Franz’s beautifully crafted memoir chronicles the months that she and her husband, both Americans, lived in Japan, separated by the rules of the Zen monastery where Koun was cloistered. Presented as a diary, the book is both immediate and reflective, full of anecdotes from Franz’s daily life as a gaijin as well as meditations on time, love, culture, and more. Franz is a compassionate and keenly observant writer, always trying to understand the rituals that shape her new life, and, as in her pottery class, always feeling she fails. Yet ultimately she learns to understand by not understanding, to see by not seeing—lessons which also help her confront the difficulties of her past. As she comes to accept the damaged and flawed parts of herself she’d once wanted only to abandon, her writing grows steadily more relaxed and humorous, her stories more vivid. By the end, you’ll miss both Franz and the many students, colleagues, monks, and relatives she’s helped you get to know. But you’ll also recognize that letting go is part of keeping, a truth Franz gestures to in her title, with its allusion to the primary elements of pottery: what remains and what flows away.
Sitting, eating, walking, loving, relaxing—human enough behaviors with varying degrees of difficulty. Now, in this serenely packaged How to Live Boxed Set (Parallax Press, $49.75), mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s straight-forward advice for living in the present is even easier to access. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us to be still and to focus our attention on whatever act we are performing. Whether you are walking from your home to the metro, showing loving kindness for a friend, or simply listening to the sounds around you, stillness and openness will help you act with grace.
Local author, psychologist, and Western teacher of Buddhist meditation, Tara Brach ties together her own personal experiences, mindful stories, and insights to create her first book, Radical Acceptance. Founder and senior leader of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Brach is known for her weekly lectures and meditations in the area. Brach exercises her unique and compassionate techniques to practice self-acceptance and overall loving-kindness, which is touched upon yet again in True Refuge, a later publication.