giveaway: intersecting gretchen rubin, and happiness

FOR THREE YEARS, I’VE BEEN BLOGGING on A Way to Garden, and for three years, I’ve been watching as Gretchen Rubin—until three weeks ago a stranger to me—manifested her own online community, The Happiness Project, from scratch.  From the start, I thought, “this person is on to something,” and sure enough, a Number 1 book of the same name came to be. Just weeks before my own book launched, we finally met, and here’s what happened (with a chance to win one of three copies of Gretchen’s new paperback edition that I bought to help celebrate her success):

Our different-and-yet-not-different paths—ex-attorney Gretchen re-invented herself as a writer—led us to a midtown Manhattan publisher’s offices during Social Media Week last month. We appeared together on a panel about blogging and other tools to help authors create community, and therefore (hopefully!) readers. I nervously gave Gretchen a copy of my book afterward; by later that day, she sent me an invitation and the questions for her weekly “happiness project interview,” which just appeared.

You can read it here—but the headline she chose from among my answers gives you a hint of what fun it is: “A Very Close Friend Says That I Am Not Type A, but AAA.” Gretchen’s deceptively simple questions, things like “what activities make you happier” and “what gets in the way of your happiness,” were really helpful to me in a very stressful time, the lead-up to my book launch. In fact, doing the interview was positively therapeutic.

border-book-large-sealTHAT’S BECAUSE THE BASIC premise of “The Happiness Project” is also deceptively simple but powerful: Gretchen contends that by taking small, concrete steps in your everyday life, you can increase your happiness. I have to say I agree. She does weekly videos to help, like the one up top, and then, of course, her extensive website and YouTube channel and the book itself.  Which you can win one of three copies of by answering this question:

What “spiritual master” would you imitate if you followed Gretchen’s latest tip?

Disclaimer: It doesn’t need to be a religious leader at all (but it can be). The interpretation is broad; Gretchen herself has found mentoring and inspiration in the diverse works of Winston Churchill (of whom she wrote a biography) and a Catholic nun named St. Therese de Lisieux (1873-1897), for instance.

Me? Lately I find sustenance in Jack Kornfield (“A Path With Heart”) and Pema Chodron (“Comfortable With Uncertainty”) and also naturalist John Burroughs. I talked about some of them in my interview with Gretchen. I hope you will go say hello.

Recently, another author, Katrina Kenison and I talked about this topic when we asked you to help us make a list of “books for the journey,” which might be worth browsing through if you want to ponder a bit first.

How to Win 1 of 3 Books

SIMPLY ANSWER THE QUESTION: What “spiritual master” would you imitate if you followed Gretchen’s latest tip?, posting your reply in the comments here before midnight Sunday, March 6. I’ll pick the three winners at random the next day, using the tool at random [dot] org.

Now you know me: You can get away without answering the question, and just say, “Count me in,” or “I’d like to win” if you’re feeling shy. But if you are up for it, let us know your story. Good luck!

  1. Liz grey says:

    hi margaret
    Encouraging to see so may of my inspiring heros are already mentioned! There are so many, incuding you as a great gardening inspiration! As well I’d like to add Leonard Cohen,. musician and Jon Kabat-Zinn author of “Wherever You Go There You Are”, to your list.

  2. Sharon says:

    My spiritual master is Jesus Christ. His teachings are summed up in: love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. We are all familiar with the “golden rule” treating others the way we want to be treated – all good.
    I just received your book from Amazon today – so looking forward to reading it. Living in TN (for the last 18 months), I have daffodils, crocus and hyacinth in bloom – jealously is not allowed – lol.


    Eckhart,,Tolle … A New Earth ,Took me on the journey, after loss of my mom, to brain cancer, divorce came four months later, after 20 yrs of marriage ,loss of my dream home,and my own health issue,I was facing, all at the same time. I was wondering,what was left for me? ego, It is a powerful thing, if you allow it to be. Eckhart Tolle,helped me,find my peace,and to live in the present moment . THANK YOU, count me in .

  4. Jean D. says:

    My spiritual master is a dear friend of mine by the name of Barb. Although she has been dealt 3 separate bouts with cancer, her spirit and faith have never wavered. She gives generously of her self to all those who enter her life. Each friend is a gift to her – a gift that she truly cherishes.

  5. Mary says:

    My spiritual master as well is St. Therese the Little Flower. She has been my spiritual guidance from a very young age….adopted from my Grandmother who was also devoted to her. Her philosophy was to do every thing in a little way, but do it to perfection, hence the name, little flower. The smallest flower in the field ,most inconsequential but still perfect and beautiful. Be there for others, but not so that they notice, so that it becomes the love of the doing without recognition. Very humbling and very rewarding.
    She answers prayers by sending roses and I have never been disappointed. The best garden of all.

  6. Susan says:

    One spiritual master is the British writer Beverly Nichols. I found him when I discovered his series of books detailing his passion for gardening and home renovation. In his lifetime he created 3 homes and gardens, writing a book on each. This series is the best I have ever read on the subject. Laugh out loud humor and a spiritual understanding of life that truly ‘spoke to me’. I needed the message that it is ok to move on in life and leave a much loved home and garden. He lived the cliché that life is a journey not a destination.

  7. melissa says:

    thank you for this generous and exquisite offering. for me, gabrielle roth, clarissa pinkola estes, sally kempton (movement, story, meditation).

  8. Betsy says:

    Beatrix Potter is my spiritual master. I love to see the little children in my library clutching her books that are just the right size for little hands. You can only wonder how many farms, wild creatures, gardens and cottages have been saved due to her ability to see beauty in the homely.

  9. Karla Kuriger says:

    I have 2 spirtual masters, Jessica Maxwell, of “Roll Around Heaven” and Jenniffer Weigel of “I’m Spiritual, Dammit!’ The true stories of their spiritual paths have done more for my own path than any “teacher.” These 2 very REAL women gave me what I needed most: hope that the spiritual life is accessible for me, too. I don’t have to sit in an ashram in a robe to find what I seek. Thank God!

  10. Laura says:

    The Four Agreements by Don MIguel Ruiz has been my go to spiritual book this year. Similar to Eckart Tolle’s words, this small gem of wisdom is profound! Thanks for the give-a-way opportunity.

  11. Kelly Cobb says:

    A wonderful little book called “The Persistence of Yellow, a book of recipes for life,” always lifts my spirits and speaks to me on a fundamental female level. The book is written by Monique Duval and illustrated by Joanna Abbott Moss. It is about enjoying the spirit of the moment, the sounds, the smells, the breezes, the serendipity. Truly delightful!

  12. MJ Seibert says:

    Please count me in ~ The Trinity leads me but the noise coming from my iPod keeps me rooted because Eckhart, Sydney, Tony, and etc. all have a message of spiritual well being and letting God know your wants and needs. They also promote giving back.

  13. Susanne Green says:

    God and Jesus since it’s all about love and living in the moment. I went through some health scares myself recently and when I was waiting to go to the dr’s (a couple of weeks) I did alot of praying and I realised ‘well at least I got THIS moment’ (to be happy) at least I got THIS moment right now to live and breath and seep in all the beautiful nature and all that IS right now (before I have to know if I’m sick etc) It tought me to BE and live in the moment. That’s all we ever have but when you’re faced with something scary, that realization gets even more intense (at least it did for me) because you learn to live in the now.

  14. Sheila says:

    E.B. White is my literary spiritual master and inspiration. Margaret Roach might be my real life spiritual soul mate … I wouldn’t burden anyone by calling them a ‘master’ if I really liked them.

  15. MaryLou says:

    Tasha Tudor lived an enchanting simple life in unison with nature and all the wonderful woodland creatures. She lived off the land, shared remarkable wisdom with all who were willing to listen and taught how one can have joy beyond measure. She wrote and illustrated children’s books and her gardens were like nature’s sketchbook. She is my mentor along with Mother Theresa who tended to the poorest of poor and was the voice, ears and hands for those too weak to speak and care for themselves. By example, she showed us how to have compassion for people of all religions and those without religion. She made extraordinary contributions and sacrifices in caring for the sick. What a peaceful, joyful, world we would have if all could show compassion to each other. MaryLou

  16. Joy says:

    My spiritual master , other than Jesus, is Clare of Assisi. She knew what the right thing was for herself and her sisters and she never took the easy way out. She gently and lovingly stood her ground and did what she had to with great love.

  17. Margaret says:

    COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED. I have selected three winners at random, and notified them by email and await their replies.

    Thanks to all for wonderful answers of such a wide range, which really got me thinking.

    I will email Gretchen Rubin to let her know to have a look at what we came up with, too.


  18. Molly says:

    Acceptance is the way I boost my happiness.

    Accept a grimy sink full of unwashed dishes, a trash can full to overflowing, and a hallway littered with dirty laundry as long as I live with my grown son and husband. Accept that these are my triggers: my chest tightens, my breathing stops, and I want to scream accusations.

    Instead breathing in acceptance allows me to chose to clean or not, and for now I chose acceptance to live with these two who otherwise make me very happy.

  19. Janice Wilson says:

    Trying to figure out my spiritual master made me realize it is Mother Nature. My flower beds, my orchard, my vegetable garden and my time in my greenhouse is what keeps me grounded, gives me peace and restores my soul.

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