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Jun 15, 2013

The power of appreciative words: “Mishan’s Garden,” by James Vollbracht & Janet Brooke

Mishans-Garden“The greatest gift you can ever give another is to see what is best and unique about them.”

This morning I stumbled downstairs, bleary-eyed, having got home late after teaching a class the night before. My six-year-old daughter gave me a running hug and a huge smile. She’s naturally affectionate, but I suspect there was an ulterior motive, because a few seconds later she came running back to me with Mishan’s Garden in her hands, asking that I read it to her. And so, I did.

Mishan is the titular heroine, a young girl who lives in The Village Above the White Clouds, where her father is the innkeeper. Misha is a special girl, …

Jun 12, 2013

The Dhammapada: “one of the greatest psychological works ever written”

Dhammapada Fronsdal
The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdal. Available from Amazon.
Jonathan Haidt, who studies morality and emotion, at the NYU-Stern School of Business, discusses the Buddhist classic, The Dhammapada, on Five Books:

The Dhammapada is one of the greatest psychological works ever written, and certainly one of the greatest before 1900. It is masterful in its understanding of the nature of consciousness, and in particular the way we are always striving and never satisfied. You can turn to it – and people have turned to it throughout the ages – at times of trouble, at times of disappointment, at times of loss, and it takes you out of

Mar 15, 2013

“Journeys on the Silk Road” by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters

journeys-on-the-silk-roadMarc Aurel Stein was a superstar of his time. When he returned from the Taklamakan and Gobi desert in central Asia after a successful expedition that lasted from 1906 to 1908, weighed down with treasure in the form of ancient documents, the newspapers in London were full of his exploits. Today, almost nobody has heard of him. I certainly hadn’t until I read Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters. Morgan and Walters have travelled from their native Australia to England, Wales, India and China in order to retell Stein’s story and that of the document most associated with his explorations: the Diamond Sutra from the Caves of …

Feb 25, 2013

“Know yourself, Forget Yourself: Five Truths to Transform your Work, Relationships, and Everyday Life,” by Marc Lesser

Know Yourself, Forget YourselfAs a rule, I am not a fan of self-help books. They are often big on promises but small on practicalities; good at telling you what is possible but rarely willing to recognize that each of us has limitations. Self-help books, it seems to me, sell the lie that you can be whoever you want and have whatever you want (Can I really marry Scarlett Johansson?). However, a self-help book based on Zen Buddhist principles might be different.

The book rests on the contention that ‘embracing life’s paradoxes is a powerful skill’ (p.4). Lesser, a Zen teacher and executive coach, proposes that we explore five key paradoxes: First, ‘Know Yourself, …

Feb 18, 2013

“Eating Mindfully” by Susan Albers

eating mindfullyThis book landed on my doormat from Bodhipaksa at an extremely opportune moment: the holiday period between Christmas and the New Year. The clean fresh cover was enticing enough to encourage me to start reading straight away. I’m sure if I hadn’t started reading “Eating Mindfully” there and then a fair few more chocolate truffles would have found their way mindlessly into my tummy. With this book in hand when I did eat the odd chocolate truffle I found myself savouring its taste and texture. So nice timing — thanks Bodhipaksa and Susan Albers!

Susan Albers is a US-based psychologist specialising in mindful eating. This book explores ways to “end emotional eating …

Feb 04, 2013

“The Five Mindful Keys to Communication,” by Susan Gillis Chapman

5keysI first started reading The Five Mindful Keys to Communication while waiting for my daughter at the airport. At the same time, a text came in from a young friend, announcing that he was probably going to be indicted by the FBI. It was difficult to keep my mind on the reading at this point, and yet I found solace there too, as one of the main themes in the book is working with fear. Even though most of the advice regarding fear centered around communication with others, I found it very helpful when communicating with myself that evening.

The author, Susan Gillis Chapman, is a marriage and family therapist, who has been …

Jan 24, 2013

“Pilgrimage to Anywhere,” by Rijumati Wallis

Pilgrimage to Anywhere

As winter grips the northern hemisphere, many imagine heading south to warmer places. In this book, those of us unable to make a physical journey beyond our routine, can still make a journey of mind and heart alongside Rijumati; asking challenging questions of ourselves even if our bodies recline in an armchair or browse in bed.

Buddhism is quintessentially a journey of the mind and heart: an invitation to refine and purify our thinking and emotion, wherever and whenever we can build this awareness. It’s an inner journey, yet the metaphor of the outer journey remains as powerful for Buddhists as it does in theistic faiths. Throughout Rijumati’s accessible and …

Jan 15, 2013

Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
The Mind and Life Conference (ML), a production of the Mind and Life Institute, is an almost yearly gathering of Western scientists and Tibetan Buddhists, led by the His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality is a product of the 2002 conference, the tenth (X) in the series.

The Mind and Life Institute emerged as “a bold experiment” in 1987 from the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Adam Engle, and Francisco Varela. Between ML IX and X, co-founder and …

Jan 14, 2013

Fully Alive: A Retreat with Pema Chodron On Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

fully alivePema Chodron was the first North American born woman to become an ordained Bhikkhuni. She teaches in the Shambhala tradition begun by her mentor and teacher Chogyam Trungpa. Meg Wheatley, who assists her teaching on this retreat, has a Ph.D. from Harvard and has long been interested in system dynamics. She is a prolific author and has traveled to every continent to learn and teach about how human systems function properly or fail. Both women have sound instruction to offer concerning how to navigate beautifully in life — this life that can only be impermanent.

The focus of the retreat is a modern-day Hopi prophecy. Ani Pema indicated that the prophecy was …

Jan 06, 2013

“Zombies on Kilimanjaro,” by Tim Ward

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

‘”Your guide will probably tell you,” Ezekiel said, “that the name Kilimanjaro comes from kilima, the Swahili word for ‘mountain’ and jaro, the Maasai word for ‘snow-capped.’ But that’s just for the tourists. We Chagga people who have always lived here, we believe the name comes from our own language: kilema-kyaro, which means ‘Impossible to Climb.’”’

So begins Buddhist writer Tim Ward’s latest book, ‘Zombies on Kilimanjaro,’ an intriguingly and perhaps misleadingly titled memoir about climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world with his 20-year-old son, Josh.

It’s a good beginning, plunging the reader straight into the ‘plot’ of …