Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Don't Worry Be Grumpy

Don’t Worry Be Grumpy: Inspiring Stories for Making the Most of Each Moment is an insightful little book offering funny stories or parables that both educate and inspire. Written by Ajahn Brahm, a Cambridge physics graduate ordained as a Buddhist monk more than thirty years ago and currently the Abbot of Bodhinyana Forest Monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia. Each story’s purpose is to offer timeless wisdom that hopefully help us face life’s many obstacles with resilience and more insightful perspective.

Often funny, but always optimistic, the stories cover a variety of topics. On anxiety, he notes that “anxiety is looking at the future and considering all the things that could go wrong. The antidote is to look at the future and consider all the things that could go right. It's adding hoping rather than negativity to your future. So don't worry. Be hopey.”

Memories make up the fabric of our lives and are inseparably linked with emotion, which is why we remember the happiest and saddest moments in our life the most clearly, but we can’t let our negative memories anchor us down. Ajahn Brahm states that unlike photo albums in which we only record the happiest moments of our life, we have another photo album of sorts – our memory – in which we store countless negative photos. Here we keep snapshots of arguments, when a loved one let us down, or treated us cruelly. We have to learn to let go and discard the negative. Keeping only the happy ones so that in spare or dark moments, we can flip through its pages and smile.

Coping with the grief and loss of a loved one is an emotional hurdle in everyone’s life. In this regard, Ajahn Brahm reminds us that lost loved ones are “like loved ones which we see off on an ocean voyage, whom we lose sight of as they go beyond the horizon. We know they're not gone totally, they're just passed the line that separates them from our view. The same can be said for loved ones that have died. While they have passed beyond our view they have not totally disappeared and we will see them again.”

Lastly, as the goal of each story is to help us lead a more enlightened life, towards that end we’re reminded that there are two ways to be happy; improve your reality or lower your expectations. Follow the 70% rule and lead a happier life. Don’t know what that is? Well, never expect 100% from life and/or people, and you won't be disappointed. If you expect to fail 30% of the time, you'll lead a richer life. If you aim for perfection, you'll be stressed and afraid. Lower your expectations and you’ll lower your disappointments. As Shakespeare wisely said “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

Although some stories were better than others and some advice is easier said than done, Don't Worry, Be Grumpy as a whole was well worth the read. It’s small in size and most of the stories span only a couple pages, so it can easily be read and absorbed at your leisure so that a more insightful you, can make for a happier more peaceful you.