Review: 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place

(The BOOK)

 (The cover has an inviting painting of a happy place.)

Although this book, a tree grown from the seed of Galen Pearl’s blog, isn’t available for sale until Oct.2, I decided to post this review a day early.  I expect much of the nation will soon be busy nit picking the Presidential candidates’ debate on Oct.3.  I’m never going to get to live in a world where more people would rather mull over a good book of short stories than argue about who to vote for, but I can still dream.

Galen is an organized, tenacious, determined woman.  She’s a recently retired Professor of Law, black belt martial artist, who has raised (or helped raise) five children, including two autistic boys.  I would need more wall space for all those certificates and licenses, and a second refrigerator for drawings, photos and report cards.  But, as explained in the book, she’s a problem solver.

The crucial problem she had not solved through all this activity and accomplishment was that she had done it partly by denying herself happiness.  So, by combining many wisdom traditions, she imagineered simple methods for rediscovering and remembering her Happy Place.  Those are the Steps.  Though they are organized into ten large categories related to aspects of achieving happiness, there are hundreds of tributary paths offered you can take in following your own journey.

Many of us hold our happiness hostage to some future circumstances: I’ll be happy when I get a job, when I lose weight, when my kids shape up, when I meet the right person…but happiness is, as they say, an inside job. Happiness is not a destination, not something to be pursued. It is the way we live. Happiness is a choice we make every moment, and each moment is a new opportunity to choose.”

This isn’t really as much a self-help book as it is a self-acceptance book.  I’m not saying there’s no work involved, but many of the chapters discuss ways we program ourselves to deny vulnerability.  Forgiveness, compassion, gratitude and acceptance are the sisters of mercy, ways to heal old wounds and become more open to love.  Tips on practicing joyfulness and generosity are illustrated using stories from Galen’s own struggles and triumphs.  My favorites are the chapters that probably hurt her the most to write.  I cried quite a bit, and I don’t do that as easily as I want to.  It’s a wonderful experience to feel like you are sharing another’s trials.

“She wrote about being called to the phone years ago, when she was in graduate school, because her mother was dying.  That call would be the last tender and loving conversation they had.  Later that day, someone she didn’t know very well said that she had inadvertently overheard the conversation and offered words of comfort as best she could.  My friend wrote that these words meant a lot to her and reminded her of the importance of sharing our hearts with everyone.

The writing was so eloquent and deeply moving that I went to my friend and started crying as I expressed my gratitude for her sharing this story.  She replied, “Don’t you remember?  The person who came up to me was you.”

Since Galen has studied the nature of happiness from a wide range of teachers, readers can also benefit by many kinds of apt aphorisms from the Bible, the Tao, Socrates, Shakespeare, Joseph Campbell and others:

“You’ve got to ac-cen-tuate the positive,

e-lim-inate the negative,

and latch on to the affirmative.

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”   — Johnny Mercer

I read the book straight through a couple of times before realizing that it also works well as a devotional, and it doesn’t matter all that much which direction you read it or what chapters you read in what order.  Everyone has his or her own level of understanding about happiness.  We’re all on our own rung of the ladder.  Some folks don’t hold grudges, but still fear death.  The chapters are short.  Flip through and land anywhere.  It might be just what you need at that moment.

“The pessimist was left in a room piled high with every toy a boy could ever desire.  The optimist was left in a room piled high with horse manure.  After a while, the pessimist was found sitting in a corner of the room, the toys untouched.  When asked why he wasn’t playing with the toys, he replied sullenly, “Why bother?  They will just break anyway.”  The optimist was discovered laughing with glee and digging like crazy in the horse manure.  When asked about his strange behavior, he exclaimed without missing a beat, “I know there’s a pony in here somewhere!”

Galen’s two sons can’t live independently, but they are well and happy living and working in a group home organized and supported by the non-profit Edwards Center (http://www.edwardscenter.org/).  The proceeds from the book are being donated to this organization, providing residential and vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities.

My grade?  Soulful, Inspiring and Useful in All Weathers – 10/10.

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15 Comments

Filed under Emotions, forgiveness, Literature, Metaphysics, Self-Esteem

15 responses to “Review: 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place

  1. It does sound absolutely lovely, and you have written an excellent and thought-provoking review. The first quote made me think of a sign I pass on my way to work each morning which is hanging in a charity shop, just after where I stop for coffee. It says ‘Happiness is not a destination; it’s a way of life’… it always makes me smile :)

  2. Thank you for the sharing your thoughts upon reading the book. I will get it and add it to the ever growing stack!

  3. This sounds very interesting, Mikey. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I’ll be keeping watch for this book to come out in Australia :)

    • Thanks, Dianne. I don’t know what size of a run Still Creek Press plans to produce, but it will be available as an e-book also, through the usual places.

      • I’ll have a look. I tried to buy a blogger’s UK book yesterday and couldn’t. There must be a trick to it :)

        • It is my understanding that the book will be available in Australia. Let me check on this and I’ll report back. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. And thank you, Mikey, for a lovely and gracious review.

          (Not at all, m’am. I enjoyed reading the book, which made writing about it a snap. It’s much harder when I like the person, but come up against serious flaws in the work under review. – I.M.)

        • Dianne, I checked and it should be available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon UK. If you still have a problem, please let me know at (Redacted to save Galen from SPAM. Mikey sent Dianne the email address) Thanks!

  4. Galen is such a great storyteller! I can’t wait to read the full book. I love your synopsis “useful in all weathers”!

    • She surely is. I’m a BIG fan of the “less is more” school of storytelling, where every word is essential. Tribal tales from the oral traditions, koans and Bible stories did that centuries before Hemingway.

      It’s a regular part of practicing the art of critique to find new ways to say “It’s all good”, hence the weather metaphor.

  5. Pingback: Do You Have a "Happy Place?" | Powered by Intuition

  6. I know Galen only from the sage comments she leaves behind on posts on blogs I read. This caught my attention: “This isn’t really as much a self-help book as it is a self-acceptance book. I’m not saying there’s no work involved, but many of the chapters discuss ways we program ourselves to deny vulnerability. Forgiveness, compassion, gratitude and acceptance are the sisters of mercy, ways to heal old wounds and become more open to love. ” I’m looking forward to reading 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place.

  7. The SPAM of the DAY award goes to some person in Russia, who said:
    “KJDAWDhl JAWjdldalw9239 923923KADAWDJ…”

    I’ve no idea what they expected to achieve by it.

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