“Anyone who understands impermanence, ceases to be contentious.”
~ from Sylvia Boorstein's Happiness is an Inside Job
Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions... by Joan ChittisterIn Between the Dark and the Daylight, Benedictine sister Joan Chittister invites us to consider the contradictions and paradoxes of life and to embrace them rather than ignoring them. Providing 32 brief meditations on topics such as "The Light Found in Darkness," "The Fragility of Achievement," "The Emptiness of Crowds," and "The Certitude of Doubt," Chittister guides us to ponder these challenges to our sense of well-being. In moving beyond well defined limits and risking the unknown, we may find unexpected spiritual riches.
How to Read the Bible by Harvey CoxThe Bible contains a complicated mix of writings that readers who aren't biblical scholars may find confusing, especially if they think they should be taken literally. In How to Read the Bible, acclaimed religion expert and Harvard Divinity School professor Harvey Cox explores scholarly and personal approaches to biblical interpretation and reveals their common ground. Those who would like to study the Bible at a deeper but still accessible level will find an insightful discussion of biblical interpretation through history and into the present day. For another recent exposition of the topic, read Dominic Crossan's How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian.
Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity by James J. O'DonnellReligion in the Roman Empire during the first four centuries A.D. assumed that there were many gods. People were devoted to their deities but also tolerant of different beliefs. The early followers of Jesus asserted a strange, novel idea when they claimed that their God was the only one. In Pagans, Georgetown University scholar James O'Donnell offers an easy to follow tour of ancient Roman religions preceding Christianity. He also explains how Christian doctrine began to drive out polytheism and eventually dominated Western religion. Though it's packed with historical scholarship, this book "employs the classical texts with irony and irreverence" (Kirkus Reviews).
If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart... by Carla PowerSecular American journalist Carla Power and Islamic scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi had been friends for years, and both were frustrated by the name-calling among and between their communities. Hoping to improve her understanding of Islam, Power undertook extensive study of the Qur'an with Akram. For a year, she met with him weekly for private lessons and observed his Oxford University lectures. They explored and debated Islamic doctrine, and each found new understanding of their own cultures as well as an even deeper friendship. Power's engaging memoir of this experience offers compelling insight into difficult religious topics.
Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace by Patricia Raybon and Alana RaybonAuthors Patricia and Alana Raybon are mother and daughter, but for a decade after Alana told her mother that she had converted to Islam they avoided talking about religion. Journalist Patricia, a devout Christian, couldn't accept Alana's conversion. In alternating chapters of their joint memoir, each expresses her viewpoint and tries to hear and understand the other's. Both come to realize that their love for each other is more important than their religious disagreement. By the end of the book, they begin to find a measure of mutual understanding. Undivided offers a candid exploration of how divided family members can work towards reconciliation.
Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia BoorsteinWhat is the secret to happiness? In Happiness is an Inside Job, meditation teacher and psychotherapist Sylvia Boorstein shows how following three key elements of the Buddhist path to wisdom can cultivate calm, clarity, and joy instead of anger, anxiety, and confusion. The secret is to pay attention to our emotions and cultivate the techniques of wise effort, wise mindfulness, and wise concentration. In clear explanations enlivened with appealing anecdotes, Boorstein gently presents advice about dealing with disruptive feelings by focusing on the positive. Care of our inner selves leads to equanimity towards challenges from the world around us in this accessible introduction to Buddhist practice.
True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart by Tara BrachThe Buddhist concept of "taking refuge" refers to finding a safe spiritual place in the face of difficult issues such as broken relationships, life-threatening illnesses, or worry about the state of the world. In this accessible book, author Tara Brach, a founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., explains that we can find refuge within ourselves. In an introduction and 15 detailed chapters, she explores problems that can cause grief, anger, and even addictive behavior. True Refuge details the nature of "refuge," provides clear examples of both life challenges and Buddhist responses, and offers healing to Buddhists and those who are new to the subject.
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm by Thich Nhât HanhProminent Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhât Hanh writes about the negative effects of emotions such as anger and fear, while recognizing that they are difficult to avoid. In Fear, he explains how these emotions arise and illustrates how to handle them through the practice of mindfulness. He stresses that it's important to reach out to others rather than engaging only in solitary meditation, explaining that community allows compassion and nonviolence to thrive. Continually returning to his concept of "interbeing" to emphasize that we are all part of one another, this volume complements and builds on his earlier books, including Peace Is Every Step and Anger.
Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now by Surya DasAccording to Lama Surya Das, society imposes ideas of time that interfere with natural rhythms and distract us from being fully present in each moment. Explaining how Buddhist mindfulness practice can take us out of the artificial structures of time and into a liberated spiritual space, Buddha Standard Time guides beginners and experienced Buddhist practitioners into the path of joy, inner peace, and happiness. Kirkus Reviews calls this book "exhilarating and profound food for the timeless soul."
Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight... by Stephan TaltyOne of the most recognizable Buddhist leaders in the world is the 14th Dalai Lama, known both as the exiled leader of Tibet and as a great religious sage. In Escape from the Land of Snows, journalist Stephan Talty recounts how a teenaged monk in a remote country fled a Chinese invasion, proving to the world and Mao Zedong that he would not become the Chinese government's puppet. Talty's narrative relates Tibet's religious tradition, which the Dalai Lama seemed destined to carry beyond his country's borders; it also compellingly details the risky journey to India. For more on the Dalai Lama's spiritual teachings, read his recent The Wisdom of Compassion.
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