I have been a practicing Buddhist in the Tibetan tradition for thirty-seven years. The training that I have received in how to understand and work with my mind has been invaluable. Even as a small child I had the longing to know how the world worked and in some way to make my life be of use. I thought then that meant doing something dramatic and rebellious but the Buddhist teachings have shown me how each ordinary moment of life can be both an adventure and a contribution to a more compassionate world. In writing this book my goal was to present a manual that addressed a common and widespread problem—stress—and demonstrated how it could be addressed using the same methods of training the mind that had benefitted me so much over the years.
Of course, I realized that the Buddhist path is not for everyone and here I was encouraged and guided by Dalai Lama’s approach of secular ethics, which he presents in his books, Ethics for the new Millennium and Beyond Religion. His argument in that there are seven billion people on our planet and of those only one billion are interested in any religion at all—so what happens to the remaining six billion? Is their wish for happiness and to live a good life of lesser importance because they have no interest in religion? Dalai Lama sees Buddhism as having some techniques of meditation and compassion training that have universal appeal and can benefit anyone—whether they have a religion, or not. This is the approach I followed in the book.
It was a special privilege to write a book in the Compassionate Mind series. Professor Gilbert cites an interest in Buddhism as one of the reasons he was interested to study compassion in the first place. Compassion-Focused Therapy draws on some of the principles of Tibetan Buddhist compassion practice and so although I do not use CFT in my work, its approach and methods are in accord with my own.
Again, following the example of Dalai Lama I wanted to include current research into the effects of meditation and compassion training on brain function. Modern neuroscience, with the relatively recent discovery of neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change in relation to experience—has much to teach us, which is in complete harmony with the ancient wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism. Neuroscience is not the only discipline with important input to offer. This book contains several references to current research into happiness and wellbeing as well as Positive Psychology.
As modern men and women, we are accustomed to a scientific view of the world and even when we are interested in a wisdom approach, it can still help us to learn that science can endorse the methods we are learning as being of benefit. This is born out strongly in the work I do with people in their workplace. People feel the usefulness of the methods but they are comforted by the scientific analysis. Much of what I have learnt from the clients I have worked with has found its way into this book. Their stories and experience helps to make the book practical and applicable to everyday life.
I am always interested to hear how people have got on with reading the book. If you have any stories you would like to share please feel free to contact us.