cover image Practicing Peace in Times of War

Practicing Peace in Times of War

Pema Chodron, . . Shambhala, $15.95 (105pp) ISBN 978-1-59030-401-3

This gifty little book by the American Buddhist nun Chödrön is a solid reinforcement of what she has been saying for many years and in many books. Here, her focus is on the relationship between aggression within and the aggression that fuels war. Chödrön begins with some disquieting observations, such as that we can all be fundamentalists—that is, self-righteous and closed-minded—and that peace demonstrators are not terribly peaceful. Like other Buddhist teachers on the subject of political action, she sees a direct connection between what is in the heart and expressed in outward actions. She teaches how to stop the reflexive and habitual emotional reaction to perceived hostility through patience, pausing, breathing. It's not easy, but it is simple. Chödrön is also provocative: insecurity has a positive function, she suggests, so don't run away from it. Some of what this skillful teacher says is almost too simple or underexplained, which can happen when a talk becomes a book, as is the case here. "Don't spin off" is a condensed instruction that is a little too condensed. While it may intrigue beginners, this book will be a better gift for those who are already familiar with Chödrön's body of work. (Sept. 5)