Written 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-Sidedand 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.
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.”
Almost like a mesmerizing chant, Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic will hypnotize you with its lilting monologue and heart-wrenching imagery. The voices of Japanese “picture brides” explain their epic journey in eight chapters from their expectations and fears on their journey to America on the boat, to the disappointing reality of their new lives, and finally, as they disappear into the World War II Japanese internment camps.
With many stories blended into one voice, the tale becomes an everywoman’s cry. The fast pace of the action has no plot but as the women move from “first night” to the fields, to giving birth and raising children, I was forced to pause now and then, to digest the enormity of their struggle. The book is deceptively small – a little over a hundred pages – but more would render the reader helpless and overwhelmed. The last chapter – “A Disappearance” – suddenly shifts voice to the townspeople who express their shock, then anger, and finally acceptance of the Japanese internment – “The Japanese have disappeared from our town.”
Beautifully conceived, The Buddha in the Attic is not the typical trite story retold so many time in novels of picture brides, but a searing poetic testament to the Japanese women who were lured into an unexpected life in a strange country, without the comfort of their customs and language – and endured. Read it and weep.