Spring/Summer 2017 Book Reviews

At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teaching from a Monk’s Life

Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA 2016

The compassion crisis infecting our nation is, unfortunately, not a new story. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has walked this path of turmoil, and with his hallmark simplicity, humor and kindness he shines a light to illumine the way in At Home in the World. Now ninety years old, Nhat Hanh’s life story is an inspiration. Born in Vietnam, he was ordained at sixteen as a novice monk in the Vietnamese Zen tradition, practicing being present in every moment and staying in full awareness. This mindfulness training couldn’t completely buffer him, though, when several countries, including the United States, no longer honored his passport during the escalation of the war in Vietnam because they believed his peace campaign was in opposition to their war against Communism. For lack of a transit visa, this soft-spoken monk was locked in a Seattle airport detention room, walls covered in felon Wanted posters, not allowed to speak to anyone for several hours before being escorted back to the airplane. Revered by Martin Luther King who nominated him for the Noble Peace Prize, Nhat Hanh wasn’t allowed back in South Vietnam even after the war was over. Nhat Hanh had come to tell the world of horrors happening in his homeland, trying to speak for the masses of unheard people of Vietnam. Having traveled to the U.S. intending to give only a three-month series of lectures, he was exiled for forty years, separated from his family, friends and co-workers.

At first Nhat Hanh was lonely, but his suffering ended when he discovered his true home was not a particular country or a place. Few of us, even if we’re lucky enough to have citizenship or a passport, feel truly comfortable, we may often feel like we don’t belong. Like Nhat Hanh, we can find our true home is the present moment. We can reach this true home with every step, with every breath, and we don’t need a ticket or to go through a security check. Just two minutes of mindful breathing connects us with our true home, Mother Earth. Though our fundamental need to belong hasn’t changed in Nhat Hanh’s ninety years, families have. In the past, children lived with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles all under one roof. Now families are smaller and when there is trouble the whole family is affected. If parents are fighting there is often nowhere for a child to escape. The upset child, with no grandma or favorite uncle to run to, may go into the bathroom and lock the door just to be alone; but the heaviness in the house remains and the seed of suffering permeates the child. How can we keep that from happening? We can extend our family to include friends, the sky, the sun, trees, and birds. We can transform our own household into a safe and welcoming place by practicing smiling together, drinking tea together in mindfulness, and even ringing a bell to bring us back to the present moment, back to a place of belonging.

Nhat Hanh suggested a practice of mindful breathing to India’s Parliament to bring deep listening and loving speech to government sessions. Imagine if the current powers-that-be in Washington D.C. took sixty seconds to read out loud Nhat Hanh’s suggested text before each meeting: “Dear colleagues, the people who have elected us expect us to communicate with each other using kind, respectful speech and to listen deeply to each other before sharing our insights so that (the parliament) can make the best decisions for the benefit of the nation and the people.” Anytime a debate gets too heated, or there are insults among representatives, a bell could signal a request for a moment or two of mindful breathing so everyone could calm themselves down. Nhat Hanh’s teachings are as simple as they are profound, and have healed many wounds, including the wounds of war. We think of the persecuted as victims of war, but the attacking soldiers also suffer. Nhat Hanh once reminded a veteran who had killed five children with poison sandwiches that many children, due to violence and poverty, need saving. Working in the present moment can heal the past. The veteran then devoted his life to helping children, and in the process helped heal his past.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s disciples love him so much they asked if they could build a stupa for his ashes when he dies. He told them not to waste the temple land, and also said he didn’t want to be put in a small pot! Better for his ashes to be scattered outside to help the trees grow. The disciples asked if they could include a plaque. Nhat Hanh said the plaque should read, “I’m not in here.” He suggested a second plaque also be added, “I’m not out there either.” And in case people still didn’t understand, he said a third plaque could be added, “I may be found in your way of breathing and walking.”



Your Power to Heal: Resolving Psychological Barriers to Your Physical Health

Sounds True, Boulder CO 2017

You’ll be healthier if you can make your body listen to your mind. Or so we’ve been told. Your Power to Heal turns that thinking on its head; it’s actually your mind that should be listening to your body! Symptoms and sickness start with a message the body receives. Medical drugs and treatments don’t address the message; instead they work by covering over the cause. But to prevent illness and reduce stress you don’t want to “re-cover” the symptom, you want to dis-cover, or uncover, why the symptom is there in the first place! Uncovering the source, clearing it, and replacing it with something positive is what’s needed for healing. Whether the physical symptom is a headache, sniffles or a serious diagnosis, a dialogue with your body is the starting point for healing. To begin the conversation, self-assessment questionnaires help you locate subconscious beliefs and answer the overarching question “Why might I need this symptom now?” If you find your answer seems childish, it could signal an unfulfilled childhood need, while excitement or relief at an answer means you’re probably quite ready to replace being sick with an alternative. Not wanting to answer or blaming yourself most likely means your ego mind is blocking your healing. It’s also possible you’re not healing because staying sick has benefits. Remember, the thoughts you’re uncovering are subconscious, so you should never blame yourself for creating a symptom or being sick. By making them conscious you can bring them forth for healing.

Sometimes symptoms are unknowingly downloaded from parents or other early caretakers. Up to age two, the brain utilizes slower delta brain waves, which are like those of a person in a trance; as children we just take on whatever is there around us. We learn to walk and talk, but also may take on feelings of not being good enough or not being worthy. If you accept “everyone in my family gets this disease,” you know you’re dealing with tribal beliefs or parental downloads. Tribal mind keeps us thinking the source and solution of what ails us is not of our creation; it says, if only circumstances around me were different I’d be healthier, I’d be happier. We experience these core beliefs at a cellular level. To keep them from being triggered and causing illness we need to delete these downloads, actually remove them with consciousness and energy and replace them with new information.

Recognizing that everything is composed of subtle energies opens up a whole new level of healing not practiced by modern medicine. We can work on the field of energy that surrounds the body, the energy meridians of the body, and the non-local mind. The non-local mind, beyond the skull or the brain, messages to the cells in our bodies each time we have a thought. Thought Field Therapy, which includes tapping, works on clearing blockages from the body’s energy system. The Emotional Freedom Technique, for clearing traumas, negative beliefs or downloads, also includes tapping. The Thymus rub, EFT step two, invites you to place your right open hand flat just below your collarbones (over your thymus gland) and rub your chest in a soothing clockwise circle, including over your heart, repeating aloud four statements (including “I deeply love and except myself even if I think I might not deserve to be free of this problem.”) This simple comforting exercise dispels barriers to clearing the root of your discomfort or symptom.



Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life

Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA 2016

Want to start a revolution? Hop on a bicycle. That’s what women of the late 1800s and early 1900s did. Using the newly created two-wheeled vehicles as a means to freedom, bicycles were essential in the women’s rights movement. Women’s independence increased as they traveled distances by bike to meet and socialize with other women. Fashion changed to accommodate biking, from long skirts to bloomers, and then to pants. Viewed by men as a new toy, women embraced bicycles as the sudden democratization of transportation. Like the early suffragettes, Hello, Bicycle celebrates the freedom, empowerment and fun of bike riding. With this guide you’ll learn how to select the appropriate bike for your needs, do basic maintenance, consider health and safety tips, and understand bike lanes and etiquette. Confidently take a two-wheeled tour of a new city. Include the kids in family bike trips; it’s healthy exercise for everyone and a little planning keeps it fun. Once you get rolling you’ll find biking opportunities everywhere. Commute to work, or start an eco-friendly business, such as delivering produce or sweet treats from a bicycle mobile vending cart. Or volunteer to cart around books via bike like Los Angeles’ Feminist Library on Wheels. Whatever your reason for riding a two-wheeler, bicycling makes you an activist for a cleaner, healthier world.



Guided: Reclaiming the Intuitive Voice of Your Soul

Enliven Books, New York, NY 2016

You are not alone. Hans King, a direct-voice medium for over sixty years, knows you have helpers in the world of spirit to assist you. In Guided he shares how, with a little dedication, intention and training, you can hear from your guides directly. The channel to the other world is open 24/7, but no matter how intently you listen, all you’ll hear is static until you quiet your mind chatter. Mind chatter is energy-depleting harassment that keeps us from our intuitive heart chakra. Quiet meditation is a lovely helpful practice, but sometimes it makes us feel more crazy then calm. To quell mind chatter, passionately repeat loudly whatever you’re saying inside your head. Do it until you feel the ridiculousness of the statements or until you burst out laughing. Laughter changes the vibratory pattern around you. Make your own laughter be your mantra. It’s a great human connector and a great way to connect to those in spirit, too.

As little children we are deeply connected to the world of spirit, it’s where we came from and where we’re going home to. Around age five or six we begin to lose that connection to our source as society, the education system, and the voice of other people and what they think of us drowns out our inner knowing. We come into this world carrying a birth suitcase filled with deep memory and soul knowledge of our life’s purpose. Misguided parents don’t realize this and often try to shape a child into whom they think the child should become. A young child’s comments and intuition needs to be taken seriously or his connection to guidance may begin to erode. Spirit guides may also back away since they won’t impose on anyone. To keep a child connected to her inherent wisdom and nurture her intuition, starting around age three, and again at various stages, ask questions and video or voice record the child’s answers. “Who are you?” “What have you come to do in this lifetime?” and “What can we do to help you?” These questions, asked with respect and love, encourage ongoing connection to the child’s magnificent inner knowing and to the world of spirit.



Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World

Sounds True, Bolder CO, 2016

Jacqueline Freeman is a bee whisperer. She listens, observes, and as a biodynamic farmer, creates supportive places for bees to live. In Song of Increase she reveals herself as a “relational beekeeper” and shares the direct teachings she receives from the bees. Bees don’t have big enough brains to do everything they do. Contrary to this scientific opinion, bees do it anyway, and they do it marvelously. Perhaps the hive’s shared consciousness makes the need for a larger brain unnecessary. Through unified intelligence bees measure and construct. Draftsman bees using their own bodies, hundreds latched arm to leg, measure height and width and placement of a comb. The maidens who will construct the comb receive a mental picture at the start from the draftsman bees, complete with measurements and pattern. The build starts from either side, miraculously meeting exactly in the middle of the comb. Always willing to give one hundred percent, bees are amazing in what they do, and also in what they say. Their familiar buzzing is bee sing, and different songs have different purposes. The Territorial Song alerts there is need to defend the hive, while The Song of Assertion is the cry to battle. A mournful bee song of sadness and wailing tells a beekeeper, before even checking inside the hive, that the queen has died. The joyful Song of Increase is the sound of abundance; it’s the robust health song of the hive working together at full steam. It’s the celebratory song of a new egg-laying queen, the alchemist maidens turning nectar to honey, the house bees making and repairing wax, the expression of all the hive activity. The harmonies of the bee songs help keep the colonies in good health.



Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen Cures and Household Lore for a Natural Home and Garden

Perigee, New York, NY 2015

Would you rather clean your home with a bowl of lemons on your counter or a stash of plastic bottles under your sink that are so toxic they can’t even be recycled? Forgotten Ways for Modern Days will inspire you to kick the chemical cleaning habit, treat coughs and colds naturally, and make a few crafty projects to use throughout your home and vegetable patch. If you’re already into natural home keeping, you’ll find new, old ideas to incorporate kitchen and garden ingredients to solve everyday problems. In the laundry room sometimes you can get by with doing very little. In the case of fabric stains speed and a soft towel is the first line of defense. By gently pressing on the stained area, most of the damage can often be lifted away. Coffee stains get a treatment of glycerin and warm water, while blood stains go in cold, salty water before washing. The fix for dingy whites is time-tested white vinegar, or a muslin bag filled with eggshells added to the wash cycle. Eggshells are not only good in the wash, mixed with a little lemon juice, they’re great for cleaning glass vases, and make unique candles when filled with wax, a favorite fragrance and a wick. Food has been used to treat ills and chills since Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Taken three times a day, equal parts onion juice and honey will stave off a cold, while a spray of chopped garlic is an instant disinfectant when germs and bacteria in the home need banishing. Whether you’re curing what ails you, mixing up a fragrant peppermint shampoo, or stitching up a 1940s style harvest apron for an extra pair of hands in the garden, using things around the house produces less waste and brings simplicity into your home.

Gail Lord is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Please send book review copies to 51 North Street, Grafton, MA 01519 or email socbookreviewer@gmail.com.

See also:
Fall/Winter 2016 Book Reviews
Spring/Summer 2016 Book Reviews