“For the first 35 years of my life, I often felt like I was in a never-ending storm of suffering,” Tina Turner says. An unhappy childhood. An abusive marriage. A suicide attempt. The 81-year-old singer and Grammy winner was, as she tells Glamour, trapped in cycles of negativity for decades.
That pattern of suffering changed after she started practicing Buddhism in the 1970s. “I discovered a source of strength within me that could survive even the worst of times…. I realized that I already had within me everything I needed to change my life for the better. We all do.”
Now, Turner is ready to share her wisdom. Her new book, Happiness Becomes You, is a guide for overcoming obstacles in life using lessons the music and style icon learned from her own difficult experiences. Selected by Amazon’s editors as one of the best nonfiction books of 2020 and available now, it’s an inspiring journey.
In fact, Pose star Angelica Ross counts herself as one of those inspired. Here, she interviews Turner about Happiness Becomes You, how each of us can make positive change in our lives, and more.
Angelica Ross: In the introduction of your wonderful new book, Happiness Becomes You, you describe being touched by messages from people all over the world who say how inspired they are by your life story and the many challenges you’ve overcome. How can each of us use our lives for positive change?
Tina Turner: When we do our best to increase goodness in our lives every day, even in small amounts, then we can, over time, make big changes for the better. Focus on becoming a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Increase the kindness you show to others and to all living beings. Respect our precious natural environment. All of your positive actions will create ripple effects that help our world become a happier place, oftentimes in ways you cannot even see. That positive energy will ultimately come back to you too.
In the book, you describe an interesting concept called the Ten Worlds—the idea that people have life conditions, or worlds, that we all cycle through, from hell to enlightenment. Please speak about times when you have been in the lower worlds, and what you gained from the experiences.
The Ten Worlds is a gem of Buddhist wisdom that describes our state of mind in 10 categories, from the lowest lows to the highest highs. As we go about our day, we all experience a range of feelings and thoughts that can correspond to any or all of the Ten Worlds. Whatever mood we’re in colors our state of mind and can either lift us up or bring us down. But whether we’re experiencing an unhappy condition in the lower worlds or a joyful condition in the higher worlds, it is always our choice how we respond, how we can make the most of our circumstances. And it’s important to choose behavior that helps both ourselves and everyone around us to experience more peace and harmony.
For the first 35 years of my life, I often felt like I was in a never-ending storm of suffering. I was trapped in cycles of negativity. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t break out of the lower worlds. But the silver lining in those experiences was that I discovered a source of strength within me that could survive even the worst of times. I just needed to find a way to harness and amplify that fortitude so that I could break free and elevate myself. Once I understood concepts like the Ten Worlds, I realized that I already had within me everything I needed to change my life for the better. We all do. Once we realize that, the next step is to tap into it. In Happiness Becomes You, I share how I moved myself into the higher worlds, so that anyone who reads the book can do it too.
You also talk about overcoming loss, from abandonment as a child to the premature death of loved ones and abusive relationships. You beautifully describe how your practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has helped you cope with each challenge. Was there anything else that helped you—and how?