I began reading this book on an airplane.
Thousands of feet suspended in the air has always been an appropriate place to contemplate the subjective nature of one’s perspective, I’ve found.
Michael, typing chapter one in seat 12B.
Me, reading those same words in seat 20D.
The little girl in the row behind me, squealing in fear and delight as this is her first time traveling on an airplane.
Every moment, dependent on a billion others – and yet existing alone. This. Here, then gone.
How can the mind and spirit keep up enough to be truly present? How can we develop a personal narrative – but practice a life that allows this narrative to evolve without attachment? While simultaneously seeing the infinite number of narratives we are surrounded by. Narratives that are at the end of the day just stories we’re telling ourselves.
Michael Gungor, known as Vishnu Das in his spiritual circles, tackles all of these questions with an unassuming faith that encompasses both Eastern philosophy and a Jesus freed from religious dogma. Subverting every tendency we have in the West to individualize everything, Vishnu invites his readers to see past this illusion of separateness, using the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism as a guide.
Although I find myself wanting to reread this book with a highlighter in hand ready to memorialize every nugget of wisdom that gave me pause – one sentence stood out to me more than almost any other:
“The way that the world is also includes your desire to change the world.” (p.127)
This world, for all its pain and joy and chaos, includes you. It includes me. And it includes every desire we have to make the world a better place. A place that doesn’t allow the powerful to trample over the weak. That celebrates Oneness, but addresses the problems caused by parts of the One harming the collective. Accepting the world as it is does not mean sitting by and letting injustices take place.
Buddhism is not a passive lifestyle, as much as the monk meditating in a cave might give that impression. It requires the human heart to be more awake than is sometimes comfortable, and to go out into the world and change it. THIS encourages readers to truly examine the cycles of suffering that we’re personally caught within – in order to move past them and shower the world with this freedom.
Michael Gungor meets the skeptic, the believer, the mystic, and asks us all to look at what lies beneath absolutely everything that we’ve centered our existences around. Using memoir, poetry, and parable, THIS chronicles a journey that I believe we can all learn something from. I know that I certainly have.
You can purchase THIS on Amazon, or find the audiobook on Audible.
Michael also has a podcast that goes hand in hand with the book; you can find Loving THIS with Michael Gungor on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.