Interview and Giveaway: A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life

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The Winners:

Though we may all have varied goals and paths, ultimately, we all have the same objective: happiness. It’s with this in mind that Buddhist monk Lama Marut wrote A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life.

Through a series of meditations, exercises, and insights, he helps us overcome suffering and create contentment—two essential prerequisites to happiness.

Playful and entertaining, A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life distills complex ideas into a light-hearted, easy-to-read manual for happiness and fulfillment.

I’m grateful that Lama Marut took the time to answer some questions about the book, and also offered 5 books for Tiny Buddha readers.

The Giveaway

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If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter by completing the first step. You can enter until midnight PST on Tuesday, December 4th.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life?

I wanted to try to summarize—in ordinary, non-technical language—what I had learned over the years about living a life conducive to happiness. We are all driven by the desire to be happy, but I know in my own case that I spent a lot of time barking up many wrong trees before I found a method that really worked!

2. How do you define “the good life”?

The phrase has a double meaning. It means, firstly, a happy life in which we have good relationships, a secure financial situation, a rewarding profession, healthy self-image, etc.

The way to achieve the good life in this first sense is to live the good life in a second sense: to lead a moral life based on non-violence, telling the truth, not taking what doesn’t belong to you, being generous, etc. You reap what you sow; what goes around comes around. If you want to have a good life in the first sense of the term, you must live the second kind of good life.

3. In Chapter One, you wrote that we sometimes think of happiness as a selfish goal. Why do you think we believe this, and how can we move beyond it?

I think one of the little demons inside our own heads that tries to trash our quest for true happiness is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: “I thought you were supposed to be a good person who cared about others,” that demon might say, “and here you are selfishly pursuing your own happiness.”

That’s a devil that really needs a talking to, for the logic is totally faulty. We know from experience that it’s only when we feel happy ourselves that we clear the head-space for taking real interest in others.

We can’t really be of much use to other people if we haven’t fixed ourselves first. We can’t help save the drowning unless we know how to swim; we can’t be helpers if we remain “helpees.”

4. You wrote that the entry point for happiness is contentment. Can you expand on this?

I think sometimes when we imagine what it would be like to be happy—let alone when we are picturing a religious goal like “nirvana” or “samadhi” or “salvation”—we imagine some kind of ecstatic state. Like the goal is to be blissed out all the time or something.

I’m not sure that being blissed out all the time is possible or even desirable, but in any event it seems clear that if we are to reach higher states of happiness—joy, bliss, euphoria, ecstasy, or whatever—we must first achieve good old simple contentment.

We’re unhappy because we are dissatisfied with life and are driven by greed, aversion, and grasping. As the Buddha said, we suffer because we don’t get what we want, we do get what we don’t want, and we lose what we want to keep. Contentment is the opposite of this perpetual dissatisfaction.

5. In Chapter Four, you explored what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. What’s a common misconception about forgiveness that keeps us stuck?

On my book tour last summer, I took to calling forgiveness the “f-word,” because every time I started to talk about it I got a reaction similar to the response I would have received had I been using the other “f-word.” Major aversion. Nobody wants to forgive. We have huge resistance to it.

I think our reluctance to forgive depends on harboring a set of false ideas. One of these is the notion that by not forgiving the person who hurt us we are somehow hurting them back.

We justify our refusal to forgive by thinking of it as retaliation. But this is completely wrong-headed! It’s been said that not forgiving is like drinking poison in the hopes that someone else will drop dead. Not forgiving doesn’t hurt anyone other than ourselves.

6. Later you suggested that we can be grateful for our difficulties. How can we shift to a mindset of gratitude when we’re feeling hurt and bitter?

Gratitude depends on feeling that there’s something to be grateful for. So the trick when it comes to being grateful for what would otherwise just be a source of suffering is to try to see something useful in the event.

If we can reinterpret what we may be tempted to see as just a problem into an opportunity to learn something and to grow into better human beings, we can then feel gratitude to those who made that beneficial (if somewhat difficult) experience possible for us.

7. What did you mean by “All history is revisionist history”?

There’s no story about the past—neither any “official” narrative like the ones our professional historians tell, nor any of the stories we tell ourselves about our own individual past—that isn’t being told from the present perspective.

And since the present perspective is constantly changing—time does, after all, march on—there is no story about the past that isn’t changing too.

The past and the present exist interdependently. We are who we think we used to be, and we think about how we used to be in terms of who we think we are. Both.  So change one, you change the other.

Revising our history by seeing it through the lens of forgiveness and gratitude instead of bitterness and resentment will automatically improve the way we think about our present.

8. You wrote that it’s okay to “think about the future in a wise and healthy-minded manner.” What’s the difference between doing that and trying to control the future?

Often when we think about the future we worry about all the things that could go wrong. But the future rarely, if ever, turns out to be the way we imagined it, so it’s foolish to buy into all the nightmarish scenarios our imagination conjures up.

We can have trust that everything will be all right in the future if we are attentive to creating favorable causes with our actions in the present. Live a morally good life, and then have some faith in the process!

What goes around will come around, so if we’re careful about what we put out there we can think about the future with confidence that it everything will be okay.

While we can’t predict the specifics of what will happen (and who would really want to anyway?), we can in general rest assured that if we have created good causes, good effects will follow.

9. What’s the main message you hope readers take from this book?

I would hope that readers would take away the belief that true, deep-seated happiness is really possible and that the means for achieving it are entirely in our own hands.

If we feel ourselves to be hapless victims of others’ actions or of the randomly unfolding vicissitudes of life, or if we presume that it someone else’s job to make us happy, then we totally disempower ourselves.

We have the possibility, even the right, to be happy in life, but we must be spiritual renegades, take the bull by the horns, and do what’s necessary to attain our goal.

Learn more about A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life on Amazon.

FTC Disclosure: I receive complimentary books for reviews and interviews on tinybuddha.com, but I am not compensated for writing or obligated to write anything specific. I am an Amazon affiliate, meaning I earn a percentage of all books purchased through the links I provide on this site.  

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, and Tiny Buddha's Inner Strength Journal and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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