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Donald Altman is a psychotherapist, award-winning writer, international workshop trainer, and former Buddhist monk. His latest book, Reflect: Awaken to the Wisdom of the Here and Now, is a beautifully provocative companion designed to prompt deeper self-awareness.
As he writes, "Reflect follows the advice shared by the Buddha on his deathbed when asked how his teachings should be taught and carried onward. Instead of trying to codify his life's work, the Buddha simply said, ‘Be a lamp unto yourself.' "
Altman invites readers to be lamps unto themselves by engaging in thoughtful exercises organized by essential theme: Simplicity & Peace, Nature, Relationships, Love, Laughter, Bliss, Transformation, and Wisdom.
What follows are two exercises—one from the Relationships chapter and one from the Laughter chapter.
Try your hand at both to learn a little more about yourself.
If you want to extinguish joy, take things personally.
Almost anything taken personally ignites your emotions and snuffs out joy's light in an instant.
Look inward to untie this drama that binds you up in knots. When did it all begin? How tightly wound is this knot?
Whatever it is, the fire will only go out when you stop throwing so much ego on it.
Reflect on this.
What things do you take personally that catch on fire?
How old is this emotional trigger, and how did it originate in your life?
Decide not to take an upsetting event personally today. How does this less reactive approach make you feel?
Life is full of banana peels, but suffering after a slip is optional.
Each situation or burden has the potential to (en)lighten you with laughter.
Why insist on crying each time you slip on the banana peel of life?
Won't laughter do the job just as easily? Your attitude in the face of the burdens of pain, loss, or disappointment is something you control.
Besides, another darn banana peel is waiting just around the corner.
Reflect on this.
How often have you laughed today? What would change if you could laugh at your banana peels?
How can you start to lighten up?
What "banana peel" do you face that you could take less seriously today?