Lost Connections

A fantastic book hits the UK market tomorrow. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression-and the Unexpected Solutions is written by my friend, NY Times bestselling author Johann Hari. It offers a much-needed rethinking of our current epidemic of depression, which continues unabated despite the widespread availability of antidepressant medications. The book is getting rave reviews and I am so thrilled for Johann.

Being genuinely happy for someone else–the quality of sympathetic joy–is precisely what I discussed with Johann when we met up a couple of years ago in Indianapolis, after years of not seeing each other. Johann had been busy researching and writing a brilliant book (Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs), whereas a divorce, relocation, and single parenthood had occupied me. When we saw each other again, I couldn’t help but gush about my meditation practice, which had taken off since I had last seen him. The practice got me through dark times and was bringing forth the best in me. And the capacity for sympathetic joy is one of the most rewarding qualities I’ve cultivated throughout this process.

I was excited when Johann decided to incorporate some of my remarks into Lost Connections, and to present meditation as one of several things we can do to help ourselves in the face of depression. But I have to admit, it made me squirm a little too. In order to talk about sympathetic joy, I had to bring up its opposites. I had to speak candidly about my own envy, insecurity, and depression. No one likes to admit to being envious and insecure! Despite it being a universal experience, we fear it makes it pathetic or loathsome in the eyes of others. We can talk about our anger, our grief, our anxiety…almost anything is easier to confess to than envy, jealousy, schadenfreude, and the like.

I’m really thankful for this experience. I can only be of service to others if I’m honest and fully human. And I believe envy isn’t discussed nearly enough in our culture, so you can expect to read more about it on this blog going forward. We can investigate our envy and come out the other side actually happier as a result of doing so. It’s an unconventional path to happiness, but a real one that’s available to us all.

I’m wishing Johann continued success–after all, it makes ME happy!–and I look forward to January 23rd, when his book hits the US market. I’ll be re-reading it, smiling, and yes, perhaps squirming a bit.

15 thoughts on “Lost Connections”

  1. Rachel is the real deal!! I was a huge skeptic and as a long time friend I had no problem revealing my concerns about the effectiveness of meditation. Through a lot of guidenace and practice she turned me in to a beliver of this unconventional practice. Thank you for helping me become more at ease with some of my demons and teaching me a new way to control my anxiety.

  2. I have just read Johann’s book, it was amazing, couldn’t put it down and I am carrying it in my heart as one does sometimes……………………………..I am in a mindfulness group in UK, it is the official 8 week course taught by a wonderful woman, and it is free……………..and it works. I was telling them today about my Johann adventure, I also told them about Rachael.
    Rachael how do we get to know what you do? It would seem a little too much of an ask for you to come here and teach us your method! Possible for me to buy a recording?
    I am a burnt out therapist and am wishing for a new way to work as a hypnotherapist, from my heart and in an organic way. This is one reason that the book spoke to me so sweetly.
    Much, much love and blessings to you

      1. Please let me know too! I’m in rural Australia having just spent five years in Asia , but I have internet !! Hope you have a YouTube channel or some such.
        Loved the book!

        1. Hi Julie! I appreciate your comment so much. I do want to start a YouTube channel. It’s on my to do list and I’m a bit intimidated, so I’ve been putting it off. My current goal is to launch one in the fall. 😀

  3. Hi Rachel, I have just read ‘lost connections ‘ too and absolutely loved it. You’re story stood out and I am now really interested in meditation. I am a complete novice and am a bit overwhelmed with the options available on utube and guided courses! Do you have any advice on where to start? Many thanks Kristy

    1. Hi Kristy, thank you for reaching out. I understand the overwhelm: so many types of meditation and so many resources! If you are interested in the kind of practices discussed in Johann’s book, google “loving kindness meditation” and start exploring that kind of meditation. I’m also going to email you privately. Best wishes!

  4. Rachel, I came to your website, after reading Johann’s book (which I loved). I was looking particularly for your Sympathetic Joy meditation ….? Sounds great. I have studied yoga and meditation for decades (used to teach yoga), and, recognizing sympathetic joy as one of the 4 Brahma Viharas, I am intrigued! Perhaps, it is similar to Metta? Would love to experience it! Not only is meditation transformational for depression and anxiety, I truly believe it can transform the world.
    Love ON!
    Kim

    1. Hi Kim!
      Yes, it’s similar to metta and there are meditation retreats that focus on the brahma viharas, where you could go deeper into sympathetic joy practices! Would it be possible for you to get to one?

      Yeah, love on!!
      Rachel

  5. Hi Rachel!

    I too read Lost Connections and it might be my new favourite book. There’s so much hope in it. I wanted to explore what you do but there’s so much loving kindness meditation material online and I’m not sure if some of it is better than others? Is there anything you can recommend? I’m in London. Thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa, I’m so sorry about how long it’s taken to get back to you. You are right about how much is online these days. I think whatever speaks to you personally is best, and there’s no way to know besides listening to a bunch of different people and seeing what lands. I personally like Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach…

  6. Hi Rachel, I’ve just finished ‘Lost Connections’ as well and really related to your words. I would like to try your meditation. Is there an app or guided meditation you would recommend?

    1. Hi Pennie, I don’t have much experience with meditation apps but hope to try some out in the coming months. I often recommend Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield for these “heart” practices. I also attended a retreat last year by a lovely teacher named Spring Washam. Poking around on Google should yield many many options for you.

  7. Hi, Rachel. I just finished Johann Hari’s book. I’ve been on and off antidepressants (mostly on) for the best part of 20 years and this book was a real eye-opener for me. Like him, I thought I had a chemical imbalance that the pills were supposed to address. But didn’t. And they are so hard to get off.

    Meditation gives me hope. But I don’t know how to do it. I live in Australia so cannot get to see you in person. I’m going to Google “loving kindness meditation”. Do you have a meditation available online? After reading what Johann said I’d gladly pay for it.

    Thanks

    Rob Brown

    1. Dear Rob,
      I’m so excited for you and hope meditation is a good fit for your needs. There is a huge amount free material online, so I encourage you to start searching and listening to any audio that sparks your curiosity. I haven’t launched a YouTube channel or any other content (e.g. courses) online yet, but I’m working on it! Let me know if I can be of further help!

      Best wishes,
      Rachel

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