Recommended Books

The three books I’ve been reading lately offer an opportunity to slow down. One encourages us to listen ‘because listening is the doorway to everything that matters.’ Another is about a pilgrimage at the author’s own pace along with moments of reflection along the path. And the third is learning to relax and let go with meditation.

Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo realized that as there are seven thousand living languages on earth, there must be at least seven thousand ways to listen. His book is Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred (Free Press, 2012, $29.99).

‘To start with,’ he writes, ‘we must honor that listening is a personal pilgrimage that takes time and a willingness to circle back.’

There are ‘reflective pauses’ throughout the book. Each poses one or more questions or meditations at the end of a chapter or at the end of a smaller section within a chapter. Sometimes there are ‘table questions’ to be asked over dinner or coffee with friends and loved ones.

In the first section, ‘The Work of Being,’ Nepo explores several forms of listening and ‘how they can break our isolation so we can inhabit our connection with the rest of life.’ Then he moves into ‘deep listening, which invites us to experience the one living sense that connects all things.’

In the second section, ‘The Work of Being Human,’ he includes ‘The Call of the Soul’ and moves into the ‘many seasons of listening we move through in our time on Earth.’

‘All of our listening brings us home,’ Nepo writes in ‘Finding Birdsong,’ one of the chapters in the third section of the book: ‘The Work of Love.’ The work of love ‘involves holding nothing back,’ he writes.

As with his other books and audio programs, Nepo includes fictional stories, his own life experiences, scholarship, philosophy and poetry.

Here’s something to remember until you get a chance to read the book: ‘To listen with your heart will change everything, regardless of what you’ve been told.’

From the personal pilgrimage of listening to a walking pilgrimage of the camino francés: Nanaimo’s Harvey Jenkins writes of the 800 km walking journey he and his wife Sharron took in Haiku Moments on the Camino: France to Finisterre (Oliver Man Publishing, 2013, $19.95).

The pilgrimage, in the summer of 2010, was from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain and then on to Finisterre. Jenkins writes of the experiences along the path, the people he and Sharron met, the food they shared, and offers some reflective pauses in the fo

rm of haiku. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry in a three line, five/seven/five syllable format.

Jenkins was inspired by the great haiku poet, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) who wrote haibun (prose mixed with haiku). Here’s an example of Jenkins’ haiku: a pilgrim’s advice / I want to find my own way / past each obstacle.

Photographs enhance the reading of the book as do the stamps collected in Jenkins’ camino passport.

Haiku Moments on the Camino is a charming book whether you are an armchair traveler or plan to embark on the physical journey yourself.

Copies can be purchased at the VIU Bookstore or Volume One in Duncan. The Vancouver Island Regional Library also has copies for you to borrow. Or email and request a copy directly from the author.

Many people are entering a place beyond words with their own meditation practice. Meditation has many benefits besides inner calm and increased vitality and you can do it anywhere.

Ajayan Borys has written Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease (New World Library, 2013, $14.95 U.S.) to help beginners and long-term meditators alike. This is

a book to follow at your own pace as you learn a preliminary exercise and then the three levels

of a unique approach to chakra meditation.

The word chakra literally means ‘circle’ or ‘wheel.’ While there are many such centres of energy throughout the body, seven are identified as primary ones. Borys also offers instruction in mantra meditation and a meditation for health and longevity.

In an interview, the author said meditation is ‘doing less and less until you are doing nothing, simply being, abiding in the core of your innermost Self. Controlling the mind is doing. It’s opposed to meditation. Meditation should dissolve the ego-mind, which is accustomed to always doing and trying. This is why meditation must be effortless.’

He compares the effortlessness to falling asleep. When you try to fall asleep, you lay awake. It’s only when you completely forget about trying to fall asleep does sleep come. ‘The same holds true for meditation. Let yourself be meditated.’

Mary Ann Moore is a Nanaimo poet and writer who leads weekly women’s writing circles.