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Shambhala Sun | May 2013

Books in Brief

THE TRUE SECRET OF WRITING
Connecting Life with Language

By Natalie Goldberg
Free Press 2013; 256 pp., $25 (cloth)

The title of this book is somewhat tongue in cheek. It’s a phrase that Natalie Goldberg has long used when a student is late for one of her writing classes: “Oh, I’m so sorry,” Goldberg likes to tease the tardy individual. “You just missed it—a moment ago I told the students the true secret of writing. I am only able to utter it every five years or so.” In actuality, Goldberg’s stance is that no one possesses the one single true secret of writing and that if you ever meet someone who claims otherwise, you should make a run for it, as all of life is about diversity—nothing is singular. That being said, in this new release Goldberg does offer a fresh practice for writing, and it is rooted in the Zen tradition. A frequent contributor to the Shambhala Sun, Goldberg is the author of twelve books spanning fiction, poetry, and memoir, but is best known for her writing guide, Writing Down the Bones, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies.

FEARLESS AT WORK
Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands

By Michael Carroll
Shambhala Publications 2012; 304 pp., $16.95 (paper)

WORK
How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day
By Thich Nhat Hanh
Parallax Press 2012; 120 pp., $12.95 (paper)

Years ago, I taught ESL to children in Korea. Not well suited to working with kids, I dreaded all my classes, but teaching students aged two to four made me feel particularly hopeless. According to the curriculum they were meant to learn colors, numbers, and animals, yet my little charges preferred (quite literally) to run in circles. I remember one low moment when a tiny boy cried in my lap and attempted over and over to tell me something in his native tongue. “I’m sorry,” I kept repeating. “I don’t understand Korean.” Clearly, I was in dire need of these two new titles: Fearless at Work and Work. Michael Carroll begins his book by asking readers to complete the following sentence with the first word that comes to mind: At work, I want to be... In his experience, most people say, happy, successful, stress-free, effective, fulfilled, or appreciated. Yet—since it’s not actually possible to always be any of these idealized states—what we should really try to cultivate is a sense of confidence no matter what arises. Fearless at Work then lays out the path—rooted in Buddhist thought— for developing this confidence. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, he emphasizes the importance of right livelihood and teaches that no matter what our profession, it offers us the opportunity to help others and create a happy work environment. I particularly enjoy Nhat Hanh’s final chapter in which he lists thirty practical ways to reduce job-related stress.

THE WISDOM OF COMPASSION
Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insight
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan
Riverhead Books 2012; 272 pp., $26.95 (cloth)

Just out of college in 1972, Victor Chan drove a used VW camper from the Netherlands to Afghanistan. When in Kabul he met a New Yorker named Cheryl Crosby, and they were at a chai shop when they were abducted at gunpoint. By the time they managed to escape their kidnappers, the harrowing experience had bonded them, and they left for India together. There, because of some of Crosby’s connections, they were granted an audience with the Dalai Lama, yet Chan managed to blurt out just one question: “Do you hate the Chinese?” In those days the Dalai lama’s English was bare bones, so mostly he relied on a translator, but he answered this question in English—emphatically. “No, I do not hate the Chinese.” Then his secretary translated, “His Holiness considers the Chinese his brothers.” Fast-forward to today and Chan, of Chinese descent, has written two books, which he has created by interviewing the Dalai Lama extensively. In their new release, Wisdom of Compassion, they explore the idea of compassion in thought, speech, and action.

BUDDHA'S BOOK OF SLEEP
Sleep Better in Seven Weeks with Mindfulness Meditation

By Joseph Emet
Tarcher 2012; 160 pp., $15.95 (paper)

A dharma teacher in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition, Joseph Emet is the founder of the Mindfulness Meditation Centre in Montreal and the creator of A Basket of Plums, a book with two CDs of songs for the practice of mindfulness. In the introduction of his new release, Emet draws attention to a recent survey that claims 75 percent of us have some difficulty sleeping, then goes on to say that many of us have failed to find relief from the standard recommendations. We’ve tried creating a positive sleeping environment, we’ve tried avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, and maybe we’ve even tried medication. Still, however, we find ourselves tossing and turning in bed. Now Buddha’s Book of Sleep gets to the heart of the problem: our agitated minds. For readers new to mindfulness meditation, Emet explains the basics of the practice. Then he offers seven guided meditation exercises geared toward helping us get the rest we need.

GROWING IN LOVE AND WISDOM
Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation

By Susan J. Stabile
Oxford University Press 2013; 272 pp., $19.95 (cloth)

Susan J. Stabile ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun and followed the Buddhist path for twenty years. This was such a long time that even after she returned to the religion she was raised in, Catholicism, she saw it through a Buddhist lens and found herself spontaneously incorporating Buddhist practices into her Christian prayer life. In Growing in Love and Wisdom, stabile explores why it’s helpful to look outside one’s own tradition for the means to spiritual growth and offers fif- teen Tibetan Buddhist contemplative practices adapted for Christian purposes. One of the fifteen is a modified tantric visualization practice. Tibetan Buddhists visualize themselves as a Buddha or bodhisattva for the purpose of recognizing and bringing forth their own buddhanature. So in this vein, Stabile suggests that Christians visualize the shining face of Jesus and generate a strong desire to be Christ—to manifest his love and compassion. Stabile then makes compelling arguments for why this practice, though borrowed from Buddhism, is a fit for Christianity. Scripture, of course, is her starting point. she quotes Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

ZEN GARDENS
The Complete Works of Shunmyo Masuno, Japan’s Leading Garden Designer

By Mira Locher
Tuttle Publishing 2012; 224 pp., $39.95 (cloth)

In addition to being a celebrated landscape architect, Shunmyo Masuno is an eighteenth-generation Zen Buddhist priest who presides over the Kenkohji Temple in Yokohama, Japan. When he was a child, he and his family went to Kyoto, where they visited various temple complexes with outstanding gardens, and this affected him deeply. By junior high he was tracing photographs of great Zen gardens and in high school he was sketching his own designs. At this point, he met Saito Katsuo, a garden designer who allowed him to observe his work and later become his apprentice. Now Masuno is the creator of both modern and traditional gardens across the globe; their settings range from temple grounds to high-end hotels to private residences and even to some more unexpected locals, such as a crematorium. Zen Gardens is a stunning volume that showcases thirty-seven of Masuno’s finest works.




Excerpted from the May 2013 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

To order a copy of this issue, click here.

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