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Not Quite Nirvana: A Skeptic's Journey to Mindfulness
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Not Quite Nirvana: A Skeptic's Journey to Mindfulness

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  159 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The book is a memoir of how a skeptical, fast-talking New Yorker became Thich Nhat Hanh's editor, turned forty, realized she was aging, and slowly and reluctantly started to absorb mindfulness practice and grow up. Scenes with Thich Nhat Hanh and the author’s two vividly exuberant older parents, illustrate how the author adapts mindfulness techniques for the busyness of he ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Parallax Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 537)
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I stumbled across this book in my university's ebook collection while looking for slightly more academic titles, but learning she was Thích Nhất Hạnh's primary editor, I thought it might have more meat to it.

This is a memoir of a woman in her 40s trying to bring mindfulness practices into her chaotic life. There were moments of real clarity and insight that I think make the read worth it, but fair warning you have to slog through quite a bit of motherhood stories and childhood memories on the co
...more
William
This is the first book I've read that makes mindfulness seem like a practical, real-world activity that you urgently need to practice; not just something you do while sitting on a cushion and paying attention to your breath. Rachel Neumann is the book editor for Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. She is not a (former) monastic, but a 40-year-old wife and mother of two children. This grounds her book in a day-to-day relevance that I haven't quite found in other books. Indeed, her practical definiti ...more
Sara
As Rachel establishes her religious background in the beginning of her book, I’m going to insert my own disclaimer here. I tend to avoid religious monikers and would no more consider myself a Buddhist than I would a Pagan or a Christian. Though I think most religions have useful things to say, my own experience has made me wary of predominance of any dogma. To me, dogma is when religion ceases to be useful and becomes an instrument of a particular (and usually dangerous) agenda.

This is a part of
...more
Cathy Douglas
I first checked this book out as something I might buy for the Buddhism section at the store. I don't think I'll end up doing that, but I enjoyed reading it for myself. It's more of a memoir than a Buddhism book.

Neumann is Thich Nhat Hanh's U.S. editor. Apparently how this works is, he gives speeches throughout the world and she culls them for material on whatever topic he wants to address in his next book. Then she sends it to him to read over, and it gets published.

Huh. Guess that works.

Anyway
...more
JRobin Whitley
Sep 10, 2012 JRobin Whitley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Emily Wilson, Wesley Satterwhite
This is a book that's been needed for years. This book on mindfulness is written from a woman's point of view. She is a working mother and addresses the many challenges we have in working, but also wishing to be mindful. Excellent read. I will read it again.
Fawn
I wound up being pretty unimpressed with this book and just started skimming about halfway through. The chapters I found oddly written and I was expecting more discussion of how skepticism plays into the act of being mindful, etc. Ultimately this book just seemed to be a lot of complaining about how busy the author was and how inconvenient her yuppie, San Fransisco life is. I really feel like I missed something especially since this book was fully supported by her teacher Thich Nhat Hanh but bot ...more
Bishop Bergland
So many times, books about the spiritual life don't take into account real life. It's great to write about being on retreat, it's great to listen to profound teachings, and there are more than enough books on the basics of meditation practice. What is hard to find are books that talk about real life after the retreat, after the class, after the cushion - times when obligations and family and plain old life arise and ask for attention. Rachel Neumann has written a wonderful book, a much needed bo ...more
Kirsten
This is a fantastic book, loaded with REALISTIC ways to live mindfully in a hectic, restless world. I especially like the ideas for ways to raise thoughtful children and to cultivate curiosity and respect without losing your mind. Wish this book had been around when my kids were little, but I will be using some of the suggestions in my everyday life now. Anyone who likes the idea of living mindfully, with purpose, but has a hard time incorporating other books into their busy lives, would benefit ...more
Deb
** Real-world nirvana **

It’s kind of funny how mindfulness seems to be all the rage these days. The problem is, all the books, hype, and dogma about mindfulness can be a bit mind-blowing.

Thankfully, Rachel Neumann’s _Not Quite Nirvana_ is not quite like the other books on mindfulness. A skeptic who questions rules and acquiescence, an editor and friend of Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh et al, a writer who has the skill and grace to translate abstract Buddhist concepts into usable doses (sort
...more
Robin
I am reading this primarily in preparation for assisting with a meditation book discussion group; this isn't so much a review as a storing place for the questions we're considering. I will say that Neumann is reasonably engaging as a writer. I typically am not drawn to this kind of subject matter and the reading here is not painful.

Possible Discussion Questions for “Not Quite Nirvana”

1. Did you take away anything from this book or change something in your life because of something you read in No
...more
Heather
This book is perfect for the reader interested in mindfulness without wanting to jump into a scholarly practice. Neumann is a relatable narrator, especially if you are a parent as she shares her children's antics to illustrate several points, and noble truths. Just enough to satisfy or to indicate your ready for more mindfulness.
Dara
I loved this book. Rachel Neumann highlights vignettes on the challenges of balancing family, friends, community and work while incorporating tools for mindfulness into daily life. I've already begun to use some of the practices and seen an immediate impact in my own life. SO good-
Theresa
I thought this book was pretty good. Not a manual for mindfulness, but just one author's account of her daily challenge to bring mindfulness into her daily life. Very honest. It was not "moving" or "motivating" in the way I thought it would be, but overall worth a read.
Stephanie Keyton
I thought this was a neat book. Easy read, fairly amusing, with a bit of a dose on Buddhist philosophy and her struggle to deal with daily life. Probably not something I would read again. I was hoping for a bit more on Thich Naht Hahn.
Jewel
This was a great book. I am in love with Thich Nhat Hanh so I thought he would be featured more. I really enjoyed her kids' voices. Good read and good to have.
Edward Sullivan
Not what I expected but a mostly interesting memoir exploring the practice of mindfulness and Buddhism.
Catherine
Honest, helpful, practical advice on how to incorporate mindfulness practice into real life.
Ellen Keener
A very enjoyable read with lots of ways to make a life and the world better.
shannon
This funny and engaging book is uniquely practical, like a real users guide for chasing mindfulness while leaving the rest of your life improved but not overturned. Rachel chooses items off the Buddhism menu that suit her tastes and sends some others back to the kitchen. This isn't a purists guide but it's one I could actually use.
Suzanna
It was surprising to learn from this book that teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's books from Parallax Press are edited/assembled by someone (Rachel Neumann) who apparently does not consider herself a practitioner of meditation; she's more of a professional observer of the contemplative world.

As a practical guide, this feels like a lightweight version of Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness for Beginners, but it is valuable to learn from the perspective of someone who has managed to bring a little mindfulness int
...more
Jmp
Good parallels of Rachel's life to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings.
S
Slow and tedious. Not quite was I was looking for.
Miriam
I wanted more of a story.
Linda
I heard the author on the radio, and liked the interview so I went to a local bookstore to hear her read and bought the book. The blurb by Jack Kornfield summs it up: "A life story that is honest, practical, charming, and helpful." I'll add that it's also high energy and funny. An easy read - I read it in two sittings.
Meghan
This is a good little memoir with stories and tips on mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism. I found the author's meandering style enjoyable and refreshing. Although the author speaks often of her children and experiences mothering, one doesn't need to be a parent to enjoy and benefit from this book.
Briana Ford
I love that Rachel was real and honest in this book. She didn't pretend that she had it all together just because she spent 10 years working alongside Thich Nhat Hahn. She's refreshingly authentic and tells us all she's learned, where she's succeeded and where she's failed. Great read.
Becky
Jan 02, 2014 Becky rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
One of the best books on present awareness ad mindfulness. I swear it was written just for me.
Liz White
A wonderful read!! I love memoirs, and I love reading about Buddhism, and this is both. Great humor, plenty of truths about motherhood.
T.
A very introspective, open and honest look at someone on the path to mindfulness. I really liked it.
Angie Scar
Excellent in its simplicity and practicality.
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Rachel is a Bay Area-based writer whose work focuses on mindfulness, joy, and justice. She is the author of Not Quite Nirvana, which was selected for Best Buddhist Writing 2012. Her work has appeared in various anthologies as well as in national magazines including the New York Times, Shambhala Sun, The Village Voice and AlterNet.

Rachel is the Creative Director of Parallax Press.
More about Rachel Neumann...
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