A Literary Spirit

Solid Ground is a little book.  But it’s size belies it’s excellence.  The book is comprised of three parts–three prominent Buddhist authors talk about overcoming challenge using Buddhist wisdom.  All three authors are unique and potent–in both their understanding of Buddhism and the quality of their writing.

Sylvia Boorstein’s section was my favorite.  Not because her section was a standout–but as with most spiritual books, I found that her section just simply called out to me last month.  Surely a result of where I am in my life (and in my mind).  I liked reading one section and just skimming the rest…knowing that I could come back to them later when the time is right.

So many Buddhist books sound like they’re revisions of an earlier classic.  But this book is unique and compelling…and relevant to our times.

Purchase Solid Ground from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall.

The Way of Council is an excellent book penned by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle.  Both have extensive experience working through simple and difficult issues using the unique format of a circle.

This isn’t just about sitting in a circle and gabbing.  There are parameters, and strategies, to make circles work.

Usually circles involve a talking stick, to prevent people from speaking out of turn, or more importantly, without mindfulness.

Circles move in one direction, again, to achieve inclusiveness and  good flow.  Usually circles involve listening more than talking–because the foundation of council (in the Aboriginal tradition) is to listen with your whole heart to your community, and to develop patience and tolerance.

I liked the examples in this book–Jack and Virginia have worked with this format in large and small groups, with young children and elders, and with folks across different cultures.   I learned of this methodology long ago and have used them in my organization and in my various communities.

It’s a classic–I found it a decade ago and still find myself re-reading and referencing today.

Purchase The Way of Council from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall.


Purchase In Buddha’s Kitchen from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall. In Buddha’s Kitchen

By Kimberly Snow


I really enjoyed this book about Kimberly Snow’s experiences cooking in a Buddhist Monastery in Northern California. As a former chef in a Kentucky-based kitchen, she makes good use of her early experiences as a chef to contrast with the new attitude of mindfulness and silence.

Her long journey to awareness is the perfect introductory book to folks interested in Buddhism.  Working in a kitchen is the perfect backdrop for understanding the deeper meaning of Buddhist teachings and this book is not only very funny, but very, very insightful on mastering the basics of Buddhist practice.

I would recommend to anyone yearning to integrate Buddhist practice into their own lives.

However, I agree with the reviewer who wondered about why she didn’t include any recipes in her book.  The author does mention at one point that she is working on a cookbook but a recipe at the end of every chapter would have been a lovely addition to an already wonderful read.

Purchase A Book of Miracles from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall. A Book of Miracles
By Bernie Siegel


Bernie uses one of the best forms of teaching–true stories from people’s lives to instill his message that we are all healers and we all are able to find miracles if only we have faith, listen, watch and believe.

The book is comprised of stories: and most are about people who were diagnosed with terminal or severe medical conditions.  The stories describe how each person healed–alone or in conjunction with modern medicine.

The miracles aren’t out of this world–in most cases, it seems as though people changed their attitude, their openness to the idea that healing was possible and cultivated the support of loved ones in the process.

From the birth of a whale, witnessed by two people sailing to the selfless acts of generosity that fed homeless people Thanksgiving dinner and gave them a community/family – to the man who avoided certain death when a familiar German accented voice reached through the fog and pulled him back from the unseen crevasse, to Bernie’s own daughter telling how her Dad saved her son – these stories are uplifting and deeply touching.

You could offer this book as a gift to someone who is suffering from an illness or supporting someone else through an illness. Or, you could simply read a story a day or a week to bolster your own faith in humans healing themselves.

Purchase Yoga of Kirtan from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall. Yoga of Kirtan (includes CD)
By Steven Rosen

Kirtan is an ancient tradition that has only recently caught on in the West.  Kirtan is a beautiful means to develop and express spirituality through chanting to music–and this book enables readers to understand the history, intention and power of this practice.

The introduction provides ample historical detail about the origins and extent to which chanting has influenced spiritual expression across many religions.  Historical research is clearly one of Rosen’s strengths–as I learned a great deal in this section.

The rest of the book is focused on the key players in the world of Kirtan.  Rosen interviews each one and invites them to share their stories of how they were introduced to the practice of kirtan and how it has evolved in their lives.

The chapter on Krishna Das strays from the topic of kirtan into his spiritual journey, guru and spiritual viewpoints.  While some might view these detours as off-topic, I really enjoyed learning more about the overall spiritual journey of each kirtanist.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the intersection of spirituality and music.  Singers, songwriters and musicians may really appreciate this book, but I think that anyone interested in sacred music will like it. And if you have had any experience with Krishna Das or other primary kirtanists in the West, you will really, really enjoy the book and the bonus CD.

Purchase Ethical Intelligence from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall. Ethical Intelligence
By Bruce Weinstein


At the outset of this book, readers are invited to take a quiz.  It is a challenging quiz..because it unearths our ethical shortfalls.  I consider myself to be kind and honest and even still, the practice of ethical intelligence is not as deeply rooted in my life as I imagined.

Bruce Weinstein suggests these tenets in his book Ethical Intelligence.  “Do no harm. Make things better. Respect others. Be fair. Be loving.”

But these five simple principles when put into practice lead to a much more ethical, and happier, life.

Weinstein does a great job of clearly and simply defining each principle.  I like the examples he uses–which are culled from a diverse range of sources.

I liked this book.  I felt that it would be a great book to introduce to new employees during corporate training or to freshman students at colleges and graduate schools.  I could see how this quiz would also be interesting for professionals of all types to take midway into their careers–to remind ourselves that the practice of ethics should increase (not decrease) over time.

Purchase Journey of the Heart from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall. Journey of the Heart: The Path of Conscious Love
By John WellwoodI’m going to be reviewing 5 of John Wellwood’s books in January in preparation for the LOVE month: February.  But to whet your appetite for his incredible insights on conscious love, I wanted to share this wonderful excerpt from his first profound book.

As men and women find that they can no longer rely on old roles and formulas to get along, intimate relationships call for a new kind of honesty and awareness, a willingness to let go of old patterns and cultivate new capacities. “Journey of the Heart” shows how we can rise to this challenege by learning to use whatever difficulties we face in relationships as opportunities to expand our sense of who we are and deepen our capacity to connect with others. This is the path of conscious love.

Purchase Samsara Dog from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall.
Samsara Dog
By Helen Manos
Review:Samsara Dog is a children’s picturebook written by practicing Buddhist Helen Manos, who sought to present the concept of reincarnation in a natural and seamless way. A dog returns to live life after life with children, helping each of its charges in a different way, until he finally learns what he needs to learn to rise above the endless wheel of death and rebirth.Without being preachy, this book illustrates the Buddhist concepts of samsara, the cycle of birth, and nirvana, fulfillment through total selflessness.

Children who will love to follow the story of the dog will also love the illustrations in soft hues.

I recommend this book for any parents who believe in reincarnation and want to explore it in a kid-friendly way.  It takes complex topics such as karma shows how these principles might work.  Read this book aloud and then take the time to discuss it.

Purchase Through the Year With Jimmy Carter from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall.

Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President


Review: In Through the Year with Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth President of the United States takes us on a unique journey into the heart of the Christian faith. Based on more than three decades of practical Bible teaching, the readings in this book draw from the riches of Mr. Carter’s own life.

The book touches upon President Carter’s lessons while serving as a leader.  He recounts stories–that give us fascinating glimpses into behind-the-scenes activity at the White House and the US Navy–that combine his political insights with spiritual insights.

The book is divided into sections: Launching touches upon his earliest years in service.  The lessons here reflect those in the early career stage of life.  Then the next section is called Growing which touches upon his pivotal growth as  leader and a Christian through his political work.  Finally, the section Serving captures his most sage and insightful lessons–based on all aspects of his life.

The third section was my favorite as it felt as though he was speaking to readers as a fully formed human being rather than a person with great political power or insight.  The lessons and teachings are richest and simplest in this section. That’s why they touched me so deeply.

I recommend Through the Year with Jimmy Carter as a day book or a bible study book that challenges readers to be more Christ-like every day of their lives.


Purchase Touching the Light from the Beliefnet Shopping Mall.

Touching the Light
By Meg Blackburn Losey

REVIEW: How is it that miracles happen? Is spontaneous healing really possible? Why is it that some illnesses don’t show up in standard or even specialized medical testing, yet are very real in their effects? Can someone be “cosmically sick” with no apparent physical cause? How do the people and places around us affect us in our everyday lives? Can we intentionally and effectively create miracles of healing, to change lives, or to effect positive outcomes even when situations seem hopeless? How can symbols of light be used to instantly attune someone’s entire energy system?

Dr. Meg Blackburn Losey answers these questions and many other in this unusually clear and thorough book about working with healing energies.

The topic is so abstract that I thought it could never really be explained in words and with diagrams.  But Meg Losey has written the most precise book about how to understand our energetic systems and more importantly, how to heal them.

It becomes very obvious early in the book that Dr. Losey is truly an expert.  She is not a flaky psychic or a healer whose abilities can be easily dismissed.  As such, I recommend this book as  must-have for those interested in healing as well as the advanced practitioner of any energy healing modality.