Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

 Without fear, we are able to see more clearly our connections to others. Without fear, we have more room for understanding and compassion. Without fear, we are truly free.
—from Fear

 Most of us live in a constant state of fear—of our past, of illness and aging and death, and of losing the things we treasure most. But it doesn't have to be this way, promises Zen master and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

 Drawing on a lifetime of mindfulness in action, Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to use the practice of living in the present to acknowledge and embrace our fears, recognize their origins, and render them powerless. The world-renowned Zen teacher guides us through practical exercises for transforming fear into clarity. The worries of the past and the anxiety of the future disappear as we discover the power of the present moment. Not only are we are able to handle challenging emotions as they arise, but we can summon feelings of well-being and contentment, no matter what the unknown may bring.

 Rooted in the moment, we have the capacity to restore balance and happiness and be present with what is beautiful and affirming inside us and around us, every day. (blurb from Goodreads)

 Rating: G, 4 stars
Trigger warnings: none

 This has been a summer of reading several Thich Nhat Hanh books. What can I say: I love the guy. I love his peaceful demeanor that is clear even in his writing. I love the strides he’s made to make the mindfulness practice more accessible to non-Buddhists. After living in his monastic community for a week, I’ve gotta say that I love that, too.

 One of the things that I love about Thich Nhat Hanh’s books is how similar they all sound...they all have the same calm tone that makes it feel like you’re reading a section of an incredibly long work. Others may dislike the quality, but I like it.

 Fear, as you may have guessed deals almost entirely with fear and anxiety in life. I loved Thay’s focus on acknowledging the child within us, a practice which I believe should be employed more often, whether that is calming the child or embracing the child and doing something fun and silly.

 I find myself continually frustrated with the way that books like this seem to ignore the realities of emotional states caused by mental illness--sadness caused by depression, fear caused by an anxiety disorder, that sort of thing. I think it’s too easy for a book like this to insinuate that if your anxiety isn’t being helped by the advice in the book, then you aren’t trying hard enough. I will say that the book kept me engaged enough that I didn’t feel that anxiety while I was reading. Once I had finished, I still felt frustrated that the fact that it’s ok to be anxious was never brought up. There is still a lot of stigma to mental illness, and books dealing with a topic like anxiety that don’t even bring up diagnosable illness aren’t helping to erase that stigma.

 That being said, I give mad props to Thay for not making me frustrated while reading. And really, that’s my only criticism with the book. I loved the tone and the gentle nature of the writing. I never felt attacked or blamed for feeling the way I feel. It was a short, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read. I recommend Fear to anyone who likes Thich Nhat Hanh, his writing, or Buddhism in general. I issue a note of caution (though not *quite* a trigger warning) to those suffering from an anxiety’s likely you’ll still enjoy the book, but you may find yourself frustrated once you’ve finished.

 Again, Fear is an excellent book, and its short length makes it a quick read, although it’s message will definitely last a long time.

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