Trying to Cultivate Positive Emotions/ is the Cessation of Suffering Possible on an Individual Level and in the Global Community?

Essay by Luke Foster

“Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters.”

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu (7 October 1931 – 26 December 2021)

I have been reading The Book of Joy a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu on the Dalai Lama’s birthday in McLeod Ganj over three days.

What has struck me after the first 80 pages is the question: is the cessation of suffering possible? It’s a question close to my heart as I suffer with negative emotions quite a bit.

I have been thinking that I suffer anxiety, jealousy and regret most of all.

However, I think I am quite good with generosity and I feel if you develop one positive emotion then it breeds other positive emotions.

For example, today I bought Rosa my support worker a sketch book for her birthday and then later in the day two pairs of jeans from Kmart were delivered that I wrapped and gave to my neighbour Mark for his birthday. For each of them I did a drawing for Mark a simple folded card and for Rosa a drawing of her with her cool hair do.

What is interesting is these small acts of generosity on my behalf cultivated other positive emotions not just in them of gratitude and joy but also happiness and contentment in me.

So, I feel the best way to overcome my negative emotions is not to beat myself up over them as they are hard to shift but rather focus on the other positive emotions that come to me easily such as generosity and humour. Then the other negative emotions seem to shift as well as you start to look at the situation that causes the suffering from a different angle.

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy. Much depends on your attitude. If you are filled with negative judgment and anger, then you will feel separate from other people.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I am soon moving and feel both excited about being closer to the beach for my daily two hours beach walks but also sad that I am leaving my neighbourhood that I feel has a relaxed and laidback atmosphere and where I am accepted in the community.

“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy.”

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

I love this mother Teresa quote and as I always say I love to have equal number of male and female role models.

This is how Buddha said we can end suffering:

“The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path. The steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.”

I think the other best way I overcome suffering mainly anger in others you encounter is that if someone is resentful or angry at me, I used to react like a mirror but now I put myself in their shoes and wonder what is the basis of this reaction. Most times I am either perplexed at first or sometimes smile out of embarrassment but most time people will say why they are angry which is fantastic as then you can see how to diffuse the situation with empathy for their suffering and annoyance or diffuse the situation with a joke. Also, most times if you don’t react to someone’s anger then most people will call out an apology themselves which is an even better result as they themselves let you and them off the hook at the same time.

“Dear friends, much pain has been endured in the past, and that pain is no longer designated to hopelessness. It’s time to move the process of reconciliation forward with a little more speed. That is the task. If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Faith Bandler

Faith Bandler Australian Aboriginal activist

I just discovered Faith Bandler a strong Australian indigenous activist. I think she managed to turn around the discrimination against Aboriginals in Australia with her compassionate strong female activism.

“In her adult life, Faith became best known as the charismatic speaker and broadcaster, who advocated a ‘Yes’ vote in the 1967 referendum, which was overwhelmingly successful, with more than 90 per cent of Australians agreeing to end constitutional discrimination against Indigenous peoples.”


I think one of the ways that the cessation of suffering is possible is when activists such as Desmond Tutu in South Africa campaigned against apartheid and Faith Bandler campaigned against discrimination in Australia so that the laws that discriminated against them were overturned and the suffering of those effected overturned.

There has been lots of strong US first ladies such as Michelle Obama but I just discovered Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Eleanor Roosevelt: Influential for: championing women’s rights for decades where she tirelessly worked to improve education access for women through establishing the She-She-She Camps to support homeless women. She was also the longest-serving first lady of the US.”

CEO Magazine website

“A woman is like a teabag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

In conclusion the cessation of individuals suffering is interlinked to the campaigning of strong humanitarian men and women through history for the cessation of suffering of minorities and unbalance of the rights of men and women in societies around the globe and in the global community.