Still in no particular order, we
present you with a second page of excerpts from
some of the books that have meant so
much to us. . . .
first page of excerpts
River of Feelings--an excerpt
Thich Nhat Hanh
feelings play a very important part in directing all of our
thoughts and actions. In us, there is a river of
feelings, in which every drop of water is a different
feeling, and each feeling relies on all the others for its
existence. To observe it, we just sit on the bank of
the river and identify each feeling as it surfaces, flows
by, and disappears.
are three sorts of feelings--pleasant, unpleasant, and
neutral. When we have an unpleasant feeling, we may
want to chase it away. But it is more effective to
return to our conscious breathing and just observe it,
identifying it silently to ourselves: "Breathing
in, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in me.
Breathing out, I know there is an unpleasant feeling in
me." Calling a feeling by its name, such as
"anger," "sorrow," "joy," or
"happiness," helps us identify it clearly and
recognize it more deeply.
can use our breathing to be in contact with out feelings and
accept them. If our breathing is light and calm--a
natural result of conscious breathing--our mind and body
will slowly become light, calm, and clear, and our feelings
also. Mindful observation is based on the principle of
"non-duality": our feeling is not separate
from us or caused merely by something outside us; our
feeling is us, and for the moment we are that
feeling. We are neither drowned in nor terrorized by
the feeling, nor do we reject it. Our attitude of not
clinging to or rejecting our feelings is the attitude of
letting go, an important part of meditation practice.
we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection, and
nonviolence, we can transform them into the kind of energy
that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us. By
the work of mindful observation, our unpleasant feelings can
illuminate so much for us, offering us insight and
understanding into ourselves and society.
and beautifully written, Peace Is Every Step contains
commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from
Buddhist Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and
community leader. It begins where the reader already is (kitchen,
office, driving a car, walking in a park) and shows how deep
meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh shows how to be
aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its
beauty and also its pollution and injustices. Through deceptively
simple practices, Peace Is Every Step encourages the reader
to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on
sustaining inner peace by turning the "mindless" into the
mindful. Peace Is Every Step is a useful, and necessary,
addition to any Buddhist studies or self-help reference shelf.
Giving is a
miracle that can transform the heaviest of hearts. Two people,
who moments before lived in separate worlds of private concerns,
suddenly meet each other over a simple act of sharing. The
world expands, a moment of goodness is created, and something new
comes into being where before there was nothing.
To often we
are blind to this everyday miracle. We build our lives around
accumulation--of money, of possessions, of status--as a way of
protecting ourselves and our families from the vagaries of the
world. Without thinking, we begin to see giving as an economic
exchange--a subtracting of something from who and what we are--and
we weigh it on the scales of self-interest.
giving is not an economic exchange, it is a generative act. It
does not subtract from what we have; it multiplies the effect we can
have in the world.
tend to think of giving only in terms of grand gestures. They
miss the simple openings of the heart that can be practiced anywhere
with almost anyone.
We can say
hello to someone everybody ignores. We can offer to help a
neighbor. We can buy a bouquet of flowers and take it to a
nursing home, or spend an extra minute talking to someone who needs
We can take
ten dollars out of our pocket and give it to someone on the
street. No praise, no hushed tones of holy generosity.
Just give, smile, and walk away.
perform these simple acts, little by little you will start to
understand the miracle of giving. You will begin to see the
unprotected human heart and the honest smiles of human
happiness. You will start to feel what is common among us, not
what separates and differentiates us.
you will discover that you have the power to create joy and
happiness by your simplest gestures of caring and compassion.
You will see that you have the power to unlock the goodness in other
people's hearts by sharing the goodness in yours.
And, most of
all, you will find the other givers. No matter where you live
or where you travel, whether you speak their language or know their
names, you will know them by their small acts, and they will
recognize you by yours. You will become part of the community
of humanity that trusts and shares and dares to reveal the softness
of its heart.
become a giver you will never be alone.
Truths. Kent Nerburn
A very nice, simple collection of thoughts and reflections on many
of the aspects of our daily lives that most of us take for
granted--possessions, giving, love, money, travel, and many
others. Very readable and thought-provoking, and well worth a
prefer Barnes and Noble? Just enter a title to find one of these
to give and receive are at the core of our capacity to create and
experience true prosperity.
receive certain gifts when we come into this life. These gifts
take the form of our special talents, interests, and attributes, as
well as our universal human characteristics, such as our ability to
love and care for one another.
When we do
our best to live our truth and express ourselves as authentically as
possible, sharing ourselves as we are genuinely moved to, we
naturally give our gifts to others and to the world.
In return, we
may receive acknowledgement, appreciation, validation, nurturing,
love, and in certain circumstances, money or other material
rewards. Receiving in these ways allows us to replenish the
life force we have "spent," which in turn enables us to
and giving are opposite energies that are inextricably linked
together in the natural flow of life, like inhaling and
exhaling. If one aspect of that cycle doesn't function, the
entire cycle ceases to function and the life force cannot move
freely. If you can't inhale, you will soon have nothing to
exhale, and before long, your body will be unable to continue
seem fairly simple and obvious, yet we have enormous confusion in
this area. Many of us have difficulty with giving, receiving,
observation, the more common problem is the inability to truly
receive. There are a number of reasons why receiving is
difficult for so many of us. Certainly, one factor is cultural
conditioning. Giving is generally viewed as honorable and
praiseworthy. Receiving, or taking, seems perilously close to
selfishness, which has a lot of negative connotations for most of
An interesting look at the concept of prosperity in our lives, and
what the term truly means to each of us. Shakti's perspective
is that prosperity is available to all of us, as long as we're
willing to shift our perspectives and change our ideas about what
prosperity means. Money, power, inner strength--she examines
the different aspects of our inner and outer wealth.
Gratitude (an excerpt)
There is a
wonderful Hasidic parable about the power of gratitude to change the
course of our destiny in a heartbeat, the speed, I imagine, it takes
for a "thank you" to reach Heaven's ears.
Once times were
tough. Two men--both poor farmers--were walking down a country
lane and met their Rabbi. "How is it for you?" the
Rabbie asked the first man. "Lousy," he grumbled,
bemoaning his lot and lack. "Terrible, hard, awful.
Not worth getting out of bed for. Life is lousy."
Now, God was
eavesdropping on this conversation. "Lousy?" the
Almighty thought. "You think your life is lousy now, you
ungrateful lout? I'll show you what lousy is."
Then, the Rabbi
turned to the second man. "And you, my friend?"
Rabbi--life is good. God is so gracious, so generous. Each
morning when I awaken, I'm so grateful for another day, for I know,
rain or shine, it will unfold in wonder and blessings too bountiful to
count. Life is so good."
God smiled as the
second man's thanksgiving soared upwards until it became one with the
harmony of the heavenly hosts. Then the Almighty roared with
delighted laughter. "Good? You think your life is
good now? I'll show you what good is!"
Gratitude is the
most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we
offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with
renewal, reflection, reconnection. Gratitude bestows reverence,
allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent
moments of awe that change forever how we experience life (is it
abundant or is it lacking?) and the world (is it friendly or is it
hostile?). Once we accept that abundance and lack are parallel
realities and that each day we choose--consciously or
unconsciously--which world we will inhabit, a deep inner shift in our
reality occurs. We discover the sacred in the ordinary and we
realize that every day is literally a gift. How we conduct our
daily round, how we celebrate it, cherish it, and consecrate it is how
we express our thankfulness to the Giver of all good.
Gratitude holds us
together even as we're falling apart. Ironically, gratitude's
most powerful mysteries are often revealed when we are struggling in
the midst of personal turmoil. When we stumble in the darkness,
rage in anger, hurl faith across the room, abandon all hope.
While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently to console
and reassure us; there is a landscape larger than the one we can see.
that everyone can experience the transformational rewards of
being grateful, Ban Breathnach designed a day-by-day journal
for counting one's blessing. Years of disciplined gratitude
have taught Ban Breathnach that "if you give thanks for
five gifts every day, in two months you may not look at your
life in the same way as you might now." Ideally, the
journal writer will feel less discontent and
"complicated need" and instead feel more awareness
of simple abundance. The journal itself is highly
inviting--bordered with simple country colors of cream, corn
yellow, and dried sage. But even more inviting are the
inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout, such as Henry Van
Dyke's message: "Gratitude is twofold--love coming to
visit us and love running out to greet a welcome
Why and for What?
When I go out
jogging in the morning, I sometimes notice how much weather
influences people's response to life and to one another.
When it is gray and rainy, many people look unhappy.
When the sun is out and the temperature and humidity are
comfortable, people are smiling and calling out to one
another, "Hello, isn't it a lovely day." For
me, a lovely day is any day I wake up. If I'm awake, I'm
grateful to be alive and to have another day to experience
I speak as a
realist, not an optimist. I know that the longer I live,
the more problems I will have. So what is there to be
grateful for? I am grateful every day for the
opportunity to have more problems, to learn how to live with
them and rejoice in them. That is enough, but there is
more to be thankful for. Every day is another
opportunity to love and interact with God's creation, and on
some days to be a cocreator.
Prescriptions for Living.
A nice look at life from a formerly anal-retentive
doctor who shaved his head, changed his name from "Dr. Siegel" to Bernie,
and actually started caring for his patients. He learned more from the change
than they did.
weather or the events of the day do not determine whether I am
grateful for my life on that day. Every time I jog
through the world, I am awed by what I find. On a winter
morning, when it seems too cold and slippery for safe jogging
or bicycling, I can still go out and experience the glory of
sunlight turning icy branches into strings of sparkling
diamonds. . . .
gratitude depends on what life gives you or what other people
do for you or to you, you will be disappointed more often than
you are grateful. But you can learn to feel grateful by
rethinking your attitude towards life. First, remember
that contentment lies in giving. If you know that giving
is better than receiving, then you can feel grateful for what
you are able to give others. This does not mean you
ignore your own needs. You will decide what to give and
how to give it, and then at the end of the day you will be
grateful for having had the chance to give in your own
way. Remember, we all have something to give, and our
ability to give is not related to our finances or physical
grateful simply for being alive. When you are grateful
for life, pure and simple, your life becomes one you can be
grateful for. That may strike you as circular or even
backward logic, but your attitude really does have an effect
on how things work out. When you can't change your life
and other way, you can still change your attitude. When
you do, your life changes. You find more chances to
love, and you will be surprised to se how much more love is
returned to you.
May Not Know What Really Matters
Elaine St. James
a recent Time/CNN poll, close to 65 percent of us spend much of our
so-called leisure time doing things we'd rather not do. That
is a staggering statistic, especially when you consider the
incredible number of options that are available to us today.
I think there
are two reasons a lot of us aren't doing the things we really want
to do. First of all, many of us don't know what those things
When I think
back to my hectic lifestyle, I have to admit that one of the reasons
I allowed my life to continue to be so complicated is that I hadn't
slowed down enough in recent years to figure out what I wanted to
do, not only in terms of my work life, but in terms of a lot of my
I knew the
basic things: I knew my husband, and family, and special
friends were important. I knew that for me, spending time in
nature was important. I knew maintaining my health with
exercise and an appropriate diet were important.
were other areas, such as my life's work and many social and leisure
activities, I just sort of drifted along with because it was easier
than taking the time to come up with alternatives.
number of reasons we lose sight of what we want to do. Perhaps
we weren't encouraged as children to make our own decisions.
Or maybe we
have easygoing, compliant personalities and have gone along with
what other people have wanted to do, or have wanted us to do, for so
long that we've forgotten what's important to us.
Or perhaps we
never allowed ourselves to believe that doing the things we enjoy is
even a possibility for us.
spent a lot of years not knowing what you really want to do, either
in terms of your career or in terms of your personal, social, civic,
or family life, it can seem like an impossible task to stop what
you've been doing--or at least slow down for a bit--and figure it
out. It often seems easier to keep on doing things we don't
want to do.
what we want to do can often be difficult to do.
if your deep, dark, hidden desire is to write the great American
novel, it would seemingly require a major disruption in your life to
arrange things so you could even get started on it. Often it's
easier to continue doing things you almost want to do, or don't mind
So our lives
get frittered away by a social engagement here, a luncheon there, an
evening of television here, or the habit of working evenings or
weekends or both on projects that we don't have all that much
interest in. And the things we really want to do, in our heart
of hearts, get put on the back burner.
One of the
things simplifying your life will do is free up time for you to
figure out what really matters to you, and then enable you to
arrange your time so you can do it.
the Simple Life. Elaine St. James
100 simple principles for simplifying life, a process that can
create for you many benefits, such as more free time, less stress,
fewer constant tasks, and many other life-improving results.
Rachel Naomi Remen
that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another
person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most
important thing we ever give each other is our attention.
And especially if it's given from the heart. When people
are talking, there's no need to do anything but receive
them. Just take them in. Listen to what they're
saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is
even more important than understanding it. Most of us
don't value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It
has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simply
saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain.
And meaning it.
One of my
patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people
often interrupted her to tell her that they once had something
just like that happen to them. Subtly her pain became a
story about themselves. Eventually she stopped talking to
most people. It was just too lonely. We
connect through listening. When we interrupt what someone
is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus
of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we
care. Many people with cancer talk about the relief of
having someone just listen.
even learned to respond to someone crying by just
listening. In the old days I used to reach for the
tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be
just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their
experience of sadness and grief. Now I just listen.
When they have cried all they need to cry, they find me there
simple thing has not been that easy to learn. it certainly
went against everything I had been taught since I was very
young. I thought people listened only because they were
too timid to speak or did not know the answer. A loving
silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the
most well intentioned words.
wonderful book of short vignettes by Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen
Table Wisdom is an exploration of the meanings of life and
living. Through her experiences as a medical doctor, Remen
has learned much about living and dying, and the meaning of
both. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a dose of
humanity and a positive perspective on life and the people of
this world we live in.
of What You Have (an excerpt)
over a dozen years as a stress consultant, one of the most
pervasive and destructive mental tendencies I've seen is
that of focusing on what we want instead of what we have.
It doesn't seem to make any difference how much we have; we
just keep expanding our list of desires, which guarantees we
will remain dissatisfied. The mind-set that says
"I'll be happy when this desire is fulfilled" is
the same mind-set that will repeat itself once that desire
friend of ours closed escrow on his new home on a
Sunday. The very next time we saw him he was talking
about his next house that was going to be even bigger!
He isn't alone. Most of us do the very same
thing. We want this or that. If we don't get
what we want we keep thinking about all that we don't
have--and we remain dissatisfied. If we do get what we
want, we simply re-create the same thinking in our new
circumstances. So, despite getting what we want, we
still remain unhappy. Happiness can't be found when we
are yearning for new desires.
there is a way to be happy. It involves changing the
emphasis of our thinking from what we want to what we
have. Rather than wishing your spouse were different,
try thinking about her wonderful qualities. Instead of
complaining about your salary, be grateful that you have a
job. Rather than wishing you were able to take a
vacation to Hawaii, think of how much fun you have had close
to home. The list of possibilities is endless!
time you notice yourself falling into the "I wish life
were different" trap, back off and start over.
Take a breath and remember all that you have to be grateful
for. When you focus not on what you want, but on what
you have, you end up getting more of what you want
anyway. If you focus on the good qualities of your
spouse, she'll be more loving. If you are grateful for
your job rather than complaining about it, you'll do a
better job, be more productive, and probably end up getting
a raise anyway. If you focus on ways to enjoy yourself
around home rather than than waiting to enjoy yourself in
Hawaii, you'll end up having more fun. If you ever do
get to Hawaii, you'll be in the habit of enjoying
yourself. And, if by some chance you don't, you'll
have a great life anyway.
a note to yourself to start thinking more about what you
have than what you want. If you do, your life will
start appearing much better than before. For perhaps
the first time in your life, you'll know what it means to
|Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. . .and it's
all small stuff. Richard Carlson
A nice little series of lessons on perspective--we
all sweat a lot of stuff that really doesn't deserve so much attention. Many
practical suggestions here. Be careful, though, as this promises to
get as annoying as the Chicken Soup books--now there's Don't Sweat
the Small Stuff at Work, and more. When will these people stop
takes all kinds to make a mess.
The West is
full of Tiggers--restless seekers of instant gratification,
larger-than-life overachievers. The West idolizes them
because they're Bouncy and Exciting. Maybe even a bit too
exciting. And they're becoming more exciting all the
time. It seems that it's no longer adequate to be a True
Individual, or even a Hero; now one needs to be some sort of
Superman, living an overinflated life punctuated (in true
Tigger fashion) with exclamation marks. Faster than a
speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! This
is the age of Supereverything--Superstar, Superathlete,
Supercoach, Superpolitician, even Superbusinessman: Faster
than a speeding ticket! More powerful than a profit
motive! Able to lease tall buildings in a single day!
not necessarily what they seem, however. While they may
appear to be self-propelled, they are in reality jerked this
way and that by whatever appealing object or sensation catches
their attention. And while Tiggers may appear energetic
to the extreme, their love of ceaseless action and sensation
is actually a form of spiritual laziness. Tiggers are
not in control of their lives, as is clearly shown by their
The Te of Piglet, a good deal of Taoist wisdom is
revealed through the character and actions of A. A.
Milne's Piglet. Piglet herein demonstrates a very
important principle of Taoism: The Te-a Chinese word
meaning Virtue-of the Small.
it is quite easy to be an impatient, inconsiderate,
scatterbrained Tigger in a society that admires, encourages,
and rewards impulsive behavior. Advertisements tell us
to buy whatever-it-is and Spoil ourselves. An
appropriate word, spoil. We deserve it, they say.
(Maybe we do, but we'd like to think we're better than
that.) Store layouts are carefully designed to encourage
impulse buying. Movies, television shows, and magazines
promote impulsive behavior of the most questionable kind, in
the most flash-it-in-their-faces manner. Practically
everything from hairstyles to lifestyles is endorsed as some
sort of drug to be taken Now for Instant Relief. If you
have this model of automobile, this style of clothing, this
shape of girlfriend, or this sort of romantic entanglement,
you will be happy. You will be loved. You will be
Somebody. Those who can't have such things are doomed to
frustration. Those who can have them are doomed
to the inevitable disappointment. As Oscar Wilde put it,
"In the world there are only two tragedies. One is
not getting what one wants and the other is getting
it." We are reminded of the old Persian
curse: "May your every desire be immediately
twelve of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse described what's
wrong with Tigger's sensationalistic approach to life:
colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors deaden the tongue.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.