#BookThatChangedYourWorld: Julie Keating

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The art of happiness : a handbook for living / the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
294.3444 B916a

I read this book when I was going through a difficult time in my life, and suffering from severe anxiety. I found this book to be very helpful. You may think that this book would be very dense and difficult to read, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is written in a very accessible style as a series of conversations. The Dalai Lama believes that you can train your mind to exist in a happier state. He believes that “you can overcome your negative mental states  through the application of the “antidote”, or the corresponding positive mental state.” It was very instructive to me at the time that it was possible to have power over my negative emotions.  He touches on dealing with issues stemming from anger, anxiety, suffering, grief, and self esteem. You do not have to be a Buddhist to appreciate this book. Issues are discussed in a very practical, common sense manner with helpful ideas for everyone to consider.

One of the passages in the book that stood out to me was about grief:

“For those people who do not believe in rebirth, then I think there are still some simple ways to help deal with the loss. First, they could reflect that if they worried too much, allowing themselves to be too overwhelmed by the sense of loss and sorrow, and if they carried on with that feeling of being overwhelmed, not only would it be very destructive and harming to themselves, ruining their health, but also it would not have any benefit to the person who has passed away.

“For example, in my own case, I have lost my most respected tutor, my mother, and also one of my brothers. When they passed away, of course, I felt very, very sad. Then I constantly kept thinking that it’s no use to worry too much, and if I really loved these people, then I must try to fulfill their wishes with a calm mind. So I try my best to do that. So I think if you’ve lost someone who is very dear to you, that’s the proper way to approach it. You see, the best way to keep a memory of that person, the best remembrance, is to see if you can carry on the wishes of that person.

“Initially, of course, feelings of grief and anxiety are a natural human response to a loss. But if you allow these feelings of loss and worry to persist, there’s a danger; if these feelings are left unchecked, they can lead to a kind of self-absorption. A situation where the focus becomes your own self. And when that happens you become overwhelmed by the sense of loss, and you get a feeling that it’s only you who is going through this. Depression sets in. But in reality, there are others who will be going through the same kind of experience. So, if you find yourself worrying too much, it may help to think of the other people who have similar or even worse tragedies. Once you realize that, then you no longer feel isolated, as if you have been singlepointedly picked out. That can offer you some kind of condolence.”

      —The Dalai Lama (1935-), in The Art of Happiness (pub. 1998) 

I know that being a student is very stressful, and anxiety plagues many of us. For those interested, I would recommend two other books here in the ECC library to help deal with the stresses of modern life:

Wherever you go, there you are : mindfulness meditation in
everyday life / Jon Kabat-Zinn 155.9042 K11w

 The relaxation response / by Herbert Benson 616.132 B474R

–Submitted by Julie Keating, Reference/Instruction Librarian

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