Sr Lang Nghiem starts off by telling a story about two men who find paradise only to lose it later. She leads us in exploring our own ideas of beauty and paradise and how they affect our daily life. Examining our ideas of beauty can give us insight into what we think is acceptable or unacceptable.
Our ideas of beauty can be a source of suffering and can cause us to wear masks, whether they are masks that change our physical appearances (make-up) or behaviours that hide our sufferings or insecurities. She asks us to see if we are able to recognize our own beauty without our masks.
Many of us are looking for a kind of paradise, paradise can take the form of a place, an ideal job or even an idea (e.g. an idea of freedom). How many of use are looking for a new paradise or a paradise lost?
Often times when we first begin our spiritual practice, we feel that we have found paradise. Then as time passes, we can start to doubt and doubt becomes a kind of wilderness of the heart. She tells us about the five kinds of doubt in spiritual practice (doubting our teacher, the teachings, the sangha, the mindfulness trainings, the people around us). Doubt occurs when we stop practicing and no longer return to the present moment, we are lost in speculation and our thinking and we begin to doubt the practice which we have ceased to do.
Antidotes to doubt include stopping and returning to the present moment. We can return to the present moment with various basic practices to re-see the wonders of life and put our difficulties into perspective. We also need to be active in generating a moments of happiness, we have to do more than just recognizing moments of happiness when they occur. She then covers the five ways of generating happiness (stopping, letting go, mindfulness, concentration and insight).