Through personal experiences with “suffering addiction,” Duda (Coming Home: A Guide to Dying at Home with Dignity, 1981) shares practical exercises for recapturing joy in her self-help book.
“[J]oy is our birthright,” says Duda, a psychologist and end-of-life counselor. Quoting the Dalai Lama, she says, it’s “the purpose of life.” At one point, she wonders if we’re “doomed” to joy since, as evinced by smiling babies everywhere, “it’s our original nature.” Yet for many, like the author, there seems to be comfort in pain, drama and depression. Wounded after a series of life-altering accidents, Duda fell into a deep despair. One day, a blind beggar reminded her of the importance of gratitude, triggering a state of grace she has spent the last 30 years writing about. Sure, depression has its place, admits the author, calling it a “fertile garden, in which the seeds of change can grow,” but only by stealing visceral moments throughout our daily lives and striving to remain in the eternal present, do we discover the resilience of joy and the ability to conjure it at any time. She notes that fellow addicts seek out additional highs through the violence and fear peddled by mass media. For them, joy is even more elusive and ethereal. The first part of the treatise takes the form of a memoir, with teachable moments of joy gained and lost throughout a busy, jet-setting life, including a harsh awakening with a consciousness-raising group that turns out to be a cult, a seminal meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and a year in Paris editing a book about torture. It’s also full of keen observations about our collective need to whine and the “killjoy” words and phrases we wield absent-mindedly in everyday conversation. The last third of the book provides exercises for readers to achieve Duda’s seven practices of joy. More than tips for meditation, the guide offers motivations and methods that make sense and, judging from her exuberant treatise on finding peace, seem to succeed.
Intuitive and inspirational; an invitation to tranquility for tortured psyches.