on 30 March 2011
Bodhipaksa (born Graeme Stephen in Scotland) says most of us fear thinking about impermanence and change. However our appreciation of life is enhanced rather than diminished when we experience the fragility of existence. His book "Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change" is both an empowering guide and a meditative practice to manage our terror in a world of change.
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.
on 22 July 2011
This is a wonderful book, clearly written combining Buddhist teachings with modern scientific illustrations. I am a practising Buddhist with some understanding of the teachings of the Dharma but often not with deep and lasting insight. This book has helped me look at the teachings again in a fresh,clear way that I find easy to read and then reflect upon. For those unfamiliar with Buddhist teachings this may be a more difficult read but it may make you want to explore more. Hightly recommended.
on 13 February 2012
This book pulls the rug from under your feet! After reading this little diamond I feel like my perception of the world has turned upside down.As you go through the book you might witness angry,anxious & confusing thoughts arising in your mind and that's a great sign.Because you start to question your core beliefs !!! I feel comfortable now facing death,change,impermanence & trying out new activities.I read books by Osho,Tolle,Zen masters but this one changed everything forever...
on 15 August 2013
Casting the river as a metaphor for ever-changing reality is inspired. Not only is this book well-written, but it is up-to-date in a scientific sense, as well as being a thorough introduction to this deeply insightful and ancient meditation practice. It helps us to see through the sense of separation that we often experience, and which causes us suffering and fear, and to find a real feeling of connectedness to the universe.
on 6 August 2012
Every so often you come across a book which you know will be a friend for life. I borrowed `Living as a River' by Bodhipaksa and then bought a copy for myself. It is wonderfully written, a lovely read... quite challenging but so worth persevering, and the language itself is a pleasure, let alone the message!
I wrote a review on my blog:
on 28 October 2013
This book is based on the insight teachings of Buddhism and presents them in a way that is very clear and accessible. There is plenty of fascinating material which draws on scientific research, making it interesting for people who are already very familiar with these teachings, as well as those who are new to them. I liked the friendly, informal style. Really engaging presentation of the Buddha's transformational teachings.