I finished reading The Art of Happiness at Work by His High Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler last night. I must say since I began it, work has seemed much better. It’s not that I like my work environment or that I am actually happy and satisfied with my job, but it is better. Today I even caught myself walking down the hallway and humming, “yo ho, yo ho a pirate’s life for me!” There might be some underlying reason to my choice of tune, but I have no idea what it is. All I know is, the humming felt good.
Anyway, all the petty stuff doesn’t bother me as much and when I start to feel my blood pressure go up, a deep breath or two and a mental note to remember the Dalai Lama has helped tremendously. And my coworker who started me on the Dalai Lama chant is still finding it productive. Another coworker who I told a bit about the book used some of what I said in a clinical staff meeting to get the therapists and counselors to chill out. She said it worked. Whether or not it stuck around after the staff meeting remains to be seen. So the Dalai Lama’s influence grows.
What I like about the book was how simple the advice is and how it continually comes back to the individual and the choices one makes. Even when we are truly trapped in a crappy job and can’t get out for whatever reason, we can still make choices. The book also reminds us that our coworkers and bosses are human beings with problems and feelings of their own. Simple respect, kindness and compassion can go a long way.
The Dalai Lama also talks about not allowing ourselves to become so identified with the work that we do that if we can no longer do that work, we are devastated. Or, being so identified that any critique of our work is taken as criticism about who we are as a person. He also talks about the Buddhist idea or right livelihood. I don’t entirely understand it, but it seems it means choosing work that is productive and harms no one.
The book is not actually written by the Dalai Lama. Cutler spent several hours a day for about a week in conversation with the Dalai Lama about happiness at work and then wrote the book. There is lots of dialogue which is good and interesting. What was kind of blah for me was Cutler, a psychiatrist, felt it necessary for some reason to analyze what the Dalai Lama meant about some things and then try to put it into a westernized context with surveys and studies and what not.
But the Dalai Lama, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of tea with him. I have no idea what we’d talk about, but he is so kind and generous and in spite of everything, a regular guy, that I’m sure we’d find something to chat about. Often in the book he would answer that he didn’t know, that there was no clear-cut answer or that he’d have to think about something a little more. Great spiritual leader that he is, I liked that he didn’t have all the answers or wasn’t sure about some things. He’s the kind of person we all wish we knew; the kind of person we would all like to be. And I think because he isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know,” he seems like someone we could be if we keep trying. That’s what the message in the book really is. Work at these simple things, they are hard but worthwhile, don’t give up, mistakes are ok, just keep trying.