Book Review – The Joy of Living

The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of HappinessThe Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”

 

So! Another book that I spent forever and a day reading. I need to learn to buy these books, dangit! I renewed this twice and it still went overdue. This happens whenever I have a book that has meditation assignments/suggestions. I read half a page to get to the next one, then it’s a whole day before I’m ready to come back to the book again.

This book takes on Buddhism in an interesting way (for me at least). For years I’ve been talking about the parallels between Buddhist theory and physics. There are serious analogies, people. Buddha was talking about how everything in the universe was filled with emptiness, about how everything is made of miniscule particles that connect us all, that when we touch something, we become a part of it (live or not). All of that later was backed up with physics, and then some. Even Buddha’s theories of the universe were later explained by modern physics.

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There’s also a long section on meditation and neuroscience, due to a study that the author participated in, which studied (scanned) the brains of those who are practiced at meditation during meditation sessions. Loved, loved, loved all of this.

The book later gets into types and styles of mediation, and how we mostly do it wrong (I found some very apt analogies in here, because I have many, many bad meditation behaviours!) and the things that we do right, as well as giving many suggestions for ways to meditate and things to meditate on.

Which, of course, is exactly why it took me such a long time to finish this book. There’s much in this book about the modern world, contrasting Western culture with third-world cultures, and how happiness isn’t reflected by how much money a society has, how much success people find, and how much “stuff” people accumulate. He’s right of course, though we all always think that the next “whatever” will be what makes us happy.

“…I began to see that when the pace of external of material progress exceeded the development of inner knowledge, people seemed to suffer deep emotional conflicts without any internal method of dealing with them. An abundance of material items provides such a variety of external distractions that people lose the connection to their inner lives.”

 

I would not recommend this book to someone with only a passing interest in Buddhism and meditation. This book is lovely, but it is also very in-depth and is going to take up time and thought. But if you are interested in those things, and in how they can bring you not just happiness, but real joy, this is an excellent book.

“The essence of Buddhist practice is not so much an effort at changing your thoughts or your behavior so that you can become a better person, but in realizing that no matter what you might think about the circumstances that define your life, you’re already good, whole, and complete. It’s about recognizing the inherent potential of your mind. In other words, Buddhism is not so much concerned with getting well as with recognizing that you are, right here, right now, as whole, as good, as essentially well as you could ever hope to be.”

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