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Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to True Happiness Paperback – 12 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Parallax Press (12 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937006220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937006228
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My friend and I both bought this when we signed up for the online course together and I found it supplemented the course well. You get a lot of content for your money. The content was interesting and relevant although I'm not sure I would have found it as engaging as a standalone book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 62 reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Openng the Door to a More Fulfilling Life 17 Jan 2010
By Rob Okun - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's a book that works like a master locksmith's pick: it opens a door into a more fulfilling life. An outgrowth of James Baraz's successful online course of the same name, Awakening Joy: Ten Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Happiness is an accessible, anecdote-rich guide filled with valuable tips to understanding both the roadblocks challenging our lives and the open road inviting us for a drive on the freeway of our own personal happiness.

As a longtime meditation teacher, Baraz distills three decades of inquiry into the mind into this down-to-earth primer. Written with the gifted editor Shoshana Alexander,
the book evokes the warmth of a satisfying conversation--actually a series of conversations--with a wise friend. And make no mistake: Baraz is wise. And compassionate, giving and optimistic. He's also a gifted teacher. Among his gifts? Advocating joy as a gateway to pass through on the journey to self-awareness.

To those readers brought up believing in narrow-minded, "should-"oriented approaches to living, awakening joy as a means of achieving personal growth might seem contraindicated--somehow jumping ahead of struggle, pain and suffering (the trinity of stages personal growth many believe we must first pass through to reach higher states of happiness). Such an approach misses the mark--by a wide margin. Baraz is not so much suggesting an "eat dessert first" approach to living as much as saying dessert is available all the time in succulent, small bites. If we pay attention enough to notice.

Rooted in mindfulness meditation practice, which Baraz has been practicing and teaching since the seventies (he is one of the founding teachers of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California), the book is peppered with quotes from a range of teachers, as well as participants in the Awakening Joy course. The book also draws on paths to happiness found in a range of spiritual traditions. Another of its strengths is its gentle introduction to Buddhism, presented in an accessible, open-minded and open-hearted way.

While dealing with life's adversity is certainly addressed in the book--we appreciate Baraz all the more for being open and vulnerable in sharing painful episodes in his own life--time and again he brings the reader back to an appreciation for wholesome states of living. After an eye operation left him with seriously compromised vision--"the world looked like a Jacque Cousteau underwater documentary filmed on a cloudy day"--Baraz relied on his meditation practice to see him through. When a risky operation eventually restored his vision, he felt a surge of gratitude that didn't subside. "... [T]he gratitude I felt at my good fortune became a continuous backdrop to everything else in my life," he wrote.

Over the years Baraz has trained himself to examine his experiences carefully, "not only for my own spiritual growth but also to share my findings with students." As a result of the appreciation he felt at his clear vision, he became fascinated with the question, "What is gratitude?" In many ways, his book answers the question,. It is Baraz's report on his experiences as "an explorer of the landscape of the grateful heart."
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Doubts overcome, this book is transformative. At least for me. 6 May 2012
By C. Benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Oh hellll motha f''ing no." That's a sanitized version of what I thought when my coworker invited me to read this book, and join her for the Awakening Joy class. Wanting to be polite, what came out was more like a skeptical, "I don't think I'd be interested." She patiently suggested that I simply preview the book, and give it a chance because she had heard good things.

Although clearly predisposed to doubt, I started reading Awakening Joy on Amazon, checking out the first chapter for free, and to my surprise I was hooked. So much that I got the book AND signed up for the class. In case you haven't figured it out yet, there is a class you can take that goes with the book, and each month one chapter is covered. I'll write a little more about the class at the end of this review. For now, just the book...

If you are like I was, and not sure whether to read this book, definitely start with the free preview on Amazon, and see what you think. I have noticed some reviewers who think the writing style is too cheesy. Well I anticipated exactly that. But to me, it does not read that way. I can see how this book might not be for everyone, but like my coworker said, do give it a chance.

My concern was there because 1.) it was written by a Buddhist practitioner, 2) it is called Awakening Joy, and 3) the very fact that there is a class that goes with the book. I even wondered if this program was an entry into some kind of cult! (of course it's not!)

Regarding the religious part - Being raised in a Buddhist/Jewish family, on one hand I have an affinity toward Buddhist philosophy. On the other, I am a devout agnostic who does not wish to commit to any religion. I have a hard time with any practice that requires me to have "faith" or what feels to me like superstition. Knowing this book was written by James Baraz, a Buddhist my parents respect, I felt inviting of the philosophy, but worried that the book would expect me to believe in things like reincarnation, karma, deities, etc. Luckily, while the philosophy is most definitely there, the parts I struggle with are not. James Baraz did a good job with making this a book that is not religious.

The title bothered me because life is about more than just Joy, and I thought this would be some kind of "learn how to be a fake Californian who puts on a smile" kind of deal. This is not the case at all. While Awakening Joy is focused on how to bring more enjoyment into life, it recognizes that there are struggles, and discusses techniques for handling difficult times. The book doesn't make me feel pressured to "be happy" all the time, nor ashamed that I'm not. But it does help me to develop awareness, comfort, and compassion with all of my emotions.

As for the cult concerns, those are squashed, and I think it's funny I even entertained that notion. There is a community that gathers to discuss ways of thinking that bring more happiness into one's life, but there is no worship, indoctrination, nor a commune to live in! But the reason I was worried had to do with there being a class, which leads into a brief intro to what happens there.

The course, which meets monthly, is in Berkeley, which luckily for me is nearby, but can also be taken online from all around the world. In the class we arrive, sit quietly for a moment to get focused, discuss the reading from the month before, learn about the upcoming chapter, hear dynamic guest speakers talk on the topic, enjoy music by a a guest singer, and then we all have fun singing a song together - one that most people would know and it varies each month. I find it helpful to hear how others are relating to the book. We talk about what is working, and what challenges people have with the materials so that various approaches can be considered. The website for the class has forums so folks can continue to discuss the material. Those taking the course online can watch recordings. Students taking either version (live, recorded, or just simply reading the book) are encouraged to find buddies or form small groups to discuss the reading. Each month James Baraz writes his students a letter on the topic of the month. And there are bunch of other resources provided to help you stay focused. I won't give them all away here!

But if the class is not for you, no big deal. You can definitely enjoy this book thoroughly without taking the accompanying course. Ultimately, If you do get the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as me! I really like focusing on one chapter per month. It gives time to contemplate the lessons at a good pace. If you do get the book, and don't do the class, you might consider approaching the reading at the same pace, and working through it with a partner. Either way, if you are curious, but have doubts, just take it one step at a time and see if its right for you. If it is, you could find yourself increasingly aware of life's many gifts! That's how I feel.

At this point, my feelings about this book and the class have moved from "Oh hellll motha f''ing no" to something more like "Oh hellll motha f''ing yeah!"
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Remarkable book 16 Jan 2010
By Peggy Gillespie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I took James Baraz's online course called Awakening Joy and it was a remarkably life-changing experience. I just ordered the book and devoured it immediately and bought 3 copies to give as gifts to my friends. It captures in such a great way a path that really changed my level of daily joy. The book is beautifully written and organized and I just LOVE it. I have a feeling I will be ordering many more copies as I want to give it to everyone I know. I completely recommend it. It isn't just a basic self-help book--it is deep, comes from a deep meditation practice that James Baraz has--and his own experiences of deepening joy that he writes about in the book. It is not superficial at all. I found that it deepened my understanding of his teachings about joy and I already feel the effects. I trust you will love it as much as I do. And I'd recommend doing the online course, or doing it in Berkeley where he teaches it live! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Joy After Grief 23 Aug 2010
By Ginny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I picked up Awakening Joy a few months after my husband passed away. Grief has a way of intensifying after the first few months on autopilot have passed. I looked toward friends, books and a support group, all of which emphasized my loss, how my life had changed, and what I no longer could look forward to.

When I read Awakening Joy, I experienced a serenity that I hadn't felt in some time. James Baraz gave me a strong sense of what I DID have and what I COULD do to appreciate the special moments in the here and now that held purpose and joy. I liked the structure of his book, a finely woven tapestry of personal narrative (he's "walked the walk"), philosophical and scientific perspectives that gave credence to his views, and first hand experiences of his students who have used the techniques from his AJ course (mindfulness, loving kindness, gratitude, among others)to effect personal change. I tried some of the simple highlighted suggestions and they worked.

Baraz speaks directly to his reader in a positive, reassuring and encouraging tone that's not preachy or schmaltzy. Combined with a few humorous asides, he even elicited an easy smile or two as I read. I learned that in our fast-paced, demanding world, we don't have to look far for the most meaningful and gratifying moments -- they are within us.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Deepening Joy 23 Aug 2010
By Nancy Mayer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Awakening Joy" lives up to its title in that each chapter addresses a different facet of living a harmonious life. This is not a simple self-help book which you toss aside and say, "Ohhh, I knew that already!" It is a life-long program of deepening your awareness and cultivating joy--deep, dependable joy--over time. Each time I read a chapter, there is something new which calls to me. And, in fact, my joy has been greater as a result of the wisdom of these teachings.
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