Mind Matters — Books for a New Year

Allow me to offer some reading recommendations to carry you through the long evenings of winter as we trek onward to spring.

The first book of my list, Riptide, was written by a friend and colleague, Barbara Hale-Seubert. Barbara’s eldest daughter died as a result of an eating disorder. Riptide is Barbara’s candid memoir of her own journey of living with and then without Erin. As parents, we burden ourselves with the belief that we can protect our children at all cost. And so, when an adult child careens down a dangerous path, we tend to blame ourselves for their choices. Barbara shares her story from tumultuous times to a sense of compassion and connection for all mothers who suffer and grieve.

Resilience is the theme of the book, Bounce, by Robert J Wicks. However, Wicks wisely counsels us to cope with everyday obstacles, not by avoiding them, but by reflecting on them and accepting them. Stress and hardship are part and parcel to life. Resilience then is “the ability to meet, learn from, and not be crushed by the challenges and stresses of life.” Wicks enjoins us to “Have a Life” and gives practical suggestions for honing one’s own unique style of self care. (Silence, solitude, and reflection/mindfulness are strong antidotes to stress.)

My third choice aligns well with both Riptide and Bounce: it is Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism. Its author, Thich Nhat Hanh, is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, writer, and human rights activist. During the Vietnam war, he met with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to plead for some way to end the war that had created so much suffering to both Americans and Vietnamese. Thich Nhat Hanh, in this little book, details a simple plan for how to overcome fear in ourselves and in our world so that such suffering can be obsolete in the future. From relationship to family to world, he counsels us in ways to become calm so that we can deeply listen to ourselves as well as to those whom we perceive as hurtful. Awareness, mindfulness, is the path to freedom from fears. Simple, yes. Easy, no. But then the alternative—divisiveness and violence—is neither simple nor easy. Nor does it give us safety or free us from fear. To quote the book cover, “Calming the Fearful Mind is an invaluable book for anyone who has wondered how to deal with anger and the desire for retaliation.”

These three brief books for your New Year read are pithy with a (non-violent) punch.