Intimately and without jargon, How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow describes the path to peace amid all of life's ups and downs. Using step by step instructions, the author illustrates how to be fully present in the moment without clinging to joy or resisting sorrow. This opens the door to a kind of wellness that goes beyond circumstances. Actively engaging life as it is in this fashion holds the potential for awakening to a peace and well-being that are not dependent on whether a particular experience is joyful or sorrowful. This is a practical book, containing dozens of exercises and practices, all of which are illustrated with easy-to-relate to personal stories from the author's experience.
Drawing inspiration from the Buddha's awakening, Bernhard addresses this ancient tradition's core ideas in a wise, gentle guide to reducing suffering. Her previous book (How to Be Sick) described her efforts to adapt skillfully to a chronic, life-changing illness. Here she explores Buddhism's heart to show how "we have the potential to awaken to a peace and well-being that are not dependent on whether a particular experience is joyful or sorrowful." With assurance the author blends clear explanations, examples, and easy practices (such as the "tracing exercise" to identify the source of dissatisfaction) from her circumscribed life to explore how wisdom, mindfulness, and open-heartedness can improve well-being. The relevance of classic topics such as the three marks of existence (impermanence, no fixed self, and suffering) is deftly investigated. Her discussion of "tanha" (desire) teases out the difference between wholesome aspirations and harmful craving, a sometimes thorny topic for students of Buddhism. While the market is saturated with good introductions to Buddhism, Bernhard excels at demonstrating from personal knowledge that the Buddha's promises to ease suffering aren't just empty words.