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Shambhala Sun | September 2012
You'll find this article on page 83 of the magazine.

Books in Brief


Being Well (Even When You're Sick): Mindfulness Practices for People With Cancer and Other Serious Illnesses
By Elana Rosenbaum
Shambhala Publications 2012; 144 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Chocablock with anecdotes, exercises, and reflections, Being Well (Even When You’re Sick) is a guide to maintaining well-being and equanimity in the face of a serious disease. According to author and cancer survivor Elana Rosenbaum, when we’re sick, it’s particularly important to stop, pause, and take a breath, because in that way we can observe our thoughts instead of being drawn into them and mistaking them for reality. “I get anxious days before I have a CT scan,” she says. “I must consciously stop and remind myself not to jump ahead. I may not know what the test will show, but I can feel my breath, taste my food, and smile at my husband. He likes this approach too. If I stay calm, he is also better able to manage his concern that I will be ill again.” The forward to Being Well (Even When You’re Sick) is by Jon Kabat- Zinn. Rosenbaum is adjunct faculty at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she began teaching with Kabat-Zinn in 1984.

Buddhaland Brooklyn
By Richard C. Morais
Scribner 2012; 256 pp., $25 (cloth)

This Flawless Place Between
By Bruno Portier
Oneworld 2012; 180 pp., $20 (cloth)

Reverend Seido Oda is horrified when he’s ordered by his sensei to establish a temple in the U.S. He thinks Americans in general are bad enough—the sorts of stinky buffoons who wear shoes in the house—but Americans who are attracted to Buddhism are far worse. They’re alternative outcasts, hipsters with metal in their faces. Yet over time America transforms this conservative priest. Not only does he come to see aspects of America that he never imagined, he also learns about himself and the dharma. Buddhaland Brooklyn is a rare gem of a novel in that it is rich with both fabulous description and a juicy plot. Another new Buddhist novel, This Flawless Place Between, tells the story of Anne and Evan, a couple who go on their dream vacation in the Himalayas only to get into a terrible accident. Author Bruno Portier wrote this book to give readers an engaging way to learn about what happens after death according to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Death, this tradition teaches, is a difficult ordeal but, more than that, it’s an opportunity for liberation.

Lessons From the Monk I Married
By Katherine Jenkins
Seal Press 2012; 214 pp., $15 (paper)

Katherine Jenkins couldn’t believe it when the monk clapped his hands and exclaimed, “Let’s go bowling!” It was her first time hanging out with a real Buddhist monk and she’d been expecting their time together to be more meditative. Jenkins, at this point, had been teaching English in Korea for six months and she was beginning to realize that nothing about her Korean life matched her expectations. She’d thought she’d live in a temple-like environment and finally find the peace and wisdom she’d been longing for. The reality was that she lived in a seedy love hotel and Korea was even less peaceful than the America she’d left behind. Nonetheless, when Jenkins embarks on a secret romance with her monk friend, their relationship does eventually transform her. Lessons From the Monk I Married is travel writing at its best. It takes us deep into another culture while documenting a profound inner journey.

Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond
By Nancy Bardacke
HarperOne 2012; 384 pp., $19.99 (paper)

The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy: Meditation, Yoga, and Journaling for Expectant Mothers
Edited by Susan Piver
Shambhala Publications 2012; 144 pp., $16.95 (cloth)

A number of years ago, I interviewed a couple who had taken Nancy Bardacke’s course on mindfulness-based childbirth and parenting. To this day, I remember how they raved about her and the skills they learned, claiming that she’d not only taught them how to be present for the birth experience and parenthood but also how to be present for the whole of their lives. For expectant parents who don’t have the opportunity to study with Bardacke in person, Mindful Birthing is a step-by-step manual that will take them through her groundbreaking program. Now for a book that’s just for expecting moms: The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy. Contributors to this new anthology include Anne Cushman, Judy Lief, and Karen Maezen Miller. A CD of practice instructions comes with the book; tonglen and metta are two of the featured meditations. “Mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean peacefulness,” writes the editor, Susan Piver, in the introduction. “It refers instead to the willingness to be with ourselves as we are from moment to moment, whether that self is the picture of blissful maternity or of something a bit more, say, cranky or fearful.” Kudos to Piver for not glossing over the hard parts of pregnancy.

Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists
By Kay Larson
Penguin Press 2012; 496 pp., $29.95 (cloth)

John Cage was a largely overlooked musician who had been working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments for years. Then in August, 1952, Cage’s composition 4'33" was performed at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock. For four minutes and thirty-three seconds there was no intentional sound, yet there wasn’t silence. While the pianist didn’t play, the audience could listen to the environment sounds of the hall. This was revolutionary in the music world and caused an uproar. One newspaper said that a stunt like this was an “insipid fungus growth” that could “eat into the common sense of our people.” Regardless, 4'33" catapulted Cage into the epicenter of the avant-garde and he came to influence and inspire a wide range of luminaries, including Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Merce Cunningham, and Jasper Johns. Where the Heart Beats is the first biography to deeply explore the role of Zen in John Cage’s life and work.

Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions
By Lori Deschene
Conari Press 2012; 282 pp., $16.95 (cloth)

Lori Deschene began a Twitter account offering a quote a day in 2008. The quotes she selected dealt with concerns such as letting go of stress and anxiety and being happy in the present moment, and these quotes resonated with people. By 2009, Deschene’s follower count had grown exponentially, so she was inspired to launch her website, Now she has more than 300,000 social media followers, and Tiny Buddha has become a community of people who share inspiring quotes and stories. To create her book—also called Tiny Buddha—Deschene asked what she calls “life’s hard questions” on Twitter and almost a thousand people offered their wisdom. Then she integrated this collective wisdom with what she’s gleaned from her own life experiences and from her reading. The resulting book is a fresh and practical take on pain, meaning, change, fate, happiness, love, money, possibilities, and control. Buddha is in the title and on the cover, and Buddhist ideas permeate the content. Yet Tiny Buddha isn’t an explicitly Buddhist book; people of all backgrounds will be able to relate to it. 

From the September 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

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