Welcome to the Good Life Journey
June Darling, Ph.D
What is The Good Life and how do we journey toward it?
Though we may not consciously reflect on this question, it’s probably in the
back of most of our minds. Being born to a psychotherapist and minister
and living my early life in what’s often called the Bible Belt, this sort of
question floated in the air we breathed. After getting a degree in religious
studies and being exposed to the wisdom of many different cultures, my
thinking on this question deepened.
In the late nineteen-hundreds, serious research began on this question, not from spiritual or philosophical quarters, but from the field of psychology. Since then, thousands of papers have been published on happiness, meaning, and life satisfaction. Some of the studies have experimented with various interventions aimed at helping people experience happier, more meaningful lives both personally and collectively. This body of knowledge continues to add to wisdom collected for thousands of years. I began experimenting with these ideas personally, sharing the research along with my experiences in monthly articles for a regional magazine as well as doing some speaking, and coaching.
Through my research, writing, and life experiences, I have identified a number of ways of making life more meaningful, happier, more satisfying, more impactful. The most reliable and widely encompassing one is practicing compassion (including self-compassion). My definition of compassion broadens the traditional meaning to include not only a desire to alleviate suffering (and taking action to do so), but also taking action to prevent suffering and to promote well-being.
As it turns, all those other good life skills, practices, and virtues like gratitude, hope, joy, love, patience, wisdom, and even play and humor fit into "the way of compassion" because they promote self care, self awareness, understanding, growth, and flourishing as well as nudge us toward wise prosocial behavior. In a few words, to journey toward the good life following the way of compassion is to take a kind, wise stance toward ourselves and others so that we all are able to grow into lives of peace, love, meaning, joy, and positive impact. Creating this website became particularly urgent to me after my brother's suicide. I pondered how to help using my own life as an experiment. I hope it will result in an honest, useful book for ordinary people. You can be part of this project by emailing me your comments and stories. I always appreciate encouragement too.
Books, study, openness to learning from others and life, and especially a
group of like-minded people (our compassion circle) are helping me on the journey. You can find my personal exploration and research in the blogs which come primarily from a practical perspective. But you may also find that some of the spiritual materials (and even the children's books) listed in the resources are helpful in journeying to the good life and learning the practice of compassion. I hope you will join us.
John Darling, DDS
The Way of Compassion
I found out rather early in life that I enjoyed helping others. I became a dentist and certainly understood the importance of good client service but our mission of care was larger. Our dental motto was to "improve the quality of life for each person we have the opportunity to touch." That was my personal contribution to world peace as I thought about the ripple effect.
We worked to understand each person - their dreams and concerns. We collaborated to figure out how their dental care fit in with their larger lives. We attended many conferences and retreats to learn how to not only be better at our technical jobs, but also how to understand our clients, ourselves, and our co-workers.
Shortly after I retired, June (my wife) and I were introduced to the work of Dr. Frank Rogers, Jr. who is the co-director of the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology and author or several books including Practicing Compassion and Compassion in Practice.
Frank brought me back to the primary work we are here to do - love our neighbors - to be at peace with ourselves and each other. On top of that, he offers us a process for how to do it. We dug into Frank's work and became workshop leaders. We began having weekly meetings with a handful of other people. We called our gatherings "the compassion circle." Guided especially by Frank's work, coupled with our compassion circle friends, we continue to sojourn. As it turns out, we are following a universal map laid out by the ancients which has been clarified by people like Dr. Rogers. The way of compassion is a sensible process of learning to understand, appreciate, and bring out the best in ourselves and others as we encounter life in its sorrows and joys.
You will find here our journey with stories, research, images, practices and also resources including Christian sermons based on Dr. Roger's work. My hope is that this helps with suffering (your own and others') as well as promotes wellness AND creates world peace. With Love, John