The Magic of Awareness
By Anam Thubten
Snow Lion Publications 2012; 160 pp., $16.95 (paper)
In The Magic of Awareness, Anam Thubten teaches that enlightenment is always available. Indeed, it’s our birthright. Regardless of our culture or religion, every single one of us has buddhanature, and—whenever we are ready—we can awaken to it. According to Anam Thubten, embracing real life is key. Many of us are lost in our heads, in thoughts about the past and the future. Yet real life—the life that is presently unfolding—is much more interesting than our fantasies and ruminations. Anam Thubten grew up in Tibet and trained in the Nyingma tradition. Now he is the teacher and spiritual advisor for the Dharmata Foundation, a nonprofit based in northern California, which is dedicated to making the Buddha’s teachings available to everyone regardless of background. He is also the author of the best-selling book, No Self, No Problem.
The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life
By Elisha Goldstein
Atria Books 2012; 288 pp., $23 (cloth)
In the introduction to this new release, Elisha Goldstein quotes the psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: “In between stimulus and response there is a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The Now Effect is about developing awareness, or mindfulness, of this space and thereby recognizing and letting go of habitual ways of living that don’t serve us well. Benefits, according to Goldstein, include being able to focus better at home and at work; feeling more connected to ourselves and others; and relaxing more effectively in moments of distress. The book is choc-a-block with resources—questions to reflect upon, handy cheat sheets, and practices that are at once straightforward and profound. For those with a Smartphone, Goldstein teaches some of these practices in videos, which can be scanned using the bar code images featured in several chapters.
The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards
By William J. Broad
Simon & Schuster 2012; 336 pp., $26 (cloth)
Do you want to cultivate health and happiness? Do you want to be slim and attractive? Do you want personal growth, love, sexual satisfaction, will power, or longevity? Whatever you want, somebody has claimed that yoga can deliver it. But are the claims true? In this groundbreaking book, William J. Broad unpacks what scientists say are yoga’s real risks and rewards. The most alarming of Broad’s findings is that certain postures, including shoulder stand and plow, can cause stroke by reducing the blood flow through the vertebral and basilar arteries. But on a brighter note, I’m apparently not crazy for feeling so good after doing asana. Yoga, according to scientific studies, will not necessarily help people lose weight or improve cardiovascular health, but it does make people feel measurably better. Even those new to yoga experience significant rises in the GABA neurotransmitter, which fights depression, along with improved moods and lessened anxiety.
The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life
By Dinty W. Moore
Wisdom Publications 2012; 152 pp., $12.95 (cloth)
World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down
By Christian McEwen
Bauhan Publishing 2011; 368 pp., $22.95 (paper)
Memoirist Dinty W. Moore was frequently asked how Buddhism had influenced his writing, yet he never gave what he felt was an adequate response. Then Moore had an epiphany: the river of influence actually ran in the opposite direction. It was his struggle to write that had enabled him to recognize the wisdom of the four noble truths. In The Mindful Writer, Moore explores the role of mindfulness in the writing process. The book is composed of a series of quotations from writers, artists, and thinkers, each followed by a pithy, thoughtful response from Moore.
World Enough & Time is about how our creativity is nurtured by slowing down— when we do sitting practice, or take a leisurely walk, or write a letter instead of firing off an email. Christian McEwen has a rich, lyrical voice and she deftly weaves together her personal experiences with the fascinating wisdom of Henry David Thoreau, Meredith Monk, Matthieu Ricard, and a host of other contemporary and historical figures.
Everyday Enlightenment: The Essential Guide to Finding Happiness in the Modern World
By Gyalwang Drukpa
Riverhead Books 2012; 188 pp., $25.95 (cloth)
According to His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, there’s only one blessing in life— to possess genuine understanding and compassion. “From compassion springs kindness, generosity, patience and, of course, happiness,” he writes in Everyday Enlightenment. “Asking for any other kind of blessing in life—for luck, for a boy or a girl, for money or success—all these things are temporary. Ask instead for a light so that you may see the world in an understanding way, and that’s all you will ever need.” Gyalwang Drukpa is the head of the thousand-year-old Drukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. His humanitarian work includes promoting gender equality, establishing medical clinics, and rebuilding heritage sites in the Himalayas. Additionally, he’s the founder of the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, India, which grounds local children in their own culture while simultaneously equipping them to thrive in the modern world.
Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life
By Phillip Moffitt
Hudson Street Press 2012; 304 pp., $25.95 (cloth)
Phillip Moffitt was editor in chief of Esquire magazine when he abruptly resigned. Friends and colleagues thought this was a strange decision, yet he felt it was refreshingly authentic—he never again wanted to get stuck in overvaluing worldly accomplishment. Now Moffitt is a co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California, and the founder of Life Balance Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps people find direction and meaning in their lives. Drawing on his own experiences, as well as on the experiences of his students, Moffitt helps readers develop inner strength and happiness. There are three parts to the book. The first lays the ground by addressing what it means to be human and reconnecting us to what really matters, the second focuses on developing the behaviors necessary to meet life more effectively and authentically, and the third offers strategies for overcoming obstacles on the road to clarity.
Thai Taxi Talismans: Bangkok From the Passenger Seat
By Dale Konstanz
River Books 2012; 159 pp., $30 (paper)
Earth Meets Spirit
By Douglas Beasley
5 Continents Editions 2011; 112 pp., $34.95 (cloth)
Author and photographer Dale Konstanz moved to Bangkok in 2003. After several years of getting rides in rainbow-hued, heavily ornamented taxis, he began taking photos of them. Thai Taxi Talismans is the culmination of Konstanz’s efforts—a fun and colorful visual feast, as well as an engaging cultural study of Thai beliefs and popular design. Bangkok cabbies decorate their vehicles with everything from artificial blooms to stuffed toys, but Buddhist iconography plays a major role: Bodhi leaves dangle from rear-view mirrors, sacred symbols and scripts adorn steering wheels and taxi roofs, and Buddha statues lend themselves to dashboard altars.
Another book of photography, Earth Meets Spirit, presents images of sacred places such as the Buddhist monument Barobodour in Java, Indonesia, and the Temple of the Jaguar in Tikal, Guatemala. Photographer Douglas Beasley interprets “sacred” in the broadest of senses, in the sense that sacredness is all around us, in the everyday. Some of his most haunting shots are of dead birds, trees reflected in water, and the strong, soft back of a horse in South Dakota.