Zen and the Art of Happiness: Book Discussion

I finshed Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chriss Prentiss. The book was pretty blunt about what it meant to be happy. To sum up the book the author pretty much told readers to learn to be happy all the time and to not let external events get to them. I’ve struggled with learning to keep myself happy and though I do agree with some of the things said in this book, there are also some things that I disagree with. Which I will  discuss in the question and answer section below. Feel free to answer these questions in the comments. 

1. In the first few pages of this book, the author tells his reader that to achieve happiness they need to just learn to, “be happy.” How do you feel about this? Do you think that’s all people really need to do to feel satisfied in life?

I only agree with this to an extent. Sometimes we equate happiness with being content and we don’t learn to move forward in life. While I do think some of us have plenty, people in my social economic status that still have to work, but have a roof over there head, and abundance of food and water probably need to hear this. Those who are starving, have been abused, and those who don’t have any shelter don’t need to hear this. In some cases the happiness of soceity is an action we need to take. And not something we need to just sit on. I think that happiness is an outcome and not a state that we can live in forever. For us to feel a sense of satisfaction we need to help improve ourselves and the world around us.

2. In the second chapter, the author considers us to be, “the authors of every next moment.” What he means by this is that we determine whether something is good or bad in our lives. Do you agree with this?

I do agree that we control how we percive things. We get to choose whether we see something as good or bad. However, I won’t complety believe that we are, “authors of every next moment.” Things change, and often we don’t get to control what happens next. We can control how we react to things that happen in our lives, but we can’t control the situtation entirely. Which why sometimes it might be hard for us to see all things as good, because sometimes life will catch us off gaurd.

3. The next chapter says that we need to, “[maintain] our awareness that whatever happens to us is for our greatest benefit.” To what extent do you again with this?

I think that we need to try out best to see things in a good light. However, I do worry that this kind of philosophy might promote ignorance. How will people revise their lives if they’re always happy? What will drive us to create change?

4. The forth chapter talks about inner happines and that happiness isn’t caused by external factors. Do you think happiness is determined purely by how we feel internally?

I do think that it is possible to find a way convince ourselves to be happy even in the worst situtations. However, I believe that the chemicals in out body sometimes tell us to be unhappy for a reason. We may not have food, we might not have shelter. Those situations may cause us to feel angry and stand up for ourselves. I worry that this might actually convince us to repress feelings rather than work through them. This has happened in many relgious institions where people aren’t allowed to be anything other than happy.

5. Can a will to live really increase our chance of staying alive?

I do agree with this. Our thoughts influence our actions, negative thoughts will cause us to drift into more self destructive tendencies. While postive thoughts can help us to improve our lives. However, sometimes the negtiive thoughts are needed to see just how good the postive ones are.

6. In the fifth chapter, the author discussed therapists and how even they sometimes believe that the recovery of their patients is impossible. How do you think this affects people with mental health issues? In what ways does this influence America’s prison system?

I think this attitude ends up hurting more people than help them. While I do think its good for people to have realistic expectations so they don’t disappoint themselves. I don’t think we should put limitations on the sucess of other people entirely. I think this effects America’s prison system since the author quoted that many people think that, “once [someone is] an alcoholic or addict, [they will] always [be] an alcoholic or addict.” The same can be said for criminals. A lot of us believe that since they commited a crime they will always be a criminal. However, thats not always the case and I think in this way the system fails people. Not to mention we don’t give them many job oppturnites and they end up going back to what they do, because now we’ve made it harder for them to do the right thing. We can’t help people if we always assume they’re terrible people.

7. Do you think that separation is an illusion? How does the western world and the eastern world see seprationism? What relgions do you think cling to being separate from the world?

I do think that the separtion we feel from ourselves and the world is an illusion. I think in the western world we like to separate ourselves from everyone —sometimes even nature itself. We have property lines, we are stubborn when it comes to what we want and believe. And in many cases we see ourselves as above the world. I think the eastern world sees themselves as a part of it. Even in some places in Japan today, they work with wood instead of against it. Its how they created homes without nails. I think that religions that cling to the idea of separationism are Christianity, Judaism, and Muslim beliefs. There relgions want people to behave a certain way and often think in the ideology of us verus them. While buddism and jadism don’t force people to conform. In fact some Buddhist are even humble enough to state that people shouldn’t take what they say as everything the world has to offer.

8. How do we adapt to change?

I think this is a question I have tried to answer before. I think to learn to adapt we have to work with what we have. We may not be able to control everything, but at least we can choose how we react to it.

9. Do you think that stress is one of the biggest obstacles that comes between our happiness? In what ways can we work to reduce it?

I do think that stress is probably one of the biggest obstalces we will ever face. Even now as I’m working through moving out, its hard to shake the feeling. I think as the author said, to reduce stress we should try and think of a positive outcome. I do think a little stress is good so we don’t dive into more than we can handle. However, I do think taking a deep breath and pushing ourselves a little is a good thing.

10. How can we stay in the present?

I think to stay in the present we still do need to acknowledge our past. We shouldn’t dwell on it, but we still need to let oursevles go through whatever feelings we might have about it. And we need to not beat oursevles up for where we are right now. Some of us do better than others, some of us do worse. What matters is that we have comapssion for ourselves and allow oursevles to move forwward and be happy with where we are.

Published by Athena Bocock

I am vegan and I like books and writing stories. Recently I've been enjoying romance and animal stories the most.

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