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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MArcH 2011 85 By AndreA Miller books in brief Real Happiness The power of Meditation By Sharon Salzberg Workman Publishing Company 2010; 224 pp., $14.95 (paper) This is an ideal book for anyone interested in beginning a medi- tation practice. In the opening chapters of Real Happiness, Sha- ron Salzberg, a founder of the Insight Meditation Society, dis- cusses what meditation is and isn’t, and how it can enrich our lives. Then she dives into the meat of the book—a step-by-step, twenty-eight-day program showing readers how to develop their own practice. Week one focuses on concentration, as well as practicalities such as where and when to meditate. The second week focuses on mindfulness and the body, and includes instruc- tions for walking, body sensation, and drinking tea meditations. Week three concentrates on emotions, particularly difficult ones, and the fourth week explains how to cultivate compassion for ourselves and others. Real Happiness includes a CD with four guided meditations, and features a final chapter on how we can keep our practice going. Healing a Woman’s Journey From Doctor to nun By Sister Dang Nghiem Parallax Press 2010; 120 pp., $12.95 (paper) Healing is the moving memoir of Sister Dang Nghiem, a nun in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing who describes herself as “a product of the war.” Born in Vietnam in 1968, her mother was an unmarried Vietnamese woman and her father was most likely an American soldier. The little girl’s childhood was littered with tragedy. Bombs rained down on her village; she was physically and verbally abused by her mother, and molested by her uncle; and eventually her mother went missing, apparently murdered. In hopes of a better life, the future Sister Dang, aged seventeen, moved—under the Amerasian Immigration Act—to Arizona, where she completed her education, even going on to medical school. But being a doctor left her feeling empty. She found that she didn’t want to just cure illness, she wanted to help people live meaningfully and to find meaning in her own life. Healing is the remarkable story of how—through practice—Sister Dang finally found meaning and came to transform her pain into understanding. escape FRoM THe lanD oF snoWs The Young Dalai lama’s Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a spiritual Hero By Stephan Talty Crown 2011; 320 pp., $26 (cloth) While most Shambhala Sun readers are familiar with the Dalai Lama and his 1959 flight from Tibet, virtually everyone will find fresh facts and perspectives in Stephan Talty’s well-researched Escape From the Land of Snows. Also the author of Empire of Blue Water and The Illustrious Dead, Talty knows how to spin a yarn. I delight in his ability to build suspense, craft perfect sen- tences, and provide the most telling details. Yet, most of all, I ap- preciate the emotional energy he brings to His Holiness’ story. Escape From the Land of Snows gives readers a keen sense of the Dalai Lama—his compassion, the perils and heartbreak he has faced, and the sources of joy in his life. BeYonD Happiness The Zen Way to True contentment By Ezra Bayda Shambhala Publications 2010; 164 pp., $21.95 (cloth) According to frequent Sun contributor Ezra Bayda, research shows that external circumstances play a relatively minor role in determining our happiness. Instead, we are each predisposed to feel a certain level of happiness, and regardless of whether we win a lottery or are left paralyzed by an accident, we tend to re- turn to our set point. So, if we cannot increase our happiness by changing our external conditions, how can we become happier? In Beyond Happiness, Bayda says there is no easy happiness for- mula, but we can begin by asking ourselves three questions and working with them: Am I truly happy right now? If not, what blocks it? And, can I surrender to what is? A major key to hap- piness, Bayda explains, is not trying to be happy; it’s cultivating gratitude and forgiveness.