It’s Easier Than You Think
Sylvia Boorstein tells of being aboard an airplane that has lost one of its hydraulic systems in midflight. Understandably frightened, she begins offering up prayers of lovingkindness for her relatives, then her friends and students, finally asking herself, “Did I forget anyone I know that I care about?”
I had an uncle whose nightly ritual consisted of praying for his many nieces and nephews in alphabetical order, from Chuck and Diane to Tammy and Teddy, so he wouldn’t leave any of us out. Boorstein’s solution is even simpler: She decides to bless the whole world. “May all beings be happy! May all beings be happy! May all beings be happy!”
Boorstein is the universal Jewish-Buddhist grandmother, dispensing wisdom and humor in her folksy stories. If it were possible to do so within the covers of a book, she’d probably serve you latkes. Her illustrations of Buddhist principles in action draw on everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to grape bubble gum. She quotes Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, a man who repairs sewing machines, and her family housekeeper. You even get a recipe for marinated mushrooms.
The book’s premise is summed up in its title. “There are some peculiar notions about what constitutes ‘being spiritual,’ ” Boorstein muses. Many people seem to believe that the practice of mindfulness is incompatible with drinking coffee or rooting for a football team, feeling angry or experiencing pain or having sex—as if it were somehow intended to cut you off from life rather than place you more fully in it. “Spiritual living . . . is plain. Ordinary people do it, and they don’t even know they are doing it. In the middle of plain lives, with regular joys and griefs, they live with grace and kindness and are happy.”