Chapter 32: Notes - A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life (2024)



The two modes are complementary, just as the yin-yang polarity. The symbol Chapter 32: Notes - A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life (1)is rooted in Chinese philosophy. Alan Watts explains that the Chinese do not view light and darkness, life and death, good and evil, positive and negative in conflict. They “are all different aspects of one and the same system, and that the disappearance of either one of them would be the disappearance of the system.” Alan Watts and Al Chung-Liang Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way (New York: Pantheon Books, 1975), 20. Later in the same book, he says, “The yin-yang principle is not …what we would ordinarily call a dualism, but rather an explicit duality expressing an implicit unity” (26). The two mental modes, the Basic Mode and the Supreme Mode, are such a unity.

Happiness and unhappiness are not mutually exclusive categories. Diane Swanbrow, “The Paradox of Happiness,” Psychology Today 23, (1989): 37–39.

This is in reference to the song A Piece of Sky, which is sung by Barbra Streisand in the movie Yentl, directed by Barbra Streisand (1983).

Part 1



Barbara Frederickson, “What Good are Positive Emotions?” Review of General Psychology 2 (1998): 300–319. Also, Barbara Frederickson and Thomas Joiner, “Positive Emotions Trigger Upward Spirals toward Emotional Well-being,” Psychological Science 13 (2002): 172–75.

Deborah Danner, David A. Snowdon, and Wallace V. Friesen, “Positive Emotions in Early Life and Longevity: Findings from the Nun Study,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80 (2001): 804–13.

Economist Richard Layard points out, “Happiness is that ultimate goal because, unlike other goals, it is self-evidently good. If we are asked why happiness matters, we can give no further, external reason. It just obviously does matter. As the American Declaration of Independence says, it is a ‘self-evident’ objective.” Richard Layard, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (New York: Penguin, 2005), 113.

Michael R. Cunningham, “Measuring the Physical in Physical Attractiveness: Quasi-experiments on the Sociobiology of Female Facial Beauty,” Journal of Personal & Social Psychology 50 (1986): 925–35.

Aristotle (384–322 BC), the famous philosopher of ancient Greece, son of Nichomachus, student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great, believed that happiness was the ultimate goal in a human life. All other goals would serve happiness. Many people nowadays reject happiness as a selfish endeavor. Aristotle saw no ethical conflict though. For him the community came first, and the individual second. However, happiness would always start with the individual. Happiness is virtuous activity that fulfills our proper function in life. Aristotle wrote that “we may almost say that the great majority of mankind are agreed about this; for both the multitude and persons of refinement speak of it as happiness, and conceive ‘the good life’ or ‘doing well’ to be the same thing as ‘being happy.’” Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham (London: Harvard University Press, 1934), Book I, iii. 8-iv. Furthermore “the Good of man is the active exercise of his soul’s faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue, or if there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them.” (Book I, vii. 15) But in order to be happy one would need a whole list of things: sufficient goods, health, opportunity to practice one’s excellence and virtue, friends, and good luck (Book I, x. 14–xi). Definition of happiness, (Book I, vii. 13–16).

Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, two of the founders of positive psychology (which postulates that focusing on psychological disorders and suffering does not lead to happiness), write about the importance of positive institutions in Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Positive Psychology. An Introduction,” American Psychologist 55, No.1 (2000): 5–14.

Taking the road less traveled pertains to many situations, particularly those of immigrants. Immigrants who leave their safe harbor frequently encounter unexpected hardship. The majority of people usually prefer to stay in the homeland. As my research revealed, voluntary immigrants are more interested in freedom and opportunity than in security. Andrea Floren Polard, “Leaving the Circle: The Phenomenon of Emigration,” a dissertation research project submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology at Ryokan College, Los Angeles, California (1998).

For more about comparing notions in regard to happiness see Ed Diener, Marissa Diener, and Carol Diener, “Factors Predicting the Subjective Well-being of Nations,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69 (1995): 851–62.

For more information about societal change, see Layard, Happiness.

Gregg Easterbrook wonders why people do not feel happier even though they live longer, healthier, and richer lives. See Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse (New York: Random House, 2004). In this context it is also interesting that according to a study, lottery winners are no happier than before their win after a period of adjustment. P. Brickman, D. Coates, and R. Janoff-Bulman, “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36 (1978): 917–27. Also a good article about prosperity and happiness is Shlomo Maital, “The Pursuit of Happiness: If We’re So Rich, Why Aren’t More of Us Satisfied?” Barron’s (May 1, 2000): 70.

Although happiness has become an important subject, I think that our highest priority ought to be the reduction of suffering in poor, devastated, and discriminated-against communities and countries. Happiness will evade us if we remain indifferent to the suffering of others.

Anaïs Nin as quoted in Dan Millman, Living on Purpose: Straight Answers to Universal Questions (Novato: New World Library, 2000), 4.

Darrin M. McMahon, Happiness: A History (New York: Grove Press, 2006).

Paul Watzlawick, The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993).

To learn more about the science of exercise and the brain, read John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008). For further references on exercise and nutrition go to the resources section following these notes, or visit

Nancy Cantor and Catherine A. Sanderson, “Life Task Participation and Well-Being: The Importance of Taking Part in Daily Life,” Well-Being: The Foundation of Hedonic Psychology, eds. Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener, and Norbert Schwarz (Russel Sage Foundation: New York, 2003), 230–43.

Aristotle wrote: “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” He also emphasized that the social good is more important than the individual good, and thus that political science is the highest practical concern in life. Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, 1155a5.

Csikszentmihalyi is a strong proponent of happiness being linked to goal-oriented activity, an idea that goes back to Aristotle. His in-depth analysis of how activity can lead to a sense of flow and happiness is rich and highly valuable to anybody interested in committing his or her life to happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: HarperCollins, 1990).

Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, 4. Csikszentmihalyi also believes that reflection (the contemplative life, in Aristotle’s terms) should ideally complement or support activity (the active life). One can only reflect upon one’s action when in touch with one’s experience (ibid., 226). Aristotle however viewed contemplation as the highest form of virtuous activity. Therefore reflection, as in thinking things through, is not part of the Supreme Mode, but the Basic Mode as defined in the Two Wings of Happiness. Reflection in Eastern understanding does not equal thinking. It is a quiet state of mind that lets thoughts pass while observing them along with all other experiences.

Genesis 1:22–28 (Authorized Version)

Matthew 6:28–30 (AV).

First translation of Lao-tzu’s poem by Witter Bynner, The Way of Life According to Lao-tzu (New York: Perigee, 1994), no. 37.

Second translation of Lao-tzu’s poem by John C. H. Wu, Lao-tzu: Tao Teh Ching (New York: St. John’s University Press, 1961), no. 37. Watts interprets the Tao as “the flowing course of nature and the universe” in Watts and Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way, 49.

The excerpt by Hermann Hesse is my own translation and paraphrasing of the Betrachtungen über das Glück (1949).

For my research on Eastern philosophies and religions I used Junjiro Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (Hawaii: University of Hawaii, 1947). Also, for a scientific explanation of experiencing oneness, please read Eugene D’Aquili and Andrew Newberg, The Mystical Mind. Probing the Biology of Religious Experience (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999).

This excerpt by Hermann Hesse (1949) is my own word-by-word translation, also from the Betrachtungen über das Glück (1949).

Source for early translation of A Harem in Bismarck’s Reich: The Delightful Diary of Shah Nasreddin (1873) no longer in print. Current translation, Idries Shah, The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin (New York: Penguin, 1993), 110.

Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (New York: Vintage, 1951), 62.

Part 2



From Rilke’s poem “Autumn.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 89.

From Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems Complete and Unabridged, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (New York: Henry Holt, 1969), 222–23.

“We have to come to grips with the fact that every boy has an inner life, that their hearts are full. Every boy is sensitive, and every boy suffers. This is a scary idea for many adults, who, consciously or unconsciously, don’t want to acknowledge a boy’s emotional vulnerability. But when we do acknowledge it, and we use this understanding to advance our own emotional education as parents and teachers of boys, we can help them meet the shadows in their lives with a more meaningful light.” Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000), 20.

This quote refers to the “Serenity Prayer”: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference” written by German philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr.

“For our purpose, we will define a habit as the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire…. But knowing I need to listen and knowing how to listen is not enough. Unless I want to listen, unless I have the desire, it won’t be a habit in my life. Creating a habit requires work in all three dimensions.” Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), 47.


This does not mean that we should stay in relationships that once had love but are now reduced to abuse and neglect.

Dan Buettner, “The Secrets of Long Life,” National Geographic (Nov. 2005): 2–26.

This quote from Franz Liszt is my own translation. The original says: Glücklich, wer mit den Verhaeltnissen zu brechen versteht, ehe sie ihn gebrochen haben.

Reference to Ed Diener is based on an interview in which he explains the ingredients to happiness, among which he lists the following: “Having long-term goals that are congruent with another, and that are pleasant to work for. If you want to be a lawyer but you hate conflict, you are going to be messed up.” John H. Richardson, “Dr. Happy,” Reader’s Digest 161, No. 967 (2002): 94–99.

Seligman describes how we all have “signature strengths,” which I have listed in chapter 7. Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment (New York: The Free Press, 2002).

Gail Evans, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success That Women Need to Learn (New York: Broadway Books, 2000), 178.

Csikszentmihalyi has coined the term “flow” for Western science and made it popular in his book Flow.

Ibid., 50.

Robbins promotes taking control over one’s mind. However, even with this extremely Western position, he concedes that there are limits to this approach. Anthony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional & Financial Destiny (New York: Fireside, 1991), 372.

Csikszentmihalyi writes extensively throughout his book Flow about the importance of clarity and feedback, as well as the difficulties we have when we lack them.

The reason for calling this knowledge “popular” is that it is preached widely in Western schools and can now be called a part of our culture. Quote from Jeffrey Kluger, “Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely to Succeed,” Time 14 (Nov.14, 2005): 48–59.

Dean Simonton, PhD, is a professor of the psychology department at the University of California, Davis. His expertise is in genius, creativity, leadership, talent, and aesthetics. Kluger, “Ambition,” 48–59.

Campbell frequently advises us in his interviews, “Follow your bliss,” because this is what makes us feel alive. He believes that “if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living,” Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (New York: Anchor Books, 1988), 150.

Joseph Campbell, An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms (New York: Harper & Row, 1990), 24.

The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe traveled through Italy during the years 1786 to 1788. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italienische Reise (Stiebner: München, 2008).

Having to leave father and mother as part of one’s salvation is a reoccurring theme in the New Testament, for instance, Matthew 4:18–22 (AV).

Dr. Cloninger is Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology and Genetics. He wrote the highly recommendable book Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). His approach is interdisciplinary and includes Eastern ideas, since his focus is on reaching higher levels of awareness. The reference is from Kluger, “Ambition,” 48–59.

This statement is inspired by Kevin Leman who answers the question about whether one can be ambitious without losing one’s values, “Yes, as long as you maintain integrity, never cutting corners to ‘win at any price.’” Kevin Leman, Winning the Rat Race Without Becoming the Rat: The Psychology of Winning in Business (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 233.

Seventy-seven percent of driven students in a suburban high school in the United States admit to having cheated according to an anonymous school survey administered by the Student Forum during the 1998–99 academic year. This information was found in Peter Demerath and Jill Lynch, The Social Construction of Advantage in a Suburban U.S. High School: Techniques of the Authoritative Self. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (2002). In Peter Demerath, WHS Student Culture Study. Report. Social and Cultural Foundations Section. School of Educational Policy and Leadership. From the Ohio State University study, (2005) we learn that 70 percent of the high achieving students were stressed out “frequently” or “all the time.” Female students were more vulnerable to stress. They also achieved on average higher grades than the male students and seemed more immersed in competitive learning.

Demerath, WHS Student Culture Study, 5.

Peter Demerath, “The Social Cost of Acting ‘Extra’: Students’ Moral Judgments of Self, Social Relations, and Academic Success in Papua New Guinea,” American Journal of Education 108:3 (2001), and Peter Demerath, “Negotiating Individualist and Collectivist Futures: Emerging Subjectivities and Social Forms in Papua New Guinean High Schools,” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 34(2) (2003): 136–57.

Having applied the game theory of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern to the evolutionary process, Wright is hesitantly optimistic about the direction of human development. Non-zero-sum-games do not always have to result in win-win situations. We must play the game correctly in order to achieve only positives. Robert Wright, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (New York: Pantheon Books, 2000), 6–7.

Covey, Seven Habits, 48.

Ibid., 151. “The Time Management Matrix” has the following quadrants: (1) Urgent/Important; (2) Not urgent/Important; (3) Urgent/Not Important; and (4) Not Urgent/Not Important. Often our dreams are in the second quadrant: they feel important to us, but not necessarily urgent. If we want to make things happen for ourselves, we need to shift them into the first quadrant.


When we learn anything, the nerve cells in our brain (neurons) grow extensions (dendrites) to connect with other neurons. F. Engert and T. Bonhoeffer, “Dendritic Spine Changes Associated with Hippocampal Long-term Synaptic Plasticity,” Nature 399 (1999): 66–70.

Hermann Hesse wrote the poem “Stufen” (“Stages”) as part of his book Das Glasperlenspiel. English translation: Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi), trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Picador, 1990), 444.

R. M. Ryan and E. L. Deci, “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being,” American Psychologist 55 (2000): 66–78.

Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi say, “When these needs are satisfied, Ryan and Deci claim that personal well-being and social development are optimized. Persons in this condition are intrinsically motivated, able to fulfill their potentialities, and able to seek out progressively greater challenges …Ryan and Deci’s contribution shows that promises of the humanistic psychology of the 1960s can generate a vital program of empirical research.” Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “Positive Psychology: An Introduction,” American Psychologist 55 No.1 (2000): 5–14. Also Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (New York: Van Nostrand, 1968) and Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences (New York: Penguin, 1994).

Gisela Ulmann, PhD, teaches at the Psychological Institute of the Free University in Berlin and promotes a non-theoretical approach in our dealings with children. She suggests looking at each child and her unique circ*mstances to find out what stops her from developing well. The fundamental assumption in her book Über den Umgang mit Kinder (How to Treat Children [my translation]) is that all children develop as long as they are given the tools, opportunities, and reasons to do so. Gisela Ulmann, über den Umgang mit Kindern. Orientierungshilfen für den Erziehungsalltag (Hamburg/Berlin: Argument Verlag, 1987).

Erik Erikson, leaning on Sigmund Freud’s developmental theory, looked upon development as a succession of stages through which we all have to move, one of which is the latency stage between the ages of five or six to twelve. Erikson believed that we learn much about curiosity, imagination, and skills during this stage. When we master this stage successfully we will develop a sense of competence. I propose that teenagers begin to react more strongly to societal conditions toward the end of this stage, probably because of their cognitive development. It is a tumultuous time, because at this stage of life we are all beginning to find out who we are and want to be in relation to our current culture. Erik H. Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle (New York: International Universities Press, 1959).

There really is no need to be “excellent” in mundane activities such as opening a door or using shower gel. It is therefore fine—and prudent—to be mediocre in most of our life’s affairs. Yet, if we seek an advantage or happiness, we should be willing to allocate more energy to designated areas.

Ryan and Deci distinguish between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation, stating that the former is supposed to correlate with happiness. This distinction does not take into account that other living beings can make us feel a part of something. Just looking at someone else scoring a goal can make us feel happy. If wanted, our children—a wondrous work in progress—can bring tremendous joy into our lives. Any gardener or hiker can give testimony to their positive experience. This is why I usually prefer the distinction between being motivated by the “animated” and the “non-animated.” We just love to see or feel the living, grow, and excel. Ryan and Deci, “Self-Determination Theory,” 66–78.

In Raising Cain, the authors write, “Harsh discipline—by which we mean both physical punishment in the form of hitting or spanking, and verbal intimidation, which includes belittling, denigrating, scapegoating, and threatening—is not the answer for any child. Not ever. And yet boys are like lightning rods for harsh discipline, much more so than girls. Many parents acknowledge that they use a more disciplinary style with their sons than with their daughters.” Kindlon and Thompson, Raising Cain, 53.

Todd Kashdan, et al., “Curiosity” in Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, eds. C. Peterson and M. E. P. Seligman (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press, 2004), 125–41.

Robert B. Reich is University Professor at Brandeis University and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis’s Heller Graduate School. He was the secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Reich does not believe that most individuals can stand up against the modern, frantic Zeitgeist. Even though my book is written for individuals who can develop the determination to live a balanced life today, I share Reich’s opinion that external conditions have to be improved for the general population to offer more people the chance to become happy. The quote can be found in Reich’s book The Future of Success (New York: Knopf, 2001), 222.

Todd Kashdan and F. D. Fincham, “Facilitating Curiosity: A Social and Self-Perspective for Scientifically Based Interventions,” Positive Psychology in Practice, ed. Linley and S. Joseph (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley), 482–503.

Ibid., 490. Many of Kashdan’s concrete suggestions are discussed further in Peterson and Seligman’s handbook Character Strengths and Virtues, which I highly recommend. Kashdan gives examples such as “Create tasks that capitalize on novelty, complexity, ambiguity, variety, and surprise”; “Provide encouragement and supportive feedback for efforts”; “Emphasize the meaningfulness of activity and efforts.” See note 10 above for information on Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification.

Edward Hirt, PhD, a social psychologist at Indiana University Bloomington, found in his research that there are gender differences in evaluating the lame excuses (self-handicapping) people take for a lack of performance. Women do not believe other people’s excuses and are quick to identify missing motivation. Women tend to apply themselves more in the work place, while men believe more in competence. Edward Hirt, “I Know You Self-Handicapped Last Exam: Gender Differences in Reactions to Self-Handicapping,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Jan. 2003): 177–93.

Evans, Play Like a Man.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (New York: Owl Books, 2001), 195.


The story of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson can be seen in the movie Touching the Void, directed by Kevin Macdonald (2003).

J. Sutton-Hibbert and Y. Simon, Amazing Stories of Survival: Tales of Hope, Heroism & Astounding Luck, (People 2006): 80–81.

In this the article by Nicholas Christakis and Paul Allison, we learn that elderly people have a higher mortality rate when their spouse dies, and also when their spouse is hospitalized. Nicholas A. Christakis and Paul D. Allison, “Mortality after the Hospitalization of a Spouse,” The New England Journal of Medicine 7 (2006): 719–30.

Robert Coombs, who wrote a literature review about marital status and personal well-being, found that 70 percent of chronic problem drinkers were either divorced or separated, and only 15 percent were married. Single men are more than three times as likely to die of cirrhosis of the liver. Robert H. Coombs, “Marital Status and Personal Well-being: A Literature Review,” Family Relations 40 (1991): 97–102.

“Studies indicate that depressive episodes occur twice as frequently in women than in men,” American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (1994), 325. These studies pertain to major depressive episodes. While children of both sexes suffer equally from the less intense form of depression (dysthymic disorder), women suffer two to three times more often from it than men. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 347.

References for this finding are L. Verbrugge and D. Balaban, “Patterns of Change, Disability and Well-Being,” Medical Care 27 (1989): 128–47; I. M. Joung, et al., “Differences in Self-reported Morbidity by Marital status and by Living Arrangement,” International Journal of Epidemiology 23 (1994): 91–97; Coombs, “Marital Status and Personal Well-Being: A Literature Review,” 97–102.

Most of us already know this to be true from experience, but many philosophers and scientists struggle to integrate this phenomenon in their theories. Aristotle and his followers, for example, point out how important friendships are but cannot weave this observation into their theories.

From an evolutionary point of view, other people are important because they help us with our individual goals as well as the goals we have for the family and group. David Buss writes that women want a mate who is able and willing to invest resources in their children, willing and able to physically protect the family, will show good parenting skills, and will be compatible enough in goals and values to enable strategic alignment without inflicting too many costs on the family. David M. Buss, “Human Mating Strategies,” Samfundsøkonomen, 4 (2002): 50. Csikszentmihalyi writes that couples can only be happy when they have common goals as well as interest in each other’s goals in order to facilitate flow. Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, 81.

When one measures purely the quantity of positive feelings in groups of parents that are not identified by backgrounds, research has shown that parenthood does not correlate with happiness. D. G. Myers, The Pursuit of Happiness (New York: Morrow, 1992). Children, however enriching they are to couples who wish to have them, reduce the level of contentment between the parents, especially during pre-toddler times and puberty. Contrary to popular belief, children do not mend relationships, but challenge them. Yet good working relationships should weather the storms well. Also, couples do report that children bring great meaning to their lives. While they might not help the couple feel better with each other, they make the individual happy. Stefan Klein, Die Glücksformel oder Wie die guten Gefühle entstehen (Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003), 168. I hope to see more research done on the subject, particularly research that takes into account variables such as the age of parents, their education, and their expressed wish for parenthood.

Even though Aristotle felt that the active life and the contemplative life were the highest form of happiness, he considered friends an invaluable asset and wrote: “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” (Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, 1155a5). He believed that true friendship includes mutual advantage and pleasure, but above all, love for the same values. Thus, using the terms of his time, he emphasized the growth of the individual within friendship and community.

Diener and Seligman found that the twenty-two students who had rated themselves as “very happy” were significantly more socially active than the study’s control group. The fact that feeling connected was even more important than religion or amount of sleep might be explained by the group’s youth. Young people might not emphasize the need for relaxation. Ed Diener and Martin E. Seligman, “Very Happy People,” Psychological Science 13 (2001): 81–84.

Happiness correlates highly with extroversion, even when people just act extroverted. W. Fleesen, A. B. Malanos, and N. M. Achille, “An Intraindividual Process Approach to the Relationship between Extraversion and Positive Affect: Is Acting Extroverted as ‘Good’ as being Extroverted?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83, 6 (Dec. 2002): 1409–22.

Jean Baker Miller and Irene Pierce Stiver, The Healing Connection: How Women Form Relationships in Therapy and in Life (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), 30.

Factors predicting the subjective well-being of nations in, Ed Diener, Marissa Diener, and Carol Diener, “Factors Predicting the Subjective Well-Being of Nations,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69 (1995): 851–62.

John Barlow experienced something similar in Africa and rejects the Western way of pursuing happiness, citing Chuang-tzu who believed that happiness is the absence of striving for it. John Perry Barlow, “The Pursuit of Emptiness: Why Americans Have Never Been a Happy Bunch,” Forbes, December, 2001,

Daniel Kahneman explains in an interview with Carlin Flora that when people are asked in the very moment of their experience with a friend or family, they report feeling happier with friends because of their full engagement. As we do not pay the same amount of attention to family as we do with friends, family would recede into the background. Carlin Flora, “Happy Hour,” Psychology Today (Jan./Feb. 2005): 42.

Harriet Lerner gives advice on how to make good conversation in her book: Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 239.

John A. Sanford is a highly experienced Jungian analyst and has written many valuable books on relationships, one of which I make reference to: John A. Sanford, Between People: Communicating One-to-One (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1982), 91. This book is particularly good for learning about the “power of creative listening,” “guilt and communication,” and “indirect communication.” It gives practical advice on how to improve one’s communication skills.

Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998).

David M. Buss, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (New York: Basic Books, 2003).

Ibid., 59. Buss states:

The importance that men assign to a woman’s attractiveness has reasons other than her reproductive value. The consequences for a man’s social status are critical. Everyday folklore tells us that our mate is a reflection of ourselves. Men are particularly concerned about status, reputation, and hierarchies because elevated rank has always been an important means of acquiring the resources that make men attractive to women. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that a man will be concerned about the effect that his mate has on his social status—an effect that has consequences for gaining additional resources and mating opportunities.

It is important to understand the biological tendencies. We should not forget, however, that we do have the choice to alter our behavior in a way that promotes both sexes’ happiness. The biological view offers no excuse to behave like animals. I believe that we do have the freedom to either act or not act on these dispositions.

Ibid., 34.

Ibid. Buss points out countless studies that give evidence about the pervasiveness of these dispositions in all cultures: men have a strong tendency to look for beauty; women for resourcefulness. This is true even when women have resources themselves (45). Aging and less attractive men tend to choose very young women when they are in the position to do so. See Donald Trump, etc. (64). Apparently, it is not easy to overcome one’s biology, and many people are not even interested in trying.

The term “aggressively asexual” was coined by professor Dr. Gottfried Lischke, who used to teach at my German alma mater (Freie Universität Berlin). Of all my teachers, he influenced me the most. Not only did he inspire me to write, he also urged me to take biology into account. He taught that we can all rise above our biology with the human powers of humility, awareness, and civility.

Sigmund Freud, The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. J. Strachey (London: Hogarth and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1955).

Buss, The Evolution of Desire, 36.

C. T. Hill, Z. Rubin, and L. A. Peplau, “Breakups Before Marriage: The End of 103 Affairs,” Journal of Social Issues 32 (1976): 147–68. Also, “Successful long-term mating requires a sustained cooperative alliance with another person for mutually beneficial goals. Relationships riddled with conflict impede the attainment of those goals. Compatibility between mates entails a complex mesh between two different kinds of characteristics. One kind involves complementary traits…. The other kinds of traits crucial to compatibility with a mate, however, are those that are most likely to mesh cooperatively with one’s own particular personal characteristics and thus are most similar to one’s own.” (Buss, Evolution of Desire, 35.)

Buss, Evolution of Desire, 263.

Ibid., 264.

From a biological point of view, it makes sense for men, who can sire countless children, to have affairs and resist commitment. I think we also have to take into account that modern women depend less on men’s financial contributions and are also exposed to a diverse group of men in working environments. All these factors make affairs and divorce more likely. Yet, raising children together must have been the preferred strategy in our evolutionary history, as human offspring need intense caretaking for a long period of time. Ibid., 35, 41, 61.

Concerning gender differences, see W. Wood, N. Rhodes, and M. Whelan, “Sex Differences in Positive Well-Being: A Consideration of Emotional Style and Marital Status,” Psychological Bulletin 106 (1989): 249–64. Also, S. Nolen-Hoeksema and C. L. Rusting, “Gender Differences in Well-Being,” Well-Being: The Foundation of Hedonic Psychology eds. D. Kahneman, E. Diener, and N. Schwarz (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000). It is still unclear why women report that they experience more emotions. Sex differences are often caused by biology, but also by socialization, and, most importantly, by an interaction of these highly variable factors. It makes sense to assume that the cognitive act of expressing emotions increases both the intensity of emotions as well as our awareness of them.

Many books on happiness emphasize how futile it is to express negative emotions. Yet millions of people know that crying and even some well-placed anger can help as long as one is cognizant of one’s feelings.

See note 5, chapter 1.

Kashdan, “Curiosity,” Character Strengths and Virtues, 135. To enhance one’s curiosity, the reader should also read chapter 5 in T. B. Kashdan and F. D. Fincham, “Facilitating Curiosity: A Social and Self-Perspective for Scientifically Based Interventions,” Positive Psychology in Practice, eds. P. Linley and S. Joseph, (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004).

R. D. Stolorow, B. Brandchaft, and G. E. Atwood, Psychoanalytic Treatment: An Intersubjective Approach (Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2000).

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote his story The Little Prince in order to teach what is important in life, for example how to love someone. He stresses the significance of really knowing someone: “In those days, I didn’t understand anything. I should have judged her according to her actions, not her words. She perfumed my planet and lit up my life. I should have never have run away. I ought to have realized the tenderness underlying her silly pretensions. Flowers are so contradictory. But I was too young to know how to love her.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince (New York: Harcourt, 2000), 24ff.

Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, and also Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 108.

Diener and Seligman, “Very Happy People,” 81–84.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (New York: Anchor Books, 1991), 206.

The imperfections we should be willing to accept are not, however, abuse (including deceitfulness) or severe and chronic neglect. These should all be considered “deal breakers” in the interest of our happiness.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was raised to be a spiritual leader but, remarkably, rejected this predetermined role. Instead, he became an independent writer and encouraged people to think for themselves.

Buss, The Evolution of Desire, 42.

Sometimes, however, breaking our commitment will increase our happiness. Also see note 41.

Miller and Stiver, The Healing Connection, 81.

In The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm says: “The idea expressed in the Biblical ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ implies that respect for one’s own integrity and uniqueness, love for and understanding of one’s own self, cannot be separated from respect and love and understanding for another individual. The love for my own self is inseparably connected with the love for any other being.” Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (New York: Perennial Classics, 1956), 54.


Kashdan, et al., “Curiosity” Character Strengths and Virtues, 485.

Our experiences include our context, which means that we are connected with the entire surrounding world as well. To realize that we are part of something so big as total reality gives us the deepest form of confidence. This will be further discussed in part 3.

Nathaniel Branden lists the following as the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: the practice of living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity. Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (New York: Bantam Books, 1994), 118–19.

Ibid., 119.

Due to the “contrast effect,” we quickly change our perception of just about everything. For example, when a man rates his wife immediately after having looked at a pin-up girl, he rates his wife as less attractive than he would ordinarily do. D. T. Kenrick, S. E. Gutierres, and L. Goldberg “Influence of Erotica on Ratings of Strangers and Mates,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 25 (1989): 159–67. Also, D. T. Kenrick, S. L. Neuberg, K. L. Kierk, and J. M. Krones, “Evolution and Social Cognition: Contrast Effects as a Function of Sex, Dominance, and Physical Attractiveness,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 202 (1994): 210–17.

See “charming” study by H. S. Friedman, R. E. Riggio, and D. F. Casella, “Nonverbal Skill, Personal Charisma, and Initial Attraction,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 14, No. 1 (1988): 284–90.

A. Demarais and V. White, First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You (New York: Bantam Books, 2004).

Concerning forgiving ourselves for alleged flaws, see study by T. Gilowich, V. H. Medvec, and K. Savitsky in which participants were asked to wear an embarrassing T-shirt and meet a room full of strangers. They consistently overestimated the amount of people who remembered the image. T. Gilowich, V. H. Medvec, and K. Savitsky, “The Spotlight Effect in Social Judgment: An Egocentric Bias in Estimates of the Salience of One’s Own Actions and Appearance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78, No. 2 (2000): 211–22.

Carlin Flora, “The Beguiling Truth About Beauty,” Psychology Today (May/June 2006): 62.

The term “self-efficacy” is used in social psychology. More about this concept in Albert Bandura, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” Psychological Review 84 (1977): 191–215. Also see Albert Bandura, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control (New York: Freeman, 1997).

J. J. Bauer and G. A. Bonanno, “I Can, I Do, I Am: The Narrative Differentiation of Self-Efficacy and Other Self-Evaluations While Adapting to Bereavement,” Journal of Research in Personality 35 (2001): 424–48.

Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—and It’s All Small Stuff. (New York: Hyperion, 1997).

Buddha is known to have said:

Therefore, Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as refuge. Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves. And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone besides themselves—it is they who shall reach to the very topmost Height. But they must be anxious to learn.

Jack Kornfield, Teachings of the Buddha (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), 125.

Branden, Six Pillars, 307.

Ibid., 308.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche: The Anti-Christ, Ecce hom*o, Twilight of the Idols and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 154.

The concept of “learned helplessness,” passivity, and depression is discussed in the following literature: C. Peterson, S. Maier, and M. E. P. Seligman, Learned Helplessness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); M. E. P. Seligman, Learned Optimism (New York: Knopf, 1991).

Harold Kushner made an important contribution in how to relate to God when one suffers tragedy. Instead of feeling punished by God, he stresses that some bad things happen in spite of God, not because of God. In Eastern traditions, God, or the One, is often seen as both “the good” and “the bad”; not as an entity that rewards or punishes, but as the All that entails everything. Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Anchor Books, 2004).

Jesus is known to have preached about the right kind of living. Talking about God, boasting, and showing off one’s righteousness may lead away from God. Instead, doing the right thing without profiting directly from it leads to God. This, however, does not mean that one ought to hide one’s (moral) strength either. One can inspire other people, including oneself, if one is cognizant of one’s strength, and lets it shine through. Subsequently inspiration can lead to the celebration of goodness as it runs through our blood, or, as Jesus understood it, as it is embodied in our Father God. Jesus said: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14–16 (AV). (Italics added by this author.)

Dennis Lewis, Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help Your Life More Fully (Boston: Shambhala, 2004).

The song “Sound the Bugle” by Gavin Greenaway, Trevor Horn, 2002. Sung in the movie Spirit.

Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life (Bantam Books: New York, 1993). Also, Jack Kornfield, Meditation for Beginners: A Complete Video Instruction to the Inner Art of Meditation. Sounds True, 1996.

Bauer and Bonanno, “I Can, I Do, I Am,” 424–48.

J. J. Bauer and G. A. Bonanno, “Doing and Being Well (For The Most Part): Adaptive Patterns of Narrative Self-Evaluation During Bereavement,” Journal of Personality 69 (2001): 451–82.

Bauer and Bonanno, “I Can, I Do, I Am,” 442.

While Germans are much more subjected to nudity, p*rnography, and prostitution, their sexual activities may be declining. One explanation may be that the German population is aging, just as in the United States. A. Mazur, U. Mueller, W. Krause, and A. Booth, “Causes of Sexual Decline in Aging Married Men: Germany and America,” International Journal of Impotence Research 14 (2002): 101–106. On the other hand, even younger Germans may become increasingly reluctant to engage in sexual intercourse with their long-term partners. According to the psychologists of the Georg-August-Universität, Germany, Peter Breuer and Ragnar Beer, 17 percent of all couples (13,483 young and older men and women) have sex less than once a month, 57 percent have sex once a week. While Ragnar Beer informed me personally that the poll the researchers took was about decreasing sexual pleasure over time in long-term relationships, there might be truth to the public perception that Germans suffer from more and more “unlust.” Peter Breuer and Ragnar Beer. “Unlust,” Rheinische Post, November 28, 2005, Germany.

Concerning Western self-massage see Kristine Kaoverii Weber, Healing Self-Massage: Over 100 Simple Techniques for Reenergizing Body and Mind (New York: Collins & Brown, 2005). Concerning Eastern, Taoist self-massage see Mantak Chia, Chi Self-Massage: The Taoist Way of Rejuvenation (New York: Destiny Books, 2006).

William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, Human Sexual Response (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1966).

A. T. Beck, A. J. Rush, B. F. Shaw, and G. Emery, Cognitive Therapy of Depression (New York: Guildford Press, 1979).

Burns uses parts of Aaron Beck’s cognitive theory. David Burns, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated (New York: Harper, 1999), 71.

According to Klaus Linde, et al.’s study on 302 people who suffered from migraine headaches and who were treated with acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or waited as a control group: “Acupuncture was no more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing migraine headaches although both interventions were more effective than a waiting list control.” As Klaus Linde explained in a personal e-mail, this result may be due to the focused attention by: (1) a caring other; (2) unspecific physiological effects of needling; and (3) high positive expectations. K. Linde, et al., “Acupuncture for Patients with Migraine,” The Journal of the American Medical Association 293, no.17. (2005): 2118–25.

Erma Bombeck (1927–96) worked as a journalist before her first child was born. Eleven years later, she began a humor column that was syndicated in two hundred newspapers by 1968, and in more than eight hundred by the late 1970s.

Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (New York: Bantam, 2005).

Daniel Siegel, MD, and Mary Hartzell, MEd, have described successful interactions with children that lead to neural integration. “Integration is the linking together of separate components of a larger system. Neural integration is how neurons connect the activity of one region of the brain and body to other regions…. We feel that our minds exist in that of the other person. This can be seen as the integration of the activity of two brains: neural integration, interpersonal style.” Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell, Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive (New York: Penguin, 2003), 77–78. In my example, I refer to the integration of the left and right hemisphere of the brain.

Compare Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 134–61. You may want to take Martin Seligman’s questionnaire to identify your signature strength:

Howard Gardner proposes that the various intelligences can be treated like discrete categories even though it may turn out that they are interrelated. The Harvard University professor thinks that if we recognize that there are different types of intelligences “we will have at least a better chance of dealing appropriately with the many problems that we face in the world.” Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 24.

Dr. Mark Cheng granted me an interview and wrote this as part of an e-mail to me. He explains that the sort of discipline that allows for certainty requires awareness of one’s moral/ethical standards and of the challenges that one may encounter. He further explains that one can only arrive at such discipline with instruction, meditation, experience, and “stress-proven systems of thought.” Dr. Cheng is the director of the Chung-Hua Institute in Santa Monica, California.

About sex-appeal and making a first impression, see S. Paulsell and M. Goldman, “The Effect of Touching Different Body Areas on Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Social Study 122 (1984): 269–73. For the effect of touching different body areas on prosocial behavior see J. D. Fisher, M. Rytting, and R. Heslin, “Hands Touching Hands: Affective and Evaluative Effects of Interpersonal Touch,” Sociometry 39 (1975): 416–21.

In regard to optimism and marriages see Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 201ff. Also F. Fincham and T. Bradbury, “The Impact of Attributions in Marriage: A Longitudinal Analysis” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53, (1987): 510–17. Optimism is actually a pervasive bias when most people make predictions. David A. Armor and Shelley E. Taylor explain that optimism works even though it may not lead to accurate predictions because we are (1) not indiscriminately optimistic, (2) motivated to live up to positive predictions, and (3) because we can escape disappointment by optimistically reinterpreting the situation. D. A. Armor and S. E. Taylor, “When Predictions Fail: The Dilemma of Unrealistic Optimism,” Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, eds. Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin, & Daniel Kahneman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 334–47.

One can find such exercises in Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), chapter 12.

A. Twersky and D. Kahneman have found in their research that when we can imagine something, we are likely to overestimate the likelihood of its occurrence. While we ought to understand that this may lead to unfounded optimism, we can employ this distortion to our benefit by deriving motivation from our mental image during times that we need it the most. A. Twersky and D. and Kahneman, “Availability: A Heuristic for Judgment Frequency and Probability,” Cognitive Psychology 5 (1973): 207–32.

Mental imagery activates corresponding brain regions. See K. O’Craven and M. Kanwisher, “Mental Imagery of Faces and Places Activates Stimulus-Specific Brain Regions,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 12 (2000): 1013–23. In fact the brain does not distinguish between what it sees in reality and what is imagined.

The joy of anticipation can even be found without complicated mental images in primates, as brain researchers Wolfram Schultz et al. realized when their monkeys’ dopamine neurons fired in expectation of getting fed. Humans have the same underlying basic neural feedback system when they expect a reward, even though we are the only animal that has the ability to project into the future what has yet to be experienced the first time. W. Schultz, P. Apicella and T. Ljungberg, “Responses of Monkey Dopamine Neurons During Learning of Behavioral Reactions,” Journal of Neurophysiology 67 (1992): 145–63. Also: W. Schultz, P. Apicella and T. Ljungberg, “Responses of Monkey Dopamine Neurons to Reward and Conditioned Stimuli During Steps of Learning a Delayed Response Task,” Journal of Neurophysiology 13, no. 3 (1993): 900–913.

Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906–89), in which two tramps are waiting for the arrival of Godot, who never comes. Without their hope of meeting Godot (which may stand for God or anything we place our hopes on), they are stripped of purpose and energy. Yet with their hope intact, the two are inactive and reminiscent.

Daniel Gilbert points out in his excellent book the fact that projecting into the future in great detail without yet having had the actual experience is a relatively newly acquired tool in evolutionary history and specific to hom*o sapiens. We have the ability to plan (and be anxious about) the future due to our frontal lobe. “We think about the future in a way that no other animal can, does, or ever has, and this simple, ubiquitous, ordinary act is a defining feature of our humanity.” Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness: Think You Know What Makes You Happy? (New York: Knopf, 2006), 4.

Covey, Seven Habits, 47.

See the movie Touching the Void.

Esther “Eppie” Pauline Friedman Lederer, better known as Ann Landers (1918–2002), is best known for writing an advice column for forty-five years.

A. Arntz, M. Van Eck, and P. J. de Jong have found that the group of volunteers that received twenty foreseeable high-intensity electric shocks coped better than the group that received only three, but unforeseeable jolts. The group left in the dark reported more fear, sweated more profusely, and had higher heart rates. The more we know about our future setbacks, that is their likely occurrence, the more control we experience. A. Arntz, M. Van Eck, and P. J. de Jong, “Unpredictable Sudden Increases in Intensity of Pain and Acquired Fear,” Journal of Psychophysiology 6 (1992): 54–64.

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown, 2008), 246.

Epictetus was born approximately two thousand years ago. He was a slave in the Roman Empire, but then became a famous philosopher. Surely he understood the value of ambition and the rest of the tools discussed in this book. However, he never lost sight of his priorities. His manual on virtue, happiness, and effectiveness, The Art of Living, which is still in print, pays tribute to that. Sharon Lebell, Epictetus, The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).

Part 3



The United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Biodiversity Assessment estimates that only 1.75 million species have been described so far, of which over half are insects, including 300,000 beetles. Global Biodiversity Assessment, ed. V. H. Heywood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). See also

These estimated statistics about the universe can be found in Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell (New York: Bantam Books, 2001), 168.

The Earth weighs about 6,585,600,000,000,000,000,000 tons.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), who must have anticipated the upsetting consequences of his findings, released them only at the very end of his life. David Bergamini, The Universe (Life Nature Library) (Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1987), 14ff.

Walter Kaufmann, Goethe’s Faust (New York: Anchor Books, 1962), 491.

Stephen Hawking explains that the Big Bang is a “singularity,” which is “a point in spacetime at which the spacetime curvature becomes infinite.” Everything was scrunched up into a single point of infinite density. At such a point—according to the singularity theorem—“general relativity breaks down.” There was no “time,” and our known laws of physics did not apply. One million years after the Big Bang, matter connected to form the first stars. Billions of years later, stars burned up, and helium and heavier elements—which we are made of, such as carbon and oxygen—came about. Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell (New York: Bantam, 2001), 78ff. Even though nothing is known about this time, I ought to mention theoretical possibilities described by Hawking later in the same book. In the beginning, the universe was very small, which means that there were only a small number of rolls of the dice. “Because the universe keeps on rolling the dice to see what happens next, it does not have just a single history, as one might have thought. Instead, the universe must have every possible history, each with its own probability.” We would have to find out how the histories started to predict how the universe developed. The histories of the universe (in imaginary time, which is an abstract mathematical construction) “can be thought of as curved surfaces, like a ball, a plane, or a saddle shape, but with four dimensions instead of two … If the histories of the universe in imaginary time are indeed closed surfaces, as Hartle and I proposed, it would have fundamental implications for philosophy and our picture of where we came from. The universe would be entirely self-contained; it wouldn’t need anything outside … the vast universe can be understood in terms of its history in imaginary time, which is a tiny, slightly flattened sphere.” (ibid, 80–81).

Mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme has recognized the importance of continuing the old tradition of telling stories about the universe, stories that we can relate to. While supported by science, he hopes to evoke real experiences about and with the universe, so that we understand better what role we play in its vast ever-expansiveness. See Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story (New York: Orbis Books, 1996) and also Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story from the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era: A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Universe (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).

Hoimer von Ditfurth wrote a wonderful book called In the Beginning There Was Hydrogen (my translation). Hydrogen is the gas from which everything else developed. Hoimer von Difurth Im Anfang war der Wasserstoff (Muechen: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1997).

Brian Swimme’s website, accessed September 26, 2011,

Hawking gives this definition of vacuum energy: “Energy that is present even in apparently empty space. It has the curious property that unlike the presence of mass, the presence of vacuum energy would cause the expansion of the universe to speed up.” Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, 208.

Swimme, Hidden Heart, 97.

See Heisenberg’s uncertainty paper, 1927. I found the information on According to physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa. For example, electrons around the atomic nucleus have a position but are also standing waves that fit in the atom. When we measure the position, we cannot predict the wave and vice versa.

Stephen Hawking writes that Max Planck suggested in 1900 that light always comes in little packets called “quanta.” When we observe a particle/wave by shooting low- or high-energy photons (that is low- or high-frequency wavelengths) at it, we get either uncertain information about its velocity or its position (Hawking, Universe in a Nutshell, 42). Later in the same book, he defines the quantum, “Quantum (plural quanta): The indivisible unit in which waves may be absorbed or emitted,” (ibid., 206).

However, nature’s ability to bounce back has its limits. When we disturb the natural balance too much, the ecosystem may not recover. In these cases, there can hardly be any comfort in the eventual results of the destruction. If we humans continue to destroy the natural balance, we also continue destroying many species, of which, one day, we may be one. Also, I worry along with the Chinese Taoist Chuang Tzu, “I know about letting the world alone, not interfering. I do not know about running things. Letting things alone: so that men will not blow their nature out of shape! Not interfering, so that men will not be changed into something they are not! When men do not get twisted and maimed beyond recognition, when they are allowed to live—the purpose of government is achieved.” Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu Chuang, 70.

Ditfurth writes the following about the development of the universe: “Intelligence does not exist because nature was capable of creating brains that produced the phenomenon of intelligence in the end of a long developmental chain … Nature has not merely created life, but also brains and our consciousness because it already had sense, imagination, and direction from the first moment of existence. The main point is that principles were at work that already reign in the inorganic world.” Difurth, Im Anfang war der Wasserstoff, 11–12. Later in the same book, Ditfurth characterizes the entire evolution of the universe as the outcome of the two principles: “The first was the principle of connection … to ever more complex, higher levels. The second was the principle of expansion, which led to more independence from the environment the element disconnected from.” (ibid., 341) (my translation from German).

Swimme, Hidden Heart, 97.

Stephen Cross writes: “For most schools of Hinduism … moksha is release from the individual condition itself: the release of consciousness from the limiting forms in which it is enclosed, as the relative nature of these is experienced. Thus moksha is not a deprivation but an expansion of consciousness beyond the bounds of individuality. It is essentially positive—not, as the Buddhist nirvana is often and perhaps incorrectly represented as being, simply the ending of sorrow.” Stephen Cross, Way of Hinduism (London: HarperCollins, 1994), 127.

To remind the reader, “nonactive” is not synonymous with “inactive.” While being active, we can be focused in the moment, not on a future goal, and we can be aware of how activity is happening, as opposed to our individual effort.


The parietal lobe is part the cerebral cortex of our brain that contains the orientation association area, which receives, among other things, input from the visual receiving areas. It is crucial for integrating visual, auditory, and somaesthetic information, which, according to many researchers including Rhawn Joseph, enables us to differentiate between objects within and beyond our grasp: “It seems likely that the ‘self-other’ or the ‘self-world’ distinction that philosophers and theologians have discussed throughout the ages may be a function of the left orientation association that evolved from its more primitive ability to divide objects in space into the graspable and the nongraspable.” (D’Aquili and Newberg, Mystical Mind, 34).

Many authors who write about Eastern thought judge the analytical human experience negatively. I believe that if we desired to integrate Eastern into Western thought, we ought to maintain our respect for the analytical perception that is praised so much in Western thought. The fact that we can scan the world and make it more manageable is a wonderful, natural accomplishment.

The frontal lobe of our brain contains the attention association area, which is connected with our limbic system (which modulates emotions) in the mid-brain. The frontal lobe is involved in impulse control, judgment, language, memory, motor function, problem solving, sexual behavior, socialization, and spontaneity, and it assists in planning, coordinating, controlling, and executing behavior (see also Without it, as Gilbert points out, we could not look into the future, which would rob us of an exclusively human attribute. See Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness, 12. Yet when we activate the attention association area, we can also focus on the present moment and enhance our experience of the life that takes place. The orientation association area is heavily interconnected with the attention association area, which is the reason that paying attention has an effect on our space and time experience. Both the orientation and the attention association areas are involved in what D’Aquili and Newberg call “a sense of ‘egocentric spatial organization’ or how things are spatially oriented to ourselves.” D’Aquili and Newberg, Mystical Mind, 35.

Positive thinking has become a buzzword in popular culture, self-help books, and in cognitive psychology. The frenzy is based on the verifiable experience that focusing on positive thoughts with great discipline—as exemplified by Tibetan Buddhists—can generate positive emotions. This is due to the strong neural connections between the various parts of the brain, i.e., the attention association area and the limbic system (see note 3). Yet negative thinking can be very important to our overall being as well, as Paul Pearsall points out in his self-help book The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer and Throttle Your Inner Child (New York: Basic Books, 2005). For example, hopelessness may be adequate to our situation, while self-imposed optimism may put unnecessary pressure on people. Instead of being optimistic, Pearsall suggests, we are better off surrendering, and acceptance may be best for us (ibid., 43). Negative experiences may also help us face situations, be honest with ourselves, and be heard and helped by others (ibid., 44). According to Pearsall, blaming others occasionally and effectively may also end bad situations (ibid., 55).

Russell Freedman, Confucius: The Golden Rule (New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002), Author’s Note.

Bob Altemeyer, “Why Do Religious Fundamentalists Tend to Be Prejudiced?” International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 13, no. 1 (2003): 17–28. B. Hunsberger, and L. M. Jackson, “Religion, Meaning, and Prejudice,” Journal of Social Issues 61:4 (2005): 807. B. Duriez, “A Research Note on The Relation Between Religiosity and Racism: The Importance of the Way in Which Religious Contents Are Being Processed,” International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 14, no. 3 (2004): 177–91.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher who freed himself from the thinking of his time of which he had felt himself a captive. In retrospect, he described the three stages he underwent: (1) belief in cultural innovation, (2) annihilation of tradition and Christian values (“God is dead” even though humans are in need of believing in God), and (3) acceptance of the world in which all strive to power, and hope that the ones who do adhere to values and show compassion. Nietzsche was one of the most tragic figures of German culture. In an attempt to free himself, he was brutally honest with himself and others. While he was a very fragile person with overflowing compassion, his thoughts offended everyone: Jews, Christians, women, fellow philosophers, friends, and potential mates. While he suffered many emotional problems, his cognitive rigidity and inability to receive comfort from the world (as opposed to his own thinking) are most striking to me. While I admire his commitment to what he deemed the truth, I pity him for thinking that he had found it. In the end, it was his certainty that invited the Third Reich to use and abuse his philosophy. A greater punishment for his rigidity is hardly conceivable. Nietzsche’s autobiographical statements are summarized in Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce hom*o: How One Becomes What One Is (New York: Oxford University Press, 1887). Some paragraphs start with headlines such as these: “Why I am so intelligent,” “Why I am so wise,” “Why I write such good books.” The aphorisms throughout his writing are all written with forceful conviction. In the story of Zarathustra, a prophet-like young man meets an old holy man in the forest. The latter invites the younger to join his holy path. The younger one declines, and bewildered, thinks to himself that the old man had not yet received the news of God’s death. “God is dead” has become the saying for which Nietzsche is famous. He rejected the values we attach to God because they led to childish hypocrisy. The values Nietzsche (Zarathustra) proposed were based on insight into human nature and an attempt to replace the God-given values that can no longer work for modern men and women. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (Calgary: Theophania Publishing, 2011).

This quote is found at the end of the highly entertaining book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, founder of the objectivist philosophy. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Penguin, 1985), About the Author.

Watts interprets the Tao as “the flowing course of nature and the universe.” Watts and Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way, 49.

Merton reminds us that we cannot be certain about the existence of Lao-tzu, who allegedly wrote the Tao Te Ching, yet we can be certain about the historical existence of the “greatest of the Taoist writers.” Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu Chuang, 15.

Merton writes: “The Tao of Ju philosophy is, in the words of Confucius, ‘threading together into one the desires of the self and the desires of the other.’” (Ibid., 21)

T. R. Reid spent some years living in the East and discovered many similarities between our systems of values: “What the Asians have learned from Confucius and other great teachers of the Eastern traditions is essentially the same as what Americans and Europeans have learned from Socrates and the Judeo-Christian teachers of Western traditions. The basic precepts are the same.” T. R. Reid, What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West (New York: Vintage, 1999), 241.

Merton distinguishes between two kinds of understanding of the Tao. The first is more conventional and was freely used by Confucius. It is an “ethical Tao” or the “Tao of man,” the manifestation in act of a principle of love and justice.” Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, 21. Later in the same book, Merton writes that while the way the legendary founder of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, Lao-tzu, as well as its greatest spokesman, Chuang Tzu, understood the Tao is not bound to human convention. It is the “Tao of Heaven,” (ibid., 21) the indefinable way or essence of nature that we cannot be separated from as we could from an object or objective, but that we can realize when our minds are receptive to the experience.

Alan W. Watts, The Way of Zen (New York: Vintage, 1985).

From Merton we learn that Confucius’s favorite student, Yen Hui, wants to leave his master to go to Wei in order to convert the Prince of Wei to more ethical governing. Confucius discourages him from leaving because Yen Hui was not able to be one of them, but would have come as a superior stranger trying to “break in the door.” Having inner unity and peace is a necessary prerequisite for connecting with people and stands thus before knowledge. Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, 50–53.

See Michael Shermer, The Science of Good & Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule (New York: Times Books, 2004), 260–62.

Ibid., 260–62.

World Database of Happiness, accessed October 18, 2011,

Daniel Garberl, Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

This quote continues: “and the intellect will wear itself out…. The idea is not to reduce the human mind to a moronic vacuity, but to bring into play its innate and spontaneous intelligence by using it without forcing it.” Watts, The Way of Zen, 19–21).

Cross writes, “Shankara is concerned with removing the ignorance of our own nature which keeps us bound to the phenomenal world; with clearing away the self-imposed obstacles which stand between us and an immediate apprehension of our own innermost reality…. For this school of thought [Vedanta], it is not so much more faith in gods which is required, but more skepticism about the reality of the world and of the individual self which experiences it.” Cross, Way of Hinduism, 60. Vedanta “can mean both the Upanisads and systems of Upanisadic philosophy and theology. The Upanisads were the last portion of the Veda (in the wider sense) and, according to Vedantins, constitute the core purpose of the Veda, because they teach final emancipation from the cycle of birth and death.” Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Oxford: Oneworld Publication, 1998), 200.

“The Great Tao is universal like a flood. How can it be turned to the right or to the left? All creatures depend on it, and it denies nothing to anyone. It does its work, but it does no claims for itself. It clothes and feeds all, but it does not lord it over them: Thus it may be called ‘The Little.’ All things return to it as their home, but it does not lord it over them: Thus it may be called the ‘Great.’ It is just that it does not wish to be great that its greatness is fully realized.” Wu, Tao Teh Ching, no. 34.

Ibid., no. 20.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 84ff.

Ibid., 87.

Stephen Batchelor, The Faith to Doubt: Glimpses of Buddhist Uncertainty (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990), 16.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 107. In the same book, Watts writes that the word “koan” comes from the word kung-an, which means “public document” or “case.” “The student is expected to show that he has experienced the meaning of the koan by a specific and usually nonverbal demonstration which he has to discover intuitively.” Examples of koans are “Everybody has a place of birth. Where is your place of birth?” “How is my hand the Buddha’s hand?” “How is my foot like a donkey’s foot?” (ibid., 105).

Ibid., 106.

Ibid., 107.

Eckhart Tolle made Eastern ways accessible to Westerners. He writes, “The fact is that, in a very similar way, virtually everyone hears a voice, or several voices, in their head all the time: the involuntary thought process that you don’t realize you have the power to stop. Continuous monologues or dialogues…. Sometimes this soundtrack is accompanied by visual images or ‘mental movies.’” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (New York: New World Library, 1999), 14.

D’Aquili and Newberg, Mystical Mind, 95.

Williges Jaeger is both a Christian priest as well as a Zen master; he originated a meditation center in Würzburg, Germany. He describes the Western traditions of turning inward, becoming peaceful and fulfilled. Williges Jaeger, Kontemplation: Gott Begegnen—Heute (Freiburg in Breisgau: Herder, 2002), 18.

Kornfield, A Path with Heart, 35.

This quote is from the Gospel of Thomas (known as “doubting Thomas”), which is a list of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus and discovered only in 1945 in Egypt: “When will the kingdom of God come?” “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.” Stephen J. Patterson, Hans-Gebhard Bethge, and James M. Robinson, Fifth Gospel: The Gospel of Thomas Comes of Age (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1998), 32.

Huai-jang (d. 775 CE) was the immediate disciple of the sixth and last Chinese Zen patriarch, Hui-neng (637–713 CE). He emphasized that enlightenment cannot be attained, but must come to us: “To train yourself in sitting meditation is to train yourself to be a sitting Buddha. If you train yourself in za-zen, (you should know that) Zen is neither sitting nor lying. If you train yourself to be a sitting Buddha, (you should know that) the Buddha is not a fixed form. Since the Dharma has no (fixed) abode, it is not a matter of making choices. If you (make yourself) a sitting Buddha this is precisely killing the Buddha. If you adhere to the sitting position, you will not attain the principle (of Zen).” Watts, The Way of Zen, 110.

Gratitude researchers have found—in their two-week research study—that if a group of people writes down what they are grateful for on a daily basis, they significantly increase their joy, happiness, and life satisfaction levels. M. E. McCullough, S. Kilpatrick, R. A. Emmons, and D. Larson, “Gratitude as Moral Affect,” Psychological Bulletin 127 (2001): 249–66. Also, Robert A. Emmons, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007).

Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 75.

Wu, Tao Teh Ching, no. 54.

Dorothy Thompson (1894–1961).


Here, I am alluding to a story from the Vimalakirti Sutra, a text that had significant influence on Zen Buddhism in China. In this text, we learn from a layman named Vimalakirti, who surpassed all other disciples of Buddha. When asked about the nature of the nondual reality, his reply was: “thunderingly silence.” Watts, The Way of Zen, 81. According to Takakusu, just as the Indian monk Bodhidharma who came to China demonstrated with his gazing at a wall, the saintly layman of Vaisali, Vimalakirti, showed that one can attain perfect enlightenment without appealing to words or order. Via silence one can gain instant access to one’s natural insight in the “nondual” reality. Junjiro Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1998), 120ff. Also, Charles Luc, Ordinary Enlightenment: A Translation of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra (Boston: Shambhala, 2002).

Genesis 3:19 (AV). The Western worldview is greatly influenced by the understanding that human nature is bad or imperfect as exemplified by the Bible’s story about Adam and Eve’s original sin. (Muslims and Jews do not believe in original sin, but both world religions point to ways to make humans perfect or more worthy.) Despite God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so the story goes, Adam and Eve could not resist temptation. Not knowing the distinction between “good” and “bad” was a peaceful paradise, and knowing the distinction ended Adam and Eve’s carefree existence once and for all. As a consequence, suffering was put upon the couple and all human beings. While Buddhists believe that we can enter a non-distinctive state of mind, our Buddha-nature, much of the Western world tends to believe in God’s eternal punishment. A return to innocence is not possible according to pervasive Western beliefs. “So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Gen 3:24 (AV).

R. Kubey and M. Csikszentmihalyi, Television and the Quality of Life (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1990).

Stefan Klein, Die Glücksformel oder Wie die guten Gefuehle entstehen (Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003).

J. Veroff, E. Douvan, and R. A. Kulka, The Inner American (New York: Basic Books, 1981). Also, John P. Robinson, How Americans Use Time (New York: Praeger, 1977).

Dr. Lin Yutang was a Chinese-American writer, translator, and editor. He lived predominately in the United States, where he was educated at Harvard University. Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living (Baltimore: Patterson Press, 2008), 155.

Melody Beattie is the author of several popular self-help books on codependency. The cluster of symptoms described by the author has never made it into the DSM, which is the main manual used to classify psychological disorders. Nevertheless, thousands of people can identify with codependency, as one can conclude from the overwhelming responses and the many self-help groups that originated based on the ideas expressed in Beattie’s books. Beattie has been harshly criticized for preaching self-care, because caring for others would be healthy, fulfilling, and the “moral” thing to do. Codependency, however, describes a compulsion, not the healthy behavior of giving. No compulsion can be seen as good, because it robs us of a healthy choice and a balanced life. It may be interesting to examine whether the criticism rests on either the fear of discouraging giving under any circ*mstances as we have too little in this world, or the fear of losing the predominate female group who gives without asking anything back in turn. Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (New York: HarperCollins, 1987).

Csikszentmihalyi was aware of the possibility of becoming addicted to flow. He writes,

Almost any enjoyable activity can become addictive. Instead of being a conscious choice, it can become a necessity that interferes with other activities. Surgeons, for instance, describe operations as being addictive, like ‘taking heroin.’ Thus enjoyable activities that produce flow have a potentially negative aspect: while they are capable of improving the quality of existence by creating order in the mind, they can become addictive, at which point the self becomes captive of a certain kind of order, and is then unwilling to cope with the ambiguities of life.

Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, 62.

The last line of the poem “Leisure of William Henry Davies” goes as follows: “A poor life this if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.” Helen Ferris Tibbets, Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls (New York: Doubleday, 1957), 78.

Yutang, The Importance of Living, 154.

See chapter 2, “Physical Preparation,” “Mental Preparation.” in Robert Thurman, Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well (New York: Riverhead Books, 2004).

Karen Kingston, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (New York: Broadway, 1999).

Thurman, Infinite Life, 87.

Kornfield, Teachings of the Buddha, xxxi.

Ibid., 28ff. All following quotes regarding the Four Noble Truth are from Jack Kornfield, Teachings of the Buddha.

Watts points out that the way we usually live life is in suffering because we tend to frustrate ourselves by fighting the present as a passing moment and by suppressing our spontaneity. See Watts, The Way of Zen, 46.

See note 15.

Burns, a cognitive therapist, explains that anxiety and depression are caused by cognitive distortions, as opposed to realistic thoughts. Burns also warns against positive distortions, because they cause us to make wrong decisions in our life. David D. Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook (New York: Plume, 1999), 27. Later in the same book, Burns points out that appropriate negative feelings are very important and natural: “Sometimes it’s best just to accept bad feelings and pamper yourself and ride things out until the clouds pass and you feel better again.” Ibid., 30.

Daniel Goleman’s best-selling, widely accepted, and debated book Emotional Intelligence is really a cultural phenomenon.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who has helped to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War, for which he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He exemplifies humble humanity and peace. He wrote numerous introductory books on Buddhist meditation and mindfulness.

Bynner, The Way of Life, no. 15.

Martine Batchelor, Meditation for Life (Boston: Wisdom Publication, 2001), 52.

Monica Furlong writes that Watts was suffering from an enlarged liver due to drinking. His doctor warned him to stop drinking, which—much to the relief of family and friends—he temporarily did. When he was noticed to resume drinking during a party, he explained: “If I don’t drink, I don’t feel sexy.” Especially in small groups he seemed to have felt shy and inhibited. Monica Furlong, Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986), 189.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1958), 21.

It is the highest goal in Islam to be close to God (the Muslim name being Allah). Usually, this is accomplished through the five pillars of Islam: (1) faith in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Mohammad, (2) establishment of five daily prayers, (3) concern for and almsgiving to the needy, (4) self-purification through fasting (Ramadan), and (5) pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able. The Sufis go further in their attempt to become united with God, including additional devotional prayers, night vigils, and fasts. A divine utterance which are words directly from God, says that the devotee might eventually become so loved by God that God would become his eyes, ears, hands, and feet. Mohammed M. Ayoub, Islam: Faith and History (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004), 155. In another book about Islam, we learn that the Sufi’s understanding of true reality is recognizing God. Such a metaphysical knowledge or “spiritual realization,” is the removal of the veils that separate man from God and from the full reality of his own true nature. It is the means of actualizing the full potentialities of the human state. J. L. Michon, J. L. and R. Gaetani, Sufism: Love & Wisdom (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2006), 22.

D’Aquili and Newberg, Mystical Mind.

Batchelor, The Faith to Doubt, 78.

Bynner, The Way of Life, no. 15.

Carol D. Ryff and Burton Singer, “Flourishing Under Fire: Resilience as a Prototype of Challenged Thriving,” Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived, eds. Corey L. M. Keyes and Jonathan Haidt (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2003), 15ff; Elaine Wethington, “Turning Points as Opportunities for Psychological Growth,” Flourishing, 37ff; Christopher Peterson and Edward Chang “Optimism and Flourishing,” Flourishing, 55ff. All of these authors write about rising to life’s challenges.

The poem by Kobayashi Issa that I am referring to is: “world over Hell viewing spring blossoms.” David G. Lanoue, Issa: Cup of Tea Poems (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 2001), 19.

Issa wrote this haiku (short, Japanese poems of seventeen syllables) upon the death of his child; it transmits the sorrow over the transience of the world. It can be found in R. H. Blyth’s translation of Kobayashi Issa, A Fly and I: Haiku (New York: Random House, 1969).

As recommended by the Chinese Zen master Yün-men Wen-yen (d. 949 CE): “In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.” Watts, The Way of Zen, 135.

Lewis Mackenzie, Autumn Wind Haiku: Selected Poems by Kobayashi Issa (Tokyo: Kodensha, 1999), 5.

Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha (New York: Vintage, 1997), 206.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) brought the concept of the unconscious to life, which is why he is the most influential personality in psychology. Yet his understanding was very different from a modern understanding. He believed that the unconscious mind keeps us away from unbearable psycho-sexual conflicts caused by our biological drives clashing with reality. Freud believed that we are determined by our biological drives. He did not accept Carl Gustav Jung’s (1887–1961) theory that human beings are more accurately characterized by their desire for self-fulfillment than by their biological drives. Freud also did not accept Jung’s notion of a collective unconscious. This would be the part of the unconscious that all humans have in common, because we all go through the same basic conflicts and resolutions. Even though Jung’s understanding of the unconscious was more positive than Freud’s, neither one focused primarily on the unconscious as the seat for resources, as Milton Erickson did. Today, there is a great revival of the use of inner resources and the healing mind-body connection. Even Harvard Medical School advertises for relaxation and hypnosis to strengthen our body and mind. See “Take a Break from Stress,” Newsweek, Sept. 27, 2004.

Timothy Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 24.

G. Gigerenzer, P. M. Todd, and The ABC Research Group, Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

The complete quote by Joseph Campbell after being asked by Bill Moyers why a myth is different from a dream, is as follows: “Oh, because a dream is a personal experience of that deep, dark ground that is the support of our conscious lives; a myth is the society’s dream. The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.” Campbell, The Power of Myth, 48.

Erickson suffered from polio and “stumbled over” trance on his own when he was very young. He treated himself and others for pain, psychological disorders and issues, and he utilized the unconscious mind for countless learning experiences. Many consider him the best hypnotherapist of all times. Milton H. Erickson, The Seminars, Workshops, and Lectures of Milton H. Erikson: Creative Choice in Hypnosis, vol. 4, ed. E. L. Rossi and M. O. Ryan (New York: Irvington, 1992); Milton H. Erickson, The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis: Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory, Perceptual and Psychophysiological Processes (vol. 2) and Hypnotic Investigation of Psychodynamic Process, vol. 3, ed. E. L. Rossi, (New York: Irvington, 1992).

Once, a student of Erickson gave no sign of wanting to come out of the peaceful state of trance. Finally, Erickson became frustrated with the subject and said: “For God’s sake, snap out of it. After all, you are just in a stupid trance.” The student instantly came back to his senses and started laughing. This story was recounted to a class I attended with hypnotherapist Terry Anges, PhD, who used to be a student of Erickson’s.

D’Aquili and Newberg, The Mystical Mind.

Ibid., 98.

Ibid., 98.

Ibid., 97.

Not everyone is hypnotizable. Obviously, it is dangerous to access a trance when conscious thought is necessary, such as when driving in traffic. Some psychological disorders should not be treated with hypnosis.

Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 21.

Batchelor, The Faith to Doubt, 16–17.

“Our unconscious thinking is, in one critical respect, no different from our conscious thinking: in both, we are able to develop our rapid decision making with training and experience.” Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York, Boston: Little, Brown, 2005), 237.

Ibid., 120: “If you wrote a paragraph on Marilyn Monroe’s face, without telling me whom you were writing about, could I guess who it was? We all have an instinctive memory for faces. But by forcing you to verbalize that memory—to explain yourself—I separate you from those instincts.” Also: “In short, when you write down your thoughts, your chances of having the flash of insight you need in order to come up with a solution are significantly impaired.” Ibid., 121.

William Dement, “Problem Solving,” Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1974), 98–102.

Deirdre Barrett had seventy-six subjects “incubate” dreams addressing problems chosen by the dreamer nightly for one week. Approximately half of this group believed to have dreamed about the problem. Most of this half thought they dreamed up solutions. Personal problems were more conducive for resolve than non-personal ones. Deirdre Barrett, “Comment on Baylor: A Note About Dreams of Scientific Problem Solving,” Dreaming 11:2 (2001): 93–95.

As one of the first researchers on good feelings, Alice M. Isen and her team showed the beneficial effect of positive emotions. She showed, for example, that medical doctors who experience positive emotions are more likely to make accurate diagnosis than medical doctors without positive emotions. See A. M. Isen, A. S. Rosenzweig, and M. J. Young, “The Influence of Positive Affect on Clinical Problem Solving,” Medical Decision Making 11 (1991): 221–27; A. M. Isen, “Positive Affect and Decision Making,” Handbook of Emotions, ed. M. Lewis and J. M. Haviland-Jones (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 417–35.

When we learn anything, the nerve cells in our brains (neurons) grow extensions (dendrites) to other neurons. (By the way, the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb assumed as early as 1949 that learning had to be linked to individual nerve cells.) This occurs after learning something for only half an hour. Our brain literally forms itself throughout our life span if we make it work, as with new learning materials. See F. Engert and T. Bonhoeffer, “Dendritic Spine Changes Associated with Hippocampal Long-Term Synaptic Plasticity,” Nature 399 (1999): 66–70. That mental imagery can grow the brain in almost the same way as hands-on experiences do, is shown in neuro-psychological studies. See K. O’Craven and M. Kanwisher, “Mental Imagery of Faces and Places Activates Stimulus-Specific Brain Regions,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 12 (2000): 1013–23.

Rebecca McClen Novick, Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press Freedom, 1999), 149.

Ibid., 149.

The word “unexcelled” awakening is used in the Diamond Sutra, also called Vajracchedika. Red Pine, Tripitaka, The Diamond Sutra: The Perfection of Wisdom (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 2001).

Thomas Byrom, Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha (New York: Shambhala Pocket, 1976), 36.

Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998), 9.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 126.

Ibid., 152.

Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker, The Roaring Stream: A New Zen Reader (Hopewell, NJ: The Ecco Press, 1996), 65.

Ibid., 66.


“Deus ex machina (‘god out of the machine’) describes an unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot…. The Latin phrase deus ex machina has its origins in the conventions of Greek tragedy, with ancient Roman dramatists continuing the use of the device.” “In modern terms the deus ex machina has also come to describe a being, object, or event that suddenly appears and solves a seemingly insoluble difficulty, where the author has ‘painted the characters into a corner’ that they can’t easily be extricated from.”

Peterson writes in his article “Personal Control and Well-Being” that a sense of control is often beneficial to people’s experience, unless they really have no influence on the outcome. If we do not feel that we have control, we could develop learned helplessness (see Peterson, Maier, and Seligman, Learned However, Peterson also points out that one can assume too much personal control, which manifests in risk-taking behavior, hostility, perfectionism, anxiety, and paranoia. He concludes: “Attempts to enhance the well-being of people need to consider personal control, among other factors, but at the same time to avoid assuming that more is necessarily better.” Christopher Peterson, “Personal Control and Well-Being,” Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, eds. Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener, and Norbert Schwarz (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1999), 299.

Gerd Gigerenzer, Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), 11.

Gerd Gigerenzer, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious (New York: Viking, 2007), 43.

Swimme, Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, 71.

Hawking writes about German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle. Based on Planck’s hypothesis that light always comes in little packets he called quanta, Heisenberg stated that the more accurately one tries to measure the position of a particle, the less accurately one can measure its speed, and vice versa. This means that whether or not we perceive a wave or particle depends on the way we measure, because the high-frequency wavelength disturbs the velocity of the particle, and the low-frequency wavelength disturbs the position more. (Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, 41.) Hawking goes on to say in the same book that Einstein continued to work on the quantum idea but was deeply disturbed by the work of Werner Heisenberg and others who developed quantum mechanics. “Einstein was horrified by this random, unpredictable element in the basic laws and never fully accepted quantum mechanics. His feelings were expressed in his famous dictum ‘God does not play dice.’” Ibid., 24.

Kornfield, Teachings of the Buddha, 38.

Lebell, Epictetus, 91.

David O’Neil, Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing: Sermons, Writings & Sayings (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), 7.

Research has shown that religion reduces Apparently we cope better with life’s fragility when we believe in something sturdy. On average, however, religion increases happiness only moderately (Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 61). Religion encourages and teaches us how to focus on the indefinable realm. Any such practice would have to facilitate our access to the Supreme Mode. Also, religion is helpful to the extent that it fosters a sense of connectedness, which is essential to happiness (see chapter 6). Religion does not automatically give purpose to everyone.

The Latin word base religio means “to bind or link together.”

O’Neil, Meister Eckhart, 15.

Cross, Way of Hinduism, 128.

Mark W. Muesse, The Great World Religions: Hinduism, Course Guidebook, (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2003), 24.

Ibid., 50.

Castes divide society in India into four main groups, which are determined by birth and manifested in one’s vocation and purity. The highest caste is the one of the (priests and intellectuals), followed by (warriors and administrators), the (farmers, business people, cattle herders, artisans), and Sùdras (peasants and servants). See Muesse, Great World Religions: Hinduism.

Ibid., 25.

Goodness is defined as a way of being that benefits not only the individual, but also the group.

Wilhelm Schmid writes in his short philosophical work on happiness (in my own translation): “So we may say: sense is interconnectedness, and senselessness is the lack of interconnectedness. This is true for the simple sentence: if we see an order or connectedness in the words, if we see the formulation of a statement, the sentence makes sense. Otherwise we would refer to it as nonsense.” Wilhelm Schmid, Glück: Alles, Was Sie Darueber Wissen Muessen Und Warum Es Nicht Das Wichtigste Im Leben Ist (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 2007), 46.

When the Buddhist king Asoka (c. 268–239 BCE) reigned in India, the first missionaries left for Sri Lanka where the “tradition of the Elders,” the Theravada tradition, grew. As Eckel explains, the tradition raised the concept of the “righteous king.” The concept is still evident in Thailand and with the democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma). She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent resistance to Burma’s military regime. David M. Eckel, The Great World Religions: Buddhism, Course Guidebook (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2002), 35.

While there are good examples of mixing politics with religion as noted in note 20, Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka have used their religion to wage a bloody war with the Sri Lanka Hindus. Eckel, Great World Religions: Buddhism, 39.

This Bible quote, Micah 6:8 (AV), was found in Gregg Easterbrook’s book Beside Still Waters. Easterbrook writes:

But surely in that contest our Maker would consider compassion and morality infinitely more significant than religion. Plain words are what matter most about scripture, and among the plainest words in the Bible are those that appear at the chapter head, quoted from Micah, one of the final Old Testament books: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?’ Here we find an unambiguous directive that women and men seek the spiritual; we find no requirement for any particular religion. God wants our feet on the path, but hardly cares what brand of shoes we wear.

Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse (New York: Random House, 2004), 284.

The Dalai Lama proposes that happiness is mostly the result of living a life of compassion. Dalai Lama, The Path to Tranquility (New York: Penguin, 1998).

Mahayana Buddhism began around the Common Era. While the texts (sutras, such as the Avatamsaka Sutra) were likely written after the Theravada texts (Pali Canon), Mahayana Buddhists claim they were passed down directly from Buddha. Takakusu writes that it is said that because no ordinary person understood a word of these sutras, the Buddha preached them to a selected few, namely bodhisattvas, while continuing to preach the to the others. Generally, both the Pali Canon and the on the Theravada side and the sutras on the Mahayana side are considered Buddhavacana (the word of the Buddha). The Mahayana doctrines represent a departure in Buddha’s philosophy (Buddha not as a God, but merely “the awakened one”) and a turn to a religion. Mahayana Buddhism speaks of gradations of Buddhahood, with Buddhahood on top, preceded by a series of lives as bodhisattvas. The Buddha as we know him is supposed to have had countless lives before his final one. Takakusu, Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, 112ff.

Eckel explains that advanced practitioners of the bodhisattva path (in the ninth or tenth stages) achieve extraordinary, superhuman powers that make it possible for them to reside in the heavens. Such bodhisattvas are called celestial Buddhas and bodhisattvas (Eckel, Great World Religions: Buddhism, 27). Avalokiteshvara (“Lord who looks down with compassion”) or Kuan-yin (in Chinese) is one of the most important celestial bodhisattvas. In Tibet, Avalokiteshvara is manifested in the form of the Dalai Lama. Amitabha is the compassionate “Buddha of Infinite Light” in the Pure Land tradition, which is practiced mostly in China and Japan (ibid.).

Novick, Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, 113.

I leaned on D. T. Suzuki’s (1960) translation of the paramitas, 72–73.

Martine Batchelor writes: “Ethics in Buddhism does not mean blind rules and regulations. They do not exist to force you to do something, but to make you reflect on your motivations and actions.” Batchelor, Meditation for Life, 52.

Ibid., 78.

Ibid., 85. “He (Buddha) said that there are four types of people: those who give only to others, those who only give to themselves, those who give to neither, and those who give to both themselves and others. He encouraged people to cultivate the fourth option.”

The Avatamsaka Sutra is a voluminous, relatively recent work of Mahayana Buddhism. It greatly influenced Zen Buddhism, which—in connection with Taoism—rose in China in the first millennium. The image of the Avatamsaka Sutra is a network of gems that reflect each other. We can also notice the connecting, spontaneous nature in all our mind/experiences, be they related to convention or no-convention. See Thich Nhat Hanh, The Ultimate Dimension: An Advanced Dharma Retreat on the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras (Boulder: Sounds True, 2004), and Watts, The Way of Zen, 70.

See note 25.

Eckel explains that the om in the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM is the sacred syllable of the Vedas (basic sacred texts in Hinduism) and that the sound hum conveys power. However, a mantra’s power does not lie in the meaning of words, but in the phrase itself. Eckel, Great World Religions: Buddhism, 27.

Ibid., 54.

Ibid., 24.

The so-called vacuum energy releases particles at random. Why some return to this energy while others keep in existence is not yet known. (See also note 10, chapter 8.)

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself (New York: Pocket Books, 2004), 98–99.

Simon Leys, The Analects of Confucius (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), xxiii.

Ibid., Analects II:3.

“The Master said: ‘He who rules by virtue is like the polestar, which remains unmoving in its mansion while all the other stars revolve respectfully around it.’” (Ibid., II:1).

Confucius described himself as a passionate person, believing in love and ecstasy. Leys gives the following example: “When his beloved disciple Yan Hui died prematurely, Confucius was devastated; his grief was wild, he cried with a violence that stunned people around him; they objected that such as excessive reaction did not befit a sage—a criticism which Confucius rejected indignantly.” (Ibid., xxi–xxii).

Adam Liptak, “1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars, New Study Says” New York Times, Feb. 28, 2008.

Leys, Analects of Confucius, xxiii.

Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (New York: Bantam/Turner Book, 1992), 249.

Wu, Tao Teh Ching, no. 4.

Wu, Tao Teh Ching, no. 34. This poem concludes with: “It is just because it does not wish to be great that its greatness is fully realized.”

According to Wikipedia, the word weiji could be split off in wei, which means danger and ji, which has a variety of meanings, one of which is opportunity

Kornfield, Path with Heart, 109.

See note 27.

John Blofeld, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind (New York: Grove Press, 1958), 30.

Mel Weitsman, Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai (London: University of California Press, 1999), 28.

Quote from the Dalai Lama, Path to Tranquility, ix. The main theme in the Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness is that compassion alone leads to happiness. The Dalai Lama promotes a vigorous training of the mind to accomplish a constant positive state of mind. Understanding the indefinable/emptiness has a place in his philosophy, but it is not made explicit in his book on happiness. The great authority of the Dalai Lama and his emphasis on effort and the definable realm (virtues, rules, and so on) may have led to an approach that is more in alignment with the West. Accordingly there is no cultivation of “great doubt” in Tibetan Buddhism. Stephen Batchelor, who used to be an ordained Tibetan monk, reports that doubt is missing in this school. When he heard about the Buddhist practice of mindfulness—a practice not included in Tibetan Buddhism—he was tolerated, and not encouraged. Doubt was not part of his school’s curriculum; students were expected to take a leap of faith. Batchelor writes: “Just as Tibet was a country sealed off both by its geography and its political intentions, so is Tibetan Buddhism a sealed, hermetic system of thought and practice that makes excellent sense if studied in its own terms but gets problematic if looked at from outside its own parameters…. Once inside the system, there is no room for doubt. The teacher is enlightened, the path complete and perfect.” Batchelor, The Faith to Doubt, 9.

Zen master (Ta Hui) Donald Gilbert was a monk in the Cho Ke Order of Korea. He was born in Oakland, California, in 1909. He was recognized a Zen master by his teacher, the venerable Dr. Seo Kyung-bo of Korea. He was also a cartoonist and wrote a delightful book using this craft. His cartoons are full of insight and are highly recommended to all interested in Zen. For example, Gilbert writes, “Climbing the mountain, one finds the view unobstructed at the top. This is intuitional knowing. All directions are now ‘one direction.’ The ‘one direction’ springs forth from pure consciousness or Mind.” In my words, once we have the freedom to turn around all ways, the answer of the moment can come to us. Donald Gilbert, The Upside Down Circle: Zen Laughter (Nevada City, CA: Blue Dolphin, 1988), 77.

D. T. Suzuki, Erich Fromm, and Richard De Martino, Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis (New York: Grove Press, 1960), 15–16. When the book was written, psychoanalysis was still in vogue. Zen Buddhists did not find connecting with psychoanalysts far-fetched. Reaching into the unconscious via free association is vaguely akin to reaching into one’s deep, spontaneous nature via thought-discouraging methods, such as koans. Nowadays, cognitive therapy is in vogue. Tibetan Buddhism connects with today’s psychology. Positive, more effective thinking is accomplished by cognitive restructuring, and this seems similar to the compassionate mind undergoing rigorous mental training. Interestingly, current popular Zen Buddhists point more to the cognitive aspects of their world view. Apparently East and West are influenced by the Zeitgeist.

See note 31.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Ultimate Dimension (audio).

Weitsman, Branching, 191. The translation is modified by Suzuki Roshi who used to interpret the famous poem (put together by Shunryu Suzuki).

Merton quotes Professor Shin’ichi Hisamatsu in The Way of Chuang Tzu, 283.

When I talked on the telephone with Martine Batchelor about the conditions for the good and full life, she pointed out that she believes virtuous action is the most important. She went on to explain: “In Korean Zen Buddhism, virtuous action is stressed very much. We need to aspire to goodness and cultivate it. But we ought not to look for goodness as something separate from ourselves; we must find from within.” Also see Martine Batchelor, where she writes: “Compassion is an essential component of the Buddhist way of life. It is at the heart of meditation because meditation is not self-absorption but, on the contrary, leads to openness and connection with others.” Batchelor, Meditation for Life, 82.


This metaphor is from Hermann Hesse, Betrachtungen über das Glück.

First published in 1911, Henri Bergson wrote, “Could reality come into direct contact with sense and consciousness, could we enter into immediate communion with things and with ourselves, probably art would be useless, or rather we should all be artists, for then our soul would continuously vibrate in perfect accord with nature.” From Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (London: MacMillan, 1999), 135.

S. Biddle and N. Mutrie, Psychology of Physical Activity and Exercise. (London: Springer/Tavistock/Routledge, 1991); A. Steptoe, J. Kimbell, and P. Basford, “Exercise and the Experience and Appraisal of Daily Stressors: A Naturalistic Study,” Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21 (1996): 363–74; and R. E. Thayer, The Biopsychology of Mood and Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Ratey and Hagerman, Spark, 38.

A. Bjørnebekk, A. A. Mathe, and S. Brene, “The Antidepressant Effect of Running Is Associated with Increased Hippocampal Cell Proliferation,” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 8, no. 3 (2005): 357–68.

Ratey and Hagerman, Spark.

Stefan Klein, Die Glücksformel oder Wie die guten Gefühle entstehen, 81.

S. M. Jaeggi, J. J. Buschkuehl, and Walter J. Perrig, “Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory,” accessed September 27, 2011,

Linda Carstensen, PhD, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who studies the influence of age on time perception and goals, was profiled by Carlin Flora. The article explains also why older people are happier on average than previously suggested by research. Carlin Flora, “Happy Hour,” Psychology Today (Jan/Feb 2005), 42ff.

“Zen,” Wikipedia, last modified September 22, 2001,

Weitsman, Branching, 3.

Gilbert, Upside Down Circle, 127.

Daniel Kahneman, PhD, who won a Nobel prize in economics for his insights in irrationality and decision-making, has turned his attention to well-being. He is introduced by Flora, “Happy Hour,” 47ff.


As a Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh believes that everything we need for happiness is already present in us (Buddha-nature). However, the “positive elements within our bodies and in our consciousness” need opportunities to get in touch with the good inside of us. He very gently directs his attention to the good in order to let it grow. In his eyes, however, the bad should never be denied. We should not blind ourselves to who we authentically are. Yet, it is up to us what part of us we want to invite and cultivate. Thich Nhat Hanh, “Consumption/Compassion: An Interview with Thich Nhat Hanh by Kyleigh,” Journal of Holistic Lifestyle (2001): 34.

Claudia Wallis, “The New Science of Happiness,” Times (January 17, 2005): A43.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 39.

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (New York: Plume, 2005), 8. “The first part of this truth [proposed by various religions] is the realization that the ‘normal’ state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call a dysfunction or even madness.” (Brackets added by me.) Although I commend Tolle for advocating successfully the need for growth, awareness, and inner tranquility with his inspiring books The Power of Now and A New Earth, I do not believe that we can disconnect from our primitive nature. However conscious we become, we will remain biologically driven creatures, and only when we can accept that fact will we develop our human potential to its fullest extent. Enlightenment must come from a place of love for our biological nature that is great enough to allow us to give it direction and add an eye of awareness to its rudimentary program.

Bynner, The Way of Life, no. 1.

Bergson, Laughter, 136.

Kaufmann, Goethe’s Faust, 95.

Ibid., 493.

Ibid., 500. The soul in the Christian tradition is similar to our True Self (Buddhism) or Atman (Hinduism). It is perfect in its own nature, but needs to be transformed by living, undiscriminating love that is the grace of God.

Grant this good soul, too, thy blessing,

That but once herself forgot,

Ignorant she was transgressing;

Pardon her and spurn her not!

After praising the “almightly love by which all things are nursed and fashioned” (ibid., 489) and “Being” to be kind to everyone (ibid., 491), the tragedy ends with praising the all-encompassing love of Maria, the mother of Jesus, who can forgive the striving Faust. Through her (and our own) loving actions, we may get a glimpse of the indefinable, formless experience. That which is form and destructible would be a likeness of or a comparison to life, a parable. On the other hand, the indefinable, indestructible is connected with love:

The Eternal-Feminine

Lures to perfection.

Ibid., 503.

Master Lin-Chi (Japanese: Rinzai), disciple of Huang-Po (d. 850 CE), stressed many times how effort has no place in Buddhism. To him it was more about having the courage to rely solely on one’s awareness. The Rinzai school, which triggers overwhelming doubt with koans, was named after him. Quote from Burton Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi. A translation of the Lin-chi lu. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 52.

Tolle, A New Earth, 79.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 22.

Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, 23. Merton, born in France, lived in Kentucky as a Trappist monk in the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. He was a prolific writer who promoted inter-religious understanding. Although his life was cut short due to an accident when he was only fifty-three years old, he contributed greatly to making Buddhism more accessible to Westerners. See also: Thomas Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1999) and Roger Lipsey, Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton (Boston: New Seeds, 2006).

Lin-Chi preached to his fellow monks: “You should stop and take a good look at yourselves. A man of old tells us that Yajnadatta thought he had lost his head and went looking for it, but once he had put a stop to his seeking mind, he found he was perfectly all right. Fellow believers, just act ordinary, don’t affect some special manner.” Watson, Teachings of Master Lin-chi, 27.

Ibid., 41.

Gilbert, Upside Down Circle, 145.

Bergson, Laughter, 135.

Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters, 74.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 107.

Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters, 76.

Watson, Teachings of Master Lin-chi, 87 (slightly changed quote.) Little is known of the Chinese monk P’u-hua (Japanese: f*cke), who died 860 CE. What is known can be found in the records of the Zen master Lin-chi-lu (Japanese: Rinzai). There is also a beautiful related story: when the monk felt that it was time to die, he laid himself inside a coffin. When people rushed to the coffin, they found that the body had vanished. Yet, from high in the sky they could still hear his handbell faintly, until this sound died away. Ibid., 102.

The flying heroes and heroines can be seen in movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Hero; and House of Flying Daggers.

Jalal al-Din Rumi, who lived from 1207–1273 and who was the son of a famous religious scholar (Baha al-Din), was a very influential mystic of Islam. Rumi made his contributions in the form of beautiful poetry, especially in his famous Mathnawi that highlights hidden aspects of Sufism and how Sufis relate to living in the world. Jalal al-Din Rumi, The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 13.

The great Japanese poet Basho, who lived from 1644–94, expressed himself in seventeen-syllable haiku. They are meant to be recited in one breath. Matsuo Basho, On Love and Barley: Haiku by Basho, Translator: Lucien Stryk (New York: Penguin Classics, 1986), 197.

Merton quotes professor Hisamatsu saying that the Zen view “will enable us to make a more proper attempt at a radical cure of the human predicament through the Self-awakening of that oneness which, contrary to being in estrangement from civilization, accords with, and is the source and base of civilization.” Merton, Mystics and Zen Masters, 284.

Alan Watts, The Meaning of Happiness: The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 65.

Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology (New York: Bantam, 2008), 395.

Ekman and Friesen have argued on behalf of the facial feedback hypothesis. They measured how people felt with and without positive facial expressions. As they found that people report feeling significantly better when they smile, as opposed to when they don’t, they argued that facial expressions are not solely a function of communicating with others. They also examined various kinds of smiles, such as “felt, false and miserable smiles.” P. Ekman and W. V. Friesen, “Felt, False and Miserable Smiles,” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 6 (1982): 238–52. In my own research I have found that depressed people tend to actively suppress the expression of a smile in that they bite their lips, push them together, or perform otherwise antagonistic movements. I have argued that a smile must fit the mood in depressed people, as otherwise they feel as if they are being untrue to themselves. In other words, the vast discrepancy between affect and mood makes depressed people uncomfortable. This can only happen if there is an instant feedback loop as described by Ekman and Friesen. Andrea F. Polard (former Andrea Floren), Das Laecheln bei depressiven PatientInnen: Videoverhaltensanalyse von PatientInnen und Kontrollpersonen, Diplomarbeit der Freien Universität Berlin, Institut für Psychologie, 1993.

The felt smile with crow’s feet, as opposed to the social smile, was first described by G. B. A. duch*enne. It is therefore referred to as the “duch*enne smile.” G. B. A. duch*enne, Mechanisme de la physionomie humaine; ou analyse electrophysiologique de l’expression des passions (Paris: Bailliere, 1862).

Robert R. Provine, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (New York: Penguin, 2000), 124.

Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Oxford: Oneworld Publication, 1998), 104.

Ibid., 52.

Muesse, Great World Religions: Hinduism, 39.

O’Neil, Meister Eckhart, 69.

Ibid., 69.

Bergson, Laughter, 15.

Ibid., 14.

Gilbert, Upside Down Circle, x.

Allen Klein, “Zen Humor: From Ha-Ha to Ah-Ha,” accessed September 27, 2011,

Conrad Hyers, “Humer in Zen: Comic midwifery,” accessed September 27, 2011,

The word ryokan means “great fool” in Japanese.

Watts, The Way of Zen, 105. Zen master Yüan-wu lived from 1063 to 1135.

D. T. Suzuki, Sengai: The Zen of Ink and Paper (Boston: Shambhala, 1999), 2.

Ibid., 2.

Ibid., 14. Kwasan lived from 891 to 960 CE.

Ibid., 134. Suzuki interprets the delightful calligraphy of Sengai.

Watts, The Meaning of Happiness, 186.

Watts’s friend and collaborator, Al Chung-liang Huang, also wrote a wonderful and touching introduction to Watts and Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way, ix.

Furlong, Zen Effects, 212.


Paulo Coelho, Der Alchemist (Zürich: Diogenes, 1996), 39.

“Much mental activity appears to occur without the exertion of substantial effort. Time-pressure is a particularly important determinant of momentary effort. Tasks that impose a heavy load on short-memory necessarily impose severe time-pressure.” Danile Kahneman, Attention and Effort (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973), 27. So, any time-constricted activity or one in which we utilize our short-term memory—calculations—requires extra effort. Following our pursuits and people without these pressures will bring us closer to the effortlessness of the Supreme Mode. Being in the present is relaxing.

Miller and Stiver, The Healing Connection, 30ff.

John M. Rist, Epicurus: An Introduction (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 129.

Henry D. Sedgwick, The Art of Happiness: Or, The Teachings of Epicurus (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1933).

Joachim Bauer, Warum ich fühle, was du fühlst: Intuitive Kommunikation und das Geheimnis der Spiegelneurone (München: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 2005); Marco Iacoboni Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others (New York: Farrar, Straus, 2008). The latter book explains that there are specialized brain cells responsible for empathy and instant understanding.

“Martin Buber, perhaps the greatest Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, believed that nothing was more important than the relationship between two people. They can be members of the same family or sometimes even complete strangers. When two individuals realize, for even just a moment, that they depend on each other, then they have come closer to God. Buber called this an I-Thou experience and imagined that the invisible lines of relation joining them to one another also join them to God.” In Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2001), 33.

D’Aquili and Newberg, The Mystical Mind, 95.

See note 3, introduction.

Chapter 32: Notes - A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life (2024)
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