Darlene Cohen is a Zen teacher who counsels chronic pain clients. She has had rheumatoid arthritis, a very debilitating and crippling condition, for 20 years. This is the most profound and practical resource we've come across for those hobbled by pain and stress. The spiritual practice of connections, according to Cohen, is the only way to alleviate suffering. The practices in this book will help you feel more connected to your body, the earth, your senses, your feelings, your creative energies, and other people.

The author emphasizes the importance of acknowledging pain and its burden. Then she suggests enriching your life exponentially by substituting positive and comforting sensations for anxiety. The problem with pain is aversion, and the drawback to pleasure is clinging. Cohen discusses the following aspects of pleasure: (1) engagement with life, (2) ecstasy as refreshment, (3) nurturing relationships, and (4) relaxation and movement. All of these strategies are examples of the disinterested pursuit of pleasure that can combat suffering. Cohen is absolutely on target when she notes "cultivating pleasure has a respectable and even necessary role in any spiritual practice."

There are many, many helpful hints in this book about commonplace problems such as anger (those who repress it are advised to let it out with temper tantrums), busyness (how about enabling "the one who is not busy" inside you), and "the weeds of enlightenment" (using obstacles as spiritual teachers). Cohen has good advice for those of us who are always "jumping to the higher self" in order to avoid hindrances to growth in our daily lives. A final chapter on the use of "koans" as self-correcting tools is a real gem. Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain is highly recommended.

Try a Spiritual Practice on Kindness