Handling life’s problems
with sweet subtlety

I have come across a wonderful book that is ten years old, but whose subject—and treatment of it—is as fresh as this morning’s first breeze.

Awake Mind, Open Heart, by Cynthia Kneen, is a review of the basic points of Buddhist and Shambhala teachings and philosophy, offering a remarkably insightful explanation and right-there-in-front-of-your-face usage of a structure of reasoning called threefold logic.

This analytical tool, as Cynthia tells us, can be extremely powerful in approaching everyday problems, challenges, and circumstances. It can, as the book’s Introduction declares, “help you in conducting your work, talking to your kids, thinking through what’s puzzling you, negotiating with your car mechanic, or anything.”

Within the text itself this logic form is utilized to explore a wide range of topics, including how to “settle down” with yourself, how to summon courage for your daily encounter with life, discovering greater wisdom, attaining dignity, seeing the world as friend, and what being a genuine leader is all about.

I was particularly struck by a chapter titled A Joyful and Sad Heart, which, as it turns out, makes virtually the same point that is found in my own book, Happier Than God—that “happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive.”

The chapter describes “the unique experience of joy and sadness combined”—out of which arises “a pragmatic tenderness to appreciate and be sympathetic to your situation,” and to be “the basic goodness” in the particular situation that you are now facing…whatever it might be. It is sort of an Eastern version of Byron Katie’s central idea of “loving what is.”

By means of illustration, the author tells of the word “hello,” and how it also means “goodbye.” Because everything is impermanent and nothing lasts, the author says we should really say “goodbye” when first shaking hands with someone. In this we see and feel both joy and sadness in the same moment. “Hello/goodbye, and I hope Hello again” is what might actually be said upon meeting someone, the book suggests. This is just one of many, many sweetly subtle treatments of life’s complexities.

Cynthia Kneen (pronounced “neen”) is a senior student of Chogyam Trungpa who has taught meditation programs for more than 25 years. She is also a practicing management consultant who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Her book, published in 2002, is a testament to the power of courage and dignity in everyday life, and as exciting a read today as I’m sure it was ten years ago when first released.

Highly recommended for its soft, gentle, almost sneak-up-on-you approach to some of life’s most challenging moments.

From Marlow & Company, ISBN 1-56924-551-7

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  • mewabe

    There is beauty and grace (and goodness and wonder) in everything…in joy and sadness, in pleasure and pain, in hope and despair, in love and loss, in life and death, as long as we do not resist, but accept and fully embrace each passing moment, each unique expression of our heart and soul, and of those of others.
    Thank you for the book suggestion…

  • Melanie

    I love this as an awareness and perception. It reminded me of some languages…is it Italian???…where they say good morning is the same thing as good afternoon and goodbye. I didn’t understand how it could be universal…yet everyone knew exactly what was going on.

  • Melanie

    I think the word / greeting is: ‘Bonjorno’.