WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Fall 2017 Surprise: Two Inspiring Books Explore Cultural Ideals and Values for a Life of Happiness & Wellness. Special Q&A with Two International Bestselling Authors…

Nov 2, 2017 by

WWB BOOK WISE FALL 17 (2)

Book Wise Category: Non-Fiction/Wellness Wisdom & Inspiration

 

 

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Author Profile: LOLA A. Akerstrom, Author of ‘LAGOM’, The Swedish Secret of Living Well

Having lived on three different continents — Africa, North America, and now Europe — for extended periods of time, Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström is drawn to the complexities and nuances of culture and how they manifest themselves within relationships.

She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Lola worked as a consultant and programmer for over a decade before following her dreams of becoming a travel writer and photographer, exploring various cultures through food, tradition, and lifestyle.

Today, she’s an award-winning writer, speaker, and photographer represented by National Geographic Creative. She regularly contributes to high profile publications such as AFAR, the BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveller, to name a few –
She has received photography and writing awards, including recognition from the Society of American Travel Writers and North American Travel Journalists Association. In addition, Lola is the editor of Slow Travel Stockholm, an online magazine dedicated to exploring Sweden’s capital city in depth.

Author Insight: “For me travel is about being an open minded sponge.”

 

HGAuthor Profile

Héctor García  author of ‘Ikigai’ the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade, and of Spain, where he was born. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan, where he developed voice recognition software and the technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market. He is the creator of the popular blog kirainet.com and also the author of A Geek in Japan, a #1 bestseller in Japan.

Author Insight: “I enjoy more creating things than consuming them, I’m a dreamer.”

 

 

Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB Opening (aka Lauroly)- It is only when we read books like yours, that we realize how important ‘ideals, values and rituals’ are to a happy society, when they are baked into the culture. Culture is a way of life and a collective mindset. What I enjoyed about both your books, is you manage to distill the little rituals and habits that any person in any culture can adopt. We hope so anyway! The challenge for a big melting pot like the United States, is we have so many cultures within one country, and the only common one we all seem to relate to is our love for success and independence. Starting from this premise, how does a country like the USA adopt ‘wellness mindsets’ like yours when our philosophical pillars are so different? ‘Independence’ as a way of life is very different from an ‘interdependent’ socially connected way of life. How will your prescriptions for happiness and wellness translate to a place like the United States?

Lola: You can tell a lot by a culture based on how it handles stress. I often say that some cultures prioritize fighting stress first so they can be productive while some other cultures try to be productive while working through stress. Sweden (and many Scandinavian countries) fall in the former category while the US falls in the latter category. And what are the sources of stress in our lives? Getting adequate food, shelter, money, healthcare, education, etc, as well as other physiological needs. What happens is, cultural mindsets that prioritize fighting stress first will put structures in place to create as much harmony, order, fair access and organization as possible first, while cultures that fight through stress can create more ingenuity and competitiveness to deal with stress. Both mindsets have their pros and cons. However, Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) have been consistently ranking in the Top 10 for high quality of life, overall happiness, work-life balance, and other social indices for decades. So there is something we can clearly learn and adopt on some level from their cultural mindsets. This is why it was important for me to tackle the “why” of the lagom mindset on a deeper level in my book, not just “what” a lagom mindset superficially does (i.e., fika recipes, eat cinnamon buns, declutter, etc). A lagom mindset is all about balance and anything that tips that scale heavily to one side or the other (not too much, not too little) can be considered a form of stress so the mindset continually re-calibrates itself (just right) by trimming excess and unnecessary things – be they physical, relationships, or tasks.

Hector: I like to thing in terms of individualism(independence) vs collectivistic mindset. As you say U.S culture is very individualistic and that leads everyone to be always in a mindset of continuous competitiveness. Japan is a very collectivist society, there is competition but at group levels. If you try to be individualistic here and stand upon the group you will most probably fail here. You have to be much more careful and mindful about others by default just by being here embedded in the culture. So, how do you implement a wellness mindset in a place like the United States? I believe it all starts with having an awareness of things. It seems easy but is not. One way to gain awareness is by asking ourselves WHY are we doing certain things. Many times we will realize that we are just doing things to show off or to gain the approval of others (for example checking smartphone first time in the morning is a reaction of wanting to know if we have the approval of others on Facebook, Instagram etc.). Once we have the awareness that we are being driven by a very “independent” mindset the next step is to start finding what we really want to do in life, our IKIGAI. This is also not easy, but one of the first steps is to start by eliminating bad habits from your life. A simple one is to not check your smartphone during the first 2 hours of the day. When you start eliminating bad habits, you will naturally tend to start doing more of the things that you really like and love. Your life will start shifting naturally to your IKIGAI--your reason for living.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I found when reading your books, is both cultures value ‘simplicity’ and ‘nature’. It seems in your cultures, you do not separate the home from nature. In other words, your ‘interdependent’ mentality extends to nature as well. Share with us, how this leads to happiness in the home and the community in your culture…

Lola: Indeed. The Swedish love for nature is rather intrinsic and has been cultivated since youth (as early as kindergarten). Kids are bundled up under layers of clothes and left to play for hours outside regardless of weather (barring full blizzards). Many schools follow an active outdoor program. Babies sleep in strollers outdoors. There are several government policies in place (including Allemansrätten – every man’s right) that allows you to fully enjoy nature, camp. pick berries/mushrooms and use any public land as freely as possible. So Swedes see nature as their home and are proactive in terms of cleaning and taking care of it, just like our physical homes.

Hector: Simplicity is key in Japan. When I arrived here with my European mindset I found Japanese shinto shrines so simple that I was not impressed at all (I was used to European cathedrals and churches). But with time I came to appreciate more and more the beauty of Japanese shinto shrines precisely because of how simple they are. I learned that simple does not mean easy. We humans tend to get attached to all kinds of objects or possessions. Training our minds and souls to be happy with as less as possible is not easy, but once done we will feel freedom in our souls. I will use the same analogy with nature. Japanese shinto shrines are almost always surrounded by nature, even when found in cities, the shrines are filled with trees that cover them in green. Japanese know that nature is not part of life, they understand that nature is life.

Lauroly Q- Daily rituals are a big part of both cultures. Which rituals do you think are driven by the cultural values of your country? Can you connect the value with the ritual? Which ones do you think can translate and work in any culture?

Lola: One of the most notable rituals is the daily act of observing fika – which is breaking several times a day (3-4 times even) to enjoy coffee and a sweet treat with colleagues, friends, or family. While on the surface it may seem like just a sweet tradition, it is a form of re-centering to keep that internal lagom scale balanced. Working too much is an antithesis of lagom. Work-life balance is collectively pushed within the Swedish psyche through lagom. Partaking in fika is an act of re-calibration, so you can carry on processing the day from a point of balance and harmony. The tradition of fika is firmly rooted in lagom.

Hector: One big daily ritual in Japan is to bath in hot water. It is done most of the times before going to bed. It has been shown lately that both hot water baths and saunas 3-4 times per week have many benefits to our health. This is just one of the most common rituals, but Japan in general is a ritualistic culture, in which “micro-rituals” embed the life of everyone. For example, before starting any business meeting there is always the same business card interchange ritual with very precise manners that sets the mood of the meeting. It is not about specific rituals that will change your life, it is more about using rituals or micro-rituals to do things daily without having to be stressed to make decisions or be stressed about doing something. Rituals automate many things in our lives and help us to focus on what is important.

Lauroly Closing- I am so honored to share both your books as ‘Book Wise’ picks at World Wise Beauty. Both books are inspiring and together create a healthy cultural cocktail we can all enjoy and digest. I would suggest including each of them in a loved ones stocking for Christmas. Or each can be given on days of Hanukkah!  Here is to a lovely holiday season full of wellness ideals like slowing down and spending time with family and friends. we have to find a way to make this more of a daily experience in our lives.

Lola Closing: Thanks so much Laura. The beauty of observing how other cultures work and what they do exceptionally well is that we can pick and choose which elements of their mindset we can adopt to make our own lives richer in many ways. Lagom doesn’t hold all the answers in life but what it does hold is the mental key to free us from overt and needless consumerism by paring down what we truly need to be focusing on, buying, or maintaining in our lives.

Hector Closing: Totally agree Laura. We have to slowly shift our awareness from always trying to stand out, be successful and compare ourselves to others to being more present to our friends and family. The more we listen to the people we love, the more they will start also listening back and forgetting a little bit about getting more likes on their social networks. We humans, we are social beings, let’s be together in our lives and not alone and “individualistic”. In a way it can also be something to make us better, since the more love we give the more supported we will feel by the people around us, and the more love we feel, the healthier we will be and the longer we will live. This is what we discovered when visiting Ogimi, the village of the longest living in the world to write our book about IKIGAI. They live in very close communities in which they all support each other. Thank you for featuring us!

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WWB’s Fall Book Wise Pick: Imbolo Mbue Author of ‘Behold the Dreamers’ Visits World Wise Beauty and Inspires Dreamers Around the World

Oct 12, 2016 by

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BOOK WISE FALL PICK: Behold the Dreamers

CATEGORY: Fiction

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Africa/New York

AUTHOR: Imbolo Mbue

OF NOTE: Book has been optioned for film

Book Wise Pow-Wow: It’s a tough political climate right now in the United States and the immigration topic is a hotbed of conflict between both political parties. Which is why I chose this particular book for our Fall pick. The power of this story takes us out of an  ‘idealogy’ mode and grounds us in real authentic human experience.

The author’s personal story is one we don’t hear enough about in our public discourse about immigration. IMBOLO MBUE is a native of Limbe, Cameroon ( Central Africa). She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City and genuinely loves her city she calls home. Her book’s characters capture the immigrant experience in a raw and emotionally charged way, and is sure to get you thinking about the American Dream in a much wider context. At World Wise Beauty, we love books that offer worldly perspective, make us feel and think deeply, and perhaps make us just a little bit more wiser after reading. ‘Behold the Dreamers’ delivers it all and will not disappoint you. I am honored to do this interview with Imbolo and hope she is an inspiration to any young girl with a dream, but especially to the young immigrant girl or woman who has a gift and a story to share with the world…

 

 

 

Lauroly Introduction: Welcome Imbolo to World Wise Beauty. You are truly an epitome of a World Wise Beauty! Like the characters in your wonderful book you too are an immigrant and came to America from Limbe, Cameroon. Central Africa is a long way from New York and you only moved here just over ten years ago. You are not only a World Wise Beauty, but also a fine example of an immigrant achieving the American Dream! Since our readers have just been introduced to your book, I don’t want to ask too many questions that will be spoilers. I’m very interested in you and believe so many will be inspired by your story. My first question is a series of three! Did you find the America you conjured in your mind as a young girl in Cameroon? What exceeded your expectations? What disappointed you?

 

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Author. Imbolo Mbue ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you so much for your kind words, Lauroly! World Wise Beauty is a fantastic website and I do appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. Growing up, what I knew of America was mostly based on what I saw on American-imported TV shows. These shows, like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and “Dallas,” generally depicted people living in material comfort, so I got the impression that there was very little poverty in America and that it was a place where with hard work, anyone could succeed. And I can’t blame this on the shows—it was just my way of analyzing the world.

My understanding of America was also shaped by people from my town who’d migrated to America and returned home to visit with very nice clothes and shoes, and an air of affluence that I attributed to the fact that people were just generally well-to-do in America. Of course, when I came here, I learned very quickly that there are millions living in poverty, and that for many in this country, immigrants included, hard work is simply not enough to live their version of the American Dream. And it’s a tough reality to swallow. That notwithstanding, I do believe this country provides tremendous opportunities to immigrants like myself, opportunities many of us would not have gotten in our homelands.

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Czech Edition of ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Lauroly Q- Did your own experience find its way into your character formations? What many reviewers are saying about your book, is you did such a great job of capturing the immigrant experience as well as a multi-dimensional depiction of the American characters in your story too. All your characters come to life and are fully humanized.

 

Imbolo Imbue: Thank you. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m an immigrant, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in this country around immigrants, so I know what it’s like to leave home and confront the challenges of building a new life in a foreign country. Like the Cameroonian main characters in the novel, Jende and Neni Jonga, I’m from Limbe, Cameroon, and I also lived in Harlem, in a similar neighborhood like where the Jongas lived. I know what it’s like to be low-income in this country and struggling to stretch that last dollar as far as you can, like the Jongas sometimes have to do. I think the challenges the Jongas faced have to do not only with being immigrants but also with being working-class, especially in a place like New York City. While the Jongas and I share a similar background, their story was, however, mostly inspired by various immigrants and working-class Americans who I had opportunities to converse with—friends and acquaintances and strangers who I found myself sitting next to in parks and bus stops, all of whom gave me a great gift by telling me their stories.

Lauroly Q– You have been working hard since you arrived in the United States. You hold a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers and a Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. Were you one of those lucky girls who knew you wanted to be a writer from a young age and set your sights on a writing career? Did you receive a lot of support and encouragement from your family back in Cameroon? What shaped the trajectory of your personal success story?

 

Imbolo Mbue: Oh no! I never considered being a writer as a young girl. I didn’t even know that being a writer was a career choice because I’d never met anyone who was a writer until I moved to New York City in my early 20s. I knew there were people who wrote books, because I read a lot of books, but I never thought about who these people were, and how they came about to write a book. Even after I read Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and became inspired to start writing, it wasn’t so much to become a writer as it was to just enjoy writing the same way I enjoy reading. I’d been writing for 12 years before my first short story was published and then about two years later my novel was published. So it basically took 14 years from the time I first started writing fiction to the time my first novel came out. And in that period, I wrote hundreds of pages that are still sitting my computer.

If I had a publishing goal, perhaps I would have done some things differently—maybe take a few classes or workshops—but then again, I believe it was best for me to take my time to slowly develop. “Behold the Dreamers” took five years for me to complete, from when I first got the inspiration to when I did the final correction, and I think I needed that amount of time. Excellence is every important to me. Simply completing a task is not enough—I want to look at what I’ve done and believe I did an excellent job.

 

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French Edition of “Behold The Dreamers’

 

Lauroly Q-  Wow! I am always impressed by the time many brilliant authors like you commit to their book. I’ve read your book is being optioned for a film. Who would you trust to produce and direct the film? It must be so hard to let go of your ‘baby’ and hope the story translates well to film.

 

Imbolo Mbue: Yes, the “baby” is gone! I think this “baby” now belongs to the reader, and every reader is going to have his/her own interpretation. If the book ever becomes a movie, the producers and directors will have their own interpretation, and some of their interpretation might surprise me, but I’ll be too happy seeing these characters come to life that I don’t suppose I’ll think much about it.

 

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Dutch Edition off ‘Behold The Dreamers’

Lauroly Closing: What a beautiful attitude to have about releasing your story to the readers and interpreters. Thank you so much for joining me Imbolo. I am thrilled to featured your book as WWB’s Fall ‘Book Wise’ selection and honored to have the opportunity to chat with you here. Wishing you the best with all your future endeavors and continued happiness in America..

 

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you, Lauroly. The honor is all mine!

 

 

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World Wise Beauty Announces the ‘Book Wise’ Summer Pick and Chats with Author of ‘ A Field Guide to Happiness’

Jun 3, 2015 by

 

 

 

BOOK WISE SUMMER PICK: ‘ A Field Guide to Happiness’ What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving and Waking Up

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir

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.

 

Courtesy of Linda Leaming/Website Photos

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.

Courtesy of Linda Leaming/ Website Photos

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! ;-

 

 

 

 

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