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Lions Roar : March 2015
By Andrea Miller THE ART OF STILLNESS Adventures in Going Nowhere By Pico Iyer Simon & Schuster, 96 pp., $14.99 (cloth) At age twenty-nine, Pico Iyer had an apartment on Park Avenue, a fascinating job writing about world affairs for Time magazine, and the freedom and resources to take long vacations in any corner of the globe. It was the perfect life, except some- how—with all the frantic busyness— it wasn’t. So Iyer left his job and moved into a small, single room on a quiet Kyoto street. Soon his father started calling to nag him into “going somewhere” in life, but Iyer preferred “nowhere,” which, as he puts it, has more dimensions and corners than he could explain. In The Art of Stillness—a TED Book, which has a related TED Talk—Iyer explores the importance of slowing down, taking stock, meditating, contemplating, and entering into periodic retreat. “The point of gathering stillness,” he says, “is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into motion, the commotion of the world.” I CHING The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Oracle and Book of Wisdom Translated and with an introduction by John Minford Viking, 857 pp., $39.95 (cloth) The I Ching is a Confucian classic, yet it’s also esteemed by Daoists and Buddhists. The world’s oldest known book of divination, it has its roots in the ancient shamanistic practice of applying heat to the shoulder bones of oxen; cracks would form in the bones and they would be “read” as oracles. In his introduction to his translation of the I Ching, John Min- ford praises the original text’s poetic, numinous beauty and explains how it has exercised a profound influence on Chinese literati for over two thousand years. “In addition to being a ‘spiritual entity,’ it is also a cultural commonplace book, an encyclopedia of proverb, imagery, and symbolism to which reference has been made throughout the ages,” he says. “But it is not just a work of literature. It is not just a Chinese book. It is the Chinese Book.” The I Ching has also captured the Western imagination and has influenced such greats as Bob Dylan and John Cage. A FIELD GUIDE TO HAPPINESS What I Learned In Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up By Linda Leaming Hay House, 242 pp., $15.95 (paper) When Linda Leaming decided to move to Bhutan, she got rid of her furniture, most of her clothes, her art collection, dishes, lawnmower, and even her computer. Then she put what was left of her belong- ings—the bare essentials and a few prized books—into two duffel bags and caught her flight. Unfortunately, her bags did not land in Asia with her and—based on the response she got from the airport’s snappily dressed but indifferent employees—she doubted she’d ever see them again. Now she owned virtually nothing, not even a toothbrush, and this lightness weighed on her heavily. Quickly, however, Leaming realized that most so-called essentials were things she could do without, and when her bags finally turned up two weeks later, she was mystified by the useless things she’d packed. How was she supposed to walk in high heels in rugged Bhutan? And why so much perfume? In A Field Guide to Happiness, Leaming recommends that we all lose our baggage; she says we should put the ideas and feel- ings that are tying us down into metaphorical suitcases and just let them go. She also advocates learning to breathe, being kind, drinking tea, walking in sacred places, and many other dharma- infused practices, all of which she learned while living in Bhutan. Leaming, whose husband is the renowned Bhutanese thangka painter Phurba Namgay, is also the author of Married to Bhutan. Her travel writing is both humorous and deeply touching. LEONARD COHEN AND PHILOSOPHY Various Positions Edited by Jason Holt Open Court, 281 pp., $19.95 (paper) Detractors dismiss Leonard’s Cohen’s work as depressing—he’s been dubbed “Spin Doctor of the Apoca- lypse” and “Grand Master of Mel- ancholia.” But, according to his fans, joy and beauty infuse his songs and poetry, and it is in fact the consider- able darkness in his work that high- lights the joy and beauty. According to one contributor to Leonard Cohen and Philosophy, “Those who resign REVIEWS SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2015 77