Book Details

A Field Guide to Happiness

Linda Leaming

Self Improvement, Memoir


In the West, we have everything we could possibly need or want-except for peace of mind.

So writes Linda Leaming, a harried American who traveled from Nashville, Tennessee, to the rugged Himalayan nation of Bhutan-sometimes called the happiest place on Earth-to teach English and unlearn her politicized and polarized, energetic and impatient way of life.

In Bhutan, if I have three things to do in a week, it's considered busy. In the U.S., I have at least three things to do between breakfast and lunch.

After losing her luggage immediately upon arrival, Leaming realized that she also had emotional baggage-a tendency toward inaction, a touch of self-absorption, and a hundred other trite, stupid, embarrassing, and inconsequential things-that needed to get lost as well.

Pack up ideas and feelings that tie you down and send you lead-footed down the wrong path. Put them in a metaphorical suitcase and sling it over a metaphorical bridge in your mind. Let the river take them away.

Forced by circumstance and her rustic surroundings to embrace a simplified life, Leaming made room for more useful beliefs. The thin air and hard climbs of her mountainous commute put her deeply in touch with her breath, helping her find focus and appreciation. The archaic, glacially paced bureaucracy of a Bhutanese bank taught her to go with the flow-and take up knitting. The ancient ritual of drinking tea brought tranquility, friendship, and, eventually, a husband. Each day, and each adventure, in her adopted home brought new insights and understandings to take back to frantic America, where she now practices the art of "simulating Bhutan." This collection of stories, impressions, and suggestions is a little nudge, a push, a leg up into the rarefied air of paradise-of bright sunlight and beautiful views.

Book Reviews
Oct 20, 2014 ohsarahjoy
Sometimes I pick out books simply because they sound like something I wouldn’t normally read. I’ve read some amazing books that way and some not-so-amazing books.That’s how I came to read A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up by Linda Leaming. I don’t normally read memoirs but something about it caught my eye. I had never heard of Bhutan and it was a relatively short book and I wanted something fun to read.

Leaming’s book is a collection of stories, practices, and advice she’s picked up living in Bhutan. This book doesn’t tell her whole story but rather gives snapshots of her life. She tells you a story about her husband, about climbing up the mountains to visit a nearby village, her garden, the bull she tried to tame and each time you a glimpse into her life. She gives you little snapshots of what her live is like at different points while encompassing things she’s learned living in Bhutan.

Now she splits her time between Bhutan and Nashville, TN. She writes about how she tries (and sometimes fails) to bring Bhutan with her when she comes back to the U.S. She will tell you a story and give you some advice about how she (and you) can incorporate Bhutan into your life.

Bhutan is a small Buddhist country in the Himalayas. Leaming’s stories are quirky and she’s always quick and willing to point out her foibles navigating living in a world that’s completely different to the one she was raised and socialized in.

I’d classify this as a nice Sunday read. If you are in the mood to read something light, grab a cup of tea and settle in. Leaming’s stories are easy to read and it feels like having a conversation rather than reading a collection of essays. It’s easy to breeze from one chapter to the next; the stories flow not unlike the stream she lives near in Bhutan.

If you are looking for something to read and Buddhism, memoir style writing, or Bhutan interest you pick it up, give her book a read through. You might even find one of her stories or pieces of advice useful.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
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Jan 02, 2015 blessedelements
I fell in love with Linda Leaming’s talent for story telling when I read her first book, Married to Bhutan. That was in the year 2011 and I’ve been anxiously awaiting another book from Linda Leaming since then. Another book is here and did not disappoint me in the least. Indeed it was worth the wait.

There are twenty-two chapters in this book and just glimpsing at the table of contents and seeing the titles such as, Calm Down, Breath, Drink Tea, produced the thought of “I do that already.” After reading the authors experience and techniques I became aware that there was a whole new approach to calming down, breathing and drinking tea that I needed to apply to my life.

Linda Leaming is an inspirational story teller who changes my mind set and life when I read and re-read her books. Each time I come to the final page of the book I know I’m not closing the book but beginning a new path in my own life to apply the lessons learned from Linda’s A Field Guide to Happiness to direct me and remind me I can change my life by changing my thoughts and reactions.

Telling some one to breath may sound ridiculous as we all do it automatically requiring no thought but perhaps that is the problem as we do it with out thinking about it. We need to think to breathe which gives our brains something to do instead of focusing on a current gripe or aggravation. I have been taking Linda’s advice. Shortly after reading the book I discovered the magic of breathing to change my mindset and world I live in.

I was in the car trying to get to my destination rather than enjoying the journey. The school bus pulled up at the entrance to my community for the local school kids to get to school and barred my escape. The high school crowd moved slowly as expected, after all what normal kid really wants to go to school? The stragglers began to annoy me and rather than rolling down the window and shouting “Hurry up as I have places to go!”, I practiced a lesson from A Field Guide to Happiness.

Daydreaming I visualized myself getting out of the car armed with the sticks I use when wrangle my chickens back to their chicken house each night. I used my expert chicken herding skills to continue driving the students on to the bus and artfully side stepped blocking those students attempting to escape. I smiled at their surprise of my agility from my years and experience of chicken wrangling. I patted myself on the back for a job well done and returned to reality where the local kids were still shuffling towards the bus and my annoyance returned. Suddenly Linda’s words came to me “Breathe” I breathed slowly and deliberately and my frustration faded as my eyes fell on the patient bus driver waiting for the last passengers to climb aboard the bus. I appreciated her willingness to drive these kids to gain an education which would open doors of opportunity whether they appreciated it or not. Inwardly, I selfishly was glad that it was not my job but hers. When the school bus doors closed the magic of breathing made me appreciate the peace I now felt rather than the anger that would have grown from frustration. The change of my mind set continued with me through out the day to be an ever reminder to not take myself so seriously and breathe.

I found this book to be honest, entertaining and instructional and the lessons Linda Leaming has learned and shares by living in Bhutan can easily be transferred to the Ocala National Forest where I live. When I forget those lessons then all I need do is open my A Field Guide to Happiness and find my path again to the peace and happiness it inspires.
I wonder what lessons you would learn by reading this book?
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Jan 05, 2015 WellB
As I was breaking down this month’s theme, I found myself grasping for every last bit of information that I thought would be beneficial to share with you. I want happiness to be tangible and for that to happen, I need to make sure I am covering everything.

One thing that I fear almost escaped my plan was concentrating on and appreciating other people’s research. Don’t they always say that if you want what another person has, learn what they did to get there? Or better yet, if someone is on the same path as you, haven’t you ever found it beneficial to compare notes? Maybe they thought of something you haven’t, and vice versa!

Therefore, I consider it nothing less than a synchronicity that Hay House asked me to review a book completely related to exactly where I am at right now. “The Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming is nothing less than extraordinary. She takes the reader on a journey through Bhutan and shows the reader first hand that happiness stems from simplicity.

a field guide to happiness

Linda Leaming is your semi-typical, yet worldly, American woman driven by the hope of finding happiness. After visiting Bhutan, a country universally known for its level of bliss (the country actually measures gross national happiness), she decided to transport her life from Tennessee to Thimpu.

The book is made up of short essays that teach the simple yet complex lessons she has learned and been reminded of from living amongst the Bhutanese people. Each chapter’s title outlines the core message, while the essay’s share personal stories and cultural folk tale to demonstrate what she means. Some of these messages include: Calm Down, Learn to Breathe, Generosity is Contagious, etc.

Prior to reading this book, I saw a few other reviewers comment on how Buddhist based this book was, but I have to say I did not find it to be that way at all. Buddhism is most certainly addressed in this book, as it should be since this is the religion of the Bhutanese people. Regardless of what religion you may or may not associate yourself with, the Buddhist topics covered in this book are messages I think that could benefit any reader to implement into their daily life.

While I don’t think it is necessary for us to completely move our lives to another country to find true happiness, I found this book to be a great and gentle reminder of some of the easy things so many of us have forgotten.

I hope you take the time to explore the messages this book has to offer, and invest the time to find other book’s written by happiness warriors! Remember, some great lessons can be learned from following in the footsteps of other people who are where you want to be… maybe not geographically (but trust me, after this book you may want to be in Bhutan) but in mind set.

Peace and love!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
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