Meng, as he is affectionately called, is an ambassador for the VWO I work for and recently was in Singapore to give a talk on the same title, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I was outside working during the seminar. So the next best thing is to read the book.
I didn’t read his first book, Search Inside Yourself, written while he was working at Google. So I am new to his writing, which is witty and has many self-deprecating jokes to balance out the many name-droppings in the book, including Dalai Lama, which also in a way lend credibility to the book . I actually laughed out loud during a bus journey that the passenger in front turned around.
How to you get joy on demand? The only way is mind training through meditation. He lists the many benefits of mind training, and there are many – success, attractiveness, resilience just to name a few. And it’s easy to start, with just one breath. And with that, you slowly incline your mind towards joy.
Meditation aside, one must also develop compassion and loving kindness. For that brings joy. Just meditating about loving kindness towards another brings joy to oneself. He describes: loving kindness is the wish for self or others to be happy, and compassion is the wish for self or others to be free from suffering.
The difference…a strong feeling of compassion will motivate you to do something. So having compassion and doing good bring joy too.
After convincing you that it’s easy to feel joy, even if fleeting, and showing you how, Meng goes on to describe how you can work with emotional pain. One statement which resonates with me because I have read basic psychology and know is that our brains have a strong negative bias (among many other biases). They perceive things that affect us negatively much more strongly than things that affect us positively. (So be aware and don’t fool yourself and make yourself feel worse than is actually.)
It’s like what Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk whose name has appeared a few times in the book had reiterated, don’t focus on the two bad bricks on a wall of perfect bricks. (Which incidentally is the title of a book – Two Bad Bricks by Ajahn Brahm.)
With every chapter in this book, there is a grey box to revise what Meng has taught, which allows you to put down the book and do the actual practice. The book is an easy read, filled with caricatures by fellow Singaporean Collin Goh. An easy read it may be, but practice may be hard.
As my sister, who is dealing with a difficult teenager, describes : I breathe and breathe until I am to the point of bursting. She has my sympathy and I hope she continues in her practice.