The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual PracticeThe Energy of Prayer
Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax, $11.95 paper (160p) ISBN 1-888375-55-8

Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master and author of more than 60 books, asks: "Why is prayer successful at some times and not at others?" Other questions also animate this brief primer on prayer: How can we pray for healing, say from lung cancer, when that disease is the natural karmic result of our own choices (e.g., smoking)? And to whom do we pray, especially since Buddhism teaches that there is no separate, distinct being called God who exists apart from creation? Hanh has a winning style, nimbly mixing deep philosophy with personal anecdotes and helpful illustrations. He also introduces spiritual practices, including the expected (reciting sutras, bowing, or performing walking and sitting meditation) as well as the unusual and ecumenical (praying to the living as well as the dead.) He also dissects the Lord's Prayer line by line. The book closes with five simple meditation exercises to increase awareness and calm, and some short Buddhist prayers. (May 15)

The Ten Commitments: Translating Good Intentions into Great ChoicesThe Ten Commitments
David Simon. HCI, $16.95 (198p) ISBN 0-7573-0406-0

Grounded in both Eastern and Western spirituality and featuring an introduction by Deepak Chopra, in this book Simon (a neurologist who has co-authored several Chopra books) wants readers to turn away from a "commandment" mentality to a "commitment" mindset. For example, the Mosaic commandment against graven images is here transformed into a personal commitment to authenticity; the commandment to observe the Sabbath becomes a commitment to relax; the admonition to honor one's parents becomes a commitment to practice forgiveness in daily life. Though there's little new here, Simon writes in a positive, concrete way, giving readers daily schedules and checklists. He blends examples from his patients' and his own life with doses of Eastern wisdom from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads and Ayurvedic healing. (May)

Jewish Spiritual Direction: An Innovative Guide from Traditional and Contemporary SourcesJewish Spiritual Direction
Edited by Howard A. Addison and Barbara Eve Breitman. Jewish Lights, $30 (352p) ISBN 1-58023-230-2

Much attention has been paid in recent years to the idea of "spiritual direction," but so far the concept has been almost exclusively defined in terms of the Protestant or Catholic experience. Addison, a rabbi who teaches at Temple University, and Breitman, who teaches pastoral counseling at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa., co-founded the world's first institute to train spiritual directors in the Jewish tradition. Here, they offer an anthology of essays that is essentially a one-stop training manual for rabbis, spiritual directors and other religious leaders who want to teach people to discern God's voice and follow His direction. While Jewish spiritual direction is, as the authors concede, still an "evolving practice," it draws upon thousands of years' worth of prayer and study. The book can be dense at times, but it is rich with ideas and resources. (May)

A Mystic Garden: Working with Soil, Attending to SoulA Mystic Garden
Gunilla Norris. BlueBridge, $18 (112p) ISBN 1-933346-01-0

Beginning with winter, when both her garden and her spirit seem to be buried under snow, Norris cycles through the four seasons of a gardener's heart. Norris (Becoming Bread; Inviting Silence) writes lyrically about dormancy and transformation, soil and nourishment, roots and blossoms. Perhaps most poignantly, her discussions of spring and summer beauty are tempered by the knowledge that each flower is ephemeral and destined to die, only to resurface again in the beautiful round of life. Norris's short reflections are balanced by quiet and meditative poetry on facing pages, inviting deeper rumination about how God can be discovered in the act of gardening. (May)

No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug AddictionNo More Letting Go
Debra Jay. Bantam, $15 paper (312p) ISBN 0-55338360-4

Addiction counselors have typically assumed several things: recovery can occur only when the addict decides he or she needs help; this happens only when the addict hits "rock bottom"; until then, the addict's loved ones should detach emotionally. But Jay, an intervention specialist and author of Love First, believes that untreated addiction is unacceptable because it wrecks families and destroys lives. She outlines a plan to help families get assistance for their addicted loved one without waiting for "rock bottom." Intriguingly, Jay also casts the battle against addiction as a kind of spiritual war: she redefines detachment as "a spiritual quality that makes action possible," and describes such action as an act of faith. A fascinating section entitled "What We Know Now," details current genetic and neuroscientific research into people's varying susceptibilities to addiction. (May)