Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: "Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives," Thích Nhất Hạnh

Title: Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
Author: Thích Nhất Hạnh 
Pages: Kindle edition, 160 pages 
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release: February 15, 2011

I've made it my goal to focus on mindfulness and my inner well-being this year (and hopefully beyond), so I have been seeking out books that focus on that topic.  I happened to stumble across a notice that the revered Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh had specifically asked for his book Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives to be offered at a low cost at the end of 2013 and start of 2014, with readers like myself in mind, so I purchased a copy for $1.99 and spent some time savoring it.

This was the first full-length book of Nhất Hạnh's that I've read, though I'd been meaning to for a while.  It was a really beautiful little experience.  He speaks -- that's what it feels like; he's not writing -- in such an informal, personable way that you really feel like he's engaged in a conversation with you, respecting you as an equal and wanting you to be as comfortable with him as he is with you.  There were so many times when reading that I felt like I was listening to my grandmother telling me advice, in the best way possible.

Nhất Hạnh focuses on the idea that in every single action you carry out during the day -- whether it's the simple act of taking a breath (hence the title) or brushing your teeth, eating a meal or driving your car, taking a step or changing for bed -- can be done in a mindful, present way that promote both inner and outer peace.  He works very hard to get you to understand his points, and the repetition comes off as helpful, not annoying.  By the midway point in the book, just his cadence felt like peace.

His advice felt practical and "right," whatever that means.  I often get the feeling that self-help and spiritual books are too ridiculous or in-the-clouds to be taken seriously, but everything Nhất Hạnh said had me wanting to apply it in my life.  I think I abused the highlight function on my Kindle pretty well.  I've already begun to practice applying his ideas, selecting one or two a week to focus on.  It's difficult at first, but you get the hang of it -- that's the joy of mindfulness.

As an added bonus, Nhất Hạnh includes some lovely explains of his calligraphy and an appendix of sorts of his gathas, which are short verses that you recite in your mind to help maintain your mindfulness.  I have been getting my ideas for mindfulness approaches to try based on the gathas that really appealed to me when I first read them.

So this isn't a traditional review, but I really enjoyed the book and would encourage others to read it if you're new to mindfulness and looking for a more flowing, poetic, continuous textual approach.

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