In The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama discuss how to find inner joy during a week-long meeting in Dharamshala, India. They break down eight pillars of joy; four of the mind, and four of the heart. Mind--perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Heart--forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, generosity. Over the next eight blog posts, I will break down these pillars for you into something tangible. I want you to read along and really consider how you are applying these principles in your life so that you can feel greater inner joy.
I'm sure you've all heard the old story about a bunch of people trying to describe an elephant, but each person is up close and only able to see part of the elephant. One person only describes the tail, the other the ear, the other a foot, and so on. The moral of the story is to step back and take in the bigger picture in order to see truth in context.
I'm here to show you how we can look at the narratives we create in order to have a healthier perspective.
Perspective is all about how you are telling the story. We tell stories by thinking of things that happened and connecting them, thus creating a narrative. The tricky thing is that we can be choosy about which events we are including or leaving out of our story to form the narrative that serves us. Furthermore, we stay stuck in our narratives when we only include new events that support the existing narrative. For example, if I want to stay angry at someone, I will create a narrative that they continue to wrong me by only adding events to my existing narrative of "they're the worst, they don't love me, and they're out to get me" in which they have neglected or hurt me. In doing this, I have strengthened the existing narrative with new evidence.
This also happens with positive narratives and I want everyone to be careful of spiritual bypassing (spiritual bypassing is using spiritual practices or themes to skip over creating healthy boundaries, solving problems, or processing emotions). An example would be having poor boundaries and continuing to let someone walk on you by creating a narrative in which you have forgiven them or "they are trying really hard so I can excuse the hurts they've caused", etc. It can also be a narrative of minimizing your own problems, "I'm really hurting and scared that I've been diagnosed with diabetes but Jill's son is in rehab again so I am blessed!" Conflicting things can exist together in your narrative (you can be sad and grateful, etc). You do not have to have a single story narrative.
Here is an illustration on how we tell stories from my workbook The Little Book of Forgiveness (free with code MERRYMERRY through the end of 2023).
Think about how you typically tell yourself or others the story of your work day or bedtime with the kids last night or how your marriage is doing. What is your narrative? Your narrative is your perspective.
The thing is, we often tell truthful but incomplete stories.
Checking ourselves, and making sure that we are including a more well-rounded account of events, allows more space for gratitude, helps us to gain a new view of our own suffering, and reminds us that life is bigger than little inconveniences. Telling fuller and more truthful stories holds us accountable so that we don't spiritually bypass problems and uncomfortable emotions. It shifts our perspective and leaders to greater inner joy.
Tell me about a time where you shifted your perspective.