When we first meet Rachel, she’s leaving a busy, stressful, yet successful urban lifestyle in Brooklyn, New York to take an editing position in the bay area of California for Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn.
“I look longingly at the dirt road that leads away from the monastery, desperate for a crowded bar, an old pool table, and an early-90s hip-hop soundtrack.”
Struggling to settle into the change from busy streets and city lights to mountains and 15-minute morning meditation sessions, she first instinctively rebels against stillness and seems to gravitate towards remaining on autopilot.
Even when reflecting on the more tumultuous, anxious moments there’s a warm and soothing tone to her words. You find yourself not only feeling the relief in identifying with these moments, but also being given the gift of calm she learns along the way. You experience the natural transition into mindfulness through her real life experiences.
I enjoyed getting to know Luna and Plum, Rachel’s two daughter’s. I was able to feel the intimate connection she has with them and saw how their child-like observations on life and the challenging questions it poses had a huge impact on her journey.
“I think kids instinctively know that if things aren’t okay out there in the world—and they’re not—they can’t really feel safe and secure.”
She takes us through recurring themes of life such as aging, death and loss.
We can all identify with these things as human beings. Learning to accept these circumstances helps put these negative emotions to rest, even if just for a few moments.
On a day to day basis we can fight mindfulness by being impatient with each other, irritated, self absorbed. Being more than one thing, a mother, a career woman, wife, a daughter, is overwhelming at times if we allow it to be. By the end, we realize it can also be a beautiful thing when we bring balance, calm and mindfulness into the picture. It’s the way we view things and our perception that manifests itself into our reality and affects those around us as well.
“The most deeply ingrained wrong view, the one that most of us will need pried from our cold, dead hands, is our view that we are each individual, separate selves.”
With familiar references to the golden rule and classic karma, this is not meant to be new information. She reminds us in her own words, sharing personal stories with humor and thoughtfulness that we are all on a similar journey to mindfulness. Take a moment to sit still, breathe and enjoy the ride.
“But while these moments come, the day after these moments still comes as well. There are hundreds of moments in any given day when compassionate action is less dramatic, but no less necessary. If justice is love in public, anytime I am in public, I have the opportunity to create justice. Listening deeply to someone else’s suffering, watching a neighbor’s child eat, these are little moments of justice that add to the larger moments that come. Sometimes I think of the little moments as practice for the big moments, but the big moments are also practice for the little ones. I’m moving toward a world where compassion, kindness, and the awareness of our mutual dependence is the status quo. There is no need to wait.”
I would highly recommend this book to readers new to the topic of mindfulness and meditation.
All of the principles and practices are there, but they are woven in through a light, readable story. The information is easily absorbed and interpreted given the author’s real life examples. The readers learn how to apply these practices into their own lives more so than just being given a textbook style history of the subject matter. As much as I love the topic, sometimes 200 pages of background, historical or “how to” information can be overwhelming.
When new to a topic, too much unfamiliar vocabulary can be intimidating as well and cause a reader to lose interest. Character development and the memoir format also make it more enjoyable for a reader geared more towards a novel or fiction read as well.
You find yourself pulled into the story aspect of the book, wanting to see how her journey into mindfulness ends and looking forward to beginning your own.
Note: All quotes are by Rachel Neumann and are excerpts of the book being reviewed.
Angela Melissa Diaz is a self-proclaimed ecofashionista and thrift store/vintage clothing junkie. She’s writing for the ecofashion and wellness sections of elephant as well as bringing her social butterfly skills to the social media team. If you cannot get in touch with her via any forms of technology, she’s on her yoga mat flowing through vinyasas at 90 plus degrees or studying for her certification in health and wellness counseling. She hopes to save the world from bad food choices and stagnant lifestyles while reminding everyone to breathe and laugh as much as possible. You can reach her at [email protected] or find her on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Stylistad
Ed: Kate Bartolotta