Hardwiring Happiness

9780385347327_p0_v1_s260x420Written like a textbook with summaries at the end of each chapter, Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness offers practical zen-like exercises and reminders that a sense of well-being is often an individual choice.  With the same mindfulness theme prevalent in many books that promote self-actualization, Hanson offers examples worth trying from imagining an idyllic scene somewhere else while in the dentist’s chair to “reframing” – finding positive meaning in negative events.

As a neuroscientist, Hanson reminds readers that the brain can be shifted from negative mode to positive with just a little practice, and offers a twist on meditation.  Instead of totally clearing your mind, focus on a positive experience for a sustained time to promote its permanence in the brain – a resource that can be called up when needed.

Although only a little over 200 pages, the book seems longer, and I couldn’t help comparing the message of positive psychology to Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided and Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil – both referencing biological rather than psychological science and both avoiding the didactic tone that Hanson adopts.  But this is the season to be both positive and happy, so another book revealing the secrets to true happiness can only be good.

If You Want to See a Whale

9781596437319_p0_v2_s260x420A lesson in patience – and maybe meditation – Julie Fogliano’s children’s picture book If You Want To See A Whale has a calming quality and a reminder to stop and observe your surroundings – a message for adults as well as children.

With simple colorful illustrations, the story follows a little boy and his dog as they sit and stare at the ocean, waiting for a whale to appear.  With distractions everywhere, focusing on the task is not easy, but they succeed in the end.

I am currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – another exercise in focus and patience.  Ozeki is a “writer, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest,” so I can’t help wondering if she injected lessons in patience and meditation into this slow read.  But I am staying on task, and hope to succeed.9780670026630_p0_v1_s260x420

A Vision of Peace from the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama visited Hawaii last week and delivered his message of “compassion and harmony,”  and reminded high school students gathered to hear his wisdom that peace comes from education as well as from liberation from fear, anger, and frustration.

Of course, he said with a smile…bringing the audience to laughter…

“…if a mad dog is chasing you…inner peace will not help at all…”

As prolific in writing as he is in meditating, the author of over 100 books has sound bites that are just as impressive.  One of my favorites…

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”