Why do we suffer? Is there a purpose to our pain? Reflecting on his own journey from Esquire magazine editor-in-chief to Buddhist meditation teacher, Phillip Moffitt provides a fresh perspective on the Buddha's ancient wisdom, showing how to move from suffering to new awareness and unanticipated joy. With a strong message of self-empowerment, Dancing with Life offers a prescriptive path for finding joy and peace that will appeal to anyone searching for a more authentic life.
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What is this book doing, all hiding in the corner of Audible for the past three years with only one other posted review?! 'Dancing with Life' is a true orchid: a well-written, reasonable-length book from a credible author that stimulates reflection and means for self-improvement in the reader for years to come. Simply put, the book is a treatise of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths. You needn't be Buddhist to take to heart these teachings:
- There is suffering in this world. - Suffering is due to the clinging to desire. - Suffering can end by ceasing to cling to desire. - The eight-fold path allows you to realize this cessation.
The author is a former editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine who abandoned his fast-paced, successful career cold turkey to pursue a more meaningful life. A more meaningful life, he found. None of the teachings in this book require leaps of faith. All of these teachings can be applied by atheists, agnostics and believers alike.
As it turns out: editors-in-chief of major national magazines know how to author cogent, well-edited publications. 'Dancing with Life' is no exception: never getting preachy, and never confusing this practice with empirical science, this title was a joy to read from cover to cover. An added bonus is Moffitt's numerous, sublime references to T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets' (which I now have on order thanks to 'Dancing').
I have been able to immediately apply the ideas in 'Dancing' to my daily life. I look forward to continuing to practice what I've learned from this title, perhaps for decades to come. Below are my additional pocket notes (tl;dr) for future reference. Enjoy.
- Suffering comes from ignorance - Mindfulness of body leads to mindfulness of mind - "Insights are ripened fruits that fall from the tree" - All my life I've been trained to be the lead in a couple's lead. I must learn how to be the follow as well. - Eliot: "The time of death is every moment. Do not think of the fruit of action." - Truth #1: Dukkha (suffering) is present in life at every turn, and we must examine Dukkha consciously. - Three different dukkhas: physical/emotional pain, constant change, and life's complex compositional nature. - Bearing your own suffering with compassion and acceptance is like putting wheels under your own wagon. - Accepting "this is like this:" tatata. - Stay with your suffering. Be curious about it. Use "beginner's mind," never beliving that you know all there is to know about suffering. - Truth #2: Craving. "Khanda." The actual act of clinging to desire is the suffering, not what is craved. If the movie is sold out, is your evening ruined? - Overcoming non-wholesome craving is easy for most people: have morals. - Overcoming wholesome craving is harder: have morals, use meditation to cultivate wisdom, accept that all outcomes cannot be controlled. - The proper response to clinging desire is widsom (re: Tao Te Ching). "Allow your tea to cool before drinking." - Eliot: Teach us to care and not care. Teach us to sit still. Caring without demanding. Love becomes the moment, not the outcome of the moment. - Ill will, sloth, worry, and doubt prevent the knowing of our suffering. - Desires come and go. They do not define you. - Instead of clinging, live your life from your deepest core values at every moment, regardless of outcome. - Renounce behaviors and attitudes that engender clinging. Three practices: renounce always being right, do not measure your life by how many goals are met, and give up being the star of your own movie. Renounciation is a walk through a desert: it is not easy. Remind yourself why you chose this path. - The ego knows how to fight to survive--it does so through desire. It doesn't like the thought of death and consoles itself with instant gratification, fame or even suicidal thoughts ("if I can't win, I don't want to play"). - Treat your ego with sympathy; this allows you to see which desires are worth keeping. We are all born with two wolves: the strongest wolf is the one you feed the most. - Learning your biological reactions to all forms of desire if very helpful. - Love and desire exist in paradox. Love is not movement, but it can be the catalyst for movement. - Truth #3: cessation. Once cessation is achieved, you no longer observe cessation: "it just is." Just like becoming fluent in a foreigh language: with years of practice, you stop translating. - Keep beginner's mind at all times. The "I" no longer dominates. How can you add more to your teacup if it is already perfectly full? - Insights come only through reflection, and not belief. (Perhaps one of the biggest points in this book.) - Cessation is a path of practice, not a demand of yourself. You do not get to choose whether you achieve cessation; you (and your ego) need to be okay with that. - Before cessation: "chop wood and carry water." After cessation: "chop wood and carry water." - Truth #4: realization through the eight-fold path. - View. Resolve. Speech. Conduct. Livelihood. Effort. Mindfulness. Meditation. - You are not being moral based upon a belief system. You are becoming the true realization of yourself. - One must love the plateaus they hit while on this path. - The measure of your success is not how often you get what you want, but the skill with which you live every moment of your life. - Right speech is true, timely and useful. Goals are good for direction, but presence in the moment is what will get you there. Mountain climbers who do not focus on one step at a time fall off the cliff. - Everyone has one core attachment, be it fear, jealousy, pride, achievement, etc. Identify your attachment, and drop it. This may take years, even decades. - Eliot: "In order to arrive at what you are not, you must go through the way in which you are not." - Allow yourself to be happy: "sukkha." - Three types of happiness: progressive (conditions are right), happy during challenging times, and well-being that is full realization ("nirvana"). - Eliot: "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
This is the type of book you listen to multiple times at different stages of your growth. There were so many gems! The language was simple and it was easy to listen to while driving or on a run. Although I often found myself wanting to take notes. It's a great book!!!