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Lions Roar : May 2019
REVIEWS THE LITTLE BOOK OF BEING Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness By Diana Winston Sounds True 2019; 180 pp., $16.95 (paper) At age fourteen, Diana Winston spent a summer babysitting at the beach. It was tough keep- ing up with the two kids, so she didn’t get much R&R. But one night she slipped outside and— gazing at the night sky—she felt a calm come over her. Suddenly she experienced awe, love, and a feeling of being fully in her body yet as spacious as the sky. Many of us have had such spontaneous experiences of natural awareness, but we might not know how to cultivate them. In The Little Book of Being, Winston—using straightforward, secu- lar language—explains how. A long-time practitioner of medi- tation, she’s the director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. She spent a year living as a Buddhist nun at a monastery in Burma and trained as a medi- tation teacher with Jack Kornfield. These days, she says, her mindfulness practice includes parenting her eight-year-old. SPRING AND AUTUMN ANNALS A Celebration of the Seasons for Freddie By Diane di Prima City Lights Publishers 2019; 210 pp., $16.95 (paper) In 1964, the poet Diane di Prima’s closest friend, dancer Freddie Herko, died by sui- cide. In her shock and grief, di Prima spent the next year engaged in a daily writing prac- tice, lighting a stick of incense and typing until it burned itself out. Later, di Prima worked through the raw material and transformed it into Spring and Autumn Annals. Published now by City Lights, it’s the vibrant story of her decade-long friend- ship with Herko, interspersed with her memories of her child- hood in Brooklyn. Simultaneously, City Lights is releasing an expanded, fiftieth-anniversary edition of Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters, a passionate series of political and eco- logical poems, which weave in Buddhism. “The guns / will not win this one,” she writes. “... what will win / is mantras, the sustenance we give each other ... the buddha nature / of everyone, friend and foe, like a million earthworms / tunnel- ing under this structure / till it falls.” CALL IT GRACE Finding Meaning in a Fractured World By Serene Jones Viking 2019; 336 pp., $26 (cloth) Serene Jones is the president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, making her the first woman to hold the position in the institution’s 182-year his- tory. In Call It Grace, Jones offers a deeply personal reflection on her spiritual journey and what it means to connect with the divine. Theology, she claims, is the place and story you think of when you ask yourself about the meaning of your life. For her, Oklahoma is that place and story, and so she tells mov- ing, illuminating stories about such things as her foremoth- ers and fathers engaged in the backbreaking work of prairie farming, the lynching and other manifestations of racism that her family was involved in, and the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing. Jones frames her theology in Christian lan- guage, but many Buddhists, especially those with a Christian background, will find they share a lot of common ground with her. THE MAGNANIMOUS HEART Compassion & Love, Loss & Grief, Joy & Liberation By Narayan Helen Liebenson Wisdom Publications 2019; 224 pp., $17.95 (paper) Narayan Liebenson’s Buddhist teaching is informed by four decades of training with medi- tation masters in the Insight, Zen, and Vajrayana traditions. I attended a talk by her several years ago, and my strongest memory is of the calm yet deeply compassionate way she spoke to everyone. That won- derful warmth is apparent in the pages of The Magnanimous Heart, Liebenson’s first book. It was born out of a difficult period in her life. All at once, her marriage fell apart, her father died, and she faced professional uncertainties. Though she grieved heartily, she also realized what an incredible grounding her many years of Buddhist practice had given her and decided to share her insights. The Magnanimous Heart takes us from recognizing the truth of suffering, to practicing with painful emotions, to—finally—experiencing “the nirvana of enoughness.” By Andrea Miller LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 79