Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

A simply incredible read!!!!

For those of you who may be wary of reading this book, let me first state that it is not a book pushing the Buddhist doctrine or faith. This book explains in simple and profound ways how to approach life well and how to develop, encourage, and nourish happiness in one's life, while eliminating the negative factors that push us towards the unhealthy and harmful traits of anger, cruelty, and impatience.

I found this book extremely helpful and liberating. It is not a quick fix/self-help/guru book though so, if you are looking for that, search elsewhere my dear readers. This book is about changing your mental attitude and approach to life.

The underlying fundamental factor to this is one of true compassion, recognizing that all of us deserve and want to be happy and eliminate our suffering, and how to connect to anybody, even people we dislike, because we are all human beings who seek and have a right to these things.

I recommend this book to absolutely everybody; but, especially to those experiencing a hard time in life, those who are suffering either physically or mentally, those who are depressed, or those who just feel that life has tossed them a raw deal.

I have been trying very hard to implement the ideas from the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler from this book since I finished reading it, and I can honestly and truly say it is making a difference in my life. We have had some particularly difficult times in my house during the last six months. I finished my contract at the college I have been working at and have been desperately searching for a job, I was injured in the car accident (see earlier posts), and my husband lost his job. We have gone from saying no to treats and such to saying no to everything, and I mean everything that we have considered a given in life: long distance telephone service, transportation, gas for hot water and cooking, you name it. Shut off notices have unfortunately been a regular occurrence. What this book helped me realize, among many other things, is that our mental attitude really truly does change not only how we view things but how we feel and how we affect others.

I always thought that I was a grateful person, but I found I was more bitter than I realized. I discovered and dealt with issues from graduate school that I still harbored, this resentment that I had that life keeps giving me raw deal after raw deal when others in the media seem to have so much and I seem to have nothing, that my son doesn't have everything he "deserves." And I took a step back and truly examined them and tried to learn from them with an honest and truly objective perspective as this book/the Dalai Lama advises. When seen truly objectively I learned from them and didn't merely attempt to "just move on."

I now really mean it in my mind, in my being, in my whole self when I think and say "I am blessed" because: how many people around the world do not have hot water in an instant at a tap anytime they want it and are not just without it for a short period of time? How many people cannot conveniently go down a flight of stairs to almost effortlessly have clean dry clothes anytime they want? How may people in the world have a telephone? How many people have a car? How many people can go less than a mile and purchase a wide variety of food to eat? How many people live in a safe and violence free home? How many people have a wonderful spouse and are blessed by the gift of a healthy child/children? How many people had the opportunity to work for their education and truly appreciate the gift of a university education? How many people in the world have a Masters degree? How many people keep in contact with their family and actually like them and appreciate them? And the list goes on and on and on...

I have seen and felt, hands down, the benefits of this book in my life. My husband, child, and I certainly appreciate each other more now and spend more time together now, really spend time together. Neither of them read the book. It is merely by me alone changing my mental attitude and approach to things that has changed theirs as well. Heck, I even noticed a difference in people I do not even know in the grocery store for Pete's sake! Before I would get impatient at lines or having to move out of somebodies way to let them pass, or letting people in while in traffic...come on, you know you do this...and I have seen a sort of chain reaction. When I change my approach, so do others.

It is really and truly an astounding book. I hope this review and my reflections on it encourage you to read it. I am certain it will positively benefit you if you read it and truly take in the ideas, lessons, and gems found within it. This book and the Dalai Lama himself are truly some of life's greatest treasures.

And so it goes...
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