Recommended by my mother, whose hobby is philosophy, mental health and spirituality, I tried to approach Choose to Be Happy with an open mind. Although we tend to have similar opinions on politics, popular culture, and traditional religion, we have very different taste in books. My preference is fiction, while she gravitates toward non-fiction, usually dense philosophical texts that make my brain hurt. Her copy of Choose to Be Happy has been around the blocks a few hundred times and, when I visit her, it’s usually within sight, if not in her hands.

I should probably begin by saying I’m not a philosopher, nor am I churchgoer. However, I can’t deny that I’ve been thinking about my spiritual health lately. As you might expect, questions about “god” and “being present” are quite loaded and difficult to answer, mainly because everyone is completely unique and motivated by different spiritual goals. Everyone wants to live in the moment, learn how to appreciate NOW, instead of constantly worrying about the future or rehashing problems of the past. Discovering your own path to this place of proactive positivity is as distinct as your fingerprint.

Choose to Be Happy was a very pleasant surprise. Actually, it was mindblowingly insightful. Typically, philosophical and spiritual texts, though interesting, just aren’t my style. This book goes beyond “self-help” as we all know it, beyond “self-help” as described by Oprah and every other “self-help” guru. Choose to Be Happy is about what we have the capacity to be, feel, and do now, without help from external forces. This book is about accessing your immense internal potential, potential that is, without a doubt, in all of us: potential that doesn’t rely on intelligence, beauty, wealth, opportunity, time, strength, culture, ethnicity, or profession. The law-of-attraction, as defined by bestsellers like The Secret, is almost irrelevant when it comes to the lessons provided so succinctly by Swami Chetanananda and, impressively, done so in plain, unpretentious language.

Choose to Be Happy, though dense, is very readable, understandable, and applicable. The author explains himself clearly without overwhelming the reader with spiritual or humanistic riddles. Yes, he will coax you out of your comfort zone but, by the end of the book, you’ll be grateful for his straight-shooting encouragement. Most importantly, though, is that it will help you see your life, time, and priorities, with fresh eyes.

If you are looking for a unique reading experience, one that demands just as much effort from the reader as it does from the writer (maybe more), I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not into spirituality or spiritual texts, and if esoteric writings intimidate you, Choose to Be Happy is packed with tangible ideas that will help you see your potential for progress.

Had you asked me to read this book five years ago, I might have rolled my eyes in your face. I still don’t completely know why I chose to read it now but, in all honesty, I feel that it was a step I needed to take. Remember, this book isn’t “religious” and the author even makes a point of distancing himself from anything remotely organized. His objective reaches beyond labels and aims to connect on a deeper, more fundamental level. Yes, the word “soul” is used many times but you may be surprised by its use and impact.

How do you approach dense, spiritual texts? Do you have any desire to read them at all? Why or why not?