This book is written by a psychologist / psychotherapist who spent time, interviewing the Dalai Lama over a number of days.
He mixes in the perspective of Western Psychology with the views and teachings of the Dalai Lama and Buddhism. Which makes it a bit more practical – assuming your a Westerner.
Some things that I noted from the book:
“Happiness is a function of how we perceive our situation, how satisfied we are with what we have”
If we think about the things we have, instead of what we want. And give gratitude for what we have, instead of competing with the proverbial Joneses, we’ll feel happier.
“Our feelings of contentment are strongly influenced by our tendency to compare”
Don’t compare yourself with others – unless you want to do it on a global scale, then you can give gratitude for the fact that you have a roof above your head, and your among the lucky people who can read (I’m going to assume that’s the case anyway). Don’t act like a spoilt child, and don’t compare yourself to others. If you can’t help it, hang around with some poor people.
Gratitude is a consistent theme at the beginning of the book. The author cites an experiment within which subject were told to recite the sentence “I’m glad I’m not a ___” with 5 specific examples. The subjects felt better, as opposed to the subjects who repeated the sentence “I was I were…” which had the opposite effect.
The book goes on to give examples of how consumerism is bollocks (that’s not an exact quote from the book). Something I agree with, as soon as you get one thing you desired, you’ll want the next thing very soon after. Greed is based on the desire to obtain something, but it is rarely satisfied by obtaining said item. There’s a good quote related to this in the book ‘The Power of Now’ about a beggar, asking and desiring things/handouts, when he is sat on a cardboard box. The cardboard box appears worthless, but inside there is gold. I think this basically means that we externalise happiness, we want for things we don’t actually need, instead of appreciating that happiness is a state of mind, that we can already obtain if we work at it.
The very basis of ‘wanting more’ is the feeling of not having enough – a feeling of discontentment.
So once we appreciate that happiness comes from the internal, not the external, we need to get ‘granular’ with it. What exactly are we looking to develop and nurture internally to create happiness? Firstly, self worth. Human warmth and affection, can develop self worth that is internalised. Living in order to accumulate ‘things’ and attaching self worth to those things, is a very shallow and temporary thing to do. If those things are taken away, the person will become very depressed and lose their own sense of value.
The book makes the distinction between happiness and pleasure. Gambling for example, gives pleasure but it’s not a happy path, generally speaking, to go down. The use of drugs can also give pleasure, but not a sense of happiness. Choose the happiness road, not the short term pleasure/pain one – that generally ends badly and with debt and lots of tears.
Food, clothing and shelter is all we should be actively seeking, and those three things should provide all that we need in order to be happy. Try and adopt a warmth and a compassion to others. Hostility and anger is based upon fear and an overdeveloped concept of the self, and the ego. A feeling of warmth creates openness. Be free of fear, put yourself ‘out there’ and greet people with warmth, instead of fear.
We are all connected to other humans.
1. I am a human being
2. I want to be happy and don’t want to suffer
3. Other human beings like myself want to be happy and don’t want to suffer
Emphasising the connections and common ground with have with others, rather than the differences, makes us more connected and less fearful of other people.
Our lives become meaningful when we develop ‘good human qualities’ like warmth and kindness. If you approach others with thoughts of compassion, then this openness makes any interactions more enjoyable for you, and the other person. If you are kind to others, then you add value to the world.
People tend to project their feelings. If someone is internally unhappy, they will often find a way to blame this on their spouse or boss, instead of having the emotional intelligence to identify it as an issue from ‘within’. This can cause a type of unjustified hatred. Ignorance, craving and hatred are the 3 poisons of the mind.
Pain and suffering is felt by ALL human beings. It is just an effect of being alive. Do not think that you are the only one suffering. Some things effect people more that others however, if you are overly sensitive, and easily offended, this can cause yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering.
Problems will invariably arise, remember that all human beings have problems, and see these problems as challenges and focus on solutions instead of it being ‘unfair’ whenever possible.
The ability to shift perspective is one of the greatest tools when dealing with problems. Seeing things from a wider perspective – that everyone suffers for example, can make problems seem less intense.
Love your enemy, because without him or her, you will turn into an idiot like Kanye West. If everyone is nice to you, all of the time, there is no test, no need to adapt and look for solutions. They provide a great opportunity to practice patience and to combat negative emotions.
Maintain a flexible and pliable mind and approach to the world, otherwise you will be fearful of change and the unknown. It will also help you to stay calm and composed in turbulent situations.
When we are angry, we lose the ability to judge a situation and to choose appropriate actions. When anger occurs, try and adopt a wider perspective. Question the impulse thoughts, step back and evaluate things. Responding with aggression is never a good thing. Respond with patience and compassion. Being impulsive is sometimes a good thing, but never when the impulsion leads to violence (or has anything to do with spending money!). In regards to aggression and anger – I believe that if something makes you angry, then it has beaten you. It has gotten the better of you. The best response is patience and calmness. Acknowledge the ‘reptile’ element of your brain that gets angry, jealous, greedy etc. and override it with your higher consciousness whenever possible.
Self confidence is a good thing when it is used to help all people. When it just inflates one’s ego, then one will be very aggressive and angry when someone does something to damage or question one’s self perception (no idea why I keep saying “one’s”). Being honest with yourself and other is the best way to be confident. If you try to impress people and try to be something you are not, you may be fearful of being ‘found out’.
True spirituality is not about adhering to religious rules. It is a mental attitude that you can practice at any time by being respectful and compassionate and warm to other sentient beings.
Definitely worth a read. It’s not exactly gripping like reading Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, but it does have lots of gems in there for you to uncover. If you can persist with the book you will be thinking about it and quoting it to your friends a lot, and it will help you deal with common situations. I’m still not sure what his Holiness would do about the neighbour who beeps his horn at 5.50am every morning though. That gives me an idea, Dalai Lama on benefits Street…
4.5/5 stars for this bad boy. Definitely read it if you have time. It will make you a super cool dude like me. Well, it will make you view people more positively 🙂