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)

Book Review: Transformed

Book Review:  Transformed

by Rick Warren

transformed cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I am a member of a small group (we call it a Lifegroup) at our church.  For 7 sessions, we got together every other week to go through this book together, watch the video that went along with the weekly lesson, and discuss our thoughts and how we can apply the concepts to our own lives.

Summary (through Goodreads)

Transformed is a church-wide, 7-session campaign that will guide and grow your church by exploring what the Bible has to say about every essential area of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational. The world is shouting for our attention with answers to our relationship struggles, solutions to our financial trouble, and explanations to our search for meaning. But the world’s promises leave us empty and searching for more. God’s Word is the only answer that promises to transform our lives from the inside out. Unite as a church and be TRANSFORMED together.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I really liked this book a lot.  Over 7 weeks (49 days), each day I looked forward to reading, reflecting, and journaling on the lesson of the day.  In those 10 minutes of each day, I felt so at peace.  I was able to leave all of my worries behind and connect with my source and my true self.  It was a wonderful feeling.  When I was able to spend this time first thing in the morning, it inspired me and provided me with a great start to my day.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in becoming healthier in mind, body, or spirit.  The book covers just about every area of our lives:  spiritual health, physical health, mental health, emotional health, relational health, financial health, and vocational health.  The reading is very short, but the reflection and journaling is what I enjoyed the most.  To anyone who gets this book, I would encourage you to do the journaling if you want to get the most out of it.

Although I really enjoyed doing the individual lessons from the book, the part of this course that really made the biggest impact in my life was the small group discussion and the videos that went along with the book.  Find out more about the course at http://transformedlife.com/

 

Book Review: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers:  How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death

by Annie Kagan

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers Cover

My Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

This book was recommended to me by my Reiki Master teacher.  When taking the Reiki Master class a few weeks ago, my teacher played a song called “The Swan of Tuonela” by the composer Jean Sibelius.  In the book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy tells his sister that cosmic sound is very similar to this song.  My teacher told us briefly what the book was about, and it sounded fascinating to me, so I decided to check it out at my library.

Summary (from Goodreads)

“Annie Kagan is not a medium or a psychic, she did not die and come back to life; in fact, when she was awakened by her deceased brother, she thought perhaps she had gone a little crazy.

In “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death,” Kagan shares the extraordinary story of her after death communications (ADC) with her brother Billy, who began speaking to her just weeks after his unexpected death.

One of the most detailed and profound ADC’s ever recorded, Kagan’s book takes the reader beyond the near-death experience.  Billy’s vivid, real-time account of his on-going journey through the mysteries of death will change the way you think about life, death and your place in the Universe.”

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I LOVED this book!  I thought it was fascinating!  I have a strong interest in reading books about Near-Death Experiences, but this book takes it even further.  Although some of the things described are really “out there”, especially near the end, I really believe this is true.  Just have an open mind when reading this book.

I found it to be comforting and reassuring that we are all loved unconditionally regardless of our actions, and there is something great waiting for each of us on the other side, although the experience will be different for each of us based on what our beliefs are.  This book also confirmed my belief that we are eternal souls, and our time on this earth in a physical body is just one way for us to experience new things and help our souls grow.

This book was a VERY easy read.  I read it in about 3 days, although I probably could have read it all in one sitting if I had the time.  I did not want to put it down!

As Billy gave Annie advice throughout the book, here are a few bits of wisdom that I got out of this:

See yourself Billy Fingers

What you achieve on earth is only a small part of the deal.  If there’s a secret I could whisper, and that you could keep, it would be that it’s all inside you already.  Every single thing you need.  Earth is just a stopover.  A kind of game.  Make it a star game.  If I could give you a gift, it would be to teach you how to stay free inside that game, to find the glory inside yourself, beyond the roles and the drama, so you can dance the game of life with a little more rhythm, a little more abandon, a little more shaking-those-hips.” (p.84)

“All beings on earth carry the light from this sphere within them.  That’s why spiritual philosophies say that we are one…the light from the sphere propels your soul into your body when you’re in the womb.  It then becomes the invisible force that gives you life…” (p. 94)

“Don’t overlook the riches contained in the darkness.  Life’s very temporary, so don’t let time just pass.  Let the moments fill you — the ones you judge to be good as well as bad.” (p.95)

“There are many worlds, and the afterlife has many forms.  Where you go, who you meet, and where you meet them is different for different people.” (p. 104)

“After you’re dead, you are able to be in more than one place at a time.” (p. 105)

“Beliefs are big on earth.  People collect them.  Some of these beliefs are helpful, but others just keep you running around trying to follow rules that others have laid down.  They don’t have a lot of personal meaning.  It’s a good idea to sort through your beliefs now and throw out the ones that don’t serve you.” (p. 105)

“People spend lots of time on things that make them unhappy…to cultivate joy, pay attention to what you like.” (p. 152)

“Every single life is valuable in ways you cannot imagine or figure out while you’re alive.  Every single life is a gift.” (p. 154)

Cosmic symphony

See more reviews of The Afterlife of Billy Fingers on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven

90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

90 minutes in heaven cover

My Rating:  ***** (5/5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I first read this book several years ago.  After I finished it then, I had considered it one of the best books I had ever read.  It gave me hope about heaven in the afterlife and took away any fears I had about death.  I wanted to tell everyone who had lost a loved one about this book so they may find comfort.  I recently saw the movie, which focuses more on the pain and recovery of Don Piper and it spends very little time on the experience of heaven.  Sadly, the movie doesn’t do the book justice in my opinion.  After seeing the movie, I decided to read the book once more and see if it had the same impact on me as it did the first time I read it.

Summary (from Goodreads)

As he is driving home from a minister’s conference, Baptist minister Don Piper collides with a semi-truck that crosses into his lane. He is pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace.
Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery.

For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I really enjoyed this book, especially Chapters 2 and 3 where Don Piper describes his experience of Heaven.  I find the description of Heaven to be very exciting, and it erases all fears of dying for me.  To those who have lost loved ones, I believe they may find great comfort from this book.  The book is a very quick and easy read.  It held my interest, but I wish more detail would have gone into the description of heaven than of the recovery process and pain.  However, there are many great lessons to learn from this book through learning about Don Piper’s recovery process.

I think there are some very important lessons taught in this book:

  1. Learn to accept help from others when you can’t do something for yourself.  Letting others help you is a gift you give to them, because it makes them feel useful.
  2. Learn to appreciate what you have IN THE MOMENT.  Instead of focusing on the things you have lost or can no longer do, recognize and give thanks for those things you CAN do.  Accept the “new normal.”
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  You may not understand “why” for a very long time, but eventually the reason will become clear to you, and it is always for the greater good.  Trust in the universe.

See more reviews on Goodreads here.

Find out more about the author, the book, and the movie here.

Top 10 Inspirational Books I Read in 2015

top 10 inspirational books 2015 done

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~Dr. Seuss

Reading is something I am passionate about.  I never leave the house without a book.  You never know when you will have to wait, and I find that a book always comes in handy during those times.  There are so many interesting things to learn in life, and reading books is one of my favorite ways to keep life exciting and learn about those things I am interested in.  As 2015 comes to a close, I am reviewing the books I have read this year and reflecting on all the wonderful and exciting things I have learned.

I use Goodreads to keep a list of the books I would like to read as well as to rate, review, and keep track of books as I read them.  At the beginning of 2015, I had set a goal for myself to read 26 books.  I only finished 18 books this year, but I also wrote a book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, so I’m not going to beat myself up for not reaching my goal.  Of the 18 books I read this year, here are my Top 10 Recommendations.  They are listed in no particular order.  Click on the hyperlink or the book image for my full review of each.

  1.  A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson shares her reflections on A Course in Miracles and her insights on the application of love in the search for inner peace.  I loved this book!  Marianne is filled with wisdom about life and love, and I truly enjoyed reading it.  There is so much information in here about every aspect of life!  I absolutely recommend it to anyone who is open to hearing the messages in it.  It is the type of book that will appear in your life when you are ready for it.

A Return to Love Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

2.  One Month to Live by Kerry & Chris Shook

What if you only had one month to live?  How would you make each day meaningful?  How would you relate to others differently?  What would you do to make the rest of your life really matter?  This book helped me to realize the importance of living intentionally so I may make the most of my time, fulfill my purpose on this earth, and make the difference I was sent here to make.  This book reinforces what really matters in life:  relationships.  Relationships are eternal, but everything else is temporary.

One Month to Live

 

 

 

 

 

3.  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

“Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”  That was a very powerful quote from the book that spoke to me.  We are ALL artists.    We were created to create.  This book will help you to unleash your inner artist and reclaim that creativity that you may have hidden deep down.  This is the book that gave me the push and the tools to help me write my own book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, which was published this year.

The Artists Way

4.  Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott with Steve Rabey

“The Columbine tragedy in April 1999 pierced the heart of our country. We later learned that the teenage killers specifically targeted Rachel Scott and mocked her Christian faith on their chilling, homemade videotapes. Rachel Scott died for her faith. Now her parents talk about Rachel’s life and how they have found meaning in their daughter’s martyrdom in the aftermath of the school shooting.”  This book had a huge impact on my life.  Rachel’s spirituality inspired me greatly.  After my first reading of the book several years ago, I began writing letters to God in my journal just as she had.  My letters to God have brought me to a whole new level spiritually, and it is all because of the influence of this authentic 17-year-old girl who just wanted God to use her to make a difference in the world.  She sure made a difference in my life, and I’m sure she has inspired countless others as well.  Her parents also inspire me through their positive attitude, their willingness to forgive, and their belief that God used the Columbine tragedy for the good of the world.

To anyone who has any interest in deepening their spirituality, I certainly recommend this book.

Rachel's Tears

5.  The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I loved this book!  I would highly recommend it to EVERYONE.  It may have initially been written to help improve marriages, but the concepts in the book can apply to any relationship.  Once we recognize the love language of our partner, friend, child, etc., we will be better able to show them we care and help to improve that relationship.

The Five Love Languages

6.  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in living a happy and authentic life and having no regrets when they get to the end of it.  Sadly, death is a subject many people fear and they do not want to think about it until it is too late and they are forced to.  We are all going to die someday.  The sooner we accept that truth, the sooner we will be able to set our own priorities and live a life focused on the things that are really important to us.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

7.  There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer

I love the teachings of Wayne Dyer!  If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say it is about LOVE.  Wayne Dyer passed away this year, but he knew about love and being connected to everyone and everything, and I’m so grateful he is going to live on through his books and teachings so we can all learn to do the same.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is open to embracing their spirituality and connecting more with everyone and everything in the universe.

There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

8.  Weekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell

I would recommend this book to readers of all ages!  It kept my interest the entire time, and it was a fairly quick and easy read at just over 300 pages.  Whether you are currently a dog-lover or not, you will finish this book with a new appreciation for dogs.

Weekends with Daisy

9.  What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles (Review not available)

After being a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, I went back to work for the first time this year, and I wish I had read this book before I tackled my resume and went on my first job interview in over 17 years.  I did get through it and found the perfect job for me (actually, two of them — both part time).  This book is filled with current resources and tips that can be helpful to anyone in search of a job.  This book goes further than general tips as it asks you to really get to know yourself and find out what you are really looking for in a job.  I especially enjoyed Appendix A: Finding Your Mission in Life.  A must read for those in search of a job.

What Color is Your Parachute 2015

10.  The Julian Chapter by RJ Palacio

Wonder and 365 Days of Wonder, both by R.J. Palacio, were both very inspiring to me.  They are some of my all-time favorite books.  The Julian Chapter is the final book that completes the story, and I love this one as well!

The Julian Chapter

For more inspiring books, here are the top 10 books I read in 2014.

Which books have inspired you this year?  Please let me know in the comments below.

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!

Book Review: There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

by Wayne Dyer

Spiritual Solution to Every Problem Cover

My Rating **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I love the teachings of Wayne Dyer.  I never get tired of listening to his stories or learning about his teachings.  I found this book at a book sale a few years ago.  It sat on my shelf for a few years, but it has been calling to me for a while.  I finally decided to pick it up and read it in February of this year. At times while I was reading, I lost interest in it (or maybe I just wasn’t ready for the lessons I was about to read).  I often found myself taking a break from this book to read other books that were easier to read.  It’s now September, and I am just finishing it.  It did take me quite a while to get through it, but I’m glad I did.

Summary (from Goodreads)

“In this inspiring new book, bestselling author Wayne W. Dyer shows us that there is an omnipresent spiritual force right at our fingertips that contains the solution to our problems — from ill health to financial worries to relationship difficulties.  Drawing from various spiritual traditions, especially from the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, Dyer helps us unplug from the material world and awaken to the divine within.

The first part of the book provides the essential foundation for spiritual problem solving. In these chapters, you’ll read the words of Patanjali, a Yogi mystic whose teachings and practices deeply affected Dyer and informed his realization that the spiritual force is everywhere.

The second half, organized around the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, contains specific suggestions to help readers put spiritual problem solving into practice.  Saint Francis’s legacy is one of love, harmony, and service — putting our collective energies toward what we are for instead of what we are against. Each of these last seven chapters begins with a line from this prayer; Dyer then goes on to offer specific and practical suggestions for applying the teaching to everyday problems. These suggestions include affirmations, writing exercises, guided meditations, and other strategies for putting Saint Francis’s words and the wisdom of this book into practice.Profound and thought provoking, yet filled with pragmatic advice, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem is a book about self-awareness and tapping the healing energy within all of us.  As Dyer writes, ‘Thinking is the source of problems. Your heart holds the answer to solving them.’ “

What did I think/Recommendation?

As I mentioned above, I love the teachings of Wayne Dyer!  This book is filled with so much wonderful advice, and it can be difficult to take it all in at once.  It is a very deep book, and if I were rating it on content alone, I would give it 5 stars without a doubt.  The only reason I gave it 4 stars is because it was not an easy read for me and it took me quite a while to get through it.

When Wayne Dyer passed away on August 30th of this year, I felt the need to pick it up again and finish it.  I love the stories he tells from his personal life to illustrate some of his points, and I love the way he uses scripture and quotes from all different religions and cultures.  The advice he gives applies to everyone.  If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say it is about LOVE.  He knew about love and being connected to everyone and everything, and I’m so grateful he is going to live on through his books and teachings so we can all learn to do the same.

Whenever I read his books or listen to his talks, I feel so much more at peace.  I also notice opportunities begin to arise in my life that allow me to practice his teachings.  For example, just this week I was able to practice turning my fears into love when my daughter had surgery on her broken arm.  As I was sitting in the waiting room, filled with anxiety over the thought of my daughter under anesthesia for the first time, I picked up this book and continued reading to try to keep my mind off my fears.  I didn’t get far into it before I was guided to put down the book, close my eyes, push aside my fears, and send love to the situation.  I decided to send love to everyone in the operating room with my daughter and to give gratitude for the doctors and nurses, the anesthesia, and the entire experience.  My fears subsided, I was granted peace, and everything went smoothly.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is open to embracing their spirituality and connecting more with everyone and everything in the universe.

There are so many quotes and concepts I love from this book.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.

“You come into this life with nothing and you leave with nothing.  The only thing you can do with your life is give it away.” -p.248

“There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

For more quotes and reviews from this book, or to learn more about Wayne Dyer, visit Goodreads here.