WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

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World Wise Beauty Presents the Winter 2017 ‘Book Wise’ Pick and it Promises to Keep You Warm From the Inside…Out

Feb 18, 2017 by

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BOOK WISE Winter Pick: The Little Book of Hygge –The Danish Way to Live Well

 

CATEGORY: Wellness/Non-Fiction

 

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Denmark

 

AUTHOR: Meik Wiking

 

OF NOTE: Book was a best-seller in the UK and just released in America in January,

 

 

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It is with great pleasure to select the ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ as the WWB ‘Book Wise’ Winter Pick! The timing couldn’t be better, as we all can use more ‘hygge’ in the winter. I came across the word Hygge back in June 2016 when interviewing Dr. Tim Lomas, who launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words that describe positive traits, feelings, experiences, and states of being that had no direct counterparts in English.

Check out his project via the link above and the WWB Q&A with Dr. Lomas here. The author of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ also spends time on special words and their meaning and even shares a Hygge dictionary in the book.

So for those who are wondering what the heck is Hygge? I will share a few lines from the the author’s introduction of the book….

“Hooga? Hhyoogah? Heurgh? It is not important how you choose to pronounce or even spell ‘hygge’. To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time ‘Winnie the Pooh’–when asked how to spell a certain emotion “You don’t spell it–you feel it.” ~Meik Wiking

 

 

Let’s indulge you anyway with a quick definition and you’ll be all caught up with our new favorite word.

 

 

DANISH: Hygge (n) : a deep sense of of place, warmth, friendship and contentment

 

On a personal note, a very dear friend from the UK sent me this book for Christmas and I was tickled. It was the best Christmas gift ever, especially because I know she is also a lover of all things Hygge, and we share simpatico (another great word!) in this area. I should be careful about using the word ‘things’, as the author will tell you, Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience rather than things. Yet a beautiful little teapot sure does contribute to the hygge in a room!

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am a lover of wellness wisdom and books. Anytime I can glean wisdom or ideas from other cultures particularly in the wellness arena, I am eager to share them with you.  The Little Book of Hygge was written by none other than the CEO of Happiness! Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark and has the best job in the world, wouldn’t you say? How cool is it, that there is an actual institute studying happiness! It all sounds fun, but this is a serious institute studying the causes and effects of happiness, and how to improve quality of life for its citizens. If you aren’t aware, the Danes rank number one as the happiest culture in the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t catch up to them though! As the author reminds us in his book…Hygge is for everyone. If you aren’t inspired yet to read this book, then I suggest you go on your curmudgeon way, because I am about to share the 10 important values from the HYGGE MANIFESTO included in the book…

HYGGE MANIFESTO

1- Atomosphere–Turn down the lights

2- Presence–Be here now and turn off the phones

3- Pleasure —Coffee, chocolate, cookies and cakes ( oh my!)

4- ‘We’ over me--share the tasks and the ‘airtime’!

5- Gratitude–take it in, this might be as good as it gets

6- Harmony–it’s not a competition, we already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements!

7- Comfort– Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation

8-Truce–No drama, let’s discuss politics another day

9- Togetherness–Build relationships and narratives ” Do you remember when we…”

10- Shelter–This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and securityes here

What a wonderful manifesto and all this gets baked into a very happy Danish culture. Not hard to understand why they are so happy with social values like these. I did really respect the author for including a section in the book on the dark side of Hygge. He points out the downside of the close, tribal, and social landscape found in Denmark, is they don’t welcome newcomers very well. This syncs with N0. 10 of the manifesto  ( the sense of peace and security one feels within your own tribe). We all want to belong, but I happen to believe there is nothing more cozy than making someone feel welcome and included.  Of course, as long as they practice number two, four and eight of the manifesto!

Enjoy the book my wise friends, and may your winter days be full of Hygge!

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WWB’s Weekly Wisdom Wrap: It’s ‘World Smile Day’– Lighten Up and Discover the Top 4 Health Benefits of Laughter…

Oct 2, 2015 by

 

‘World Smile Day’ couldn’t have come at a better time, as it has been a week of gloomy weather here on much of the East Coast of America. But everyday we can find grace. I am grateful, that we dodged a major hurricane, and all my family and friends are safe and sound. If lots of rain and dark skies is all I have to deal with– I can deal! But keep in mind there are many people who suffer from SAD disorder and physically feel depression when there is no sun. Achieving good physical and mental health is a different challenge for each of us individually, but there are some universal things we can all do to feel better. You know where I am going with this…it’s ‘World Smile Day’ and before you check out cynically and dismiss this post, let me just tell you this not a ‘fluff’ piece. To the contrary, science and medical research has found that smiling and laughter is seriously and truly beneficial for good physical and mental health. So lighten up and learn more, because before you know it, you’ll be cracking a smile, feeling good, and dare I say…celebrating World Smile Day with me. 🙂

P.S I also believe in the power of music to uplift and just had to share a feel good music video with you. Check it out below. This one you can’t get out of your head once you hear it and that maybe the best thing about it. Enjoy the weekend and Happy World Smile Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  2. Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  3. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  4. Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems

Resources:

Laughter is the ‘Best Medicine” for Your Heart‘– Describes a study that found that laughter helps prevent heart disease. (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Laughter Therapy – Guide to the healing power of laughter, including the research supporting laughter therapy. (Cancer Treatment Centers of America)

If the health benefits are not enough to get you smiling, the research gets better and finds laughter is also good for mental health –both mind and spirit! So let’s get real first, some life events are clearly sad and not occasions for laughter. But most events in life don’t carry an overwhelming sense of either sadness or delight. They essentially fall into the gray zone of ordinary life–giving you the choice to laugh or not. So the next time a certified grump asks you “What are you so happy about?” you can say ‘JUST BECAUSE’ and I feel GOOD about saying it! If you really want to make them feel sorry for asking, you can rattle off the following Mental Benefits of Laughter and send them on their way with their dark cloud in a twist!

  1. Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
  2. Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  3. Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

 

Smile &Walk on the Lighter Side of Life:

  • Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take yourself less seriously is to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.
  • Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, and uncover the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
  • Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
  • Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
  • Manage your stressStress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
  • Pay attention to children and pets and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, 

 

Resources:

The Science of Laughter –Psychology Today

Articles on Health and Humor – Psychologist and humor-training specialist Paul McGhee offers a series of articles on humor, laughter, and health. (Laughter Remedy)

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WWB’s Weekly Wisdom Wrap: ‘Find Your Spot’ and the Geography of Bliss…

Jun 20, 2015 by

 

Every Saturday on WWBFacebook I do a “Find Your Spot’ post to hopefully inspire you to do just that. Sometimes I am sharing exotic photos of beautiful islands and palm trees, and other weeks I am sharing a cozy chair in front of a fireplace. The point of the post is to encourage you to ‘find a spot’ where you can relax, breathe and take quiet time for yourself. Sometimes you can find your spot in your mind. I often close my eyes and imagine this slow cruise I took through the Vancouver Islands, passing lush green islands inhabited with sea lions and colorful birds. It was a beautiful sunny 75 degree day, with crystal blue skies and the water was literally gleaming. Total bliss…

 

 

What I remember most about that cruise is how my mind just shut down. I did not have a thought on my mind. I just stopped thinking and was completely immersed in the spectacular nature that was all around me. It’s no wonder that I still see the Vancouver Islands like a moving slide-show in my mind. Of course I have many beautiful memories of other trips taken but for some reason that particular Vancouver day comes to my mind. Almost like a meditation, when I picture that day in my mind, I summon up the peaceful endorphins that were flowing through my body that day. I love the Vancouver Islands in British Columbia, and so much, I seriously considered moving there. I have been fortunate to visit many beautiful places in the world, from Paris to the Greek Islands, but it was Vancouver that captured my heart. Do you have a special place that speaks to your heart? I would love to hear about it!

This week’s post is not just about my crush on Vancouver,  it is really all about the ‘Geography of Bliss’. This just happens to be a name of a travel book I want to recommend to you as well. But it’s so much more than a typical travel book. The author is in search of what makes us happy, and seeks answers to the most pressing questions of our time. Such as, what are the essential ingredients for the good life? Why are some places happier than others? How are we shaped by our surroundings? Big questions and it all speaks to the heart of what I’m getting at…

 

You see, Vancouver represents for me, a ‘sense of place’ that makes me feel alive, connected to the world and ‘at home’. I don’t live there for many reasons, and mostly because of family ties. I did find a place to call home, that does provide a little city and a lot of nature, and most importantly makes me feel the ‘bliss’ I felt in Vancouver. Now, when I go for walks, I can always find my spot to relax, unwind and just be. I never feel like I have to ‘get away’ because of the beautiful ‘bucolic’ surroundings of the area I live in. Before my big-city friends get defensive, let me just say there are absolutely beautiful spots to discover in the midst of big cities. I have shared a few ‘spots’ in previous posts about green spaces and cities.

So maybe your ‘bliss’ is being right in the middle of a thriving busy city surrounded by people. Deciding where to live is a pretty big deal, but in today’s modern ‘mobile society’ we often live in places we never imagined we would live. Think about the immigrants who come from all over the world to live in America. All of them are contributing to the beautiful tapestry of American culture.

There is so much to explore about sense of place, finding your spot and the geography of bliss. So, what if you could actively shop and look for your ideal place to live? For many families, there is very important criteria to consider when deciding on where to live and raising kids. We see ‘Best Places to Live’ on the covers of major magazines all the time and they all use very specific criteria. Most often they emphasize median incomes, quality of schools and safety. But lately you are seeing lists that also include green spaces and parks.

If you are single, you have much more freedom to choose where to live. Yet, when you are single, you often want to be around other single people. Over the last twenty years ‘urban’ cities are where young singles flock to. There are so many choices for them, but there’s always the affordability factor. Seniors equally have their own criteria when deciding on where to retire. For some seniors, it’s a matter of just downsizing, and for others it is finding stimulation, culture, and soothing nature to enjoy the rest of their lives. Some seniors actually choose to move to a city from the suburbs, so they can finally enjoy all the wonderful cultural things big cities have to offer, without the hassle of driving.

Well, I have something for everyone! I stumbled upon a great new digital portal called ‘Livability’.  Livability explores what makes small-to-medium sized cities great places to live. Through proprietary research studies, engaging articles and original photography and video, they examine topics related to community amenities, education, sustainability, transportation, housing and the economy. It’s a very useful site and when you visit their ‘Find A City’ page you can type in any city and learn more about the city’s demographic makeup and economy. I also love the ‘Moving’ section which offers a lot of practical tools, checklists and guides to help you with your move. Of course my favorite page is ‘The Top 10 Healthiest Cities’ which is always of interest to me.

Are you beginning to see why ‘sense of place’ is so important to bliss and happiness? As the author of ‘Geography of Bliss’ gets to, ‘happiness’ is often ‘baked into’ the culture you live in.  After all this talk about sense of place, we also find that ‘culture’ is important and can really effect our state of happiness. In a much wider context, I believe what is really important, is creating wellness culture. In doing so we can create a society that benefits everyone, no matter what our social status or income level is. So what kind of ‘culture’ do you think would make you most happy? To get you thinking about culture and happiness I recommend you join me for WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Pow-Wow this summer! We are reading ‘Field Guide to Happiness’ which was reviewed most positively by Eric Weiner, the author of ‘Geography of Bliss’!

“Linda Leaming writes with a sweetness and an earned wisdom that goes down as smoothly as a good cup of tea. She is also very funny. If you are alive, or would like to be, read her A Field Guide to Happiness and find joy on every page.” ~Eric Weiner

 

With all this talk about culture, I want to recommend another portal which is the ‘pioneer’ in portals helping you to decide on where to live. It inspired my ‘Find Your Spot’  posts because it is actually called ‘Find Your Spot’. I used this website many moons ago, and I can tell you it is amazingly detailed, thorough, and ‘spot on’, no pun intended! Do you like a lot of sunny weather? Do you want to live near a college? Do you love the theater? Do you enjoy ethnic restaurants? Do you like spending time at the zoo—as a visitor? lol This website helps you find your ideal hometown by having you take a quick, but comprehensive fun quiz. The quiz is designed to focus on the issues that are really important to you, like climate, culture, crime rates, recreational opportunities, community resources and even the types of geography that you enjoy most. Once you take the quiz, you receive a report about your ideal spot and it covers all the pertinent questions you could have about moving to your ideal spot. Of course the key is answering the questions honestly. It really gets you thinking about what really matters to you and your sense of place.

 

Your Top Spots

 

So wherever you roam in life, I hope you always ‘find your spot’. It may be curled up at home on comfy chair reading a good book, or it may be curled up in the arms of the one you love. Just remember, ‘no matter where you go, there you are’ and happiness always starts with YOU deciding to be happy. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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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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