Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Code to Joy

Happy, as his suns fly
Through the heavens’ magnificent plan
Run, brothers, your race
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

–from “Ode to Joy,” Friedrich Schiller

How I wish I could take credit for that clever post title. Alas, I can’t. However, I can tell you about the book I just finished reading by that title, authored by Drs. George Pratt and Peter Lambrou, with John David Mann. The inspired title refers to the four-step program and five pathways they developed to bring more joy into their patients’ lives.

Let’s face it. There are lots of books and blogs out there about happiness. That’s what this blog is about, after all, and I’m working on a book to add to the already overcrowded shelves devoted to this topic. So why do we keep reading and writing about joy? Because, I think, it’s what we all want.

Luckily, the very act of focusing on happiness, through reading, talking, thinking, or writing, seems in some way to contribute to its discovery and enhancement. And ultimately, regardless of our path through faith, science, meditation, exercise, or any number of “steps,” we all end up at the same place, although we might use different vocabulary to describe it – in the present moment, connected to each other and to the universe.

So it is with Pratt and Lambrou, both clinical psychologists, who, through extensive study of a wide spectrum of research as well as their own clinical observations, have distilled a simple and immediately useful process for identifying and clearing out habitual limiting thought patterns, and substituting new and healthier thinking habits. This is very much like what I call giving ourselves permission to be happy, by substituting counter beliefs for the shadow beliefs that block our joy. They go on to add methods by which the new thinking habits can become a solid and permanent foundation for our lives, the “and Staying There” part of my blog title.

Their process is grounded in cutting edge knowledge about the neuroplasticity (my new favorite word) of our brains. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that our brains get permanently and irrevocably hard wired at a young age, it turns out that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks. That is, you can transform some of those early “imprints” that do not serve your well being in your life now, by building new neural networks that do. This is great news if your brain, like mine, has seen its younger days fade into the distant wake. My own experiences fifteen years ago of transforming my life from one based in fear to one based in joy bear out the truth of their assertions.

Interestingly, the book that most reminded me of Code to Joy was not another one of the psychology/science books on joy, but rather The Joy of Living, a book by Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher who blends similar modern scientific research with ancient wisdom of meditation. This is best reflected in the following passage from Code to Joy.

“In the largest sense, all ill health and unhappiness is about disconnection, and health and happiness is about connection. This is ultimately the purpose of [the process in this book]: to help clear away the barriers and impediments to experiencing a full sense of connection – with your true self, with others, and with life.”

A Course in Miracles teaches that fear comes from our mistaken perception of separation. All the limiting beliefs identified by Drs. Pratt and Lambrou are in some way based in this fear. Using the simple techniques in this book, we can correct that mistake and reconnect with the joy that always shines in our souls.

And if I didn’t already like the book, they sold me by using one of my favorite quotes from Star Trek. Remember the Borg’s fateful announcement? “Resistance is futile.” The authors use this in the sense that although it is futile to resist our habitual brain patterns, it is entirely possible to transform them, a premise with which I entirely agree.

Besides, anyone who quotes Star Trek as an authority is okay with me.

related post: The Joy Book Club; Resistance is Futile

40 comments:

  1. Ah yes, especially this, "Fascinating" says Mr. Spock and his reaction with (raised eyebrow) to human emotions! Just this morning I had a recent friend (obtained through another friend who enjoys my posts) she asked, "You're not on FB much are you?" Hmm..... ? Are some folks sometimes hiding behind real emotions keeping busy posting quotes, videos and such like it's a race? I do have work, a family, friends,and Blogger (which does involve enjoyable amounts of my time) but how does someone you barely know ask this question, like I need to step up the game? Are we sometimes so busy "posting" goodness that we are disconnected with real people? Like the folks who host these fun Blogger posts, like my flash fiction you and your friend enjoy at Saturday Centus. Jenny who hosts it is a real live person who communicates with us, and comments on every thing we post on her blog for the centus. That's not always the case, but I think it should be. You are so right about those three special simple things. Being, true to self, with others and with life. It's a give and receive connection that we all need or soon even written words won't give us joy. Don't you think? Sorry for getting so carried away, but your words are always so inspiring for me, and they almost always make me take a serious look inside of me! Enjoy your week Galen, thanks for this post today!

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    1. Karen, You wrote a whole second post here. Thank you! Our comments are often brief, so I especially appreciate getting to know you a little better through your sharing your thoughts here. That is an interesting observation about the person who questioned you about FB. Goodness, I am never on FB, so she would be very disappointed in me! You are so right that there are real people behind all these blog posts and comments. Some of my favorites are folks who are very different from me, at least in terms of what their blogs are like. Like yours. Your great photos and clever creative writing are so different from my plain text. Yet, I always enjoy visiting your blog and seeing what new ingenious thing you've come up with! Thanks so much for being a regular visitor and friend.

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  2. Hi Galen,

    I think when it comes to finding the best way to live and to be joyful, it helps to blend the ideas from East and West. Both types of thinking offer insights from different angles. Without one or the other, the approach will not truly be holistic or complete.

    I never knew you were a Star Trek fan. So do you think Captain Kirk is better than Captain Picard? Who is your favourite character and why?

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

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    1. Odd, I replied to this and the comment disappeared. What does that mean when your comment on your own blog disappears?! Anyway, I'll say it again!

      Irving, Glad to know I can still surprise you! I love Next Generation and Voyager. Not much of a Kirk fan. It's a close contest between Captains Picard and Janeway. I also love Worf and Seven of Nine. You?

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    2. Hi Galen,

      I admit I have not watched that much Star Trek. I have seen a few of the early movies featuring Kirk and his crew. I also watched the TV series, but that was also Kirk and crew. I have not seen the later serials featuring the other characters. And this is just as well since I would most probably get hooked and try to watch it all as quickly as I can.

      I think part of the reason I like Star Trek is because I like space operas in general.

      That said, I love how there are wikis about everything nowadays. This is the star trek wiki: http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Main_Page

      Through it, I don't have to watch everything and still get a rough sense of the characters. I guess my favourite Captain is Picard from what I've read and the sense I get of him. I do like Kirk, but only because I find him funny. Must be due to the campy way Shatner played the character. Janeway looks interesting from the link below.

      http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Kathryn_Janeway

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    3. Oh yeah I also like Spock Prime in the new Star Trek movie. I prefer wise characters.

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    4. Irving, I will have to check out the movie. I think you would very much like Captain Picard--he's your kind of guy.

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  3. This looks like a book I would love to read, Galen. Isn't it wonderful that it's never too late to learn or re-learn things. I find that so true in my life.

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    1. Corinne, No kidding. I always like to hear that it's not too late for me! Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Hey, great post and awesome blog!! I love it!! Keep up the good work!! You are invited to check out or follow my blog anytime!!! Have a great day!!

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    1. Thanks! I'll check out your blog right now.

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  5. Choose Joy! I love that you can teach an old dog new tricks, that we don't have to be stuck in the old patterns of thinking. Code to Joy sounds like a good book to read.

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    1. Alecia, Yes, my old dog brain was very happy about that, too! Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Hi Galen,
    This book sounds a lot like my book :o Many people our there (like you and I) thinking about happiness!
    ;-)
    Lori

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    1. Lori, I had to laugh. It sounds a lot like what I'm writing, too. I wonder sometimes if we are all writing the same book! Even if we are, I think that's fine because what I've learned over these last few years is that steeping myself in words of joy from many voices deepens and enhances my own joy. So it's all good!

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  7. This book sounds like a great one; so I will look into it. Of course, we all want to have joy in our lives; so I think it is a great subject. I know that as children of our Heavenly Father; he desires that we have joy. Blessings to you for a timely post.

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    1. LeAnn, I just read this line this morning in A Course in Miracles--"God's will for me is perfect happiness." If God is love, and happiness is part of love, then surely joy is our natural state. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. A 'must read' book now that you have my attention on it Galen. I'm always interested in what others are saying in regards to being happy. I stand firm that living in gratitude and connectedness, as well as the joy or being alive and alert, are all instrumental to being happy.

    Karen I love what you added to this post, it's so true that some people are looking to be happy and by reading and re-posting a quote that touches them they often feel they are on the happy trails of life, my suggestion to them is to get out in the world and practice these quotes, to see how long they can stay serene in a busy market with screaming, pushing and shoving. Once you can walk out of the market and be grateful and realize just how blessed you are for the purchase, the entirety of it all, then there's no longer a need to re-post a famous old quote because in your heart you know what a blessing life really is. In saying that I generally keep quotes posted as my status on fb, nobody needs to know how many times I use the washroom in one day! lol I only post quotes which I know are true, within my life anyways.

    Galen all the best to you on writing your book, I know it's going to be an amazing read from what you post here. Thanks for sharing, cheers!

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    1. darlin, As I said in my response to LeAnn above, like you, I'm interested in what other people say about happiness. And I also appreciated what Karen added to the post. Thanks for the words of encouragement about the book. It's a bit daunting--a much different sort of project than the blog, that's for sure.

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    2. I can relate to what you are saying in regards to writing a book, I too aspire to do so one day and have formulated ideas, for now they're only ideas until I have the time to actually write. I dream of living someplace where my spirit is free to soar and where I'll have the inspiration to sit and write... maybe over looking the ocean? I don't know where I'm being led, but I can now say: "Have suitcases, will travel."

      Have a joyous, happy, and free weekend! Cheers.

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  9. This book (and its title) sound great. And I love Star Trek too - practically grew up with it. Your review of the book makes me want to read it right away. Happiness is in our hands, because we have a choice with (almost) everything in life. Always good to add a good habit. Thank you for the insightful review. Hugs!

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    1. Vidya, The title is so great, isn't it? I love the fact that you like Star Trek, too. It just proves to me once again that no matter what different cultures we come from, we can always find common ground! Hugs back atcha!

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  10. The book sounds wonderful! Now, I also want to read The Joy of Living, a book by Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche. Thanks for these great recommendations, Galen.
    Live long and prosper!! :)

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    1. Betsy, You will like both books. Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche is a more recent discovery to me, but I was immediately impressed by his writing. As a teacher, he is pretty fascinating. Apparently, he just disappeared to go on a wandering retreat for several years. Live long and prosper, too!

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  11. The book sounds great and worthy of reading, but you know Galen, I think "joy" comes from an intimate relationship only with Christ....tough times come and we are touched by those tough times, regardless if it is the death of a loved one, finacial crises, the loss of friendship whatever it may be....the truth I have found is in those times if Christ is my foundation then I still can have an ulitmate joy even in the midst of all the suffering ....as Paul stated, counting it all joy ....enjoyed your post today

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    1. Rhonda, I love what you said here about counting it all joy. There is so much in Christ's teachings about that deep abiding joy. As I quoted in an earlier response, "God's will for me is perfect happiness." I don't think that means feeling happy all the time. But it means a calm abiding joy that grows in the rich soil of deep faith. Thanks for your comment.

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  12. Not much of a Trekkie, but LOVE the quote and concept! Sounds like a really good book too! Nice post Galen!

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    1. sheila, What I always liked about Star Trek was the universality of the themes--respect for others, honor and integrity, courage, curiosity about everything. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. This is interesting, and also true that the destination we all want to be at requires a similar route - to drop the baggage that we carry, to be more present, to forgive, to forget, to love.
    And so there are varying routes to that one place and each one works differently for each of us and many to inspire us to get there.

    This Lent season had me thinking a lot more of this aspect, how easy it could be and also how hard it was to follow through to get to that place. But little steps do move us forward.

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    1. BM, I love your observation about varying routes to the one place. We all respond to different words and different voices, even if the message is the same. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. I enjoyed the interaction between Irving and yourself Galen - You TREKKIES...:)

    There is so much literature out there about happiness and joy. We all want it - want to find it and search for it to and fro.

    So in my humble opinion it's all about spreading LOVE - the more LOVE we share the happier we become....

    Thanks for this wonderful post,
    Nancy

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    1. Nancy, I wonder if I can claim to be a Trekkie if I didn't like the first series. Hmm, oh well, I'll claim it anyway. You are so right about spreading love and becoming happier. Thanks for commenting.

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  15. I agree... as we think, so we are. Contentment is a choice and our thinking patterns and what we dwell upon {good or bad} create and color our world through the filters of our minds. Thanks for stopping by, it is always so good to hear from you.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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  16. Beautifully written. Joy is out there for every one of us, we just have to say yes. So often we just want to hold on to the negative and this stops us.

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  17. "anyone who quotes Star Trek as an authority is okay with me." I couldn't agree more. :)

    I'm glad that you found the book to be a valuable addition to those crowded shelves you mentioned! Thanks for being on the tour.

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    1. I was glad to do it. I hope the book has great success.

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