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Shambhala Sun | July 2011
You'll find these reviews on page 81 of the magazine.

Books in Brief

By Andrea Miller

Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara
By Colleen Morton Busch
Penguin 2011; 272 pp., $25.95 (cloth)

In June 2008, a single lightning storm caused more than 2,000 wildfires across California, and one of those fires surrounded Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the oldest Zen monastery in the United States. Fire Monks is the true story of the five monks who, instead of evacuating, risked their lives to save the center. The monks—four men and one woman—had minimal training in firefighting but years of Zen practice, and they were able to meet the fire with mindfulness, treating it as a friend to be guided instead of an enemy to be vanquished. Colleen Morton Busch, a former senior editor of Yoga Journal, has done a remarkable job of both researching the fire and spinning a good yarn. This book reads like a hair-raising adventure novel.

Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
By Thich Nhat Hanh
HarperOne 2011; 160 pp., $22.99 (cloth)

“You have lots of work to do, and you like doing it,” says Thich Nhat Hanh at the beginning of Peace Is Every Breath. “But working too much, taking care of so many things, tires you out. You want to practice meditation, so you can be more relaxed and have more peace, happiness, and joy in your life. But you don’t have time for daily mediation practice.” If this describes your situation, Peace Is Every Breath will be an excellent resource. It offers anecdotes, meditations, and advice on connecting with your present experience without putting your life on hold. Thich Nhat Hanh explains: “It isn’t necessary to set aside a certain period exclusively for “Spiritual Practice” with a capital S and a capital P. Our spiritual practice can be there at any moment, as we cultivate the energy of mindfulness and concentration.”

The Next Eco-Warriors: 22 Young Women and Men Who Are Saving the Planet
Edited by Emily Hunter
Conari Press 2011; 262 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Twenty-two environmental activists, all under the age of forty, tell their stories. These young people, who hail from across the globe, are using every imaginable tactic to make a difference. For example, Tanya Fields, an African American woman, is fighting poverty through guerilla farming in New York City; Rob Stewart, a Canadian filmmaker, is shining a light on the shark-finning industry through his film Sharkwater; and Australian model Hannah Fraser is performing in a mermaid costume to educate people on the importance of marine life. Emily Hunter, the editor of The Next Eco-Warriors, is the daughter of Greenpeace’s founding president and is herself an environmental activist. Her work has included trips to Antarctica to help save whales and the Galapagos Islands, where she was held hostage when she tried to stop illegal poaching. Currently, Hunter produces and hosts TV documentaries about environmental issues.

The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness
By Noah Levine
HarperOne 2011; 224 pp., $15.99 (paper)

At age seventeen, Noah Levine hated happy people and depressed people. He hated adults, teachers, cops, and hippies. He hated the world, and he reveled in this hatred, smoking PCP, shooting heroin, stealing, and getting in fights. Then he found the Buddhist path and he slowly began to discover his true, loving heart. In this new volume—his third book—Levine shares his story and offers the practices, which he used to find in himself forgiveness, compassion, and kindness. The Heart of the Revolution covers a lot of ground. It offers a fresh look at mercy, a term not frequently used in Buddhism; includes an extensive commentary on the Metta Sutta; gives the lowdown on personal and romantic love; and explores cosmology and the three personality types according to traditional Buddhist thought.

Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said “I Do,” and Found Bliss
By Linda Leaming
Hay House 2011; 256 pp., $14.95 (paper)

At its core, Married to Bhutan is a romance; it’s the true story of Linda Leaming’s love affair with both her Bhutanese husband and with Bhutan itself. Leaming, from America, visited the Buddhist nation of Bhutan for the first time when she was thirty-nine. It would be “a nice diversion,” the travel agent had told her. But as soon as that first trip was over, Leaming was devising ways to return. The country was to become, not a diversion, but her life—a life full of hilarious linguistic bumbling, a flexible sense of time, and a sharp awareness of impermanence. “In the West, it is possible to live and be asleep,” she writes. “In Bhutan one is compelled to wake up.” Leaming’s husband is a renowned thangka painter and I very much enjoyed the intimate look at his artistic process.

Dharma Road: A Short Cab Ride to Self Discovery
By Brian Haycock
Hampton Roads Publishing Company 2010; 256 pp., $16.95 (paper)

In this, the first book by former cabdriver Brian Haycock, he unpacks Zen Buddhist philosophy and practice through the lens of that job—the cars and tips and traffic and dispatchers, the run-of-the-mill customers and their small talk and the customers who are trying to score crack. But you don’t need to drive a taxi to be able to relate to this book, writes Haycock in the introduction. “We can’t all be cabdrivers. You’ll see that life on the streets isn’t so different from your life. We all have stress, distractions, delusions. We all get lost sometimes. And we can find ourselves if we try.” I love the fresh premise of Dharma Road, and Haycock’s gritty stories and unpretentious, compassionate voice.

The Natural Kitchen: Your Guide to the Sustainable Food Revolution
By Deborah Eden Tull
Process 2010; 250 pp., $17.95 (paper)

Author Deborah Eden Tull spent seven years as a Buddhist monk and cook at the Zen Monastery Peace Center in Murphys, California, and this fall she will be teaching a workshop based on The Natural Kitchen at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. The Natural Kitchen features a number of tasty recipes, such as, miso pesto and summer fruit soup, but it is not primarily a cookbook. Instead, it is an invitation to experience greater health, joy, and mindful awareness by cultivating a more eco-friendly relationship with food. Full of news you can use, it has chapters on these and many other topics: conserving energy while cooking; managing food waste and composting; growing food in your own backyard; introducing children to the delicious world of sustainable food; and eating on the go. The final chapter is a workbook and resource list.

Tea Horse Road: China’s Ancient Trade Road to Tibet
By Michael Freeman and Selena Ahmed
River Books 2011; 340 pp., $65 (cloth)

In the seventh century, Tibetans developed a taste for tea and it quickly became a staple in their meaty diet. At the same time, China—struggling to fend off the Mongols—found itself coveting sturdy warhorses. Since Tibet had horses and China had tea, Cha Ma Dao, or the Tea Horse Road, came into being. It’s a network of trails covering nearly 2,000 miles, and was one of the most important trade routes of the ancient world. This book by photographer and writer Michael Freeman and scholar Selena Ahmed provides a rich visual journey through many of the modern road’s branches. There are photographs of tea and horse culture: teashops, terraced tea plantations, colorful tea festivals, horse races, and saddle-making. But the scope of Freeman’s stunning photography is much wider than that. There are also remarkable images of Buddhist sculptures and temples, pilgrims, monks, and nuns. This is a hefty book that deserves a place of honor on the coffee table.

From the July 2011 issue of the Shambhala Sun. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

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