A Field Guide to Happiness revised

Linda Leaming Shares Her Secret

by Caroline Stamy

Linda Leaming. Photograph by Gina Binkley

Linda Leaming. Photograph by Gina Binkley

After losing her baggage, literally and figuratively, en route to Bhutan, Linda Leaming made space in her life for simpler practices. As a harried American living in the slow-paced South Asian country, she learned how to decelerate and appreciate life’s nuances. “In the West, we have everything we could possibly need or want—except for peace of mind. We go to extravagant lengths to try to be happy,” Leaming writes in her newest book, A Field Guide to Happiness. “Living in Bhutan and then coming back to the U.S. has taught me that we can all learn to create a space within us where we are untouched, at our best, where we can be open to life, and we can be, even in the darkest hours, calm and relatively happy. That can happen anywhere.”

Leaming contends that many of our perceived “necessities” are in fact not so necessary. Her new lifestyle forced her to discover that she could live without her ample wardrobe, American beauty products, and even luggage. Leaming uses her expansive wisdom to eloquently advocate for a modest, well-balanced life.

The memoir is filled with witty, endearing, and even humorous anecdotes from Leaming’s time in Bhutan. These stories inspire, teach us how to attain equilibrium in our lives, and prove that Bhutan’s designation as the happiest country in the world is well deserved. She recounts long hours spent waiting in the Bhutanese bank —an initially vexing process that eventually taught her patience. She discusses the Bhutanese ritual of drinking tea, which brought new friendships and romance. Slowly, Leaming acquired a stockpile of valuable learning experiences that changed her outlook on life.

She brought these practices back with her to Nashville, where she now tries her best to simulate the Bhutanese lifestyle. By living modestly, facing her own mortality, and slowing down to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, Leaming achieved happiness and suggests that everyone can do the same.

A Field Guide to Happiness is available locally at Parnassus Books, Barnes & Noble, BookManBookWoman, East Side Story, and at most retail booksellers.

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