Parallax Press Book Club By Jason Kim
Parallax Press launched its Reading Peace book club in October of 2014, in partnership with Plumline.org. The club explores topics in mindfulness and Buddhism in daily life and reads books by Thay and authors inspired by him. They meet online and offline as a Sangha, reading together for the benefit of all beings in order to create a more just and joyful world. Reading, therefore, is part of their practice.
The club picks a book to read every month. Members use discussion boards, video conferencing, and offline Sanghas to meet and discuss the month’s pick.
For the inaugural month, the group read The Mindfulness Survival Kit, a fairly recent book by Thay on the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The book is divided into two parts.
The first part is devoted to describing the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which constitute the five key tools of the “mindfulness survival kit.” These tools are: Reverence for Life, True Happiness, True Love, Deep Listening and Loving Speech, and Nourishment and Healing.
The second part of the book provides more advanced teachings on the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Thay says, “If we study the mindfulness trainings properly and deeply, the more we study the more interesting and deep they become.” By comparing different ethical traditions from a Buddhist perspective, Thay underscores how each of the Five Mindfulness Trainings has deep philosophical roots despite their elegant simplicity.
Members had excellent things to share over the course of their discussion of The Mindfulness Survival Kit. For example:
Q: Besides the Five Mindfulness Trainings, what else would you include in your own personal mindfulness survival kit—be they objects, practices, books, etc.—and why?
Alexa: In my own mindfulness survival kit, I would include:
1. Body-scan meditation: This is a meditation I learned from Thay’s book, Fear. You relax by focusing on one part of the body at a time, noticing the tension there and allowing it to relax. I love doing this before bed, and I’ve found it makes me love and care for myself more over time!
2. Gratitude journal: I love starting my days by listing what I am grateful for. Sometimes it gets repetitive, but it’s a great way to start my day, seeing all of the wonderful things in my life. I also try to list the best parts of my day at night, so I can reflect on all the wonderful things that have happened!
3. Accomplishment list: This practice helps me when I’m feeling down about myself. I write down anything I feel is an accomplishment of mine, no matter how small. I can see all the good things I do, and if I’m ever feeling down, I have proof that I do things that are worthwhile.
Our book club members also participate in freeform discussions. Club members Lynne and Eileen had this illuminating discussion of the First Mindfulness Training, Reverence for Life:
Lynne: I felt unsure about the statement, “We all have seeds of violence and hatred.” Do we really? Does everyone? I would be interested to hear how others felt when reading this section.
Eileen: In the course of so many lifetimes, we all carry karmic seeds with us, wholesome and unwholesome. To acknowledge these seeds, for me, is to acknowledge my humanity, and to make the intention to water and nourish the wholesome seeds and allow unwholesome ones to wither. We should think about it as acknowledging the unwholesome seeds of violence within us all.
We have over 550 members and we are the largest and most active mindfulness book club online. You can join us for free at http://bit.ly/readingpeace. Every word read together is an opportunity to learn and to decrease the suffering within ourselves and the world. Reading practice is like a single candle that burns brightly by itself, and yet it can also be used to light other candles without diminishing your own flame.
Jason U. Kim, Pure Action of the Heart, Ph.D., is the Digital Media Director at Parallax Press, a lecturer in history, and a consultant for two non-profits in the San Francisco Bay Area. True to his Dharma name, he considers it his life mission to transform people and organizations into agents of positive change. He can be reached at email@example.com.