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True Happiness    by Pema Chodron order for
True Happiness
by Pema Chodron
Order:  USA  Can
Sounds True, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The narrator of this audiobook, American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, has a face that radiates happiness, and a laugh that can be surprisingly raucous. This 2-CD set - recorded live at a Gampo Abbey Monastery retreat in Nova Scotia, Canada - offers 'Highlights from a Full-Length Audio Learning Program on Cultivating a Life of Unconditional Joy and the Power to Benefit Others'. Included in the set is a card summarizing Precepts for Not Causing Harm (conduct guidelines) with 10 actions to train in avoiding and 10 to train in cultivating.

At the beginning, in the first CD, Pema Chödrön speaks slowly with repetition, covering topics from every being's 'potential for unshakable happiness' to 'Our habitual cravings'. She addresses the roots of happiness, stressing the use of meditation to explore them, and talks about conduct in life (body, speech and mind), working with discomfort, and training to feel appreciation. She tells us that knowing how you make yourself miserable is a big step towards joy. What blocks it most is self denigration, and it's important to 'see yourself really clearly and still have respect and love for yourself'. She talks about the importance of inquisitiveness in working towards awakening. She tells us that we all do a lot of not-living and quotes a teacher: 'Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.' She talks about working with the precepts - the beauty and the pitfalls of so doing - with the intention to be fully present. She speaks about habits - e.g. worrying, lying, using harsh words, judging others - and explains how 'we keep doing the things that escalate our suffering'.

Pema Chödrön opens the second session by empasizing refraining from causing harm and taming our minds as roots of happiness, and elaborates on the message that we need to dissolve habits that block basic goodness. If we want joy, then we shouldn't make bad habits stronger and stronger. She covers topics from 'Sowing seeds of happiness' to 'Maitri practice' and 'The heart of bodhichitta', and suggests specific practices, including meditations focused on the chant: 'May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.' Pema Chödrön speaks, in a soft, encouraging voice, with a knowledge of both Western psychology and the Buddhist tradition, bridging East and West. Listen with an open heart, and be joyful.

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