Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I'm drawn to restless souls, to spiritual seekers, to those unsatisfied with every theory, every approach, every explanation. As far as such types go, Joan Halifax has quite the resume: she's a student of Thich Nhat Hahn, she's been an apprenticed shaman in a variety of Mexican and southwestern tribes, she's done retreats and pilgrimages world-wide, she's studied the Dogon and lived amongst them, she's slogged the Himalayas, and she was even married to Stanislov Grof, the pioneer of LSD therapy. A roshi and PhD and shaman all in one: doesn't get more restless than that!

Mostly the book is a collection of stories about her travels, about her meetings with tribal elders, about their warnings and prophecies. I found it a quality addition to the bookcase of similar meandering tomes. She advocates a return to old ways of coexisting with nature, a re-awakening of our deep ecological awareness that we do not live outside of Nature, but that we are part of Nature. And yet she says airplanes and garbage and pollution are part of our world and part of us, we just need to be more sensible and aware of the harm we cause, and we should try to limit or mitigate it; she references the Japanese regret of the pain of human suffering, which recognizes the aesthetic beauty of our sadness: mono no aware. Right now I'm fighting my second sickness in two weeks, this one more daunting than the first, and I'm trying to find the beauty in it.

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