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Nov 04, 2011

“Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress,” by Dan Goleman

I’ve read a couple of books by Dan Goleman, who is most famous for being the author of Emotional Intelligence, but this is the first time I’ve encountered one of his audio programs, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Relax: Six Techniques to Lower Your Stress is, as you might expect, about stress and how to relax. It offers six guided practices intended to help develop a sense of ease, relaxation, and wellbeing.

In the introduction, Goleman points out that there are many and varied symptoms of stress, including psychological tension, muscle tension, and nervous system arousal, and that not everyone experiences stress in the same way. Therefore, not every antidote to stress …

Oct 25, 2011

“One Minute Mindfulness,” by Donald Altman

A few years ago I came across and reviewed a book called Eight Minute Meditations. Then I saw a book called The Five Minute Meditator. Then The Three Minute Meditator. Now we have One-Minute Mindfulness.

This isn’t at all a bad thing. The perception that meditation is only useful in large doses does tend to put some people off of establishing a practice, and much can be accomplished in a short space of time. Mindfulness is an activity that takes place moment by moment, as we observe our experience unfolding. Each moment brings an opportunity to choose between reactivity and creativity, negativity and positivity, habit or freedom. Mindfulness actually takes place at …

Sep 29, 2011

How does happiness happen?

Happiness and How it Happens, by “The Happy Buddha” Suryacitta Malcolm Smith

At first glance, the most obvious thing about this excellent little book on mindfulness and meditation is just how beautifully produced it is. It’s a pleasure just to pick it up and browse through it. Somehow, the care the publishers have taken with the book’s appearance both reflects its theme and adds to its impact.

So, how, according to Suryacitta, does happiness ‘happen’? He gets straight to the point – “Happiness is our natural state. It happens when we stop making ourselves unhappy by believing in the stories the thinking mind throws up”.

It’s all very well to say this, …

Sep 14, 2011

Drops in the ocean: Buddhist reflections on David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”

cloud atlasCloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is a ripping good read with plenty of action and suspense. It’s also a cautionary tale of karma-vipāka (how our actions set up complex results, short- and long-term) and how failing to choose is itself a choice just as much as a conscious decision is.

Populated by clever and colorful characters from different places, pasts and futures, the six stories making up this diverse sampling of human experience nonetheless weave together, surprisingly, into a poignant and epic tale of suffering and kindness. From the story of a rather naïve young man on a return voyage to San Francisco from the South Pacific, in perhaps the 1800s, …

Sep 09, 2011

“Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows,” by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle

To be clear from the start, this book is worthy of the rich praise it has received. The inner jacket liner contains three pages crammed with accolades from what could be easily construed as the Who’s Who of leading contemporary spiritual leaders and health professionals. The book is a moving and loving story of this extraordinary couple’s experience.

It is a love story. It is a love story written from the deeply touching and personal perspective of a remarkable woman living through her equally remarkable husband’s dementia and death. The book covers the six years from his first symptoms to his death as she emotionally lived the various pieces …

Sep 05, 2011

“Hand Wash Cold” by Karen Maezen Miller

This is my first time reviewing a book for Wildmind. I agreed to write this on Bodhipaksa’s recommendation that this book might be “up my alley” since one strong interest I have is in how the Dharma works for me in my life right here and right now. This is how Karen Maezen Miller’s book, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, came into my hands.

Another thing I especially delight in is books written by women. Sexism is a meme that’s still alive and well in the world, and I love coming upon anything that tends to dispel that kind of malignant influence. Dharma books by …

Jul 22, 2011

Tibetan Sound Healing, by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

sound healingI was attracted to this book principally because of the title. I like chanting and have a daily liturgy practice, and my sympathy with this kind of approach comes from my devotion to the Medicine Buddha and the many years during which I worked as a spiritual healer. So I began this review in a state of optimism which was rapidly followed by finding myself confronted with the demon of deep cynicism.

Tenzin Wangyal who is based in the US, is a well-respected Rinpoche in the Tibetan Bön tradition and he is probably best known for his volume on dream yoga. The central teaching in the Bön religion is …

Jun 13, 2011

The Open-Focus Brain, by Dr. Les Fehmi & Jim Robbins

My first read of The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, by Dr. Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins, generated mild interest in the science behind Dr. Fehmi’s techniques and descriptions of case studies using the techniques.

However, the night I listened to the guided exercises on the attached CD, I had one of the most relaxed, light, and blissful experiences I’ve had in the last eleven years as a serious meditator.

I was able to reach a state I’ve only accessed during long silent meditation retreats.

The Buddhist concept of emptiness came vividly alive in my body, whereas before it had been mostly an …

Jun 04, 2011

“The Rhythm of Family” by Amanda Blake Soule

First, if you’re my wife, please stop reading this review.

Now that’s out of the way, The Rhythm of Family is a year-long journey through the life of one family living in Maine. It follows the seasons, from January snows back to the turning of the year at the winter solstice. The Soules have four children who are, during the year described in the book, from nine to one years of age. The point of the book is to describe the intersection of family and nature.

The introduction to the book is called “Noticing,” and this sets the tone for what follows:

Wonderful things happen in our family when we choose to move

Jun 02, 2011

“You are Here” by Thich Nhat Hanh

“Happiness is possible,” Thich Nhat Hanh reassuringly begins the three-CD audiobook You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.

I arrive back from two months in India and twenty days of Vipassana insight meditation retreat, where I was practicing mindfulness, and waiting for me on my doorstep is a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s You Are Here

It promises to offer simple and effective practices for cultivating mindfulness. Perfect, I think to myself as I try to maintain the few remaining grains of equanimity I had cultivated back in India. 

Title: You Are Here
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Read by: Lloyd James
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 978-1-59030-727-4
Available from: Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

Thich Nhat Hanh …