Wednesday, June 22, 2022

What I'm Reading: Feel-Good Book Four

 I have no idea where I got The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living but it's been on my bookshelf for years, like a joyful reminder that happiness is possible. The book follows a conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, MD, beautifully capturing the Dalai Lama's joy and wisdom. Cutler uses examples from his life and his psychiatric practice to give the Dalai Lama's words more meaning.

One of the Tibetan Buddhist monk's most famous quotes is, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." In this book, he expands on kindness. "Once you accept the fact that compassion is not something childish or sentimental, once you realize that compassion is something really worthwhile, realize its deeper value, then you immediately develop an attraction towards it, a willingness to cultivate it. And once you encourage the thought of compassion in your mind, once that thought becomes active, then your attitude towards others changes automatically. If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere." 

I first read this book about twenty years ago, when my daughters were one and four. It changed my life then, and with this re-reading, it's changing my life now. 

My girls and I attended a Mom's Club event where we had decorated our car trunk for a Halloween party. Prizes went to the favorite "trunk-or-treat" designs, and I did what I do best. I joked with the other moms, telling everyone to vote for the farm we'd created out of Fisher Price Little People. Sure enough, they did, and I won. I was mortified by the attention, and mentally kicked myself for having such a big mouth. But I stopped myself, remembering what I'd read about compassion. Why not have a little compassion for myself? Often I am an outspoken joker. Maybe, just this once, I'd accept myself, show myself a little compassion.

I opened my prize and laughed. "Welcome Home" said the fall-themed door hanger. Yes indeed, Jeannie, welcome home to accepting yourself exactly as you are.

This time around, I've taken from the book a way to create a more positive, friendly atmosphere in my life. As a retail merchandiser for Hallmark, I visit eight stores weekly to keep the greeting card displays organized. I'm often surrounded by people - who can be so annoying! As a result of Happiness, it occurred to me that I could practice compassion in my aisle by looking for ways to be kind. The first day I went to work with the intention, I was actually nervous! I felt vulnerable by taking the risk of making a fool of myself. It turned out really well; From a place of simple kindness, I had genuine interactions with people that made my day. And now I'm off to work again, preparing to share a little compassion with any fellow human who might wander up my aisle. Maybe I'll see you there! 

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