- Awakening My Heart: Articles, Essays and Interviews on the Buddhist Life by Andrea Miller
The question of spirituality presents itself to each of us at different points of our unique lives. For me, that question appeared when I was in the fourth grade and walking home from elementary school on a swelteringly hot day. It was under that bright summer sun that the questions, like the beads of perspiration that glazed my forehead, trickled forth and quickly became a torrent, soaking the parched desert of my mind:
“Who am I?”
“Who is inside this body that I call mine?”
“Why is it me that’s here?”
It wasn’t until my college years when I met my Buddhist teacher that these questions were explored further in my journey of searching for an answer. I had always been fascinated by how practitioners walk their path to awakening and I found the various methods from different schools all very interesting.
When I was introduced to the book, Awakening My Heart by Andrea Miller, the title immediately drew my attention. To my delight, it’s a collection of articles, essays and interviews that offer insight from celebrities, teachers, practitioners, artists, writers, and thinkers as to how they’ve actualized the wisdom they’ve been exploring. Whether you’re a practitioner, someone curious about the path, or simply a fan of celebrity Buddhists, this book can offer you something resonant.
For the novice, Pema Chodron has a chapter explaining the four keys to achieving awakening. One of the keys is to “make friends with yourself” or rather, to form an unconditional friendship with yourself. This act will aid you in being smarter about identifying what helps and what hurts, as well as discerning between what increases happiness and what obscures it. It also explores how to “recognize the Buddha in each feeling.” Many people suffer from “I’m not good enough” syndrome and are [End Page 104] never able to be at peace with themselves. This chapter explains clearly the process of training the body and mind in the path to awakening.
The chapter about Yogi Mingyur Rinpoche, a present-day example of a wanderer-teacher, is also very inspiring. I benefited from reading about his living example of courage, persistence, diligence, determination, mission, intention, and compassion interwoven into his process for deeper awakening. His story helps me appreciate how vulnerability can be pivotal to transformative experiences in life. For the reader that is asking questions about how to make a breakthrough, this chapter will be a reminder to step out of their comfort zone and seek other possibilities.
For the artist, there is a chapter that tells the story about how three artists are able to use Buddhist teachings and practices to create art and transform pain, impermanence, and dualities, into something beautiful, compassionate, and full of insight.
Meditation, being one of the methods that many practitioners use first in their path, is mentioned several times in the book. In Miller’s interview with Michael Imperioli, who played mobster Chris on The Sopranos, the actor states that “spirituality meant having to work on yourself, rather than just adopting a set of beliefs and following them blindly. The more I learned about Buddhism, the more I felt that’s really what it is—direct methods of working on yourself, meditation being the first method. It made sense to me that the only way to transform your world was to transform yourself.” Meditation not only helped him and his family to be more patient, tolerant, and have peace of mind but it also helped with his acting because it encouraged him to focus and be in the moment.
For Tina Turner, the famous singer, “[m]editation and praying change your spirit into something positive.” Through meditation, it’s possible to enter into a space she refers to as “[the] beyond,” a place beyond the conscious mind and into the subconscious where you can find truth. As for the novelist Cary Groner, “[s]itting practice relaxes and...