This book marked my first venture into audio books. I was able to listen to the book over two road trips in one week. In fact, one of the trips involved some fairly treacherous December driving (snow, cold, ice, etc). The book kept my spirits light, my driving careful, and the anxiety at bay. How can you drive recklessly while listening to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu?
The book marked a collaboration of the two spiritual leaders facilitated by the author, Douglas Abrams. The audio book was voiced by two actors to recreate discussions which happened over a week in 2014 on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.
The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile for almost 60 years and has lost his country, has every reason to be bitter and morose. Yet he maintains that while we cannot control the destruction of natural disasters, we can control our disposition, mindset, and reaction to misfortunes. He claims to be grateful for the Chinese occupation for it has opened doors for him. He prays for his Chinese persecutors.
Likewise, Archbishop Tutu has witnessed a lifetime of oppression and violence. Yet he maintains a life of prayer and joy. In fact, both claim that joy should be the aim of every human. They have a deep wellspring of compassion and joy directed toward the whole planet.
Their dialogues are far-reaching. Two specific stories stuck with me. They spoke about the importance of nurturing and affection for all humans. They believe that some humans (e.g. Adolph Hitler) lacked the simple attention and affection while they were infants. Abrams told the moving story of the birth of his twin daughters. The second child was caught in the birth canal by a prolapsed umbilical cord and when she emerged blue and non-breathing, she received an Apgar score of 1 out of 10. While the doctors worked on her, they asked Abrams’ wife to speak to her daughter. She gasped for air and Abrams believes that his wife’s voice called their daughter to life.
They also spoke of a death row inmate who served 26 years from a false conviction. He emerged forgiving his wrongful accusers and prosecutors. “They can take my time, but they can’t take my happiness,” he said. They also cited concentration camp survivors who mentioned that a common theme was acceptance of their situation and determination to hold on to their own joy as a reason for their survival.
The book is filled with practical suggestions for cultivating gratitude, joy, and compassion. Ultimately, however, the beauty of the book is listening to these great spiritual masters tease each other and celebrate their lives together. Need more joy? Check out this book.