The Art of Happiness
📚 Story of the Week #34
Con-artists make up the bulk of the self-help genre. Their words offer us a sugar-high of hope. As that high fades, we see that we’ve pegged our promise for a better future on some magic beans. Self-hate or self-denial follows, as you either disavow the entire self-help universe, or you dig your heels in, and senselessly nurse your magic beans to spare yourself the feeling of being taken for a ride.
It's against that backdrop I'd like to make a recommendation.
I wasn't fully awake to the power of books until a colleague mentioned that she was a sort of bibliotherapist. Her habit of eating books gave her a sniper's precision when it came to making recommendations. She would listen to her friend's challenges, rummage around her mental cupboards, and then dispense a textual tincture to excite, soothe, inspire, console, provoke, heal – whatever her friend needed.
The quality of our lives is the quality of our minds. Even with infinite power, you still have to live with the thoughts inside your head.
As children, our thoughts conjure imaginary friends that entertain and comfort us. Adults are different. We're more likely to have imaginary enemies. Fear, paranoia, anxiety, depression, self-doubt – all of these characters vex us, as we wonder whether our seemingly innocuous colleague, Xavier, is plotting our demise while he wipes his baked bean lunch leftovers from around his mouth.
The world of the mind is often presented mystically. The rise of astrologers is one answer to these mysteries, as some find comfort in knowing that Jupiter, with its vast cosmic powers, has been driving our bus the past fews years, and is the source of our anger and sadness.
I'm more into science than speculation. So, with the same degree of caution exercised by a rabbit that's been invited for dinner, but never received a reply to his message, 'What will we be eating?', I'd like to recommend 'The Art of Happiness'.
The book pairs together two worlds: ancient Buddhist ideas on happiness with the latest in psychology. The scientific check, practical examples, and novel conversations between an Eastern and Western thinker have made this book an evergreen feature in my book collection. With each reading, I’ve found it helpful in unknotting whatever tangle I've caught myself up in.
The book found me at 21, when I was wavering on the edge. I believed that happiness was a skill, which meant that I could get better at it with practice. However, typing 'How can I be happy?' into the internet only gave me three suggestions: six pack abs, fast cars, and fast women.
If you're wavering on the edge, too, then here is my friendly nudge into how meditation, mindfulness, and psychological research can help foster a happier and more resilient mind – without the magic beans.