Sep 29, 2010
“Pocket Peace: Practices for Enlightened Living,” by Allan Lokos
In Pocket Peace, Allan Lokos, founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center located on New York City’s upper west side, offers some practical advice for those of us who are seeking to create more balance in our lives.
It’s no newsflash that living in modern times can be a challenge to the development of our spiritual selves. The truth of the matter, however, is that there have always been daunting challenges to developing a strong spiritual practice. Early Buddhists recognized this by creating the “Paramis,” or “Perfection Practices.” In this book, Lokos re-investigates the Buddhist “Paramis” and builds on them by offering effective “pocket practices” that we can use to better ourselves and have a greater understanding of the world around us.
I began reading this book during a transitional moment in my life and found it to be a welcome source of wisdom and re-assurance. When the book arrived in the mail, I was in the process of moving into a different apartment, had just gone through a difficult break-up, and was transitioning from seven months of joblessness into a full-time kitchen job. I found Lokos’ third chapter, entitled, “Relinquishing” to be timely medicine as I began a new life in a new home.
In Chapter 1, “Generosity,” Lokos reminds us that the Buddha placed generosity at the top of a list of six “virtuous practice that lead the way to Enlightenment.” Here is Lokos’ suggested practice for cultivating generosity in our daily lives: “For one week carry at least five dollar bills with you wherever you go and do not walk past anyone who is asking for help.” I liked this chapter because Lokos encourages the reader to develop their own idea about what generosity is, and in particular, leads us to re-examine our notions of morality, and whether the culturally-accepted version of morality is in alignment with our own experiences.
Lokos gently reminds us that “We need never be bound by the limitations of our previous or current thinking, nor are we ever locked into being the person that we used to be, or think we are” (p. 60). An existing understanding of Buddhism and Buddhist practice is not a prerequisite for the enjoyment of this book. For the uninitiated, it can be a fascinating glimpse of Buddhism in practice in modern day NYC, and offer some practical suggestions for being a better person without “taking vows.” For those whom already practice Buddhism in their everyday lives, this book can be a pleasant re-introduction to the “Paramis.”
In Lokos’ own words, “these practices are intended to help us become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and motivations, and to see things as they really are, not as they appear to be” (foreword, p. 22). This is a well-written book by an experienced practitioner, teacher, and author. It does not talk down to the reader, rather, encourages them to walk a little taller; to think a little clearer.
Sprinkled with haiku and encapsulated by delightful cover art, and a faux antique-style book-binding, this text should make a welcome addition to any bibliophile’s collection. It even comes with a little pocket-sized card with some of the practices from the book which the reader can carry with them and refer to throughout the day.