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Posted by Coy on July 7, 2009:

This has easily been the most inspirational and influential book I have ever read. It has completely reshaped the way in which I view myself, others, and the world in general. If you approach this book with an open mind and a willingness to change your current way of thinking then I think it will have a similar affect on you.

The book is comprised of a series of interviews conducted by a “western” psychiatrist, Howard Cutler, that expose the Dalai Lama’s views on life. The Dalai Lama does not try and push a Buddhist agenda, but just gives straightforward and, in my opinion, common-sense guidelines. He focuses on the power of the human brain and how with training, we can bring more happiness into our lives.

The 3 main things that I took from the book were (1) immediately confronting and analyzing my anger when it arises and if it’s justified (and for me, 100% of the time the event does not justify me losing my cool and therefore does not dampen my mood) (2) having and showing compassion for others and (3) really trying to see things from other people’s perspectives. Constantly training your brain to use these tools will produce more happiness. Of course these do not produce instant results but are things you constantly and consistently have to work on. I strongly urge you to read this entire book, but I have included some of my favorite passages from it:

“All negative mental states act as obstacles to our happiness, but we begin with anger, which seems to be one of the biggest blocks. It is described by the Stoic philosopher Seneca as “the most hideous and frenzied of all the emotions.” Of course, one doesn’t need scientific evidence to realize how these emotions can cloud our judgment, cause feelings of extreme discomfort, or wreak havoc in our personal relationships. Our personal experiences can tell us that”

“It seems that often when problems arise, our outlook becomes narrow. All of our attention may be focused on worrying about the problem, and we may have a sense that we’re the only one that is going through such difficulties. This can lead to a kind of self-absorption that can make the problem seem very intense. When this happens, I think that seeing things from a wider perspective can definitely help … If you only look at that one event, then it appears bigger and bigger. If you focus too closely, too intensely, on a problem when it occurs, it appears uncontrollable. But if you compare that event with some other greater event, look at the same problem from a distance, then it appears smaller and less overwhelming.”

“In thinking about anger, there can be two types. One type of anger can be positive. This would be mainly due to one’s motivation. There can be some anger that is motivated by compassion or a sense of responsibility. Where anger is motivated by compassion, it can be used as an impetus or a catalyst for a positive action. Under these circumstances, a human emotion like anger can act as a force to bring about swift action. It creates a kind of energy that enables an individual to act quickly and decisively. It can be a powerful motivating factor. All too often, however, even though that kind of anger can act as a kind of protector and bring one extra energy, that energy is also blind, so it is uncertain whether it will become constructive or destructive in the end”

“The destructive effects of hatred are very visible, very obvious and immediate. For example, when a very strong or forceful thought of hatred arises within you, at that very instant, it totally overwhelms you and destroys your peace of mind, your presence of mind disappears completely. When such intense anger and hatred arises, it obliterates the best part of your brain, which is the ability to judge between right and wrong, and the long-term and short-term consequences of your actions. Your power of judgment becomes totally inoperable ”

“. . . And then when a situation does arise that makes you angry, you should directly confront your anger and analyze it. Investigate what factors have given rise to that particular instance of anger or hatred. Then, analyze further, seeing whether it is constructive or destructive. And you make an effort to exert a certain inner discipline and restraint, actively combating it by applying the antidoes: counteracting these negative emotions with thoughts of patience and tolerance”

Content: 5/5

Readability: 5/5

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