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Lions Roar : March 2017
By Andrea Miller & John DeMont REVIEWS HOW TO BE ALIVE A Guide to The Kind of Happiness That Helps the World By Colin Beavan Dey St. 2016; 437 pp., $25.99 (cloth) How to Be Alive isn’t the usual self-help book. Colin Beavan, known as the “No-Impact Man,” is an American writer and activist who in 2011 gave up gasoline-powered transportation, shipped-in food, and a host of other twenty-first-century con- veniences to reduce his carbon footprint. In How To Be Alive, he issues a clarion call to eschew the standard life choices to join the growing group of freethinkers seeking a new path forward. Beavan, who is also a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen, says one way to do that is by simply waking up—to ourselves, to what makes us truly happy, and to the world’s dangers and opportunities. Serious stuff, but the former magazine writer leavens his advice with enough real-life anecdotes to make the journey a pleasant one. THE AWAKENING BODY Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life By Reginald Ray Shambhala 2016; 181 pp., $16.95 (paper) While much Western Buddhist thinking focuses on the mind, Buddhist teacher Reginald Ray argues that the human body plays an important role in connecting us to what matters. In a step-by-step teaching, he describes how practicing six somatic meditations transforms the most basic aspects of the human experience into “sources of insight, freedom and joy and revelations of the deepest mysteries of the universe.” Ray also explores how these meditations may even put us in sync with the imperatives of the human genome, which he feels is predisposed to seek spiritual realization. EMPTINESS A Practical Introduction for Meditators By Guy Armstrong Wisdom 2017; 308 pp., $24.95 (cloth) Over the cen- turies, the term “emptiness” has taken on a number of meanings in Bud- dhism. It is also widely misunderstood, leading people to see Buddhism as nihilistic or life-denying. In Emptiness, Guy Armstrong, a guiding teacher at the Insight Meditation Society, unpacks this concept in a straightforward and practical manner, inviting readers to discover its liberating truth through their own direct experience. “If you keep emptiness at the center,” he says, “it will show you the way to the greatest freedom, and that will open the doors to a heartfelt connection to all of life. When emptiness is possible, everything is possible.” THE GURU DRINKS BOURBON? By Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche Shambhala 2016; 260 pp., $18.95 (paper) Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche writes, “Deciding to follow another human being—not a god, not a machine, not nature, not a system of governance, not the sun or the moon, but a shower- taking, sleeping, yawning, shitting, moody, bribable human being—is either the most stupid thing a person can do, or the most rewarding.” It’s a gift, he contin- ues, to have the inclination and tenacity to study with a guru, but this isn’t a gift everyone has. While the guru–disciple LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 77