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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

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  264 ratings  ·  44 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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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  264 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: To guys like me who hope to develop and grow as well as all mothers
Shelves: spirituality
She is a mother at heart who writes with great spontaneity and animated spirit, tying dynamically her sweet, rich feminine experience with her life-changing discovery of mindfulness. Her Jewish personality and critical mind add to her charm as a talented writer. I could listen to her talk like that for hours, and still want to hear more. What I really love about Rachel is her honesty and her being so real. She is not afraid to open herself wide to her readers so they can see her fears, insecurit ...more
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
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, meditation, buddhism
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
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Heather Fineisen
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.

Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Craig Bergland
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism, mindfulness
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
J. Robin Whitley
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-to-own
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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-
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ellen Keener
Oct 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable read with lots of ways to make a life and the world better.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Honest, helpful, practical advice on how to incorporate mindfulness practice into real life.
Edward Sullivan
Sep 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Not what I expected but a mostly interesting memoir exploring the practice of mindfulness and Buddhism.
Amber Tucker
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Neumann gives a voice here on a topic that has formerly been discussed mainly by religious figures, and not always in a way that's accessible. Of course, now the word "mindfulness" is on the covers of every lifestyle magazine so the mainstream coverage has both clarified and obfuscated the issue for many lay readers like myself. (I was amused to see a special issue of Time devoted to "MINDFULNESS: The New Science of Health and Happiness." New? Are you sure??!! )

In between these two groups is wh
Amy Crowther
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I grabbed this book from my library as I could relate to Rachel's journey to mindfulness. It excited me to see a married working mothers perspective on her mindfulness journey. Often times mindfulness (I feel) is given a more utopia meaning and is often misrepresented in what that means in our society vs. actually being a Buddhist Monk. I appreciate Rachel's ability to be raw and authentic in her journey, giving me several giggles throughout the book. Rachel kept my attention consistently. Book ...more
Marianne Bjelke
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This has been on my kindle for a while, and I am glad I finally read it. At a particularly stressful time in my life, this book offered humor and insights and pleasurable anecdotes from the woman who is the editor for Thich Haht Nahn. I can see myself rereading this in the future. A well-delivered reminder that we are interconnected and perfect in our imperfection.
Felicite Reads
Marked as read but I really just skimmed most of the book after the first part. The book wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I had expected from it. I had hoped for something a bit more "self-help" than (boring) memoir.

I do like the bit about her kid learning to ask her if she's available. That's a useful tool for people of all ages.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very helpful and down-to-earth book about mindfulness for everyday people.
Chelsea Herskovitz
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really easy to understand her logic, I just wish I had more background on her and her life
Isa Stamos
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent ideas in this. Really good to read about buddhist concepts in this way.
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
** 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
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
Christine Zibas
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
First of all, let me start by saying that I like the book. I think a lot of women can probably relate to Neumann's skepticism and her action-packed days. Her example is one that will speak to a lot of people, even if they don't share her unconventional upbringing. However, the down side of this book is that it perhaps has too many examples and too few principles or philosophical ideas worth considering.

Those she does offer up: taking time for silence, setting the day's intention, seeing oneself
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
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
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.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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.
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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.
“Many people are afraid of aging; some are even more afraid of aging than of death! But I have found that old age is something very delicious. You are calmer, you go more slowly, and you enjoy much more than when you are very young. You don’t rush. You take your time. And you taste every moment of your daily life.” 0 likes
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