the Change, by Ed and Deb Shapiro (Hardcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Let me start this review by recounting an amazing coincidence.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote one of the two forewords to this
book, and I read it during a break. Only a few minutes after I finished
reading it, I received a phone call. My company sells electronic
translators; the caller phoned from the U.K. to ask about a
Tibetan-English electronic translator. She said she was buying it for
someone else, and would be taking it to India with her.
"Uh, would that be northwest India?" I recalled that was the home of
She said that was her destination and she was there often. I asked
her if she'd ever seen HH the Dalai Lama, perhaps in one of his public
appearances. She replied that she was looking for an electronic
translator for a man on HH's staff and if it worked for him then others
in the office might be interested. He was trying to learn English and
she had been helping him but they thought an electronic dictionary would
speed up his learning significantly.
HH's staff? Let's see, by the Kevin Bacon principle did that make me
one degree away from HH or two? I later went online to look at our
Italian and German translators, figuring that would trigger a call from
someone at the Vatican (but that didn't happen).
Anyhow, in our conversation she conveyed to me the essence of the
book I was about to read even though I had not mentioned anything about
the book. The subtitle describes not a wish but an ongoing project and
it's one in which this pleasant lady is heavily involved. What are the
She was obviously well-grounded and purposeful. And she was moving in
circles I had merely read about, yet she was open with me and entirely
there during the conversation.
To paraphrase HH, I'm just a simple wonk. In the Midwest USA. Yet, I
get a phone call like that. I felt elevated and humbled at the same
When I next returned to the book, I read the foreword by Bob Thurman
(named one of the 25 most influential Americans by Time
Magazine). Mr. Thurman could easily be a braggart, considering his many
accomplishments. But instead, he is genuinely humble. This came through
in what he said in the foreword he wrote. After my experience that
morning, I read Mr. Thurman's thoughts and concluded there is something
powerful already at work between this book and me. I chose to read it
Many people in mainstream western culture doubt the power of
meditation. I studied martial arts for many years, and what I learned
under girds a way of life for me. I am known for "having a way with
animals." The key is to become very calm inside, to relax totally, and
empty your mind of all thoughts except just being present. When you do
this, even wild animals will come very close to check you out. I mean
very close. Once, a ferruginous hawk landed within grabbing distance
from me and calmly observed me for several minutes before flying away.
Try getting close to a large predatory bird sometime.
That "transform the world" part isn't hokum. If inner stillness can
have a calming effect with wild animals, think of the possibilities for
inner stillness on a massive scale with the human race. And remember, my
skill is low compared to what others achieve routinely. This sort of
thing is much harder to do it with people, partly because so many people
emanate anxiety and give off negative energy. It is precisely because of
this negative energy that more skillful meditation is needed. And this
book can help.
Be The Change provides much insight into how to reach that
inner stillness and even project it outward. You may recall Simon and
Garfunkel's song, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." My favorite line in
that song is "Still waters run deep." It makes a great philosophy for
life. Many contributors to this book have learned how to still their
waters. They freely share their insight. The list of contributors is
long, and the people on that list are remarkable.
While most books put forth the views of the authors as experts, this
book puts forth the views of many experts with the authors as guides to
the experience. And it's an experience worth having!
This book consists of eighteen chapters arranged into four Parts.
Part I, The Greatest Adventure of All, consists of 4 chapters. The
basic point is the world's a mess and we can fix it only by reaching
into ourselves. In the martial arts, a core philosophy is you have two
enemies: the one within and the one in front of you. You must first
learn to conquer the enemy within, then you will be ready for any other
enemy. My take on these four chapters is they collectively point to that
Part II, Transforming From the Inside Out, consists of 4 chapters.
This one was a bit tougher to digest, due to the many viewpoints. I
think the title of Chapter 5 "Growing Roses From the Compost" sets the
tone for all four chapters.
Part III, Transforming Us Transforms the World, consists of six
chapters. I'm not sure which chapter is the leader here, but Chapter 12,
Contemplative Activism, would not be a bad choice. It helps illustrate
that the transformation part doesn't happen because people sit around
chanting (or whatever your view of meditation may be). The examples here
show how people empowered by meditation can take real action in the real
world. The examples are what motivational people like to call "powerful
Part IV, Practice Makes Perfect, consists of four chapters. Each
chapter provides guidance on actually doing meditation. The titles are,
in order, Doing It, Sitting Meditation, Sounding Meditation, and Moving
You may not be interested in changing the world, and that's fine. If
you are interested, that's wonderful. Most of us, however, have enough
to do just to put up with daily frustrations and concerns. Isn't it
The problem with these daily frustrations and concerns is all of them
trigger the flight or fight response. That means stress. The whole
cortisol elevation, chronic fatigue, heart problems scenario. And
unhappiness. You can't change what comes at you. But you can change how
you respond to it. The insights in this book can help you find the inner
stillness that refuses to give stress a foothold.
This book may not transform the entire world, but if it can surely
help you transform your inner world. And that's worth a lot.