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Before I picked up this book, I’d never heard of Dan Harris, so I didn’t realize he was a big deal.  He anchors for Nightline, and is a correspondent for ABC News,  and a co-anchor on Good Morning America.  He’s reported for 20/20 and has interviewed all sorts of famous people like Paris Hilton, Ted Haggard, and Eckhart Tolle. (Who knew? I don’t completely live under a rock, I just haven’t turned on my TV in 4 years because of complications.)Now with his first book, 10% Happier, Harris is a best-selling author.  Juxtaposing self-help and memoir genres, Harris chronicles his career and coping mechanisms (from drug-use to meditation) in the highly competitive world of TV news. He does so in a beautifully authentic, warts-and-all sort of way.

It’s hard to say what I loved most about the book.  Harris has an excellent command of English, and knows how to weave a story that is funny, smart, and moving.  I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” stories about coworkers Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer and well as his skeptical views on various religious leaders he has met and interviewed. I smiled at the thought of the ambitious TV reporter and skeptic who found in meditation a practice that works as a way to live more happily and comfortably in his own skin. I appreciate that he’s extolling the benefits of meditating. There is so much good here.

If you too have jumped on the positive psychology bandwagon, this is a fun and informative book to take along on the ride. If you’ve already read it  you might also enjoy:

The Happiness Project

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

An Open Heart

The Power of Now

The Lost Art of Compassion

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others will destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

–at Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta

Look into your own heart and discover what gives you pain and then refuse under any circumstances whatsoever to inflict that pain onto anybody else.

–Karen Armstrong

Title: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Author: Karen Armstrong

Synopsis: Karen Armstrong, a religious historian and former nun, explores the notion of empathy and compassion that underlies and unifies the Abrahamic faiths as well as most other religious traditions.

Why I read this: A certain yogini inspired me to deepen my understanding of compassion.

What I loved about it: Armstrong’s conviction and intellect shine through every page. The depth and breadth of her scholarship was a nice change from my recent lighter reading.  The language was scholarly, yet accessible, intelligible and beautiful.

What was unexpected: I was surprised by the depth beneath the self-help title and macrostructure. There really are twelve steps, but the history, spirit, and detail Armstrong provides were far more intriguing.


You might like this if you liked: The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology

Fun coincidence:  As I was reading this book, El Diablo was reading God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens. The themes and events covered often coincided. It was fun to compare notes and the authors’ vastly different perspectives: enduring optimism vs. chronically quarrelsome.

Pike’s Peak

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.

–Khalil Gibran

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

–Albert Einstein

~~@~~  

“Right association” is the practice of being with those who will help you elevate your being.  Elevating your being does not mean increasing your status or inflating your ego.  It means finding people who will move you closer towards bliss than you can walk alone.

Surround yourself with individuals and environments that are positive, loving, and compassionate. Can’t find these people? Then seek out individuals through the ages who have lived through the wisdom of spirit rather than the drama of ego.  Read their works!

This also means minimizing time with individuals and environments that are degrading or toxic.

And just to share a few of my ‘elevators’ this past year:

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga by Rolf Gates.

Rolf shares his interesting background and wonderful talent at translating ancient teachings into practical and modern living.  It’s parcelled into bite-sized bits that pack a punch.  It’s a great book for daily study.  In fact, it was so good I had to buy a second copy of the book mid-way through because I couldn’t wait to share it with a dear teacher.
The Lost Art of Compassion by Lorne Ladner

A fantastic book.  Ladner’s perspective is informed by modern Western psychology temper with Buddist tradition.  My copy is highlighted, dog-earred, water-marked, and filled with cookie crumbs — all signs that it’s good.  It has traveled with me everywhere. Thanks to Noelle of Be the Breath (another elevator) for the recommendation.

Please share what or who has elevated you this year!

This is a repost from October 6, 2010.  This needs to be where I can find it because I need the reminder. 

————————————————————————————————

I am in good health. I have a stable job. I have a loving family and a supportive network of friends. I have good food and more than ample shelter. I have leisure time.  I live in a country of great wealth. I enjoy freedoms and liberties that others in this world do not. I am well educated. I have the ability to communicate, to walk, to run, to dance. My life overflows with an abundance of blessings great and small.

Yet when confronted with your need, I am still so selfish, so arrogant.  I judge myself as somehow better than you.  I tell myself, “I have made better decisions than you. I am more determined, more motivated.  I work harder. And I give you so much already.  So…why can’t you work harder? We share so many of these same blessings. Why do you squander yours? Why do you make excuses? Why do you waste your time? Why do I need to give up my rightful earnings for you? What have you given me?”

I will help you, yes, because that is what a decent, responsible person does.  But, oh, how I will resent giving away this piece of what’s mine! It makes me downright angry. 

How easy it is to pretend that I am somehow deserving of my many blessings. 

And then Luke reminds me:

To whom much is given, much is required.

And Dorothy’s word’s ring out:

Love in action is harsh and dreadful when compared to love in dreams.

And Thomas says:

Peace begins when the hungry are fed.

Anger is an acid

that can do more harm to the vessel in which it stands

than to anything on which it is poured.

In the struggle rewards are few. 

In the fact, I know of only two,

loving friends and living dreams. 

These rewards are not so few it seems.

Peace is the work of justice indirectly,

in so far as justice removes the obstacles to peace;

but it is the work of charity (love) directly, since charity,

 according to its very notion causes peace.

And Frederick shares his perspective:

Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave,

and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you,

there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.

To see reality

–not as we expect it to be but as it is—

is to see that unless we live for each other

and in and through each other,

 we do not really live very satisfactorily;

that there can really be life only where there really is,

in just this sense, love.

And finally the message from my teachers sinks in this thick skull of mine. I am not as bright as I sometimes think I am. My blessings are undeserved. These gifts must be shared, not begrudgingly, but with a glad heart.  That is love in action.  And I am slowly learning: if charity doesn’t hurt, I’m not doing it right. The sacrifice that burns also purifies.

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