Book Reviews

A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up by Linda Leaming

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List Price: £7.12

 

Kindle Edition: 257 Pages.

Published: 01 October 2014 by Hay House

ISBN:

EAN:

In the West, we have everything we could possibly need or want—except for peace of mind.

So writes Linda Leaming, a harried American who traveled from Nashville, Tennessee, to the rugged Himalayan nation of Bhutan—sometimes called the happiest place on Earth—to teach English and unlearn her politicized and polarized, energetic and impatient way of life.

In Bhutan if I have three things to do in a week, it’s considered busy. In the U.S., I have at least three things to do between breakfast and lunch.

After losing her luggage immediately upon arrival, Leaming realized that she also had emotional baggage—a tendency toward inaction, a touch of self-absorption, and a hundred other trite, stupid, embarrassing, and inconsequential things—that needed to get lost as well.

Pack up ideas and feelings that tie you down and send you lead-footed down the wrong path. Put them in a metaphorical suitcase and sling it over a metaphorical bridge in your mind. Let the river take them away.

Forced by circumstance and her rustic surroundings to embrace a simplified life, Leaming made room for more useful beliefs. The thin air and hard climbs of her mountainous commute put her deeply in touch with her breath, helping her find focus and appreciation. The archaic, glacially paced bureaucracy of a Bhutanese bank taught her to go with the flow—and take up knitting. The ancient ritual of drinking tea brought tranquility, friendship, and, eventually, a husband. Each day, and each adventure, in her adopted home brought new insights and understandings to take back to frantic America, where she now practices the art of “simulating Bhutan.” This collection of stories, impressions, and suggestions is a little nudge, a push, a leg up into the rarefied air of paradise—of bright sunlight and beautiful views.

Reviews

3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Would have liked more about the country and less about the author

There is something a bit worrying about an American visiting a less developed country and claiming that their lifestyle has taught her lots about what is wrong with her own life. It reeks of spiritual tourism and not considering how the local people might feel about their lives and whether they would consider themselves to be spiritual and happy. I think that the author mostly overcame this in her book by showing great respect to the people and practices of Bhutan but there were moments when I felt a bit uncomfortable.

Bhutan is a reasonably closed Himalayan country where the author spent time as a teacher. As she immersed herself in the local culture she found that its difference from her American life told her things about herself and the way that she lived that were important to her. A lot of these are linked into the local Buddhist faith but also connected with a place which has little individual wealth. Whilst the author found this frustrating at first she came to find it a useful alternative to her American life.

I would have preferred this book to concentrate more on the Bhutanese life and its people and less on the author's spiritual journey but that is a little unfair as that is what the book is written about. I found lots of interesting snippets about this less well known country and its culture and much of what the author had to say about her experiences was interesting. I just found the spiritual journey bit simplistic and the emphasis on the author's experiences not to my taste. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

 
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