Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life

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Overview

How can we stay engaged with life day after day? How can we continue to love–keep our minds in a happy mood–when life is complex and often challenging? These are questions that Sylvia Boorstein addresses in Happiness Is an Inside Job. In more than three decades of practice and teaching she has discovered that the secret to happiness lies in actively cultivating our connections with the world, with friends, family, colleagues–even those we may not know well. She shows us how mindfulness, concentration, and ...
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Overview

How can we stay engaged with life day after day? How can we continue to love–keep our minds in a happy mood–when life is complex and often challenging? These are questions that Sylvia Boorstein addresses in Happiness Is an Inside Job. In more than three decades of practice and teaching she has discovered that the secret to happiness lies in actively cultivating our connections with the world, with friends, family, colleagues–even those we may not know well. She shows us how mindfulness, concentration, and effort–three elements of the Buddhist path to wisdom–can lead us away from anger, anxiety, and confusion, and into calmness, clarity, and the joy of living in the present.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
#1 SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE BESTSELLER

“A wonderful book, heartwarming and wise, that conveys the essence of what the Buddha taught in the voice of a gifted storyteller, teacher, friend, and compassionate human being.”
–Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

“Sylvia Boorstein’s lessons, gleaned from a life of internal reflection and mindful teaching, are delivered with such openness, love, and affection that it feels as if you are sitting with Sylvia in her living room soaking in the wisdom of an enlightened friend.”
–Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of The Mindful Brain

“This book will convince you that your own happiness really is much more available to you than you may have thought.”
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses

“Should be required reading for all human beings.”
–Stephen Cope, author of The Wisdom of Yoga

“Reading this wonderful book is like having a heart-to-heart with Sylvia. It is wise, warm, and full of great stories that will make you smile. Best of all, it will cheer your spirit by showing you how to practice happiness.” 
–Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

Publishers Weekly

From renowned Buddhist teacher Boorstein comes a small, polished gem of a book that seems somehow even more intimate and heartfelt than her previous books Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sakeand It's Easier Than You Think. Boorstein begins with an anecdote about a day when her writing was interrupted by a call from a friend with a very ill brother; the effort of consoling her made Boorstein forget what she had been about to write. Boorstein uses her moment of resentful impatience at the interruption to illustrate how easily the mind can fall out of caring connection. The whole idea of this book, she writes, is that "restoring caring connection... and maintaining it when it is present, is happiness." This insight is a jumping-off point for Boorstein to explore three planks of the Buddhist path: wise effort, wise mindfulness and wise concentration. Her quiet insistence that the Buddhist practices of mindfulness, meditation and metta(lovingkindness) can quiet the mind, deepen concentration and lower anxiety is both convincing and inspiring. (Dec. 26)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

As we keep good company with ourselves, so we restore our capacity to live passionately. This, according to best-selling author and Buddhist teacher Boorstein (It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness), who believes we should kindly but keenly pay attention to our inner confusion, our feeling of off-centeredness. Boorstein shares her own experiences and provides a warm, practical discussion of three key concepts: wise effort, wise mind, and wise concentration. She also addresses cultivating equanimity through compassion, appreciation, and especially through self-befriending. Of particular impact is the story wherein workshop participants are asked to give individual reactions to an unfortunate situation. We come to see that each of us responds differently to difficulties, using one of the five major emotions-desire, anger, fatigue, worry, or doubt-more than the others. The chapter about composure as the support for sadness could have been expanded for the reader more easily to identify how grief affects spiritual concentration. Recommended for large public library collections that bridge the gap between psychology and religion.
—Lisa Liquori

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345481320
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/30/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 164
  • Sales rank: 223,071
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., is a co-founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, and a senior teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She writes a regular column for Shambhala Sun, lectures widely, and is the bestselling author of Pay Attention, for Goodness’ Sake; It’s Easier Than You Think; Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There; and That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist. A practicing psychotherapist, Boorstein is a frequent presenter at psychology conferences and training seminars. Sylvia and her husband, Seymour, divide their time between Sonoma County, California, and their home in France.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

No One to Blame: How Equanimity Inspires Wisdom

It’s always good to start with a story.

I was wending my way slowly, along with hundreds of people, back and forth through the cordoned-off lanes of an airport security line, when I became aware of the conversation of the two people right behind me:

“It’s your fault!”

“What do you mean, ‘It’s your fault’? It’s your fault!”

“That’s what I mean. It’s your fault we’re late.”

“No, it’s not. Prove it to me that it’s my fault.”

“I don’t have to prove anything to you. It just is.”

I glanced behind me, as if looking beyond them, and saw that they were young, casually dressed, and apparently (was it tennis rackets, golf gear?) were going on holiday together.

The Ping-Pong recriminations continued. “Your fault.” “No, yours.”

I had a momentary impulse to turn around and say, “Listen to me! It does not matter one bit whose fault it is. Either you’ll be in time for your flight or you won’t. And if you miss this flight, there will be others. What’s more, you don’t know that this flight is the best one to be on. Perhaps this one will have engine trouble and the next one will arrive safely. Relax! You are ruining the beginning of your holiday with a useless skirmish.”

Of course, I didn’t say anything. I think I could have gotten away with it if I had done it sweetly enough, but I imagined them telling someone later, “You won’t believe what this wacky little old woman in the airport . . .” Anyway, eavesdropping and intruding are both impolite, even if unintended and well meaning.

I took off my jacket and shoes and pushed them through the X-ray machine along with my carry-on bag with my computer out for inspection. Retrieving my possessions on the other side, balancing on one foot and then the other to hurriedly put on my shoes, I noticed the couple just in front of me, also just emerged through the sensor gate, taking a moment to kiss each other, give each other a hug. I was amused by the thought that they were congratulating each other for having made it through the security hurdle unscathed. It was the briefest of exchanges of affection, but it was there. Right in the middle of getting re-dressed. Then I thought, “I should call the attention of the arguing folks behind me to the kissing folks in front of me. ‘Look,’ I could tell them, ‘here is another possibility. In fact, there are only two possibilities in any moment. You can kiss or you can fight. Kissing is better.’ ”

Of course, I said nothing and went on to my flight. I also knew then, as I know now as I write, that in situations where I feel stressed, I might behave like the couple behind me. Not even “long ago, when I wasn’t wise,” but right now, when I presumably understand that struggling with anything to make it be other than what it is creates suffering. If my mind becomes confused, broadsided by a challenge that upsets it, even a “minor” one such as “I’ll miss my plane,” I forget, at least for a while, what I know.

Becoming wise means, for me, forgetting less often—and remembering sooner when I’ve forgotten—the three things that are fundamentally true. The Buddha called these the Three Characteristics of Experience.

Everything is always changing.

There is a cause-and-effect lawfulness that governs all unfolding experience.

What I do matters, but I am not in charge. Suffering results from struggling with what is beyond my control.

The line from the Dhammapada, a compilation of say- ings attributed to the Buddha, that sums this up for me, that seems the one-sentence best expression of wisdom, is: “Anyone who understands impermanence, ceases to be contentious.”

Does that make sense to you on as many levels as it does to me? I understand it, primarily, as meaning “I have only a certain span of life allotted to me, so I don’t want to waste a single moment of it fighting.” Other times, if I catch myself on the brink of contention, the instruction reminds me, “Whatever is happening will change, and what I add to this situation is part of the change. Agonizing makes it worse.” And sometimes, if I remember that whatever is happening will cause results that I really cannot anticipate (although I often do and worry needlessly), I say to myself, “I have no idea whether this changed circumstance, which I resent, is actually a good or a bad thing in the long run. I can wait to see.”

Many people have told me, when I’ve asked for examples of wise people in their lives, “My granddad [or grandmother or elderly neighbor of my childhood or eighth-grade math teacher] always said, ‘You do the best you can, and then you live with what happens. What else can you do?’ ”

I think in these descriptions of wisdom, the important word is always. Those wise people always said . . . They did not forget. I forget. I know—I think we all do from innumerable events in our experience—that the moment in which the mind acknowledges “This isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got” is the point at which suffering disappears. Sadness might remain present, but the mind, having given up the fight for another reality, is free to console, free to support the mind’s acceptance of the situation, free to allow space for new possibilities to come into view.

My own experience is that I keep learning this lesson, over and over again. My wisdom is definitely not unshakable. Here is an example, from all too recent an experience. I became distracted, and . . . Well, here is the story, which speaks for itself.

I went to the antique store in the town in France where I live part of each year to protest the unexpected 400-euro charge that had arrived along with the mattress and innerspring for the bed I’d bought there. I had telephoned in advance. Madame Blaise, the antiquaire, had explained that, unfortunately, the unique size of beds made in the 1840s, especially the rounded corners, had required that a special-order mattress and springs be constructed. I was going in person to continue the discussion, but I was unhappy about going. I am, by nature, conflict-avoidant. I was urged on and accompanied by my husband, Seymour, who was angry and who does not speak French. I was caught between trying to please him and trying not to displease Madame Blaise.

“Remind her,” he said, “that she told us what the price of the mattress would be, that it was included with the bed, and that we already paid for it. If there is anything extra, she should pay. She is the expert. It is her responsibility.”

“Madame is an eighty-five-year-old small-town antiquaire,” I countered. “She is not Macy’s. You can’t undo these things.”

“It’s not fair, though,” he continued. “You should insist that she make amends. If you won’t do it, I will. I’ll pantomime how unhappy I am. Even if she won’t give us any money back, she could at least offer us something like those bedside tables you were looking at when we bought the bed.”

I spoke to Madame Blaise in my most elegant and polite French, explaining our shock, our dismay, and our distress about having trusted her judgment and now needing to pay the mattress company 400 euros. I looked pointedly at some of the furniture around us and suggested that she might consider making us a gift of bedside tables as a form of reparation. I ended by saying that we had enjoyed our previous meetings with her and were sad that we were now left with bad feelings, mauvaises émotions.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3

The Best Way to Live 5

Restoring the Mind to Kindness 7

The Heart of Buddhist Teachings: Wise Effort, Wise Mindfulness, Wise Concentration 12

Equanimity, Wisdom, and Kindness 23

No One to Blame: How Equanimity Inspires Wisdom 25

We Understand and We Feel: Warm Wisdom 33

A Little Lower Than the Angels: How Equanimity Supports Kindness 40

We Are All Imperiled: How Kindness Restores Equanimity 54

Wise Effort 57

Just Do It: Wise Effort as Wisdom Practice 59

Omitting None: Metta Practice as Wise Effort 65

Keeping the Mind Hospitable: Wise Speech as Wise Effort 73

Familiar Strangers: Intentional Appreciation Practice 77

Sweetening the Mind: Wise Effort as Clear Discernment 81

A Break in the Clouds: Opportunities for Wise Effort 85

Wise Mindfulness 91

Tidying the Mind: How Mindfulness Cultivates Wisdom 93

Correcting the View: Wise Mindfulness as a Reality Check 101

It's Easy to Become Confused: How Mindfulness Creates Clarity 106

And It's Particularly Easy to Get Angry: How Mindfulness Dispels Aversion 110

Once More, with Feeling: Liberating the Mind from Secrets 116

Keeping the Mind Noncontentious: Metta Practice as Wise Mindfulness 123

The Truth about Preferences: The Metta Riddle 124

One Breath, One Name: Mindful Blessing 130

Wise Concentration 135

Keeping the Mind Steady: Wise Concentration as the Guardian of Wisdom 137

Composure as the Support for Sadness 148

Now Take a Breath: Wise Concentration as the Universal Antidote 150

Epilogue: Jeannette's Wisdom 157

Acknowledgments 163

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Inspiring & uplifting

    An accessible, practical book about the Buddhist path to happiness. People of any (or no) religious/spiritual background will find it useful. Plus, the author's bright personality shines through--just reading it made me smile.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2010

    Underwhelming

    Purchased this book hoping it would be about an easier path to happiness. Instead it was about the author's religious beliefs and practices with several anecdotal detours sprinkled in for flavor. Had to force myself to finish the book. Proves anyone with some cash and connections can get a book published.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 11, 2011

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    Posted July 5, 2010

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    Posted January 1, 2010

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    Posted September 11, 2010

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