Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Road to Happiness

First, the disclosure: Dr. Barbara Wright has been a friend and inspiration for at least fifteen years--since I started my meditation practice with the Laguna Sangha, the little sitting group of which she is a prominent and knowledgeable member. That said, I have been meaning for some weeks to talk about her newly-published book, "Metta: The Map, the Formula, the Equations," in which she lays out the ideas she has been putting into practice in workshops and teaching sessions.

A clinical psychologist of long experience, Barbara has devised a comprehensive strategy that adapts the teachings of the Buddhist dharma to the resolution of personal issues and interpersonal relationships--including conflict. Part interactive board game, part motivational therapy, part self-improvement practicum, her "Metta" is an innovative guide to the multiple ways in which the dharma provides valuable lessons in the way we live with others and ourselves. It engages participants in the process of working through the all-too familiar blocks of ignorance and delusion in order to reach a place of compassion, harmony and happiness.

The book version--which comes with a copy of the "map" she has created to chart the intricacies of human behavior and communication--leads us through the theoretical construct on which her teaching is based, (the "formula"), supporting it with a variety of case-book examples that offer concrete illustration for each point in the plot. I'm not sure, honestly, that the complex "equations" to which she reduces each problematic situation she addresses, add greatly to my own understanding of her thesis. But then my devoutly anti-mathematical mind tends to recoil from anything that it has trouble grasping!

That said, this is a challenging book for anyone engaged in the fundamental search for happiness in their life. It is filled with wonderful moments of humor and unexpected insights and, above all, with the spirit of compassion it embraces as its underlying principle. More than simply a guide to improved communication skills, it suggests a useful matrix for the spiritual life so many of us seek. Those interested can get more information at Metta4All

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