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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 84 MAN SEEKS GOD My Flirtations With the Divine By Eric Weiner Twelve Publications 2011; 368 pp., $26.99 (cloth) Doubled over in pain one evening, Eric Weiner found himself in the emergency room terrified that he had cancer or some unimaginable illness worse than cancer. The nurse, smelling his fear, leaned in to draw blood. “Have you found your God yet?” she asked. As it turns out, the only illness Weiner had was bad indiges- tion and it quickly passed. The nurse’s question, however, lingered on, eventually evolving into Man Seeks God—an open-minded, if irreverent, exploration of eight different religions. To tackle Bud- dhism, the wisecracking spiritual seeker traveled to Nepal, where he had a semiprivate audience with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche; tried to meditate but mostly fixated on the nail clippers he’d for- gotten to pack; and circumambulated the stupa of Boudhanath, or in his words, “walked around the Giant Marshmallow.” In the end, Weiner didn’t convert to Buddhism or any other faith; instead, he constructed his own God. The foundation is Judaism, he says, but the support beams are Buddhist. MAKING SPACE Creating a Home Meditation Practice By Thich Nhat Hanh Parallax Press 2011; 96 pp., $9.95 (paper) Peaceful places create peace in our minds and bodies. “That is the intention of sacred space,” it says in the introduction of this new release. “But we don’t need to wait until we can find a church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or other space designed for sacred contemplation... If we make a space for contempla- tion and meditation right in our own homes, then peace and joy are always available to us.” In Making Space, Thich Nhat Hanh begins with the how-tos of stopping, breathing, and sitting. Then he delves into the importance of creating a “breathing room” or “breathing corner,” a calm place at home that you can go to when you’re feeling uneasy, sad, or angry, and thereby come back to yourself. Later chapters explore topics such as how to invite the bell, how to make an altar, and how to make your bed a real place of rest and relaxation. ACTIVE HOPE How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy By Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone New World Library 2012; 256 pp., $14.95 (paper) Extreme weather events, a mushrooming population, and dwindling resources—the world’s problems are so big that many of us feel powerless. We do not believe in our ability to change things, so we don’t even try. Yet in this new release, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone argue that we don’t need to be optimistic to make positive change. Instead of weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we can instead be guided by our intentions. This is a three-step practice, which the authors call Active Hope. First, we take in a clear view of reality. Second, we identify what we hope for. And third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. Activist Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, gen- eral systems theory, and deep ecology. Chris Johnstone, author of Find Your Power, teaches on resilience, happiness, and posi- tive change. TEN POEMS TO SAY GOODBYE By Roger Housden Harmony Books 2012; 125 pp., $16 (cloth) Roger Housden’s new release is the perfect poetic accompani- ment for this issue’s special section on embracing change. It features ten poems by ten poets, and to accompany each poem Housden offers a thoughtful, lyrical essay. The theme through- out is impermanence, personal loss. Yet the lens is wide and takes in not just grief and sorrow, but also healing and joy. “A goodbye,” says Housden in the introduction, “is an opportunity for kindness, for forgiveness, for intimacy, and ultimately for love and a deepening acceptance of life as it is instead of what it was or what we may have wanted it to be.” Ten Poems to Say Goodbye stands strongly on its own. That said, it is the final vol- ume in a series of six by Housden, the first being Ten Poems to Change Your Life, which was published a decade ago. The poets featured in Ten Poems to Say Goodbye include Pablo Neruda, e.e. cummings, and Buddhist practitioners Leonard Cohen and Jane Hirshfield. ♦