One of my favorite pass times is to browse in a good bookstore. I always welcome the opportunity to peruse a store with a great collection of books. Each store, a reflection of its owner and operator, has its own personality. It’s even better when I get to visit a store I know and love already. So I was quite excited last month when I was briefly in Vancouver, and found myself with enough time for a hour in Banyen Books. Banyen Books is not your average book store. For one thing, they carry practically no fiction. In their own words,
We welcome and celebrate the love of wisdom, be it in art, science, lifecraft, healing, visioning, religion, psychology, eco-design, gardening… Our service is to offer life-giving nourishment for the body, the mind, and the soul. Think of us as your open source bookstore for the University of Life.
I myself am a student of wisdom, so perhaps this is what draws me most to Banyen. Certainly there is a great deal of wisdom from throughout the ages on those shelves. On this last trip, I actually went with a list in hand. I’d just spent the most wonderfully nurturing, restorative and inspiring day visiting a long time girl friend, a kindred spirit and fellow companion on the trail of life. I came away with a long list of some of the books that were touchstones along her own journey this past year, and books that might be touchstones for me too. Of course I found them all, and more, in Banyen.
This book is about interpersonal neurobiology. As I understand it, its about how our brains work, and the way that intersects with our relationships. There is great power in how we might harness this knowledge and apply it to our own lives. (I think the burgeoning knowledge from the field of psychology, which aligns well with the wisdom of ancient spiritual traditions, especially Buddhism, is a very exciting development in the history of our culture – indeed, we are perhaps just rediscovering what other cultures have known long before now. This knowledge offers a tremendous opportunity for transformation – both as individuals and as a society.) For example, if we really observe our actions, the things that upset us for example, we might start to see the patterns, and understand that our reactions are not so much about the present situation as we might think. It turns out these states may have a great deal to do with very early childhood experiences. As adults it would be wonderful to leave these old patterns of reacting behind us, and react more as we would like to, with intention, rather than with old emotional habits. This book is a key to understanding that. I’ve only just dipped into it, but I’m excited to find out what it has to say.
This book, on the other hand, is quite different, yet perhaps in the end will take us to the same places. This is a book of days, a short entry for each day of the year, touching on topics of the soul, or spirit. I am captivated right away by the byline on the cover – who wouldn’t want to have the life they want? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m well aware that I am often not present in the life I have. I want things to be different – people, places, even the weather at times! Wanting this only takes me away from seeing what is. As my friend Nancy says, “its not what happens to you in life that matters, but what you do with it”. I wish to live everyday mindfully. This book is a tool for that wish.
This is a book of poems by the same author. I love to read poetry. I’m not at all familiar with the poems of Mark Nepo, but I was inspired to buy this book because I’m sure his work will contain the same themes as his book of days, and sometimes the mystery that is a good poem can bring greater clarity that a long essay on the same subject. Perhaps because poetry is about images. I’m not at all sure why poetry has such power to move me, I only know that it does. When I need comfort, or when I need wisdom, I turn to poetry.
This last purchase was another spontaneous selection. I have many favorite poets that I turn to for wisdom. The ones I know I can rely on for this: Mary Oliver, Billie Collins, Wistawa Szymborska Jane Hirshfield, Raymond Carver, Steven Heighton, Yeats, Rumi and Pablo Neruda. So I was excited to find another collection of the work of the self-described “Mad Farmer”. (Which brings up question – how would I describe myself? Berry’s description encapsulates his livelihood, his burning anger and anguish at how we have degraded this beautiful earth, and his identification with the grass roots of things. One my good friends told me that her self-description, (or perhaps vision or motto), is ‘quietly dispensing joy’. And if you know this woman, you would agree that this is a very apt description of who she is, and how she lives her life. I’ve given some thought to my own description, but haven’t come up with anything worth while as of yet. This means of course, that I need to read more poetry.)
Thank you Banyen Books for these 4 books, and the wisdom that they offer.