May 25, 2009

Review: Finding Happiness by Christopher Jamison

BOOK #: 42
CHALLENGES: A to Z Challenge
RATING: 4 Stars

"...the best part of climbing a mountain is the view from the top."

Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps to a Fulfilling Life takes the reader through a very personalized journey of the soul and spirit. Abbot Christopher Jamison explains how the monastic way of life can translate into your own life to help you find peace, a sense of comfort, and ultimately, what it takes to find happiness. You don't need to become a monk to understand the monastic way of life, either, because Jamison lays it out in this book. Think you can't learn about happiness from a monk? Don't be so sure.

One important step in finding happiness, Jamison says, includes changing the definition of happiness:

"Contemporary meanings of happiness mainly involve feeling good, with the emphasis on feeling. To find happiness, we need to broaden our definition so that feeling good is put into the wider context of doing good and knowing good."
But Jamison does not try to sugar coat anything about how to get this 'happiness' we seek:

"To know the good and to do the good we will have to struggle with all sorts of thoughts that tempt us away from the good. All the while, the siren voices of feeling good will offer us shortcuts to happiness. The monastic way of happiness as joy and delight is stronger than those voices. It offers a happiness so enduring that it can even make death happy."

The claim is both extraordinary and yet completely realistic at the same time. He's not promising that by the time you finish this book, you will be a walking advertisement for happiness. Instead, it says that by using a series of thoughts about generosity, hope, etc., you can find a stillness and satisfaction that you cannot find by chasing after material things and fleeting dreams.

What I like about Jamison is that he is not preachy. Instead he is very optimistic in tone and shows how to use the virtues of moderation, generosity, etc., to balance out the negative effects of the sins that are weighing you down.

He also has thoughts about the way to happiness that are unique but completely common sense. So much so that you wonder why you did not think of it yourself. Take for example this thought on pride:
"The danger is when pride transforms self-esteem into self-importance."
A very simple, yet very important distinction. Or, take this idea on greed:

"While most of us readily admit to faults in the areas of food and sex, we tend to see greed as a quality in other people rather than in ourselves. We fail to see that greed is not an all-or-nothing event; it is a thought that exists on a spectrum from weak to strong, but it affects us all. It is a subtle influence constantly present in all the decisions that everybody makes about material things."

True, right? But did you really think of it in that way before? I know I always pushed greed on to people who wanted more than was necessary and were extravagant. But who defines what is necessary to have? Who is to say a TV in every room of the house is extravagant and greedy while having one TV is not? What would someone who has no shoes think about someone who "needs" a TV at all? Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

I really recommend this book if you are interested in self-improvement. I know I can always use some touch-ups myself. I have written down several pages of notes from this book to keep handy for when I begin fumbling around looking for joy. Once you read it, I bet you will, too.


Other Reviews of This Book:

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Sounds like a powerful book. It's in my TBR pile - sounds like I need to pull it out.

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