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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 74 Jonathan Kaplan is a psychotherapist with a practice in Manhattan who trained at UCLA, so it’s hardly surprising that he started a blog called Urban Mindfulness. In his new book, Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Pres- ence, & Purpose in the Middle of It All (New Harbinger Publications), Kaplan’s goal is stress reduction, and his method is to turn the ha- bitual thought of urban dwellers—that our surroundings are the main cause of our stress—on its head. In a crowded subway car, he sees the possibility of “a more mindful, compassionate society.” He also asks whether there are ways for us to consistently cultivate awareness and presence without feeling the need to get away to a retreat or a meditation room. The fifty short exercises—designed not only for tight public spaces but also for home, work, and play- time with our children—may not create a radical transformation but they might just remind us to find the space that always exists even in close quarters. We tend to think of childhood as a happy time and rais- ing children as one of the most rewarding and joyful times in life, but the hard facts of modern school and family life often contradict that rosy view. Childhood obesity, neglect, domestic violence, bullying, substance abuse, and sui- cide are major national problems for educa- tors and childhood development specialists. Christine Carter, author of Raising Happi- ness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents (Ballantine Books) and a sociologist with the Greater Good Science Center at the Uni- versity of California, Berkeley, believes that the science of hap- piness has lots to teach us about how to raise children who feel good about themselves. Carter’s core belief is that happiness is not an accident. It is a skill that must be developed from early childhood through adolescence. It begins, Carter tells us, with taking a little time to learn how children’s emotions develop and what role parents’ emotions play in the process. Mindfulness can sometimes sound like a chore or a cure for what’s wrong with us. It’s refreshing then to see a book come along that celebrates our innate mindful- ness and awareness so robustly. The Prac- tice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes (Shambhala Publications) by Andy Karr and Michael Wood is an instructional book about how to take artful photographs using a digital camera and related digital techniques. At the same time, though, it’s about how at any time we can discover vivid perception that rivets us to the moment. The photographic practice in the book is meant pri- marily as a means of seeing our perceptions as a wide open door to a delightful and uncontrived awareness. If artful pic- tures result, so much the better. ♦