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Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain Hardcover – May 2, 2000

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For the past 20 years author Darlene Cohen has had rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and crippling condition. "I became isolated from everyone I knew by my pain and fear and ultimately even by the consuming effort I had to make to do any little thing--like get up from a chair, fix a cup of tea," she writes. How do we live through catastrophic situations such as Cohen's without being destroyed? For starters, don't go numb, suggests Cohen, a Zen teacher who offers pain seminars in medical facilities and meditation centers along the West Coast. "If we don't acknowledge our pain, we usually don't feel our pleasure either," Cohen explains. "Life takes on a zombie-like tenor." In fact, many of our most self-destructive habits come from an avoidance of physical or emotional pain, claims Cohen, such as substance abuse, becoming overly scheduled or overly busy, avoiding intimacy to avoid hurt. Through storytelling, attitude adjustments, meditation exercises, and straight-from-the-heart advice, Cohen guides readers into a more alive and joyful life, even in the midst of pain. --Gail Hudson

Review

"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."—Frederic A. Brussat, Spirituality & Health.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (May 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570624674
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570624674
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By pborenst@net-link.net on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A helpful, encouraging blueprint for enriching any life -from those tetter on physical or psychological problems, to those with "mundane" stresses and worries. Not a how-to-book; although there are specific tips and techniques for dealing with physical and/or emotional problems. Not a woe-is-me-book, although Cohen's odessey of illness, growth, nurturing a new perspective and way of being is inspirational and makes the reader feel better about peoplekind. Not a dry medical book, but a warm, human, witty personal book. Almost anyone with a functioning mind, open to new thoughts and feelings, will benefit from this.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even if you do not have chronic physical pain, this book is a true gift from a wise and experienced teacher. The compassionate observations and suggestions serve as guidelines for any kind of pain -- mental, emotional or spiritual. Thank you, Ms. Cohen,for sharing the fruits of your life and suffering with us.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By BooksJJS on December 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book several years ago when I sustained a permanent injury to my SI joint. I also have nerve damage there, and in my foot. Some days it really sucks.

This book is an excellent approach to managing pain and health issues that seem unmanagable - that feel like they have stolen your life and taken all joy from you. The author's approach is very practical and doable... learn to focus on what is right in your life... on moments.

Life is not made up of big events. Life is made of the tiny joys in every day. But when you are buried in pain, you have to train yourself to find them.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. You owe it to yourself, and to your loved ones, to read it. It's very hard to suffer... it's also hard to watch someone suffer. Take a positive step in the middle of what seems impossible and read this book.

Really.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joyce on December 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cohen brings to Buddhism the feminine quality of a personal ordinary approach that deepens my understanding of its wisdom. For example, koans have always been mysterious to me. Cohen brings them down to earth. She created a personal koan as an aid to quit smoking. She repeatedly asked herself the question: "Why is smoking so important to me?" Then she paid mindful attention to her thoughts about and experiences with smoking. For about five days, smoking became even more important to her, and it seemed she could never stop. However, in another few days she had spontaneously quit. She explains her belief that koans "set up an unconscious process that reverberates through the mind and resonates in every corner."

This book deals with the Buddhist idea that pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. Example: you sprain your ankle. The pain is clear and sharp, unavoidable. Suffering is your conceptualization about the pain: "Oh, no. What if I'm permanently damaged and can't run again." Cohen notes that all of us do naturally conceptualize about the pains of our lives, but there is a difference in taking our thoughts as absolute truth and noticing that they shift and change.

One of my favorite chapters is on dealing with the anger pain provokes. Cohen has become quite skilled at having what she calls temper tantrums. She transcribes a phone conversation she had with the customer-service rep of a mail-order company that had messed up her order. She is inspiring. Without abuse, and with strong feeling and clear demands, she gets a supervisor on the phone who soon agrees to override an absurd "company policy," make appropriate adjustments for her, and pay for the phone call.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Silvia on July 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew Darlene when we were both in our 20's. I never would have predicted she would become so wise, so profound. Having rhumatoid arthritis forced her to practice Zen with great dedication and it shows in this book. This book is one of the best books translating Buddhism into everyday life that I have ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Kimmel on August 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
The foundational teaching of Darlene Cohen's "Finding a joyful life..." is Shakyamuni Buddha's Four Noble Truths. Through exposure to these specific teachings more than two decades ago, she became interested and dedicated to Zen Buddhism as a path to relieve her own suffering and help others relieve theirs. Her main thesis: life is bigger than our pain, notice pain [it's sort of hard not too], let it in, then turn your attention to that which does not pain you. With utter fearlessness, she expounds the particulars of how to work with pain whether it be physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual through direct comfort [maybe a soothing bath], experiencing bouts of ecstasy [a oneness with life], and diversion (an example she gave was watching "trash-TV"). The first two parts interested me more than the second two; the latter, a reiteration of the central thesis and greater development of the passages that came before. Sometimes Zen appears stoic and harsh, but Cohen made Zen, in practice more than in form, applicable to every day people like myself. The most simplest and profound practice is that which allows us to become more intimate with life as it is, and the people and things that inhabit our world.
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