Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Ancient Formula for Modern Times

The world is full of formulas ranging from suggestions for good health and achieving success in life.  Here is in my opinion one such formula for happiness.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus presented a different perspective. His formula for inner contentment placed a higher priority on goals that are realistic and attainable and a lesser priority on goals that are unrealistic and more difficult to achieve. He did not rule out the latter, but emphasized pursuit of the former. In today’s parlance, Epictetus would say that it is good to have dreams, but our feet must be firmly planted on the ground. Thus, a desire to be an artist is a realistic goal, but a desire to be an overnight success is unrealistic.

We can also view the practical wisdom of Epictetus as a balance between needs and wants. Needs refer to our basic requirements for food, clothing, and shelter, which we must satisfy for our survival. Wants refer to our fancied desires, where satisfaction is not crucial, though we may consider it so. Bread is a need, but venison and wine are wants. Water is a need, but champagne is a want. A warm coat is a need, but a mink is a want. Actually, only a mink needs a mink.

What is note worthy about this formula is that it is provoking. 

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Fall in Love with Life

The following is the Prologue of

By James Nicholas

Life is wonderful, though at times it can be hard. In the heart of existence, there is much sweetness to be enjoyed, even in the midst of suffering.  Life is also a gift, and how fortunate we are to be living on this incredibly beautiful planet, to behold the infinite diversity of nature. True, we must cope with humid days and freezing nights, but how marvellous it is to observe flowers blooming, fruits ripening, birds singing, and starts twinkling.

Sometimes nature is harsh and cruel. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes sometimes strike us with intense fury, causing havoc and immense suffering. While accepting the reality of natural disasters, we must learn to cope with them and not live in fear. We need to be optimistic, because pessimism is a waste of energy.

Nevertheless, nature has inspired me to write this book.  I stand in awe at the beautiful balances that pervade it, such as the blended colors of the rainbow and the symmetrical shapes of flowers. From nature we can learn to be like the oak, standing strong against any tempest, or be flexible like the willow, bending gently before any wind.

This work attempts to truly reflect its title as A Book of Wisdom and Delight: How to Fall in Love with Life.  You are invited to treat this book like a friendly companion, to make you hopeful when disappointed and cheerful when disheartened. Embodied within these pages are profound ideas of eminent writers that are expressed in simple terms.  By reflecting upon their ideas, we can have a “conversation” with them.  The book offers challenging but easy reading. It draws enriching ideas from philosophy, psychology, and literature from the East and the West. The thoughts of modern writers intertwine with those of the classics, along with my own reflections. I have quoted other authors profusely only to better express myself.

The principal aim of this book is to present you with flashes of wisdom and moments of delight. These sentiments together serve as a refrain that echoes throughout the book.  The golden chain that links all chapters together is the belief that the essence of wisdom lies in both balance and proportion. This golden chain starts in Chapter 1, “Enjoy Inner Peace and Calm,” which explains that a good inner life enables us to cope better with irritants of our outer life. Inner contentment comes from reconciling our many conflicting desires. We need to harmonize our tendencies to be selfless and selfish, grateful and ungrateful, loving and unloving.

In the second chapter, “Give Yourself a Dazzling Mind,” we explore how the mind excels when it displays a fine sense of balance and proportion. We discern that flowers are beautiful because the petals and colors form elegant patterns. A great work of music is enchanting because the notes are arranged in a concord of sweet sounds. By further enriching in our appreciation of balance and proportion, our minds can sparkle and shine.

What works for the mind can also work for the heart. Typically, we find rest among those we love and provide a resting place for those who love us. This balance in reciprocal relations hips is the gist of Chapter 3, "The Joys of Genuine Intimacy.” Impressive evidence reveals that when we are more loving in our relationships, we tend to be more joyous and creative. This state contributes to an overall feeling of personal fulfilment.

At a deeper level, sexual love is like a fire that is extinguished when satisfied. It is, therefore, essential to balance sexual love with tenderness and emotional intimacy.

In the fourth chapter, “Be Ever Young in Spirit,” I suggest that we balance the toll of passing years by renewing our youthful spirit. With a sense of adventure, wonder, and idealism, we may imagine being young at any age. This chapter also illustrates ways for us to lead a richer life and, in doing so, erase the scars of earlier times. As the fountain of youth is largely a state of mind, we could perennially remain young at heart.

Having a balanced life is a foundation from which we can achieve success. This is the principal point in Chapter 5, “A Blueprint for Success.” We can imitate the balance we find in nature in our daily efforts. Just as every crest in the ocean has an ebb, our daily life has ups and downs.  From the peak of success, we may slip into setbacks only to profit from them and rise again. A sense of perspective tells us that to achieve great success, we may have to pay a great price. We may also note that, while attaining success may be difficult, sustaining it could be even more so.

To know how to maximize our energy and minimize its loss is a sign of wisdom . These methods are presented in the sixth and final chapter, “Abundant Energy for Everyday Life.” We discus how the energy flowing into us should exceed the energy flowing out to maintain stability of mind and body.  In every moment of life, we have thought that either strengthen or weaken us. Fear and anger decrease our energy and may confine our thinking Love and joy increase our energy and may fuel our creative spirit.

All six chapters convey a common message but in different ways. Each one reveals thought to ponder on how we may lead the life we desire and deserve. Together, they are an invitation for you, the reader, to plant a tree of Wisdom and Delight and enjoy its growth all your life.

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.