Book Review #7:
How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life
Books like this one are important. The way to practice a meaningful life. Just pause, think, and unpackage that statement for a moment; consider the amount of intention that it communicates. Not just having a great life or career, but a MEANINGFUL one. And not just HAVING a meaningful life, but actually practicing the act of creating a meaningful life.
A key premise of the author is that: If you want to have a meaningful life – that is something you need to practice. Meaningfulness is largely driven by the internal locus of our thoughts, and we can and should train our thought patterns.
A reader of this book does not have to be religious or spiritual in any capacity to glean value. I’ve both read and reviewed this book from a very secular point of view. The book, in my opinion, caries a message that many dentists would benefit from hearing. Though often disputed as a long-held myth, statistics actually do show truth that dentist’s as a cohort posses a suicide rate at the high end of the bell curve. I can personally attest to knowing not just a hand full, but buckets full of dentists who are either depressed or not living what they would call a meaningful life.
It’s not hard to imagine why some dentists may emote feelings of shortcoming in the realm of meaningfulness:
Hunched over a wet mouth hole all day…a wet mouth hole that tell you it hates you and doesn’t like coming to see you…knowing you put your life on pause for multiple years longer than your other peers…knowing that not only did you put your life on pause to go to dental school, but you also shouldered hundreds of thousands; or a million dollars, worth of high interest student loan debt…there’s definitely lots of downsides if you dwell on them.
But everyone, in any walk of life, can find downsides and things to dwell upon. However, what you find all boils down to what you go looking for.
In this book the Dalai Lama attempts to show us how to overcome everyday obstacles. Not obstacles like getting your matrix band to seat or restoring a sub-G DO on #15, but obstacles like overcoming feelings of anger, mistrust, and jealousy. How to overcome our insecurities and our counterproductive feelings and thoughts.
The Dalai Lama hopes that this book acts as a sort of guidebook to us for what he calls his 3 Keys to Meaningfulness
- Meditation (which may be framed as reflective thinking for the non-meditators)
I feel the Dalai Lama does an excellent job in achieving his goals here. Though his voice as an author is stern, he is not overly pushy in tone towards those who may not share his particular religious beliefs. His religion is essentially a footnote to the greater message which he is attempting to convey with this text.
Though “How to Practice” reads in many parts like a motivational self-help book, it is also filled with actionable techniques pertaining to how to actually implement the recommended advice.
The book is absolutely FULL of mental exercises to exercise your compassion, kindness, ability to be at peace with yourself, ability to manage yourself, and ability to not be unhappy.
These actionable techniques are skills and exercises which can actually be implemented or mentally practiced to make your life more peaceful and happy. Being more peaceful and happy will in turn allow a more productive and fulfilling life.
There are many gems within the book that have stuck with me, particularly in regards to remaining calm…something that is pretty important as a dentist, a business owner, and a human in general in what sometimes can be a confrontational world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who reads my blog. Below I will list a few tid-bit passages which I highlighted while reading……..
“If you have peace of mind, you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances.
No one claims to feel happy while being angry. As long as anger dominates our disposition, there is no possibility for happiness. In order to achieve peace, tranquility, and real friendship, we must minimize anger and cultivate kindness and a warm heart…anger is not necessary – it has no value.
Unlike the space station, which is constructed by many people working together, the mind must be developed by you alone.
I like to tell the story of a family that buys a new television. Compared to the old one, it is really great! Everyone watches it for days on end. But eventually they get tired of it. This indicates that the original pleasure has a nature of pain.
I have peeked inside the medicine chest in the bathroom and found some medications to provide energy for the day and others to induce sleep at night. Contentment might do both of these jobs better since it reduces anxiety during the day, paving the way for sleeping peacefully.
You should realize that difficult present circumstances are entirely due to your own past undisciplined actions, so when you experience a difficult period, do your best to avoid behavior that will add to your burden later on.
If your mind gives way to anger, the even when the world is peaceful and comfortable, peace of mind will elude you.
Examine your motivation as often as you can. Even before getting out of bed in the morning, establish a nonviolent, non-abusive outlook for your day. At night examine what you did during the day.
Attachment to superficial pleasures will only bring more pain.