Friday, May 27, 2022

What I'm Reading: Feel-Good Book Number One

A few things have been boggling my mind lately. One is that the United States isn't very big. Our population is only 4.25 per cent of the total world population--just 4.25 per cent! But ... New York City! Can you believe it? If you're curious, here's a link: Population by Country 

Another mind-boggler is how short life is. Even a nice long life of 85 years only has 1,020 months in it, only 745,000 hours. When I realized that, it didn't seem like enough time to get everything checked off my life's to-do list, like traveling and spending time with friends and loved ones. But there's also a daunting stack of books I want to read. And there's so much I still want to learn! Do I have time to become a senior Olympian in pole vaulting? Can I still learn to play the drums, even though I seem to be rhythmically challenged?

There's also more writing to be done. I'd love to write more novels and more poetry, but my mind wanders most often to the books I want to write about. I've set myself a goal of reading twenty uplifting books and compiling the take-aways: quotes, thoughts, realizations. This is the project my life must contain, and since apparently life is short, I'm starting this one now, and I'll be sharing it here.

The first book is The Kindness Handbook: A Practical Companion. The gentle title and gorgeous cover grabbed my attention, and I found many words of wisdom here from best-selling author Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist meditation teacher.

Here's a credo to live by right out of the gate: "Spending a few minutes each day thinking of the good within us and taking delight in the goodness we can manifest is how we are able to continually touch on and deepen a true and genuine happiness."

Salzberg offers quotes from other worthy sources:

From the Tao Te Ching, "One who knows that enough is enough will always have enough."  

From the Dalai Lama, "In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves, the experience of our own suffering is less intense."

Quoting the Buddha, "Anger with its poison source and fevered climax is murderously sweet." Salzberg continues with, "It has both sides -- the sweet relief of the energy, and the murderous side. Our effort must be not to suppress the feeling of anger, but to not have it be the automatic or inevitable place from which we act." She shares a story about a child who has these words of wisdom that made me laugh. "Just try not to hit people."

Salzberg shares a story about a frustrating airplane ride and what she learned from Bob Thurman, to try seeing people we are randomly associated with as "my people." Her impatience on the airplane changed, she shares, when she saw her fellow travelers in a different light. "I watched the interplay of forces in my own mind as interest opened the door to a measure of kindness."

The wrap-up: In order to foster kindness for myself and others, I can think of the good within me; accept my "enoughness;" give attention to the needs of others; and become more curious about those around us who are our people, since interest opens doors to kindness. Oh, and just try not to hit people.