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The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness

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For millennia, Buddhists have enjoyed the limitless benefits of meditation. But how does it work? And why? The principles behind this ancient practice have long eluded some of the best minds in modern science. Until now.

In this groundbreaking work, world-renowned Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets behind the practice of meditation. Working with neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Yongey Mingyur provides clear insights into modern research indicating that systematic training in meditation can enhance activity in areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion. He has also worked with physicists across the country to develop a fresh, scientifically based interpretation of the Buddhist understanding of the nature of reality.

With an infectious joy and insatiable curiosity, Yongey Mingyur weaves together the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, neuroscience, and quantum physics in a way that will forever change the way we understand the human experience. Using the basic meditation practices he provides, we can discover paths through everyday problems, transforming obstacles into opportunities to recognize the unlimited potential of our
own minds.

With a foreword by bestselling author Daniel Goleman, The Joy of Living is a stunning breakthrough, an illuminating vision of the science of Buddhism and a handbook for transforming our minds, bodies, and lives.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Yongey Mingyur

13 books382 followers
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a lama and monk of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and the youngest son of Tulku Urgyen—his elder brothers are Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Mingyur Rinpoche serves as abbot of both Tergar Osel Ling Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, and Tergar Rigzin Khachö Targyé Ling Monastery in Bodhgaya, India, in addition to teaching throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

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5 stars
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196 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 459 reviews
Profile Image for Ariz Guzman.
12 reviews28 followers
March 26, 2011
Buddhism is not a religion. To a trained Buddhist, "it is a type of science, a method of exploring your own experience through techniques that enable you to examine your actions and reactions in a nonjudgmental way" (11). This book was a good intro in training to achieve a "natural mind" or Enlightenment, a mind in its natural state, free from conceptual limitations. Supposedly, "the experience of natural peace is so far beyond what we normally consider relaxation that it defies description...beyond our capacity to express in words" (51), just like Fight Club. Yep. The book I read before this was Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. I think this whole Enlightenment thing is like fight club. "You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at fight club....Fight club isn't about words" (Palahniuk 51).

on nothingness and emptiness as source for infinite possibilities.
"it's only after you've lost everything, that you're free to do anything" (70)

on impermanence.
fight club: "nothing is static. even the mona lisa is falling apart" (49), "nothing is static. everything is falling part" (108)

recognition that everyone and everything is a reflection of everyone and everything else.
fight club: "everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. (21), "you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. you are the same decaying organic matter" (134)

on suffering. The Four Noble Truths
1. Ordinary life is conditioned by suffering
2. Suffering results from causes
3. The causes of suffering can be extinguished.
4. There is a simple path through which the causes of suffering can be extinguished.
fight club: "disaster is a natural part of my evolution. toward tragedy and dissolution" (110)


The book did taught me to be a little bit mindful. Sometimes I think "emo" and I become emo. I often find myself living in the past or projecting the future that has not happened yet which limits me from living the "now." It was my mind projecting limitations. It was my thoughts, my Tyler projecting a reality, a world to existence. I forgot to live in the present, which “exists only in the hours between when fight club starts and when fight club ends” (Palahniuk 48).

It's a great book to read with Fight Club.
Profile Image for Colleen.
84 reviews218 followers
August 9, 2007
I wish every foray into religion was this enjoyable. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is a powerful writer with a gentle sense of humor, most noticably about himself.

To any westerner looking to explore Buddhism, READ THIS BOOK. To any person who is feeling less than enthusiastic about getting up in the morning, ditto. To those who know they're missing something, but they can't quite... well, you get the point. Read the book.

Mingyur makes Buddhism conceptually accessible to Western readers. After being declared the reincarnation of several stellar Tibetan monks, he went to a monestary, which he lead after only three years. Now, he could have stopped there. After all, enlightenment was right in front of him. Nope. He chose to go across the pond to visit with our nation's finest quantum physicists and neurologists. He learned that the sharpest edge of science often folds neatly into Buddhism.

In the early chapters, you will find yourself turning constantly to the glossary to look up terms like "space foam" and "samsara." However, Mingyur emphasizes that the only true way to understand the mind-boggling tenets of his faith is to practice meditation. The second half of the book provides a down-to-earth description of how to do just that.

Please read this book. And then call me. We'll hang out in silence for a while together.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books237 followers
October 6, 2022
Buddhism often claims to be science —"science of the mind"— and this author and Buddhist teacher is keen to explore the overlap between modern neuroscience and traditional Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

And Buddhism welcomes science. There is no need to be afraid of science. The more there is light, the more scrutiny— the more there will be understanding. It’s all good.

Knowledge is power. And self-knowledge is the ultimate achievement. See your mind, observe your thoughts, and watch how you construct your emotional irrational world.
Profile Image for James Field.
Author 28 books53 followers
February 4, 2022
I have to split this book into two parts: what it’s about, and the way it’s written.
It’s about meditation, how to do it, and the benefits it offers.
It’s written like a university thesis, with incomprehensible words and sentences lasting whole pages, and hardly any punctuation. If I hadn’t snatched a breath or two here and there while ploughing through some of these bloated sentences, I would have died of asphyxiation. Can somebody please explain what nonconceptuality means?
Yongey Mingur Rinpoche is a Tibetan meditation teacher. He devoted large sections of the book to science and physics, using modern findings to endorse the teachings of Buddha. I found this part boring, like reading a lengthy academic paper. He devoted the rest of the book to meditation and where it can lead. I found this part fascinating. Who doesn’t want a life overflowing with happiness and compassion?

2 stars for the writing style. 5 stars for the content on mediation. Average=3,5 rounded down to 3.
297 reviews1 follower
November 6, 2008
There are probably as many books about meditation as there are meditators, so what makes this book different and why does it earn five stars?

Mingyur Rinpoche is most unusual for many reasons, starting with his youth (b. 1975) and that he was already recognized as a Meditation Master while only a young teen. But he also has an insatiable curiosity and interest in Western studies in neurology, psychology, and philosophy, and he tries to synthesize what he learns with what he knows from his Buddhist tradition.

The first part of the book is an explanation (perhaps oversimplified) of what the West knows about the brain and the elusive "mind" and how it related to meditation. The second part of the book is about meditation and the techniques used. And the final is kind of "over to you" to the reader, encouraging her/him to engage in meditation, either formally and informally, and watch the transformation in her.him and the society around.

This may not sound like much, but the text reads almost like the transcription of pod-casts. It is informal, colloquial, and especially, funny. Not knee-slapping funny, but the kind of smile-giggle I associate with HH the Dalai Lama.

Spoiler alert: After reading and mulling it over, I believe that one can conclude that Rinpoche is saying that in the end meditation might be anything you want it to be, so long as it is done consistantly and with compassion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Vivek Kulanthaivelpandian.
188 reviews29 followers
March 30, 2021
I have been following Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche in Youtube for some time now. I like the way he explains the Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques in simple language.I am a big fan of his sense of humor. If you are like me , you will enjoy this book a lot. This book tries to give scientific explanation to the Buddhist meditation and its benefits which is new. On top of that he summarizes his teachings and methods which is very helpful if you want to get into mindfulness practice.
Profile Image for Heather.
202 reviews9 followers
April 6, 2021
Very insightful and helpful - it opened my eyes to the power of meditation. It is not a book about becoming a Buddhist, but more about how the human brain responds to meditation. If you're interested in how Buddhism and Western Neurobiology mirror each other, this is a great reference. The author describes his own experiences with significant anxiety growing up in Nepal, and shares how meditation helped him. The book also details his experience at the University of Wisconsin in the brain imaging department where he meditates in an MRI machine and shows his brain during meditation where scientists saw a 700 percent increase in certain brain centers. It was fascinating to see modern science prove something that Buddhists have been doing for thousands of years.

From the book jacket: "A beautiful tapestry of Buddhist insight woven together with modern science, this book is a landmark in the development of a contemplative neuroscience. Written by a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master with a deep and abiding interest in science, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the causes and consequences of happiness." --Richard J. Davidson, William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry Director, W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, Wisconsin Center for Affective Science, and Center for Mind-Body Interaction, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews785 followers
August 25, 2009
This book does several nifty things. First, it shows how concepts from Buddhism and contemporary scientific studies agree with each other. Then, it discusses some studies on people in meditation. It turns out that meditation, when done by people who have done it for a long time and are good at it, makes people incredibly happy and peaceful. (This isn't big news, but it's cool to hear how science has proven this.)

Then, the book discusses meditation techniques with a level of detail and clarity that is unsurpassed in...well, in the five or six books on meditation that I've read. I'd never been given permission to meditate for two or three minutes before; I was always under the impression that meditation needed to be a half hour or so in order for it to be valid. According to Yongey, that's not true.

The Joy of Living is a quick, easy to read book that's highly informative. If the subject matter interests you, I'd recommend it.
Profile Image for Sarah Anne Grossman.
33 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2014
This book was too many feel-good things at once. Pseudo-science meets religion justified by populist self-improving individualist crap equates to boring-ass writing. It took too long to read simply because it was so detestably practical I couldn't get myself to move through it. I don't care if he's a Rinpoche - he's catering to the all-consuming self-absorbed yuppy who would freak if you put milk in his/her latte but probably run you over with his/her Prius if you were jay-walking. He cited literature that was actually notably Buddhist (Words of My Perfect Teacher) and relatively known in psychiatry (A General Theory of Love) and many scientific studies but the writing felt like a watered down syndicate. I couldn't trust anything I read I felt like I had to double-check all of his notes.
Profile Image for Barbara.
390 reviews24 followers
February 7, 2017
Some interesting parables here and good meditation techniques. I also enjoyed the author's references to Western science and research on meditation. Overall, though, not a lot of new material for me. Well written and engaging.
Profile Image for Larry James.
114 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2013
Read this book casually, quietly and you will walk away with the clearest ideas about what makes you happy and how to practice happiness. It's really that simple.
Profile Image for Megan.
163 reviews5 followers
February 10, 2015
It's kind of random how I came across this book - I had never heard of it before in spite of its best seller status. I know I've hinted before that I'm going through some big things in my personal life, so I'm sure this genre of book makes sense in that respect, but the biggest thing that lead me to this book is that my husband has really gotten into Buddhism lately and I wanted to be able to keep up with him so I searched my library catalog for "Buddhism" and perused the selection. I narrowed things down to what audiobooks were available (realistically I am driving so much that audiobooks are my best option to read right now), and this was first on the list that looked good to me. I'm glad to report that this blind picking method worked out well this time :)

Joyful Wisdom is what I like to summarize (loosely) as a practical guide to Buddhist meditation. The author is a monk from Nepal who travels around the world and teaches these basics. The book is broken down into 3 main sections: Principles, Experience, and Application. He covers the basic thought and history behind Buddhism first, moving onto what those basics mean in your own life, and then tells you how to apply these teachings to benefit your life. He uses examples not only from ancient Buddhist texts and teachings, but also from some of his modern students and what these specific techniques did for them. In the application section, he literally breaks down how to meditate on a specific Buddhist principle with instructions such as, "Assume the 7 point position. Clear your thoughts and think about a person who you feel gratitude for. Don't ponder on it for more than a few minutes." Very practical. Very precise. He even talks about how it's ok and even needed to take breaks, and how even if we feel like we are failing because we can't clear our mind, that's actually a good thing. Basically there is no failure - a nice notion to go into things with, really.

I have always been the type of person who was interested in meditation, but I just never found any explanations that made sense to me as to how to go about it. I'm not one who easily relates to metaphysical-speak like, "make friends with your fears." Seriously? What? How does one do that? The greatest thing I gained from this book is an explanation of the meditation process that actually made sense to me. It was also wonderful to learn that I am not alone or unprepared for this practice - in fact, most people feel similar to me when they can't get their head clear enough to focus on what they think they should. It's about clearing other thoughts out of the way so that you can focus on what surfaces during that clarity. If that thought bubbles up to the top, obviously it is at the forefront of your mind and needs your attention. I've never had such a rational sounding break down of meditation before. I fully believe that anyone who is interested in meditation, whether you've tried it and felt like you couldn't do it, or if you're like me and have never fully tried because it never made sense, this book is what you need. There is so much information in here that I'm sure it would help even a seasoned meditator.

I'm sure there is plenty more that I could say about this book, but just know that I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Chris.
458 reviews
June 20, 2010
The first book about Buddhism I would recommend is "The Art of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama. The second book is this one. The author explains how to apply Buddhist philosophy to the human problems we all deal with on a daily basis. He shows how different methods of meditation can be used to get through common problems like self-doubt and frustration with work. He clearly explains step-by-step methods and illustrates his points with stories anyone can relate to. He is good at explaining Buddhist terminology, and I liked how he acknowledged that it is natural for beginners to become bored with the practices or confused with the theories. I will definitely keep this on my iPod, because the book contains more information than I can remember from one reading.

I listened to this audio book a second time, and I also bought a print copy to use as a reference book.
Profile Image for Krys.
36 reviews
April 15, 2009
I spent 2008 studying joyfulness as a practice and a discipline (like practicing the violin, only quieter). This was one of the most instructive, useful, practical, and successful books I found. Yongey Mingyur grew up in an environment that intersected Tibetan Buddhist meditation training and research into how the brain works, so he presents information about the theory and practice of joyfulness from a universal perspective.

The key to joyfulness, like anything else, is practice. This is a great book for learning how to do it.
Profile Image for Kate Singh.
142 reviews33 followers
June 9, 2023
Interesting and goes deep into the working of the mind. He covers the science and the Buddhist philosophy of mind, emptiness, matter and so on. I found it a little boring but it was detailed and he gives meditation techniques.
Profile Image for Cynthia Egbert.
2,239 reviews27 followers
December 5, 2016
I adored this book and am buying my own copy. I listened to this one on audio and the author uses one word repeatedly that he pronounced in an odd fashion and I just desperately wanted to make notes in the book as I was listening so I am looking forward to sitting down with my own hard copy. I could seriously just copy the entire book here aas good quotes but I am just going to add the ones most profound to me.

If you have a little water in ear, pour in more water and drain it all out. A illustration of the ancient Buddhist principle of using the problem as the anecdote.

When we become fixed in our perceptions we lose our ability to fly. (killing butterflies) (The butterflies that are mounted and displayed are not really even butterflies any longer since they cannot fly.) 3 poisons = ignorance (label on the bottle of hot sauce is the hot sauce), desire (for things to bring pleasure), aversion (the pushing away of things that bring unpleasantness).

I can choose how to think about myself and all the stuff happening around me. I consider myself very fortunate in fact. Some people aren't capable of choosing and some people don't recognize that they can choose. I guess I'm lucky because I fall in the category of people who are able to recognize their capacity for choice.

We must find the courage to be, just as we are, right here, right now, with all our doubts and uncertainties.

Story of the soldier with the poisoned arrow in his body. "Wait. Before you pull out the arrow I need to know..." All of his ridiculous questions. By the time the doctor learned the answer to everything the soldier was dead. This is an example of self created suffering, the kind of intellectual overlay that inhibits us from dealing with painful situations simply and directly. The moral of the story is to let go if the search for reasons, blame, or stories and simply look at the experience directly. Extract the poison arrow of pain right now and ask questions later or even never. Once the arrow is removed the questions are irrelevant.

Cultivate lovingkindnesscompassion.

Meditation isn't something separate from your life, it is your life

When we  take the time to look at the way we see things, the way we see things changes.

Self awareness is a neutral mode that maintains self-reflectiveness even in the midst of turbulent emotions. -Daniel Goldman Emotional Intelligence.

Every technique of Buddhist meditation ultimately generates compassion. Whenever you look at your mind you can't help but recognize your similarity to those around you. When you see your own desire to be happy you can't avoid seeing the same desire in others. And when you look clearly at your own fear, anger, or aversion you can't help but see that everyone around you feels the same fear, anger, and aversion. This is wisdom, not in the sense of book learning but in the awakening of the heart, the recognition of our connection to others and the road to joy.
Profile Image for Diana Shaffner.
229 reviews2 followers
March 19, 2018
What a wonderful book! Joyful Wisdom, who cannot use a dose of that?! In this book the author who sometimes describes himself as a 'happy little monk' starts out telling about his childhood struggles with intense anxiety that caused him problems well into his young adult years. He dealt with these difficulties despite having a loving home and a famous master of meditation as a father. While this book is full of wisdom, the perhaps most powerful one standing out is the one on impermanence. Nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux and will be gone one day to be replaced by something else impermanent. Wenn we cling to the idea of wanting things to stay the same, we create suffering for ourselves. In not clinging to anything we set ourselves free.
Profile Image for Jess.
217 reviews
March 28, 2013
I was surprised by how much this book floored me. I hadn't thought of the intersections between Buddhism and scientific discoveries, but he made me see it. And he demystified a lot of what I find hard about meditating. The idea of meditating in shorter bursts; the notion of just relaxing your mind (instead of straining for focus); the making contemporary of ancient teachings - all of it made Buddhist teachings and meditation practice more vivid for me. And I needed to read it. I think this is one of those rare books I will dip into again and again for something new or rediscovered. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn about Buddhist teachings or meditation practice.
Profile Image for Tina Carstensen.
39 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2012
This has been the most meaningful book I've read so far on Buddhism. There were a few times when tries at humor didn't work of rme, but they were so sweet in their intention I almost blushed. Other than that it was just what I needed. Just enough over my head to make me want to read it again in a year or so and I'll read more by this author.
182 reviews
June 18, 2019
Kind introduction to many key concepts and practices in Buddhist mindfulness meditation (e.g. Four Noble Truths, awareness, insight, empathy).

As the author succinctly puts it at the end of the book, “joyful wisdom comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.” (p. 268)
Profile Image for Charissa.
538 reviews
September 24, 2009
There are parts of this book that are a bit complex, but overall it reads like mentoring from a friend. The author puts a lot of importance into being mindful, "living in the now", and compassion toward all living things.
Profile Image for Alejandra Cardenas.
2 reviews2 followers
December 2, 2015
This book opened my mind to the possibility of living in happiness. It is the perfect starter book for beginners who are exploring buddhism and mindfulness, explained in a way that we occidentals can understand and relate to.
Profile Image for Velika.
120 reviews6 followers
October 21, 2017
Took me forever to finish this book...almost a year. I just couldn't get into it, and his voice was very difficult for me to pay attention to. My mind would wander while reading this. Guess I missed the point of the book. :(
Profile Image for Adrien Treuille.
7 reviews6 followers
March 26, 2018
Looking for detailed meditation instructions? This book provides the best I've seen. Confused about the multitude techniques? This book provides an enlightening taxonomy.

I just wish the author didn't into magical claims -- flying, telepathy -- at the end of the book!
Profile Image for Kevin Quirk.
14 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2011
Very interesting and spiritually uplifting book. Does a great job uniting Eastern philosophy with principles of psychology and mental health. Can get a bit repetitive towards the end but great ideas.
Profile Image for Denise Nader.
123 reviews27 followers
October 23, 2019
No puedo recomendar lo suficiente este libro. Alegre, exhaustivamente investigado, responsable y generoso en sus enseñanzas. Mingyur Rinponche es uno de los grandes maestros de este siglo.
Profile Image for Brad Carl.
Author 15 books195 followers
February 5, 2021
This book was way more than I bargained for or expected, but if you want to know about Buddhism this is the book to read.
Profile Image for Godwin.
35 reviews7 followers
September 15, 2021
If you are a fan of mindfulness practices, this book will give you more insights about the formal pratice of meditation techniques. The part which I liked most is the author's curiosity in explaining the science behind mindfulness.

As a science enthusiast and a meditation practitioner myself, I feel elated to know about the benefits of mindfulness methods to our human psyche. This book reveals an important fact, meditation is not only about sitting tensed with your back straight and legs crossed, it's all about feeling present and mindful while doing our daily chores.

I always felt that Buddhism as a practical philosophy can provide real solutions to the most pressing problems of our modern world. This book proves my opinion to some extent. Finally, what it means to feel the joy of living? Just breathe, let it go, feel the power of now.
Profile Image for Nejra Pasic.
2 reviews4 followers
June 22, 2021
I've heard a lot about meditation, and tried different apps and tutorials for it, but this book completely changed the way I see it and offered plenty of ways to meditate -- not just sitting for a long time following your breath and clearing your mind. It also helped me understand Buddhism better. I would definitely recommend it :)
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