Tara Brach: A Radical Path to Peace
When Tara Brach was introduced to Buddhism in high school, she 'dismissed it out of hand,' she writes. 'It seemed irrelevant to my life.... Sure, maybe we all suffer, but why dwell on it?'
That was the 1960s, when the pursuit of pleasure was the order of the day. But now, 30 years later, Brach sees Buddhism in a different light. In Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha (Bantam, June), she recounts how the practices and principles of Buddhism helped her abandon self-hatred and addiction for inner peace and freedom.
A psychologist, a Buddhist and a mother, Brach recounts her own suffering and the travails of many of her clients and students. Their battles with addiction, anger, depression, chronic sickness and post-traumatic stress syndrome put them in a 'trance of unworthiness,' a drone of self-hatred that Brach says prevents a person's true Buddha nature, or worthiness, from shining through.
Brach, too, was caught up in that trance, locked in by fears of not being good enough in both her professional and personal lives. She was a harsh self-critic who dulled her pain in bouts of overeating. She was also plagued with chronic fatigue and an irritable bowel syndrome that routinely disrupted her work and undermined her spiritual growth. Then, through the application of Buddhist principles of mindfulness and compassion, she found a way out. That path she now calls radical acceptance—the process of breaking through the trance to come to total peace with both strengths and weaknesses.
'When we turn on ourselves we get very stuck, and that makes it difficult to feel intimate with others or do anything healthy in our lives,' she says. 'With radical acceptance, I can be with my anxiety or compulsiveness with a quality of compassion, and immediately there is more freedom to make better choices. There is more of a tendency to take the next step in an alive and kind way.'
Brach outlines the steps to radical acceptance and offers guided meditations to help the reader get there. The first step, she writes, is learning to pause and 'listen' to the forces and thoughts coursing through the mind and body. That breaks the trance of self-destructiveness and suffering.
An example is how Brach copes when she and her teenage son are at odds over his schoolwork. 'It is very hard to accept myself or him in that dance,' she says. 'What I have found is that if I take the first step to radical acceptance, which is to pause, I find that underneath my anger is a fear—the fear he is going to sabotage his life. So what radical acceptance allows me to do is to examine the layer under what is seemingly presenting itself, and then I can go forward and talk to him with love and respect. I also feel more at home with myself because I am at home with what is really there. And by extension, I am more able to tune it to what is going on for him.'
Radical acceptance is not the same as total indulgence, Brach is quick to point out. Rather, acceptance of one's weaknesses is the first step on the path to transformation. 'Radical acceptance is not giving yourself permission to act out against others,' she says. '[But] if you can accept what you are feeling, there is a tendency to behave in a more kind, compassionate way toward the rest of the world. And when we accept ourselves fully, we are free to change.'
Brach came to her path via Buddhism, but the book is intended for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. She simply finds that the tenets of Buddhism lend themselves well to charting a path to personal wholeness and spiritual growth. 'Buddhism offers a really practical and powerful training of the heart and mind, an explicit way of developing mindfulness,' she says. 'It is a deep, non-judging attention. The other part of Buddhist training is compassion. And those two capacities are the elements of radical acceptance.'
Toni Burbank, v-p and editor at Dell, heard Brach speak at a seminar with Jack Kornfield—who later supplied a foreword to the book—and was excited by Brach's ability to use her everyday life as part of her teaching. 'I just loved her warmth, her energy, her way of presenting the Buddhist ideas,' Burbank said. 'There's this sense of her living in the world, struggling with work, with home, with raising a son by herself. All of this seemed to me to ground the spiritual work in a way that made it accessible to ordinary people.' The book will be promoted with a multi-city tour, with most stops on the West and East Coasts. -- Kimberly Winston
Ari Goldman: Mourning a Father
The realities of middle age, a time that can force people to confront profound issues like mortality and loss, couldn't have fallen more sharply on Ari Goldman when his father died suddenly of a heart attack the day after Ari's 50th birthday.
'One day I was having a party, the next day I was sitting shiva,' says Goldman, whose memoir of the traditional Jewish year of mourning, Living a Year of Kaddish (Schocken) will be published in late August.
Goldman, an Orthodox Jew, 20-year veteran of the New York Times and Columbia University journalism professor, is widely known for his 1991 book, The Search for God at Harvard, which recounted his experience during a year of study at Harvard Divinity School. Living a Year of Kaddish explores themes of loss and mourning in the context of the traditional Jewish process of reciting a blessing, the kaddish, three times each day for a year after the death of a loved one. The blessing must be recited in the presence of a minyan, or a quorum of 10 Jews who gather throughout the day to pray.
For Goldman, who was raised in an observant home, there was no question that he would say kaddish for his father when he died. What was unexpected was the personal journey of transformation that accompanied the year-long process and helped Goldman achieve peace and a sense of closure on a father-son relationship that had not always been smooth.
'When your parent is alive,' Goldman says, 'you can still work on the relationship. When they're gone, that ceases and there's a hole in your life.' Saying kaddish helps a person begin to fill in that hole, he believes. 'With death, the relationship takes another form. The only kind of work you can do is internal. Kaddish is a way of confronting that new reality every day.'
Goldman understood kaddish as a way to 'still relate to your parent' after he has died. Traditionally, reciting the blessing is thought to ease the deceased person's soul in its transition to the next world. But the prayer took on additional significance for Goldman, helping him grow as a person and reach a place of peace with his father. 'We as mortals don't know—we only can believe that this has some comfort for the dead,' he says. 'Through my experience I came to understand the benefit for myself.'
Just as the prayer must be recited in a community of other Jews, mourning is simultaneously a personal and a communal process, Goldman notes. In keeping with his training as a journalist, the book contains profiles of other mourners who Goldman encountered and interviewed throughout his year of mourning, keeping a daily diary of his own feelings as well as his meetings with others.
Goldman describes a particularly poignant moment when he met a man in his Manhattan synagogue who had survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz. After Goldman's year of mourning was over, he was surprised that the man continued to recite kaddish every day. The man said, 'My mourning is never over. I will say kaddish for the rest of my life.' Goldman says that the encounter emphasized the 'unfathomable' loss that the survivor coped with.
The book has been selected by the Jewish Book Council for a publicity run, according to Suzanne Williams, publicity director for Schocken Books. Through the Council, Goldman will go on an extensive tour of Jewish book fairs in late October and November.
According to Williams, the book is poised to sell well, serving as a guide for others who are working through grief. 'It's a very personal story, and Ari tells it in a way that can help people, that is insightful and thoughtful,' she says. -- Holly Lebowitz Rossi
Chris Lowney: Leadership Lessons from the Jesuits
Although author Chris Lowney cut short his Jesuit seminary studies to become an investment banker, he soon realized there was one thing the Jesuits had all over the business world: good leadership.
In his new book, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World (Loyola Press, Aug.), Lowney explains how using the leadership training methods of the Jesuits—training he was immersed in for six years—would go a long way toward erasing a deficit in individuals and businesses.
Lowney grew up in the Jackson Heights section of Queens in New York City and attended Le Moyne College, a Jesuit school in upstate New York. He spent two years at Le Moyne, then completed his studies at Fordham University in the Bronx, where he also received his masters in philosophy. Lowney continued on the path to the Jesuit priesthood, but along the way he began thinking of a life outside of the Jesuit order.
'After high school I basically entered the Jesuit seminary and was a Jesuit for a half a dozen years,' Lowney says. He says the demands of celibacy caused him to depart.
After teaching a high school economics course at a Jesuit high school, Lowney landed a job at J.P. Morgan as a 'classic investment banker,' he says, where he drummed up mergers and acquisitions business for the bank. This was followed by stints in Europe and Asia for the bank as a managing director in charge of human resources. 'I don't think there are two more different things someone could do with their life,' Lowney says of his transition from the path to the priesthood to banking.
Yet he found there were a lot of similarities or 'human things under the surface' between the two occupations. 'You still have to get things done. You have to get motivated and then motivate others,' he says. This is where Lowney's Jesuit training came in handy, and where the idea for the book was born.
Established more than 450 years ago by Ignatius Loyola and nine other men—no capital and no business plan—the Jesuits built a solid 'company' with brand-name recognition. They used leadership techniques based on what Lowney has 'boiled down' to four core principles: Self-awareness, knowing one's strengths and weaknesses; ingenuity, being confident, inventive and adaptable in an ever-changing world; love, engaging others with a positive and supportive attitude; and heroism in all endeavors, which means taking on 'big, hairy, audacious goals,' Lowney writes in the book.
The result was what Lowney describes as the first multinational company. 'These guys pioneered techniques and ways of doing international business well before companies we know today,' Lowney says. 'They had a certain way of doing things that I think accounts for their success.'
The Jesuits have since grown into the world's largest religious order with an equally impressive higher education system. While on his last overseas post with J.P. Morgan in Europe, Lowney determined that when he returned to the U.S. he would take a summer off to write his book and do volunteer work. 'Some time off' has turned into a full-time pursuit, and with Heroic Leadership Lowney accomplishes both goals, as he plans to donate 20% of the book's royalties to charities that provide education and health care to impoverished children in the developing world. One of them is the Catholic Medical Mission Board, where he serves as a special assistant to the president.
Melissa Crane, marketing manager at Loyola Press, says the book received 'tremendous response' after advance reading copies were sent out. Loyola hopes to attract not only the future and current corporate leaders of the world but all others 'who want to be better leaders.' A possible speaking tour of Jesuit universities is in the works. --Ted Howard
James Lucas: Parenting and Paradox
Relationship expert and parenting book author James Lucas embodies the term 'paradox' in his personal and professional life. An engineer by training, Lucas's career path has included everything from pastoring youth to overseeing worldwide expansion for the Hallmark Corporation. He is the founder of the Relationship Development Center, an organization committed to helping people cultivate healthy relationships. And as the founder of Luman Consultants International, Lucas presents life coaching and team building seminars at Fortune 1,000 companies. He's been listed in Who's Who in the World since 1989 and Who's Who in America since 1999. He is an award-winning senior faculty member of the American Management Association and has published multiple books with the group's publishing house, Amacom Books. 'It's been suggested that I ought to select an area in which to specialize my practice, but if I had to do that I'd be bored to tears,' Lucas says. 'I have a passion for parenting, but I also enjoy dealing with professional issues.'
Lucas's dozen books to date cover vast and varied territory. He has written on business principles, penned three futuristic novels and published several titles on parenting, including his newest, The Paradox Principle of Parenting (Tyndale House, June). So how does all this seeming incongruity fit together? 'I like to think of myself as a sort of renaissance man, with two main tracks of interest, business and relationships, criss-crossing as much as they run parallel,' he says. Whatever the topic at hand, Lucas tells PW that he considers himself 'an agent provocateur,' confronting conventional thinking and debunking nonsense when necessary.
'We typically commit two mistakes as parents: we make parenting too simplistic or we blindly use the trial-and-error method without trying to learn lessons from others,' Lucas says. In an effort to help parents prevent such faux pas, he advocates an apprentice model, with God, the perfect parent, serving as the pattern.
Subtitled 'How to Parent Your Child Like God Parents You,' Lucas's book identifies eight principles of parenting patterned after God's personal relationships with people. Some of the apparent paradoxes include: high expectations and high tolerance, justice and mercy, and conditional and unfailing love. Lucas suggests that the Bible espouses God's 'unfailing love,' rather than His 'unconditional love,' explaining that while the love of God never fails, it is conditional upon people's acceptance of it.
In the book, Lucas encourages parents to strike the balance between nurturing children and befriending them. Drawing on Scripture and classic writings as well as academic research and his personal experience of parenting four children, his writing offers timeliness together with timelessness. 'I used two perspectives as I wrote the book: What God emphasizes about relationships and what parents struggle with,' he says.
Tyndale House marketing manager Nancy Clausen says The Paradox Principle of Parenting has an initial printing of about 15,000 copies and an accompanying marketing budget of about $30,000. Lucas has done one other book with Tyndale, also a parenting title, called 1001 Ways to Connect With Your Kids. And while it has had what Clausen calls 'respectable' sales, she says the house feels this latest book from Lucas has some breakout potential. 'It is not your typical parenting book, in the sense that it is not simply a how-to guide. It is more theological in scope, as it gives parents the 'why' behind the 'how.'' -- Sean Fowlds