by the three men listed on the book jacket and many people behind the scenes.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Forced to flee Tibet in fear of his life, the Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India since 1959. He has traveled all over the world advocating for non-violence, peace, inter-religious understanding, human rights, and compassion and has worked tirelessly for over fifty years to free Tibet from Chinese control.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Southern Africa, was a leader in the decades-long crusade to end apartheid in South Africa and bring about reconciliation between the people. He is a staunch believer in non-violence, an outspoken campaigner for the oppressed, and a co-founder of The Elders, a group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

Douglas Abrams is an author, editor, and the founder of the literary agency Idea Architects.

The Book of Joy refreshed my spirit and reminded me that joy is available to every person every day.

Featured Image at Top: The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu blow out candles on a birthday cake during the Dali Lama’s 80th birthday celebration at the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamsala, India on April 23, 2015. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHDL.

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Moving Beyond Sustainability to Thrivability

Let’s live lightly and joyfully on Earth so we can all thrive.

A few weeks ago, when I heard a Chumash man named Fred speak of moving beyond sustainability to thrivability, I thought, “Yes that is the path we should be on.”

At the time, I was standing in a circle of people holding hands outside of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden event center with the mouth-watering smell of breakfast cooking and the scent of smoldering sage wafting through the air. We had gathered for the summer session of the Chumash Kitchen to experience the culture and food of the Chumash people who have been living on the Central California Coast for thousands of years.

Although I am still a circle ceremony novice, this was my third Chumash Kitchen so I knew I should wear a sweater. If you are interested, you can read about the first two in the posts entitled Thanksgiving – We are All Connected and Adopt a Native Plant.

From the moment I heard Fred utter the word thrivability, I knew that I would be pondering the idea in the weeks ahead.

The Chumash Kitchen – July 2018

Perhaps it was serendipity that the summer Chumash Kitchen had been moved back from early June to late July because it gave me a much-needed respite from what I was researching and writing about at the time.

In June, I had been happily dispensing advice for couples wanting to minimize their belongings and live happily with less stuff and trying to convince everyone to put solar panels on their roof.

However, by the time the end of July rolled around, I was enmeshed in researching and writing a 4-part series about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and bioengineered food. This is a highly controversial subject and it seems like everyone is constantly shouting on paper and film while thrusting their conflicting science studies in each other’s faces.

The Chumash Kitchen was like an oasis.

Circle Ceremony

Shortly after we arrived, Violet, the Chumash woman who is the driving force behind the Chumash Kitchen, and Lindsey, the woman who makes it all happen at the Botanical Garden, called us outside to begin the day with a circle ceremony.

The group shuffled about a bit as we formed a rough circle and then spontaneously we all held hands with the people on either side of us. Violet smiled (she is always smiling) and voiced her approval. She introduced us to her family members and those who wished to speak did while an ancient and lovely abalone shell encrusted pipe (the source of the smoldering sage) was carefully carried around the circle.

Fred and Violet did a father-daughter tag team recounting of the story of how they had obtained the yucca flowers that would be part of our lunch.

Sourcing a yucca plant is not like picking elderberries or gathering acorns. The small creamy white flowers of the yucca plant are attached in clusters on stalks that can reach ten feet tall and the whole plant is encircled by thick spiky leaves.

Violet and Fred Delivering Yucca for Chumash Kitchen July 2018
Violet and Fred delivering the Yucca for the Chumash Kitchen, July 2018 – Photo Courtesy of San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden

Violet and Fred were searching literally for a late bloomer that would still have flowers at the end of July. They found one residing on a rocky perch difficult to reach. Undaunted, Fred climbed up and retrieved a length of yucca with the flowers intact. They drove to the Botanical Garden with the flowers in the cab of the pickup truck and the stalk sticking out the back window.

After the stories, a song, and a blessing, with cold hands and joyful hearts, we headed inside for a breakfast of quiche, sage potatoes, and Botanical Garden tea made with native plants from the Garden.

Stories and Prayer Ties

A short stroll took us to the children’s garden where we occupied benches in a shady spot while Violet and her family members shared stories about the history and culture of the area from their perspective as Chumash people and native Californians who have inhabited this land for centuries.

Michael talked with us about tobacco and prayer ties. Tobacco is a sacred plant for the Chumash people. Prayer ties are made by tying a pinch of tobacco into a knot at the center of a colored strip of cloth and hanging it somewhere as a prayer, wish, blessing, remembrance, or thank you. (If I got this wrong, then I apologize that was not listening carefully enough.)

Violet set us to work making prayer ties to decorate the children’s garden. It is not easy to make a knot in a piece of fabric without the tobacco falling out so thankfully small lengths of yarn were passed around to help the less handy people, like me. We were invited to make extra prayer ties to take home with us.

Yellow and Green Prayer Tied on Fence Around Ailing Toyon
I tied these prayer ties on the fence surrounding an ailing toyon in our yard. (The fence is to protect it from deer until it gets big enough to hold its own.)

After exploring and decorating the children’s garden, we reassembled for lunch, which Fred had been preparing with a group of hardworking volunteer cooks.


Lunch was beautifully served and delicious.

Our main course was dubbed Chumashtash (a cousin of succotash) by Violet. Our version combined chayote squash, yucca root, sweet corn, cheese, and a sumptuous sauce of wilted yucca blossoms sautéed in garlic butter. This was accompanied by a rice dish made with yerba buena, cilantro, and lime and Slo’w’s special pozole recipe, a sort of spicy corn soup served with fresh cabbage and lime wedges.

The artfully arranged dessert of vanilla ice cream topped with a chia flour and blueberry crumble, elderberry syrup, and garnished with a yucca blossom looked almost too good to eat, but I soon found myself scraping the bowl and wishing for more.

Replete with lovingly prepared food and wonderful stories, we headed home.


The next Monday, I returned to the world of GMOs and bioengineered food, which seemed even more alien than it had the week before. Once I completed the last post in that series, I was free to contemplate moving beyond sustainability to thrivability and to write this post.

According to my Webster’s dictionary, the word sustain means “to keep in existence, keep up, maintain, or prolong.”

It was the United Nations, in 1987, which popularized the term sustainability by defining sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This is an indeed a worthy goal. If we want our children, everyone else’s children and future children to have a habitable planet to live on now and in the future, we need to think beyond our immediate needs and wants and act accordingly.

The problem is that no one wants to just exist or maintain. People want to be happy, enjoy life, and thrive.

Sustainability is an overused, misused, and uninspiring term that is more like a frame of reference for decision-making than a way to live. Due to the lack of a suitable alternative, I admit that I use the word sustainability more than I would like to (it is a category on my website). I know I am not alone in feeling this way.

Maybe thrivability is the idea we have been seeking.

Technically, the word thrivability does not exist. When I looked in my Webster’s and at online dictionaries, I could find thrive (to grow vigorously, flourish) but not thrivability. I did come across a couple of books and seminars with thrivability in the title and several companies with thrive in their name.

Actually, the lack of an “official” definition for thrivability is a good thing because we are free to come up with our own. Here is my take on a meaning for thrivability. Please feel free to share your own in the comment section.

Thrivability means living joyfully and in harmony with other people and the balance of nature, so that we can all flourish on Earth now and in the future.

Featured Image at Top: Children Holding Hands Running through a Meadow Silhouetted by the Sun – Photo Credit Shutterstock/ESB Professional

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