Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 38 of 51

art & soul BOOKS Marianne Elliott Zen Under Fire: Finding Peace in the Midst of War I n her job as a human rights officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, New Zealand lawyer Marianne Elliott was a compassionate civil rights leader who worked to ameliorate the human condition. Navigating the United Nations infrastructure, her project to help protect women from domestic violence was so well received that it was duplicated in other areas of the country. But Elliott became depressed by the challenges of endless violence and tribal killings, and questioned the worthwhileness of her work. Additionally the stress of daily life exacerbated problems in her personal relationships. To stem the tide of melancholy, Elliott turned to yoga, mediation and Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. Her work expanded to include self-acceptance and rather than obsess on meditating correctly, sitting with herself wherever she was in the moment. Living amidst rockets, riots and grenades, Elliott realized, "My compulsion to save the world has been fueled by my own private fears and insecurities as much as by my compassion and commitment to justice." Initially critiqued as being too sensitive, Elliott's perceived weakness became her strength. She believed that, "It is our responsibility to listen to the people in this country who have the least power. That's the only way I've ever seen anything change anywhere, when new voices begin to be heard and new forms of power begin to emerge." For anyone looking for a better understanding of what it's like to live in a war-torn country, Elliott vividly explains the trials of daily life and the challenges to change in the region. It is easy to be enthralled by the perilous and picturesque villages of Afghanistan, but at times the intricate details and drama she shares are painful to read. However they provide a stark backdrop to her thoughtful commentary on yoga and meditation. Elliott's book is both horrifying and inspiring, and while the jury is still out on the effectiveness of various peacekeeping missions, she may actually convince you to start meditating—even just 10 minutes a day. (Source Books) —Lisa Niver Rajna Alan W. Watts The Joyous Cosmology Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness V enerated mentor of many, Alan Watts here explores and contrasts religious experience with that of psychedelic drugs. This long-awaited reissue of his out-of-print 1962 Pantheon classic has lost none of its luster and seems timelier than ever—introduced by eloquent next generation advocate and firebrand Daniel Pinchbeck. Though long neglected, The Joyous Cosmology advances the tradition of William James and Aldous Huxley, and opens with a '62 preface by Drs. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (pre-Ram Dass), while still professors and researchers at Harvard—their flamboyant and influential careers yet to skyrocket. Watts' prologue recounts in his inimitable simple, direct style the historical context of mind-exploration through mysticism, psychology and then psychedelics. He then both poetically and analytically describes the effects of LSD on the mind-body of one so intelligent, open and connected—a joy to read, in- ducing flashbacks (and flashforwards)! Not to be overlooked, Watts' 1968 article in the California Law Review appears as an appendix, reflecting the legal controversy of the day and anticipating its resurrection in our current millennium. He advocated cautious legalization and full acceptance of psychedelics, along with a more holistic approach to all our social issues, even as he renounced the fearful social order of "the mindless mechanism" that to this day increases its stronghold. These issues persist, amplified 50-plus years later, and will continue, he posited, until we can accept the mystic experience, whatever the source, and embody it as the guiding principal of civilization. (New World Library) —Mac Graham august / september 2013 39

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