"Happy people see life as an opportunity. Challenges are blessings in disguise. When we feel happy, our minds are open and expansive. Conversely, when we're open and expansive we feel happy. Happiness is an 'upward spiral,' as one researcher describes it. It makes us not only feel better but be better — better able to forge fulfilling relationships, find meaningful pursuits, and handle the vicissitudes of life. Happiness helps us stay healthy and whole no matter what the circumstances. Best of all, we can pass it on to those around us." Joan Duncan Oliver states in the introduction of her book. She has written on spirituality and well-being for many publications including Health, Self, New Age Journal, Tricycle, and The New York Times. Formerly editorial director of One Spirit, she is the author of Contemplative Living.

In this paperback, Oliver tries to track down the elusive bluebird of happiness. The following chapter headings give you a sense of the breadth of her concerns:

  • Being Content With Unpredictable Outcomes
  • Courting The Artist Within
  • Doing What Matters
  • Nurturing Friends And Family
  • Finding Your Moral Compass
  • Stirring The Senses
  • Lightening Up
  • Finding Your Still, Calm Center

The use of twenty dialogues between a seeker and a wise friend helps shed light on this wide-ranging material.

We were pleased to see a few of the spiritual qualities from Spiritual Literacy covered here, including kindness, beauty, love and faith.

Oliver writes: "Kindness is one of the most undervalued commodities — which is too bad because it doesn't take much of it to turn the day around. I wonder if we overlook kindness because it's so simple. What's really involved? Someone needs something, we help. Someone feels low, we console. Someone trips, we catch them. There's a need, we respond. Then the other person is grateful and relieved — and we're happy knowing we could help. Kindness is a low-effort, high-return energy." This personal quality creates small doses of happiness not only within us but around us as well. It creates large reserves of good will and establishes human connection rather than separation.

We also appreciated the author's salutary comments on laughter as "a saving grace" in a world of terrible disarray and violence.