On Sorrow and Joy


On Sorrow and Joy


December 21, 2022


My heartfelt THANK YOU --- to everyone who started my Blogging journey with me almost 5 years ago, to all who have joined me, and to everyone who has given me feedback over the years. Thank you for allowing me to send my musings to you and the Universe!  

Most months I write about key lessons from my Certified High Performance CoachingTM practice  on High Performance Habits, including Clarity, Courage, Productivity, Persuasion, or the course on Leadership, or the course on Declarations for Personal Freedom, or stress management techniques for different Personality Types from my MBTI ®  practice, and from my personal journey from Be Happy NOW!; From Wall Street Ambition and the Illusion of Success, My Path to Happiness.  

In November and December, I particularly look forward to reflecting on spiritual practices of Grace and Gratitude, Hope, Peace, Sorrow, and Joy. I believe that at the core of great leadership, transformation, and change management, is people doing the inner work to bring higher levels of self-awareness and self-acceptance to being authentic, knowing ourselves, and connecting with the Universe -- that which is something greater than ourselves. 

My journey, post Wall Street, led to investing in myself and growing, as I discovered the key to happiness is found on the journey within. I published a book about my experiential learning process and then went on to discover  my passion and purpose in coaching.  Where are you on your journey? We all have a story to share. We all teach and learn from each other, when we are open to learn and change. 
This year, my traditional December Blog flips the focus to start with Sorrow and the obstacles to Joy. In the past, I have tended to jump right in to focus on the practice of Joy. My intent this year, however, is to start with the sorrows and the challenges that we all inevitably face on this journey here on earth. I believe this saying from Robert Frost's poem, "A Servant to Servants," points the way:   

             "The best way out is always through."  

To me, the best way to find more of the precious moments of Joy and Happiness, which are there inside each of us, is to work through all the obstacles we encounter along the way. It is not a linear process, in my experience. There is a constant cycling between sorrow and joy. And, then there are the occasional vortexes -- the "Whoosh" moments when everything comes together and you KNOW the Universe has your back!

In my opinion, The Book of JOY: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams, provides a great road map for all of us on a journey to find the energy, the frequency, the state of mind and heart, to experience joy and happiness. This book summarizes the reflections, wisdom, and stories of two of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, as they spend a full 5 days together to answer the question:

"How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering?" 

It is instructive that 159 pages of the book, or 52% of the primary content, is dedicated to the "Obstacles to Joy." As Robert Frost writes: The best way out is always through." I am not about to write a book report, here. Let me simply outline the obstacles they review. Each chapter has amazing stories which reflect their lessons learned. 

  • Fear, Stress, and Anxiety: I Would Be Very Nervous
  • Frustration and Anger: I Would Shout
  • Sadness and Grief: The Hard Times Knit Us More Closely Together
  • Despair: The World Is in Such Turmoil
  • Loneliness: No Need for Introduction
  • Envy: That Guy Goes Past Again in His Mercedes-Benz
  • Suffering and Adversity: Passing through Difficulties
  • Illness and Fear of Death: I Prefer to Go to Hell

This list pretty well covers the gamut of obstacles we face at one time or another -- or time and time again. Daunting. Yes! I hope you will see this as an invitation and inspiration to read The Book of Joy

The way I use this list is to open the book and read a chapter on a current issue in my life. Sometimes it has been Loneliness. Other times, Frustration. Most recently, Sadness and Grief. I use their stories for instruction and inspiration. For example, in the chapter on Sadness and Grief, the Dalai Lama says: 

"Sadness and grief are, of course, natural human responses to loss, but if your focus remains on the loved one you have lost, the experience is less likely to lead to despair. In contrast, if your focus while grieving remains mostly on yourself --'What am I going to do now? How can I cope?' -- then there is a greater danger of going down the path of despair and depression. So, again, so much depends on how we respond to our experience of loss and sadness." 

Timeless advice. Before we instinctively react, hit the pause button and take a few deep breaths -- and then respond from your Best Self. 

It can take time and deep inner work to come to understand an issue and how to respond or shift our perception. At least that has been my experience. I will have to open my tool box  -- and some times, I will have to use every tool in my tool box to stay centered and respond, calmly and kindly. I may choose contemplative prayers on the issue. I always weave in guided meditations. Sometimes, I will pull out my stress management tool kit. How about music, or painting, or journaling? Occasionally, I will use self-hypnosis to go a little deeper. Therapy and coaching are other options. There is a wide array of tools and techniques available. However, it is always up to each of us to do the inner work. There are no short cuts. If you have discovered any -- please let us all know! . 

Whatever tools or techniques we each choose, however, there is a generalized process for working  through the challenges. One process I gravitate to, because it is simple and looks at the energy underlying the obstacles, is by, David Gandelman, a talented and experienced spiritual teacher, founder of The Meditation School app, and author, with over 82K followers on Insight Timer. In his Mastering Anxiety meditation, David outlines a 4-Step process for cultivating awareness and healing. In brief, the 4 steps are: 

  1. Find it: The first step is to find, or define the issue, the emotion. This usually involves closing your eyes, quieting the mind, and sorting out the jumble of thoughts and emotions clouding your inner vision.   
  2. Feel it: The next step is to become more aware of the emotion, of the energy. Where do you feel it in your body -- be specific. Most importantly, don't try to do anything -- just be aware and observe, without judgment, what you are feeling. Without judgment? Yes. Don't do anything to hide the feeling, or fix the feeling, or change the feeling, you say? Yes. This is challenging work. 
  3. Face it: The third step is to look at what triggered the feeling, where the feeling is coming from, what is the underlying cause of the feeling. Dig deeper and see if there are more layers to be discovered. Face it, honestly, and accept what the emotion and experience have to teach you.
  4. Heal it: In the healing step, we are doing the work of changing our attitude about ourselves. Is there self-judgment, a feeling of not being good enough? Do we need to cultivate self-forgiveness or forgiveness of others? Do we need to let go of the past?; the future?; things and people we cannot control? True awareness and acceptance of ourselves, just as we are … are the antidote in the healing journey.   

I hope you will listen to this 19 minute guided meditation, get a richer sense of the process and apply it to any one issue you may be working on at any given point in time.  

This is the deep end of the pool  -- each of us must do our own work, the experiential learning which discover in our own way and in our own time.

Once we have done the work to break through our challenges, what are the important practices on the other side which lead to Joy? STOP! We are never done working through our challenges, right? However, we are moving to higher and higher levels of awareness and a deeper appreciation of what it feels like to accept ourselves, just as we are. The best way to Joy is always through -- the work we do to break through the pain and suffering -- to come out on the other side. So, in that way Sorrow and Joy are inextricably interconnected. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Llama have a list of best practices they title, "The Eight Pillars of Joy": 

  1. Perspective: There Are Many Different Angles
  2. Humility: I Tried to Look Humble and Modest
  3. Humor: Laughter, Joking Is Much Better
  4. Acceptance: The Only Place Where Change Can Begin
  5. Forgiveness: Freeing Ourselves from the Past
  6. Gratitude: I Am Fortunate to Be Alive
  7. Compassion: Something We Want to Become
  8. Generosity: We Are Filled with Joy. 

I love this list. I tend to see these practices as a natural outcome of the process of working through our  challenges. The more honest I am with myself and the more challenges I work through, -- the more humble I become. I also now find it a lot easier to laugh at myself. I have a dear friend who often exclaims with astonishment, "Who knew!" And gosh.... I am getting better and better at self-forgiveness because I make so many missteps along the way.  As many of you know, I also have found my daily gratitude journal a life-altering practice. Compassion and generosity have become the cornerstones of my Purpose Statement and my coaching philosophy, as I have written in previous Blogs.  

I am a work in progress. Every day in every way, I am getting better and better. 

Let us close with an excerpt from  Kahlil Gibran's masterpiece, The Prophet : 

 "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
   And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. 
   And how else can it be?
   The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
   Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
   And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
   When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
   When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.   

Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.'
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

  Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy." 

There are so many lines in this chapter from The Prophet that speak to my heart and soul. For me, a key thought is, "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." Another key thought about joy and sorrow, "But I say to you, they are inseparable."  Which lines resonate with you?

Thank you dear friends and readers. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a thousand times over. 

Wishing you a joyous holiday season and the best year ever in 2023!


 Till next time, with big love and deep gratitude,   

May you be happy now and always,  Alison 



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