The Art of Happiness is a Book

Before they renovated the tables and sinks in the laundry room of my apartment building, we had a nice little book exchange set up. It was beside the cheaper, top-loading, washing machines, so I used to look through the books every time I did my laundry. I’d often take a few books back up to my apartment with me, but I never brought any down.

About a month ago, I picked up a copy of The Art of Happiness from that very book exchange. It’s written by Howard C. Cutler, M.D. and H.H. the Dalai Lama. It’s the 1998 publication, and I’ve come to learn that an updated version was published around 2008 (I think). I don’t think this matters to you or me, however.

Anyway, I started reading it last night. I haven’t gotten very far.

One thing that struck me was that he, H.H. the Dalai Lama, makes a distinction between pleasure and happiness. He also asks us to find “inner discipline”, or the ability to determine those factors that bring us happiness and those that bring us suffering and to then eliminate those that bring suffering.

I have to admit to being sceptical about the notion of happiness. I’m critical of the idea that we can live in a state of perpetual happiness. I think there are certainly moments of happiness, but these are fleeting. Ultimately, I’m not of the belief that the meaning of life or the purpose of our existence is happiness.

What the meaning of life or the purpose of our existence is, I’m not sure. Monty Python doesn’t have the answer, either.

I think there is value in living a more mindful life, however. I’m often overwhelmed, and it’s usually a result of my own actions. I spend too much time looking at screens, I get frustrated with traffic because I didn’t leave six minutes earlier, I nap and then wonder why I can’t sleep at night even though I’ve had only one cup of coffee in the evening, and like to have the “occasional” drink when I’ve had a good or bad day. I don’t make time for pause and reflection as often or as thoroughly as I should.

I think it’s good to look at the world from a different perspective. I slowly dipped my toes into the pool of mindfulness and then retreated and I’m returning now that my foot has dried.

If nothing else, it’s nice to read an actual book, not one that is coming at me from a screen. It’s easier on my eyes and I can interact with it physically; I can feel the scratch of the pen on the post-it note and then rub my finger across the top to stick it to the page.

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