The Eight Pillars of Joy

January 4, 2017

Watercolor sketch of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from The Book of Joy

Watercolor sketch of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from The Book of Joy

Pencil sketch, portraits from the cover of The Book of Joy

Pencil sketch, portraits from the cover of The Book of Joy

Today is the first time in 2017 that I took the time to pick up art materials and make art.  It felt good.  It is a bright, sunny, cold day, and the light was good for painting at my table.

As I look forward to this coming year, I’ve decided to focus on four main art projects/themes/activities for 2017:

  1. To continue working on line drawings in pen and ink or pencil.  I have a new book to put these in.  I think I can only get better if I draw a lot.
  2. To copy famous art works by master artists from history;  my own version in watercolor;
  3. To do more portraits of animals and people; and
  4. To take the time to draw or paint the covers of some of the best books I read in 2017.

My first book cover painting and pencil sketch are from The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


These two wise men spent a week together discussing various aspects of joy and obstacles to feeling joy.  They offer insights into eight “pillars of joy”  — four qualities of the mind and four qualities of the heart:

  • perspective
  • humility
  • humor
  • acceptance
  • forgiveness
  • gratitude
  • compassion
  • generosity

The facilitator, Douglas Abrams, wove the Dalai Lama’s and Archbishop Tutu’s comments and observations with recent findings from academic and scientific research.  It was interesting to see the overlap.  One researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, found the following three factors have the greatest influence on increasing joy and happiness:

  • our ability to reframe our situation more positively
  • our ability to experience gratitude
  • our choice to be kind and generous

Another researcher, Richard Davidson, discovered four independent brain circuits that influence our happiness and well-being:

  • the ability to maintain positive states
  • the ability to recover from negative states
  • the ability to focus the mind and avoid mind wandering
  • the ability to be generous

I especially appreciated the discussion about negative thoughts and emotions, like feelings of worthlessness, envy, loneliness, etc.  The Dalai Lama was a strong advocate for building our mental immunity so that we are less susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings.  He believed that preventive measures can be learned and cultivated, things like meditation or keeping a gratitude journal.  Archbishop Tutu, on the other hand, felt that human beings are not always in control of the negative emotions and thoughts that crop up during times of stress.  He believed that because negative thoughts and emotions are inevitable, we should accept that they come and forgive ourselves for having them.  We can learn and grow and develop stress resistance over time after experiencing challenges and situations and people that test us.

Reading The Book of Joy was a perfect way to start the new year.  The two holy men remind us of our common humanity and that we are in this life together.

“. . . ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.”
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering.  A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.”
— The Dalai Lama



6 Responses to “The Eight Pillars of Joy”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I’ve long believed the same thing about writing: the best way to learn to write is to write.

    Speaking of resolutions, I’ve already fulfilled my first! I decided to finally (at last! yes!) change my frumpy old theme for something fresh and new. I’ve never in my life kept any resolution, let alone kept it within three days. Now, it’s on to #2.

    Your list looks challenging, in a good way, and enjoyable — for us, too!

  2. Anne Timlick Says:

    Love this, Rosemary! you inspirit me… all of Us!

  3. Kathryn Says:

    Happy new year! At the start of a new year I just wanted to say how much I still enjoy following your blog, seeing your drawings & reading your thoughts. I’m currently re-reading the Art of Happiness by the Dalia Lama and am finding it so useful in dealing with anxiety & concentrating on the positive again. I’ll need to seek out this book too.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Thank you for staying in touch. I agree with you that reading books like these help a lot in these troubled times. Happy New Year.

  4. I want to read this book! It sounds fun and helpful. I keep a gratitude journal, and it does help me focus on the good things and be more thankful. There is just so much negative news and hurtful things said on social media and in person, that we really need to do everything we can to combat the negative with positive. I agree with Desmond Tutu, Forgiveness is important in dealing with negativity.

  5. […] mentioned in my January 4th blog post about The Book of Joy that I would paint copies of the book covers from some of my favorite reads […]

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