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Lions Roar : November 2014
BY ANDREA MILLER Books in Brief WAKing UP A guide to Spirituality without religion By Sam Harris Simon & Schuster 2014; 256 pp., $26 (cloth) the author of The End of Faith, Sam Harris is a scathing critic of religion and anything that he deems superstition. yet he considers himself to be spiritual and has spent many years practicing medi- tation. as he explains it, human beings experience altered states of consciousness under a wide range of conditions—sometimes they manifest spontaneously, while at other times they’re brought about through drug use, a near death experience, or a spiritual practice such as meditation. Generally, these altered states are interpreted through the lens of one or another religious doctrine, but this, Harris says, is a mistake. Christians, muslims, Hindus, and so on can all experience self-transcending love, ecstasy, bliss, and inner light. their experiences, therefore, do not constitute evidence in support of their individual religious beliefs, since their beliefs are incompatible with one another. as such, Har- ris concludes, a deeper principle must be at work—one that’s universal and secular. in Waking Up, Harris explores where spiri- tuality and science meet, including an analysis of the relation- ship between the brain and consciousness. He also gives readers instruction in meditation as a rational spiritual practice. MoVing into MeDitAtion A 12-Week Mindfulness Program for Yoga Practitioners By anne Cushman Shambhala Publications 2014; 288 pp., $19.95 (paper) We often put yoga in a box called “body practice.” yet as soon as we step our bare feet on a yoga mat, we crash into our mind and the full gamut of human emotions. Likewise, we tend to think of meditation as a mental activity, but our body—with its itchy shins and aching back—follows us to the cushion every time. Body and mind were never meant to be separate, and Moving Into Medita- tion can help us experience them as a whole. to implement the twelve-step program in this book, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sea- soned yogi or a relative beginner. and it doesn’t matter if you do anusara or ashtanga, iyengar or Bikram. as long as you know at least an asana or two, you can discover how to deepen your yoga practice and become more intimate with yourself and your world. tHe PreSent HeArt A Memoir of love, loss, and Discovery By Polly young-eisendrath Rodale 2014; 288 pp., $24.99 (cloth) many have gone through the ordeal of watching their parents or grandparents suffer from alzheimer’s, and a plethora of books have been written on the illness from that perspective. But as psychologist Polly young-eisendrath points out in The Present Heart, the experience is significantly different when it’s your spouse who’s gotten the diagnosis. young-eisendrath met edward epstein on an airplane in 1969. then, a decade later, chance reunited them. they broke off their existing relation- ships, married each other, and proceeded to love, work, bicker, and grow together. in 2001, however, epstein began an insidi- ous decline in his emotional and intellectual maturity, and by 2009 the reason was confirmed: he had early-onset alzheimer’s. in telling the story of her marriage, young-eisendrath brings to bear her many years of Buddhist practice and sheds light on impermanence, pain, and the true nature of love. tHe DiVine Art oF DYing How to live Well While Dying By Karen Speerstra and Herbert anderson Divine Arts 2014; 284 pp., $18.95 (paper) one day, ten years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Karen Speerstra arrived home during a storm. the snow was piled so high in the driveway that she couldn’t pull in and had to walk about fifty yards, uphill. as she trudged through the deep snow, fatigue hit her like a wall. it was then that she decided there would be no more chemo for her; it was no lon- ger working, and she wanted quality of life now, not quantity. Speerstra passed away in November 2013, but—working with friend and cancer survivor Herbert anderson—she has left behind The Divine Art of Dying, which is part memoir and part spiritual, philosophical, and psychological guidebook for gravely ill people who choose to face death head on. as it says in the introduction, “this book seeks to rewrite the old cliché ‘i want to live until i die’ and make it ‘i recognize i can choose to live fully, sometimes sadly, but often joyously and with great gratitude as long as i can.” shambhala sun november 2014 77