By Ann Butler
Herald Staff Writer
In a world where wars, starvation and economic woes are rampant, how can a person possibly be happy?
The first step is to decide, or form the intention, to be joyful, Buddhist teacher and author James Baraz says. That is
one of 10 principles in his new book, Awakening Joy, which is also the name of a course he teaches both in person and
Buddha is known as the 'Happy One,'" he said during a speech at the Durango Dharma Center on Monday. The Dalai Lama
says, 'The purpose of our life is happiness.'"
But Baraz, who has been teaching meditation for more than 30 years, had found himself getting so into the practice,meditation and philosophy of Buddhism that life became a
When I got back to appreciating life, I experienced joy again," he said.
The resident of Woodacre, in the San Francisco Bay Area, stopped in Durango on his current book tour. He stresses that
Awakening Joy is not about always being joyful and denying the sorrows that are part of life, but a way of recognizing
the happiness that already exists.
It's knowing where real happiness lies: in a connection to life, a feeling of wholeness, of integrity, aliveness and
authenticity," he said. Happiness really has many wholesome states, like loving kindness, generosity, compassion and
Neuroscience expert Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain, is quoted in the book and is a guest lecturer in the
Awakening Joy course. Hanson's research has shown that when a person experiences that sense of well-being frequently,it changes the actual structure of the brain.
Neurons that fire together, wire together," Baraz said.
Durangoan Kate Errett is one of several locals who has taken the online course. Before taking the course, she found it
was easier to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.
There's a lot more joy even in small things now," she said.
Baraz's course has been written up in O Magazine and numerous other publications. Thousands of people have graduated,including priests, rabbis and pastors.
This not a religious book," he said. It's not a political book. It's a book anyone can use."