BOOK WISE SUMMER PICK: ‘ A Field Guide to Happiness’ What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving and Waking Up
AUTHOR: Linda Leaming is the author of ‘A Field Guide to Happiness’ and ‘Married to Bhutan’. Her writing has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Huffington Post, Mandala, Guardian UK, A Woman’s Asia (Travelers’ Tales, 2005), and many other publications. Originally from Nashville, she has an M.F.A. in fiction from the University of Arizona, and she regularly speaks about Bhutan at colleges, churches, seminars, and book groups. Linda is married to the renowned Bhutanese thangka painter, Phurba Namgay, and now lives in the remote Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan for more than a decade.
Her two books combined, authentically and humorously chronicle how one trip to Bhutan in 1994 changed her life from the inside out, and honed her ‘skills’ for achieving happiness, inner peace, and well-being.
WWB Book Wise Pow-Wow: Tuesday, August 18th, 7:30 PM
Introduction: I’m very excited to announce ‘A Field Guide to Happiness’ as WWB’s “Book Wise’ Summer Pick and even more excited to tell you that I will be moderating a LIVE WWB Pow-Wow for readers with Linda in August! I know once you read her book this summer, you will have many questions for her, because her stories are so fascinating. I say ‘stories’ because her memoir is a collection of stories that are part exciting travelogue crossed with insightful, deep and laugh out loud reflections about what she learned about ‘living, loving and waking up’ in Bhutan. Did I mention she is from Tennessee?
WWB REVIEW: You know how books show up in our lives at just the right time? Well this book did for me. Maybe only real book worms can relate to this, but books have always magically arrived in my life when I was searching for clarity, wisdom and enlightenment. But sometimes we are just seeking a fresh perspective. ‘A Field Guide to Happiness’ offers it all, and makes you chuckle as you noodle the wisdom spilling off the pages in your mind. It is the perfect ‘summer beach book’ because it will literally take you away from the harried life you left, and awaken your inner-spirit like a breath of fresh air. Can you tell how much I enjoyed this book? I hope you join me in August for our “Book Wise’ Pow-Wow so you can chat directly with Linda. Below is a short Q&A I did with her recently…
Lauroly Q- Do you define yourself as a Buddhist or do you just respect the philosophy because you live there and are married to a man from Bhutan’? I should tell everyone that you wrote your first book entitled ‘Married to Bhutan, How One Woman Got Lost, Said I Do and Found Bliss” and I haven’t read it yet! I certainly plan to now that I have read ‘ A Field Guide to Happiness’. What I love about your book is you are so honest and funny about adjusting to a new culture, and what I get is you are able to do this because you are not ‘denying’ your own westernized socialization. Some people find religion and or a new philosophy and seem to want to erase everything that came before. You seem very ‘comfortable in your own skin’ and you are truly a World Wise Beauty.
Linda Leaming: Why thank you! I think of myself as a spiritual person. That’s a constant. The spiritual realm is the only place where change happens. This might sound odd, but for me religion depends on the time of day. I love the way Buddhism has shaped the lives of the Bhutanese, as did Bon before it, but I also love a good Presbyterian hymn. There’s humility in all.
Lauroly Q- I think your book really can be found in so many categories in a book store. It could be in the personal development section, travel section, religion/philosophy section and relationship/psychology section. There is so much to learn and all through this wonderful collection of stories of yours! The power of good storytelling is amazing. When you were getting your MFA ( Masters in the Fine Arts) in college, did you imagine you would be writing this type of book back then? What kind of books did you enjoy reading yourself?
Linda Leaming: Thanks again! No. I never imagined writing this kind of book. I wrote short stories, fiction, before Bhutan. But real life in Bhutan is so much more interesting, unusual, adventurous, that it makes sense to write about it. Writing helps clarify; I figure things out. ‘MARRIED TO BHUTAN’ was an accumulation of many years of events. I grew up reading biographies and lots of Hemingway, Joyce, Garcia Marquez, Heller, Dostoyevsky, Bellow, Hart Crane, Chekhov, Steinbeck, all great storytellers. I agree, there’s nothing like a great story.
Lauroly Q- That was an impressive reading diet Linda! My Mom has her degree in English Literature and she always said confidently to her psych major daughter, “writers are the true psychologist of the world”. This is a perfect segue to my last question. I am sure you know about the Happiness Index which originated in Bhutan. In 1972 Bhutan’s King introduced the Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy and its four development pillars at an international conference. Through the decades this concept developed and just recently in 2011, the United Nations released the World Happiness Report.
Many countries around the world have developed their own happiness indexes. I can tell everyone in America, we don’t have one! Not yet anyway. We can, however, take claim to a great R&B pop song called ‘Happy’ and a charming animated film called ‘Happy Feet’ though! I’m being silly, but seriously Linda, what do you think gets lost in translation when Americans chase and pursue happiness? Me thinks the answer is revealed in my question…
Linda Leaming: You are too wise! Yes, it’s true we over think things and that can get us all tied up in knots, and it’s a great impediment to happiness. I really think it’s Descarte’s fault. Reason, logic, empiricism are Western concepts, and more often than not the world isn’t logical. I say embrace the chaos!
Lauroly Closing: And I can tell you she does with panache and good humor!
I can’t wait until August when we all can join Linda for a live Q&A, and really explore the life wisdom in her book. I have so many questions and some of them may not be so deep. I can share here, while I am not an official Buddhist, I pretty much have been practicing many of their tenets most of my life. But let’s talk about those bugs! I try my best but when they show up like ‘flash mobs’ in my house I become a survivalist! Chat with Linda August 18, at 7:30 pm here at WWB to explore her book, and discuss the pursuit of happiness, kindness, in-laws, crazy neighbors and yes creepy bugs! ;-