Living As a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change Paperback – Sep 28 2010
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About the Author
Bodhipaksa was born Graeme Stephen in Scotland, and currently lives and teaches in New Hampshire. He is a Buddhist teacher and author who has been practicing within the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order since 1982, and has been a member of the Western Buddhist Order since 1993. He runs the online meditation center WildMind.org, whose mission is to increase awareness of the positive effects of meditation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
"I wrote Living as a River because I'm fascinated by the Buddhist Six Element Practice and I wanted to communicate my explorations. But my book isn't really about the Six Element Practice (which is really just the framework for the explorations it contains). It's a way of letting go of our clinging so that we can, eventually, lose our clinging and find freedom. But that's not a very adequate description of the book either" says Bodhipaksa.
Living As A River contains a great balance between explaining awakening and giving direct injunctions to the reader to bring about the awakening. As Bodhipaksa explains, like a river - life is dynamic, vibrant, ever-changing. The static, fixed views of ourselves, others, and the world freeze us, stifling our creativity, and turning us away from the inherent love within each of us.
This book perfectly illuminates the real purpose of awakening, which is not to just talk about that river or even enter the river, but to realize we are it - fully.