LORI DESCHENE, AKA TINY BUDDHA, doesn’t claim to be anybody’s guru, and it was her lack of pretense and big doses of practicality that caught my eye and got us talking. To mark the publication of Lori’s first book, “Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions,” I’ve and asked the founder of the web community TinyBuddha [dot] com and its anything-but-tiny Twitter and Facebook groups, to answer some questions about herself, and everything from mantras she steers by, to dealing with money worries and even her top self-help books. Plus, I’ve bought two extra copies of “Tiny Buddha” to share with you—you in? (Hint: It would make a great holiday gift for the tiny Buddha in your life.)
I’m a sucker for inspirational quotations, and that’s how Tiny Buddha got started: with the Twitter account @Tiny Buddha, offering one inspirational saying a day. Not a lot of noise and chatter, but one thought. I was hooked—and so are more than 237,000 other people who follow it. The website and Facebook (about 70,000 strong) came next.
What I still love best, in whichever medium, and in “Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions”–the sayings, and the lists. Like the one called “50 Things You Can Control Right Now” that closes the final chapter, and includes things like: “Whether you listen or wait to talk.” And, “How nice you are to yourself in your own head.” Or, “How quickly you try again after you fall.”
LET LORI DESCHENE tell you more herself about her book and her life philosophy, in this Q&A interview:
Q. I have heard you explain that your stated goal when starting Tiny Buddha was to form a community, but you started the Twitter account @TinyBuddha, and then the website a year and a half later, anonymously—merely calling yourself the “founder,” not giving your name. So who is Lori—what should we know about her today most of all?
A: Yes, it was all very ironic! When I started tweeting quotes, my initial goal to do something meaningful online with the time I had in my schedule. When I decided to launch a community blog around those ideas, I thought that if I didn’t identify myself as the founder, it would allow the spotlight to stay on everyone, not me personally. Then I realized the irony: you can’t lead a community if you aren’t willing to acknowledge your role in it!
I would describe myself as a deep thinker who wears my heart on my sleeve. I am someone who’d rather have a few close friends than many acquaintances because I like to go under the surface in my relationships. I also prefer to do less and earn less if it gives me more space to simply be.
Once upon a time, I weighed my worth in accomplishments. These days, I just want to have enough and enjoy my time with the people I love. That’s what feels meaningful to me, so that’s how I live my life.
Q. Of course, “Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions” is not a gardening book. But that didn’t stop me from seeing in it a set of lessons that would make as great a Gardening 101 as a Living 101, since for me gardening is a spiritual pursuit. So for instance you say:
- Let yourself get messy.
- Embrace the chaos of life.
- Go outside your comfort zone.
- See the new in the familiar.
- Cultivate mental quiet.
- Create childlike presence.
Are there a few key aphorisms that steer your days? (For me: “Progress, not perfection”–which I see is in your book, too!–would be one.)
A: The mantra I repeat most often is “Let go.” Whenever I feel detached from the moment, you can bet I am holding onto something that doesn’t serve me! I remind myself to let go whenever I start dwelling on a mistake a made, a future outcome I’m worried about, or something someone else did. “Let go” always helps me find peace with what is.
Another mantra I repeat often is “You and this moment are worthy.” As I explored in my book, I spent the first two decades of my life feeling inferior to everyone else. While I’ve put a lot of effort into learning to love myself, I sometimes need this reminder. I include “this moment” to remember that at any time, I can choose to fully see and enjoy what is, regardless of my circumstances.
Q: You remind me of a Jack(ie)-in-the-Beanstalk type—so prolific even in a short time on earth, and even when grown in less-than-ideal soil (as you reveal when you recount various rocky moments, from issues with eating and esteem, to some tricky relationships). Forgive this age-ist question, but how did you accomplish so much? What asset do you draw upon—where does your hunger come from?
A: Forgiven! And thank you. It’s funny because I wouldn’t have thought of myself as someone who has accomplished a lot, or quickly. I career hopped all through my 20s, meaning I didn’t commit to anything long enough to really achieve anything.
With Tiny Buddha, I haven’t focused on the traditional goals many bloggers pursue. I haven’t launched an eCourse. I don’t run seminars or webinars. I don’t do much public speaking. I don’t offer coaching or mentoring.
What I have done is focus on what I enjoy—sharing stories and writing about the ideas that lead to emotional freedom, like forgiveness and acceptance. I do this because it allows me to recycle my former pain into something that feels useful to other people; and it also helps me learn to deal with pain better, so that I create less unnecessary suffering for myself.
I’m especially motivated by the conversations that take place within the community—around my posts and posts other bloggers submit. They remind me that I am never alone with my struggles, and that I am part of something bigger than myself.
Plainly and simply, I keep writing and sharing through Tiny Buddha because it is simultaneously my greatest joy and my deepest need.
Q. When I wrote “And I Shall Have Some Peace There,” about my move from city fast lane to rural solitude, the “there” meant close to nature. What’s your “there”—your place of peace?
A. I suspect this will sound cliché, but it’s inside me. I’ve lived in many different locations, and I’ve traveled through every state in the U.S. looking for that place of peace. It was always just a train, plane, or car ride away—and it definitely wasn’t where I grew up and dealt with a lot of pain and shame.
I’ve learned that wherever I go, I take myself with me, so if I want to know peace, I need to choose it one moment at a time, wherever I happen to be.
Q. What about fear? It’s not one of the book’s chapter titles (Pain is, as are Meaning, Change, Hate, Happiness, Love, Money, Possibilities, and Control…all juicy topics, to be sure). Are there times when fear has taken over, or does now, and how do you get past it?
A: Absolutely! I feel scared of something every day. I’ve decided to view this as a barometer that I’m alive. Sometimes I let my fear hold me back, but I look at everything in life as a ratio. There will be times when I am afraid to take a risk, and then I do nothing because of it. If I can act in spite of my fear more often than not—and work to increase that ratio day by day—I feel proud of myself.
Q. I have to ask, because some of the personal stories I have told in my own writing have come back to bite me here and there, at least a little. Anything in this extremely candid book you wish you’d left out?
A: Well, this goes back to that fear question! I’ve second-guessed some of the stories I shared pertaining to relationships. They’re not the most flattering, and somewhat embarrassing. But I know I shared them for a reason—I thought they might help people.
There’s a big part of me that fears being judged, but the part of me that wants to be honest is greater. In the end, I’d rather be disliked for something that’s true than liked for something that’s not.
Ultimately, I shared the stories I wanted to share, and, for the most part, I kept my loved ones out of it. That was the most important thing for me. I signed up for public confession; they did not.
Q. I am especially interested in the section titled “Do You Need Money to Be Happy?” What do you do when thoughts—worries—of money (which I think we all have, especially these days), want to take the front seat in your head? Any tips?
A: When I worry that I might not have enough money, I do one of two things: I dream and I distill. By dreaming, I mean I visualize how Tiny Buddha can expand in a way that feels right for me, so that I can keep planning and creating. I don’t know how it will evolve; but I trust that if I keep following my instincts and adding value to people’s lives, I will continue to find a way to sustain myself, as I have up until now.
By distilling, I mean that I narrow down my needs to the basics to remember how little money I actually require to live. This usually helps me realize that no matter what happens I will be okay. I can always downsize, or change my living situation, or make sacrifices—I’ve done it many times before, and each time I’ve gained far more than I’ve lost.
Q. I’ve read a lot of woo-woo books over many decades, and I wonder: What are your favorite inspirational books, ones that have made a big difference, and what else would be on your recommended reading list—fiction, non-fiction, you name it?
A: I’ve read countless self-help books over the years, but the books I find most inspiring are memoirs about overcoming adversity and surviving dysfunction, like Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Augusten Burroughs’s Dry.
The self-help book I most frequently recommend is Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” Some of my recent favorites are “Waiting for Jack” (by Kristen Moeller) and Lynn Zavaro’s “The Game of You,” an interactive book and card game set that I find incredibly insightful.
If you’re into the true crime books, I could recommend a ton of those! Really, I’m just fascinated by psychology and what leads some people to make healthy, life-affirming choices and others to make unhealthy destructive ones. At the core, that’s what my book is about: the different empowering choices we can make based on what know and what we don’t.
how to win a copy of ‘tiny buddha’
TO ENTER TO WIN one of two copies of “Tiny Buddha” I’ve bought to share with you, simply comment below suggesting your own answer to that last question I asked Lori: What self-help or other inspirational book(s) are your top picks?
Feeling shy? Just say, “Count me in” or “I want to win,” and I’ll include your entry in the drawing anyhow, but better yet: suggest a book! (If you need hints, my friend and fellow author Katrina Kenison and I did this some time ago, and came up with a list of “books for the journey” that might interest or even inspire you.)
I’ll draw the two winners at random after entries close at midnight, Thursday, December 15. Good luck to all!
postscript: my interview on tiny buddha
YOU MIGHT RECALL the interview Lori did with me a few months back, when she was reading my book “And I Shall Have Some Peace There.” If you have never visited the Tiny Buddha website, a community effort of personal stories, inspirational quotations and more, that might be a place to start. Or the homepage.
(Disclaimer: For any products bought via Amazon links on this post, I receive a small commission that I use to buy more books for future giveaways.)