Book Review: The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

the-art-of-happiness-cover

My Rating: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I got this book at a book sale years ago.  I was probably drawn to the title, and I was excited to learn about the wisdom that the Dalai Lama had to share.  Like many other books, this one sat on my bookshelf for several years before I saw it there about a month ago and felt called to finally read it.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I was really hoping I would love this book and take away a lot from it.  Unfortunately, it was not an easy read for me.  It took me over a month to read this.  Happiness is one of my favorite topics, but unfortunately this book did not hold my interest like I had hoped.  Once I started reading, I was disappointed to find out that the Dalai Lama did not write the book.  The book was written by Howard Cutler, M.D., a psychiatrist who interviewed him.

Although this book didn’t meet my high expectations of it, there are some things that I really enjoyed about it.  I liked reading the direct quotes and the wisdom of the Dalai Lama, and this book has inspired me to read some of his books, including his autobiography, Freedom in Exile and The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus.

I don’t think I would read The Art of Happiness again, but I would not discourage anyone from reading it.  The Dalai Lama shares some great wisdom and advice, and there is a lot of information to take away from it.

You can check out other reviews about this book at Goodreads.

My Favorite Quotes

A few of my favorite quotes of the Dalai Lama from The Art of Happiness:

Definition of love (p.286) – “An utter, absolute, and unqualified wish for the happiness of another individual.”

“Motivation is so important…If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help on the basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal.  Even if you fail to achieve your goal, you can feel good about having made the effort.  But with a bad motivation, people can praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy.” (p.272)

“I believe that each individual should embark upon a spiritual path that is best suited to his or her mental disposition, natural inclination, temperament, belief, family, and cultural background.” (p.294)

“The variety of people calls for a variety of religions.  The purpose of religion is to benefit people, and I think that if we only had one religion, after a while it would cease to benefit many people…religions are meant to nourish the human spirit.  And I think we can learn to celebrate that diversity in religions and develop a deep appreciation of the variety of religions…we must respect and appreciate the value of all the different major world religious traditions.”

“I think prayer is, for the most part, a simple daily reminder of your deeply held principles and convictions…Prayers are actually reminders.  Reminders of how to speak to others, how to deal with other people, how to deal with problems in your daily life, things like that…my practice involves reminders — reviewing the importance of compassion, forgiveness, all these things.” – (P. 298)

Valentine Activity: Wall of Love

 

VALENTINE WALL OF LOVE 

Wall of Love 2016 logo

I LOVE family traditions, and my kids do, too.  Some of my greatest memories from my childhood are of family traditions.  When my girls are grown, I hope our traditions are something they will look back on and recall as some of the greatest moments of their childhood.  I know I will certainly treasure these memories forever.

Here is a fun new tradition that we started in our family last year.  I call it our Valentine’s Wall of Love.  We used tape to hang a huge poster board on our door.  On the poster board, we drew a heart for each member of the family and wrote their name inside.  Then, each family member writes things they like about each other in their hearts.  Here is last year’s poster:

2015 Wall of Love

Last year, we kept the poster up for a few weeks.  My girls love reading all the nice things that everyone writes about them, and I feel like it brings us closer together as a family.  This is a tradition I can see us keeping for years to come.

Every February, as a family we participate in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge.  Basically, the challenge is for each of us to do at least one act of kindness each day throughout the month of February.  We each have a log on the refrigerator to track our progress.  This Wall of Love project made it very easy for us to complete our Act of Kindness for the day.  Anyone is welcome to join us in the challenge at any time.  Simply join the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group, and begin spreading your love.  We love it when people share their own acts of kindness stories to the group or other kindness stories they encounter.

I got the idea for this “Wall of Love” from Harvard Homemaker last year on her Facebook page.  We have adapted it a bit for our family, but here is her original blog post describing the activity.

You can certainly use poster board or kraft paper and write on them with markers if you wish.  That is the easiest and quickest way to make this, but if you would like it to be a little more uniform, I have included the images that I used to make this year’s poster.  Feel free to print them out and use them as you wish (they are all JPG’s, so click on the image you would like.  Then, right click and select “Save image as” to save to your computer.  Then you can print them or edit them as you wish.)  If you want to make your own, PicMonkey is a great, free tool that can help you design something that suits your family (PicMonkey is what I used to design all of these images).

2016 valentine label  Happy Valentine's DayDad heart blue mom heart purple Things I love about you feb 2016Blank Heart

I hope you enjoy this project, and I hope it becomes a family tradition that your family will treasure for years to come as well!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Update 2/8/17 – Here is the 2017 image:

2017-valentine-label

Movie Review: The Letter Writer

the letter writer cover

My Rating:  ********** (10/10 stars)

Why Did I Watch?

I am taking the February Acts of Kindness challenge, and this movie is a perfect demonstration of kindness.  I watched it last year for the first time, and I loved it!  I felt like I wanted some inspiration, so I decided to watch it again.  I’m glad I did! 🙂

Summary (from IMDb)

When a teenager receives a mysterious letter in the mail, she sets out to find the author. It’s a journey that will change her life forever.
Watch the trailer:

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I love this movie!  It is such a great example of kindness, love, and encouragement, and a lot of wisdom comes through in this movie.  Many life lessons are taught.    This movie touched me deeply…tears were rolling down my face at the end.   I got so much more out of this the 2nd time I watched it.  It is a perfect movie for the entire family, and I highly recommend it.   If you have Amazon Prime, it is currently streaming for free here.  Find out more about the movie on IMDb.

February Wellness Challenge – Acts of Kindness

February Acts of Kindness Challenge promo

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what REALLY makes you happy?

When I asked myself that question last month while I was taking The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, my answers surprised me.  But, what didn’t surprise me was that HELPING OTHERS was on the top of my list.

If helping others brings you joy and happiness as well, I would love to invite you to join us in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge. I promise you it will be a rewarding experience!!

How the Challenge Began

When I think of the month of February, the first thing that comes into my mind is Valentine’s Day.   And when I think of Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of love.  So, I thought it might be fun to challenge myself and my family to spread our love during the month by performing at least one act of kindness each day.

When I first suggested the idea to my family two years ago, they were all really excited. I’m sure their excitement probably had something to do with me mentioning a reward at the end if we were able to complete it, but the real reward turned out to be the experience in itself. We took the challenge again last year.  This will be our third year, and we are all on board and excited about doing it again!

I invite you to join us and many others in spreading love and kindness all month!  Feel free to make up your own rules, or follow our guidelines:

Act of Kindness Challenge Guidelines:

  1. Prepare.  Print out this February 2016 Acts of Kindness Log for each member of your family.  Use it to record your acts of kindness throughout the month.  Also keep track of the acts of kindness performed toward you each day.  You might be surprised to actually see how many nice things people do for each other each day. 🙂  We put ours on the refrigerator so it stays in view and is easy to remember.
  2. Identify a Reward to keep You Motivated.  If you are taking the challenge with others, take a vote to see how you want to reward yourselves once you have completed the challenge!  In the past, we have rewarded ourselves by going out to dinner together as a family (something we usually only reserve for birthdays or special occasions.)  Come up with something that works for you and your family and that will motivate you to complete the challenge.  Don’t skip this step.  This is the step that keeps my kids motivated to keep going throughout the challenge.
  3. Spread your love!  Each day in February, perform at least one act of kindness and write it down on the log.  Try to come up with something different each day.  My definition of an Act of Kindness is:  any action you take to brighten someone’s day without expecting anything in return.  Also, write down any acts of kindness others performed toward you.
  4. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable.  Each day, share your ideas with your family members or loved ones who are also participating in the challenge.  Talk about the acts of kindness you performed.  Also, feel free to share your ideas and inspiration in our February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group so we can continue to support and encourage each other and keep each other accountable.
  5. When the month is over, share what you learned from the experience.  Feel free to share your stories with us as well in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group.
  6. REWARD YOURSELF!!  Don’t skip this step, either.  For many of us, the real reward is the experience in itself, but make sure to recognize your accomplishment and follow through on the reward you set in step 2.

I invite you to join us in this challenge and spread your love. It only takes a small act to make a big impact. Let’s make a difference together! “Like” the Facebook page February Acts of Kindness Challenge for inspirational stories and quotes each day, or join the Facebook support group at February Acts of Kindness Challenge to share your ideas and inspiration. 🙂

Feel free to do more than one Act of Kindness a day.  Don’t be afraid to write them all down.  You may already do several acts of kindness each day without even realizing it.  The point here is to become aware of all the good things you already do and realize the impact it has on others.  You may also want to try to take it a step further and do some things you normally wouldn’t do.  When we make a small effort to brighten someone’s day out of love (not obligation), we are rewarded with happiness.  Anything done out of obligation is not an act of love and will only cause you to feel resentment.  It doesn’t matter whether your acts of kindness are random or intentional, but to honor your own self-care, please make sure they are performed out of love.

As you perform more acts of kindness, you may also notice yourself becoming the recipient of more acts of kindness.  Learn to accept these gifts with gratitude.  Many times it is more challenging for us to receive than it is to give.  We may resist acts of kindness toward us because we may feel like we will owe the other person, but when you let people do nice things for you, you are actually giving them a gift.  Learning how to let others help you might be just what you need to learn from this challenge…I know from previous years it was exactly what I needed to learn.Act of Kindness Aesop

RESOURCES

If you run out of ideas at any point during the challenge, this Random Acts of Kindness generator is fantastic!

Check out this link for some great Random Acts of Kindness ideas!

“Like” the Facebook Page The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Check out the inspiring movie, The Letter Writer. It is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.  If you have some suggestions for more inspiring movies about kindness, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Random Acts of Kindness week is a 7-day celebration of kindness.  This year it falls on February 14-20, 2016!

Check out this inspiring 5 minute video to see how one small act of kindness can make a big impact.  

Do YOU have any kindness ideas, quotes, videos, or inspiration you would like to share? Feel free to leave them in a comment below or share them on the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook support group. Thank you! 🙂

kindness mark twain

 

A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep

Are you tired of making New Year’s Resolutions you can’t keep?

This year, instead of focusing on all the things you want to change about yourself, what if you made a different kind of resolution? What if the only resolution you made was to love yourself more, exactly as you are?

You are a perfect creation just as you are!  You were born with so many natural gifts to share with the world, but when you focus on all the things you think are “wrong” with you or that society tells you are “wrong” with you, your precious time and energy will be spent on the wrong areas and everyone will be missing out on the real gifts you have to bring to the world. Instead, why not focus on being yourself, discovering those gifts, and sharing them with those around you?

When you learn to love yourself unconditionally and live a more authentic life, all of the things you think are “wrong” with you will naturally take care of themselves. For example, if losing weight was going to be your resolution, that will naturally happen when you take the time to love yourself as you are and commit to discovering the emotional cause of your eating habits. Once you are able to deal with and overcome those emotional issues, you will naturally want to care for your body and fuel it with real foods that nature intended us to eat. Then, the weight will fall off naturally. The same goes for any other area of your life that you think might need improvement.  When you begin to live authentically, everything begins to fall into place and your dreams will begin to come true!

If you do want to live a more authentic life and get to know and love yourself more but you don’t exactly know how to do that, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge was written to help you do just that.  It requires just 15 minutes of your undivided attention each day for 31-Days. You will learn to embrace your uniqueness, discover your priorities so you can spend your time and energy on those things that really matter in life, and recognize your gifts and talents so you can share them with the world and fulfill the purpose that you were sent here to make.

The_31Day_SelfLove_Cover_for_Kindle

 

So, whatever challenge or resolution you decide to make for this New Year, I wish you much success!

Visual Quote: The Universal Language of Kindness

kindness mark twain

Kindness costs nothing, yet one simple act can make someone’s day and possibly even change a life.  The impact of kindness is immeasurable since each act has the potential to create a ripple effect.  So, what do you have to lose?  Perform an act of kindness today and put a smile on someone’s face.  It will make you feel great as well.  Kindness is a win-win for everyone!

For Acts of kindness ideas, visit the Random Acts of Kindness website.

Please join me in the 2015 February Acts of Kindness challenge, and spread your love and kindness every day in February to help make the world a better place! 🙂