Dalai Lama: How to Practice

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life is a brief guidebook to Buddhist thought and practice.

Are you interested in a quick look at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s philosophy? Or are you hoping to pick up some meditation tips? Or are you devoted to attaining enlightenment? This book has value for all three quests.

For 10 years, I have been puzzled about possible conflicting values from Buddhist teachings and reality. The exiled leader of Tibet promotes liberation from wants, not just for monastics, but lay people too. That means no expensive clothing and other high-cost material goods. But, during a 2009 visit to a Buddhist monastery in China, I saw monks with top-of-the-line cell phones and even one who drove a BMW.

“I thought Buddhist monks were to live a simple life and avoid attachment to material belongings,” I said to a woman guiding a group as one monk talked on his cell phone.

She quickly answered. “This is modern Buddhism. Some monks even drive expensive cars.”

What do you think?

I wonder what the Dalai Lama would say. He flies mostly on chartered planes and, on the rare occasion that he joins a commercial flight, I hear he is upgraded (free) to business or first class. Is this consistent with his philosophy?

Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama has devoted his life to his teachings around the world, urging followers to do no harm and to help others. He writes specifics about these two virtuous actions in this book.

Not a Buddhist? Or are you non-religious? I don’t think it matters because in this book you will discover wisdom for any life that looks for morality, calm, and selflessness.

Opioid, Indiana: A Boy Searches

Riggle, a 17-year-old orphan living with his uncle, is suspended from school for a week for vaping and for his sarcastic tongue.

Opioid, Indiana, is the story of the boy’s week as his drug-addicted uncle disappears and $800 in rent for their apartment is due Friday. As he tells his story, Riggle relates his complicated past that brought him from Texas searching for stability.

As he tries to make sense of his world, the boy journeys back in time when his mother was alive and used shadow puppets to tell stories about how the days of the week got their names. And he shares how his parents died, leaving him scarred, homeless, and confused.

Author Brian Allen Carr guides Riggle and a cast of misfits through a week of adventure and the issues of racism, sexuality, Confederate flags, and the age of Trump. I was both baffled and uplifted by the youth’s life and decisions, but I always wanted to find out what was around the next corner.

And I rooted for Riggle all the way.

Bicycling Crusader Follows the Silk Road

She climbed to a peak of academia as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and later as a scientist/graduate student at MIT. She dreamed of walking on Mars.

But for Kate Harris, work inside science laboratories could not satisfy her need to discover, so she and her best friend Mel set out to get lost in the world of exploration–for a year, bicycling the Silk Road of Marco Polo from Turkey to Tibet.

Thousands of miles, at altitudes higher than 17,000 feet, over every kind of terrain you can imagine, and through blazing heat and freezing snow. They eluded and tricked menacing military and police, adapted to cultures as different as they could be, and traversed geography as foreign to them as Mars. They found human compassion in many places, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Tibet, and Nepal as locals took them into their homes to save them from another night in their tent.

In Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, Harris eloquently and humorously weaves history, science, and compelling anecdotes from her adventure that left my jaw hanging open.

As I have learned while walking the long-distance trails of Europe, the borders of cultures, countries and languages are lost when you step outside the comforts of everyday life and push yourself to, or even beyond, your limits. On the Silk Road, Kate Harris went well beyond the limits of most humans and her book made me want to load up my backpack and leave my borders behind.

(Click on the cover if you want to see the book on Amazon.)

A Pipe Dream Becomes This Walker’s Reality

Author/adventurer Ken Ilgunas writes about testing his limits and then living within his means in his compelling first book, Walden on Wheels, in which he documents a most unusual path through graduate school.

A little older (29), but equally determined to step outside the ordinary, Ilgunas takes on what he calls an “epic, never-done-before, and sort-of-illegal hike across the heartland.”

As I read Trespassing Across America, I was drawn into his world as he sets out to walk 1,700 miles on or near the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. He confronts harrowing storms, stampeding cattle, gun-toting ranchers, suspicious law enforcement officers, and a host of physical challenges.

In the end, he was left with (no spoilers here) experiences and impressions that touch him deeply. I was left encouraged about the potential of the human spirit.

(Click on the cover to see the book on Amazon.)