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Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change [Paperback]

Bodhipaksa

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2010

To face reality is to embrace change; to resist change is to suffer. This is the liberating insight that unfolds with Living as a River. A masterful investigation of the nature of self, this eloquent blend of current science and time-honored spiritual insight is meant to free us from the fear of impermanence in a world defined by change.

The primary vehicle for this journey is Buddhism's traditional Six Element Practice, a deconstructive process of deep reflection that helps us let go of the belief in a separate, static self-the root of unhappiness. Bodhipaksa takes readers through a systematic yet poetic analysis of the self that supports the realization of:

  • A sense of spaciousness and expansiveness that transcends the limitations of the physical body
  • Profound gratitude, awe, and a feeling of belonging as we witness the extent of our connectedness with the universe
  • Freedom from the psychological burden caused by clinging to a false identity
  • The relaxed experience of "consciousness, pure and bright"

Engrossing and incisive, Living as a River is at once an empowering guide and a meditative practice we can turn to again and again to overcome our fear of change and align joyfully with the natural unfolding of creation.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Sounds True (Sept. 28 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591799104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591799108
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #582,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing Nov. 21 2010
By Tim Brownson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is like no other book on Buddhism I have ever read before. Maybe that's because it's not really a book on Buddhism, but on life (and death). I actually hate writing reviews for books even for my own blog because when I read a book I just want to enjoy it without trying to remember specific aspects or highlight pages.

However, I just wanted to make some comments about Living As A River because it has made me think and made me feel uncomfortable with some of my current beliefs. And that is a good thing because we have to move through a state of uncertainty when changing.

What Bodhipaksa does so wonderfully is weave a mixture of the past and the present. Yes he talks about the life of Buddha as you would expect in such a book, but it is a long way from being a biography or a book full of stories set in the dim and distant past. He also uses cutting edge well researched science to make some of his points about what we really are as human beings and possibly more importantly, what we aren't.

I don't expect to get too many people rushing to say this review was useful to them, but I will say this. I really enjoyed books by the likes of Kabat Zinn, Ram Das, Thich Nhat Han, Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield, but in my opinion this takes it to the next level and does what those do only in parts, makes the Buddhist philosophy more accessible and understandable to the masses.

It's also a damn fine read and a book I will be recommending to clients.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review in a Word: Comforting Dec 18 2010
By Mark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
If I could only use one word to write this review I would use "comforting".

Bodhpaksa's book is literally the most amazing thing I have ever read, period - and I'm a well read guy, I've studied Carl Jung's writings, dozens of books on spirituality and volumes on Cosmology and Astronomy. I can honestly write that I have never read anything that left me with such a sense of clarity. This work is easy to read and understand and it left me feeling very comfortable with my self (whatever that actually is... maybe it depends on how you define is?) I will recommend this book to family and friends and probably even purchase copies for some. Simply amazing.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything You Didn't Want To Know About Your "Self" Nov. 6 2010
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Hard enough to realize that everything I have will eventually be taken away, that my body will age and die, that nothing is permanent--but then I always have my self, that immutable, indestructible core of my identity. Right? Wrong. Buddhism teaches that there is no permanent "self" after all, and that clinging to that concept is a cause of great suffering. Such is the major thesis of Bodhipaksa's book, and he fleshes out this teaching in great depth. He also gives a variety of suggestions for assimilating and living this truth, leading to a great sense of liberation.

Well, it's a challenge, but the author does a masterful job of explaining his points with great wit and verve and overwhelming scholarship. He uses Buddhist texts and abundant scientific research, in the fields of neurobiology, genetics, psychology and more. Much more. It's a treasure-house of cutting edge information. The book may not get you to enlightenment, but it will get you thinking and reevaluating some of your most cherished understandings.

Bodhipaksa writes in an easy, flowing style, at times a little long-winded, and sometimes repetitious. Still, he has digested so much scientific research and presents it so well, that you have to keep reading. He even tells a little (too little) about himself and his own spiritual search. He includes full citations for the research he uses, and also includes suggestions for the readers' own spiritual practice. If you're interested in what a contemporary spiritual master has to teach, this may be just the book for you. I recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Change is a fact of life Jan. 26 2011
By MommaMia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
We all struggle with change...well, most people I know do. I am no big fan of it and am constantly rebelling against it, when really, change is just a part of things, and this book gives you the tools you need to learn to accept things as they are and to realize that nothing is permanent. Nothing.

I found that the author repeated himself a few times and I found that a bit tedious, but mostly, the read was easy and not over my head in the least. There wasn't a lot of jargon I didn't understand or points I was not given sufficient explanation of.

I can't say I agree with his entire philosophy, or that it changed my life, because it didn't, but it certainly gave me food for thought and I found it a positive experience to read this book. Many years ago I was complaining to a friend who is as close to being a Buddhist as anyone I know about the impermanence of things, about how I liked living life in a nice, quiet little pool of water with no ripples or waves. We were at the beach. I illustrated my perception of how life should be by digging out a hole in the sand and filling it with water. He looked at it, looked at me and took a whole wad of sand and smashed my little tidal pool and said...life is like that. Nothing stays quiet and calm. Life is more like a river than a tidal pool. He said that to me almost 12 years ago. I was reminded of this discussion (which I never really forgot) after reading this book. Nothing stays the same, nothing good nor bad...we are all constantly changing. Maybe my friend should have written a book 12 years ago!

If you are looking for an easy to read book on this subject, by all means, give Living as a River a try.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful insights and wise counsel March 29 2011
By Niki Collins-queen, Author - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Bodhipaksa (born Graeme Stephen in Scotland) says most of us fear thinking about impermanence and change. However our appreciation of life is enhanced rather than diminished when we experience the fragility of existence. His book "Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change" is both an empowering guide and a meditative practice to manage our terror in a world of change.
Bodhipaksa says we think this thing called "self" is separate and permanent. To minimize fear we imagine ourselves as small islands of stability in the river of life. To find something unchanging and reliable we might cling to an ideology, a religious identity, a sense of belonging, a group, a nation, status, material possessions, approval, power or pleasure. It turns out these are not strategies for finding happiness, peace and security. They mostly impoverish and don't deliver the goods.
The solution says Bodhipaksa is to change the way we see ourselves. We are not separate. Like an eddy in a stream we appear to be separate but we are nothing more than a mass of eddies in other currents. We exist as the sum total of our relationships with a vast web of interconnected processes. Each of us is an ever-moving flow of matter and consciousness. Ninety percent of our body's cells are bacterial rather than human. Our entire physical being is made of material that was borrowed and will be returned to the outside world. Plants, animals, soil and rocks are made from material that was formerly part of our bodies. We could not have a conscious self without having encountered other conscious selves. Disconnected from the cycles of nature we believe we are one thing and nature another.
Bodhipaksa suggests rather than managing fear by clinging we must walk towards it and learn to let it go. To stop taking things personally when they are not personal. A joyful life is one where we look impermanence in the face and see it not as the enemy but an opportunity. When we let go of our specialness, separateness and impermanence we open ourselves up to recognizing we are more special than we ever imagined. When we face reality and embrace change we see ourselves more fluid and dynamic than we think we are. When we see ourselves as inherently BECOMING we are able to respond to others with compassion and without judgment. Challenges become opportunities for creativity.
Bodhipaksa says he doesn't mourn the loss of the belief of "self." Laying down the burden gave him an expansive feeling of liberation. Contemplating the ways we are connected can help us experience gratitude, appreciation and wonder. The ultimate act of letting go is to accept one's experience without labeling it as self or other. Abandon the delusion that consciousness and the world are separate. John Muir was correct, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
Although most of the book is drawn from the Buddhist tradition Bodhipaksa seamlessly weaves science, spirituality, philosophy, biology, poetry and religion.
The book could be more succinct but the powerful insights and wise counsel are worth the read.
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