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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 …

Nov 10, 2012

“Stone, Sea and Sand: Poems and Reflections on the Buddha’s Teaching on Impermanence” by Satyadevi

Between November 2010 and February 2011, New Zealand, a country of 4 million people, suffered two of the biggest disasters in its history.

The Chilean mining disaster had many of us riveted to our TV screens as miner after miner was brought to safety, having been trapped underground for 69 days. This was not to be the case in New Zealand. After an explosion at the Pike River Mine in New Zealand’s South Island, anxious families, buoyed by the Chilean experience, waited for long days and nights for a breakthrough that might bring their men home. None of the 29 miners and contractors survived.

Only three months later, Christchurch, …

Nov 09, 2012

The Kindseat: “The ultimate in meditation hardware”

The manufacturer of a new meditation bench, the Kindseat, kindly sent me a “review copy” a few weeks ago. I’ve sat on nothing else since I received it, except when I’ve been visiting my local Dharma center, and the only reason I haven’t taken it to my local Dharma center is absent-mindedness. This is, I’m quite sure, the last meditation seat I will ever buy. It’s the ultimate in meditation hardware.

What has it replaced? It’s replacing a damn good meditation bench. My current (or, I should say, previous) bench is adjustable. It was made for me by a friend and has adjustable “feet” on the front and back, so …