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Book Review: Beyond Happiness, The Zen Way to True Contentment

February 10, 2011

“Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment”
by Ezra Bayda
Published by Shambhala Publications

I really appreciate the author’s approach with this book, and at this point in my practice I really needed something like his to come along. Those that are regular readers of my blog know of my constant, and more frequent, stumbles and questioning this thing we call practice.

Ezra, I believe, has found that delicate balance between that plastic outer happiness so many of us “Buddhists” project, and the real underlying happiness we truly desire but fail to tap into. He describes a level of contentment, where we just come to this place of still happiness. Not the kind of contentment where just forget about everything that is going on and masquerade our “inner happiness”, but being content with where we are.

You might be comfortable in life, you’ve got some extra cash, a nice home and you’ve got the family you always wanted, circa the 1980’s nuclear family model. You’ve got your spirituality, you pay for those high end retreats and feel the bliss buzz every time you leave. It burns off after a while, but you remember how to smile, so the act begins and you go about your life smiling but feeling tied up and confused inside, not truly happy. But you play the part because inside, you know it is there somewhere and you can find it if you try.

Then again, you might be poor and struggle for everything you “need”. Finding a job is not easy, but you do what you have to to make ends meet. Your car sucks, it needs a mechanic badly, but it gets you from a to b so that’s all that matters. Those high end retreats you dream of are never going to happen, even if you get the financial aid and are able to afford it, how are you going to get there? So you find a couple guided meditations online from a favorite teacher, maybe a dharma talk and run your own home retreat when the kids settle down for the night. Maybe you struggle a little bit, without face to face interaction you feel there cannot be proper instruction, but after the practice session the wall breaks down a bit and there comes that smile, and sense that no matter what, it’s going to be ok.

With practical exercises, Ezra helps the general practitioner break down the barriers we put up for ourselves in order to truly be happy, no matter where we are. His wit and humor were more than welcome at times and his ability to write in a heartfelt manner made the book easy to read. I will go book back to this book in the future, I know I’ll need to.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 2:00 pm

    I’m not sure how I feel about this book yet. I’m almost through it to do a review of my own but it’s just not speaking to me.

    His previous book Zen Heart got me to start my practice and I still feel about it the way you state you feel about this one in your last paragraph. I’d checked it out at the library on a whim and went out and bought my own copy halfway through, knowing I’d want to read it again.

    I think my opinion of what is Zen has narrowed/been refined since then so the focus is different than the formula I follow now. That, or I’m not ready for its message yet.

    Thanks for breaking the ice with this review, it’s the first I’ve seen.

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