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Lions Roar : January 2014
BY ANDREA MILLER Books in Brief THE TRAUMA OF EVERYDAY LIFE By Mark Epstein Penguin Press 2013; 225 pp., $25.95 (cloth) Illness, old age, and death—the story is that Siddhartha Gau- tama first confronted these realities as an adult when he ven- tured out from the family palace. Psychiatrist and author Mark Epstein, however, points to an earlier source of trauma for the Buddha-to-be: seven days after he was born, his mother died. Though he wouldn’t have remembered her death, it’s reasonable to assume, says Epstein, that her absence permeated his life with the vague sense that something was wrong. “The presence of this early loss in his psyche,” he continues, “creates a motif that any- one who struggles with inexplicable feelings of estrangement or alienation can relate to. The traumas of everyday life can easily make us feel like a motherless child.” Trauma—from the minor to the catastrophic—is universal. But, as Epstein makes clear, it does not have to destroy us. It can, in fact, be channeled into wisdom and compassion. On the face of it, the subject matter of The Trauma of Everyday Life is somber. Nonetheless, this is an engaging read peppered with cultural tidbits and the personal experiences of both Epstein and his psychiatric clients. THE HEALING POWER OF MEDITATION Leading Experts on Buddhism, Psychology, and Medicine Explore the Health Benefits of Contemplative Practice Edited by Andy Fraser Shambhala Publications 2013; 226 pp., $16.95 (paper) The Buddha has traditionally been known as the “Great Physi- cian,” and the root word of meditate is etymologically connected with the word medicine. Now a plethora of scientific research is proving what meditators have known for millennia: meditation and mindfulness can be applied beneficially in health care. The Healing Power of Meditation is an anthology that details some of the groundbreaking new scientific research, maps out the his- tory of how meditation became more mainstream, and explains how meditation is being integrated into hospice care, psychiatry, and other fields. Contributors include Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and the Buddhist teach- ers Khandro Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche. The foreword is by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence. HAIKU IN ENGLISH The First Hundred Years Edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns W.W. Norton & Company 2013; 424 pp., $23.95 (cloth) Haiku in English is rich with variety. There is the poignant, such as David Cobb’s “filling the grave/more earth/than will go back in.” There is the flippant, such Allen Ginsberg’s “Mayan head in a/Pacific driftwood bole/—Someday I’ll live in N.Y.” And then there is the experimental, such as John Barlow’s one liner “a dust- ing of snow light on the apple skins.” In the introduction, for- mer poet laureate Billy Collins points out that while simile and metaphor are common literary devices in Western poetic forms, in haiku they’re not. The moon is just the moon. It’s not com- pared to anything because that would distract from its “moon- ness.” The important element in haiku is positioning—setting up a startling contrast that leads the reader to see afresh. The mundane can be just a line away from the majestic, the synthetic from the natural. Collins states, “I like to think of the haiku as a moment-smashing device out of which arise powerful moments of dazzling awareness. But I also like to think of it as something to do while walking the dog.” CLOSE TO THE GROUND Reflections on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment By Geri Larkin Rodmell Press 2013; 178 pp., $14.95 (paper) The Pali canon lists the seven factors of enlightenment as: mind- fulness, the investigation of phenomena, energetic effort, ease, 77 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014