A Serene Buddhist -- and a Funny One

Writer, storyteller, funny guy Jeff Greenwald. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Kevin Griffin: Buddhism for Recovering Addicts

San Francisco Bay Area writer and teacher Kevin Griffin has written a number of books on Buddhism for folks in recovery. When his latest, Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life after Addiction, arrived in my mailbox. I cracked it open immediately and searched for tidbits of Buddhist wisdom that might help me as I stumble along on my own rocky spiritual journey.

Kevin's title, Recovering Joy, caught my eye right away. I've been thinking about joy a lot lately - specifically joy as a spiritual discipline.

Martin Verhoeven talked about joy in the form of Buddhist equanimity during our interviews for my book Wrestling with God. And my book's token atheist, Anthony Mack, talked about the joy of simply being a living, breathing creature on this planet.

In a chapter Kevin calls "Not Unhappy," he writes:

Before I got sober, I thought [happiness] meant something like being in a good mood all the time or having loads of fun with no responsibilities. That's not how I define happiness now. In fact, several years ago when stuck in a long period of difficult moods, depression, and irritability, I found myself saying, 'I'm depressed, but I'm not unhappy' . . . What I was saying was that nothing was wrong with my life.

Nothing is wrong with my life. That's it! That's exactly the kind of kernel of wisdom I was hoping to get from Kevin.

Yes, I get sad when I remember that my niece has died. Yes, I worry about my rickety knees and belly fat. Yes, I get anxious when I have to get behind a microphone and say something intelligent to a bunch of people I don't know.

I'm cranky, judgy and opinionated. When I'm not being shy, I'm pushy. But I've finally gotten to a place where - humiliating mistakes and missteps notwithstanding - I'm convinced that there's nothing wrong with my life. And that makes me . . . happy.

Thanks, Kevin.

Jeff Greenwald: Buddha Shopper

I'd been hoping for some time to get my hands on a copy of Jeff Greenwald's fun-loving book, Shopping for Buddhas. It's the story of his youthful search through the streets and bazaars of Kathmandu for the perfect Buddha statue.

Buddhism? Shopping? Comedy? My kind of book.

Unfortunately, Shopping for Buddhas was published way back in 1990 and it's been thoroughly out of print for some time. When Travelers' Tales, the publisher, came to


Shopper Jeff Greenwald finally settled on this Buddha figure. Its mudra is "Touching the Earth" in which the newly enlightened Buddha enlists the witness of the Earth against evil. Photo by Barbara Newhall

the rescue with a 25th anniversary edition. I wasted no time in locating the nearest book signing and grabbing myself a copy. Jeff writes:

A Buddha is not a simple thing to shop for. He comes in infinite sizes, a full spectrum of colors, and a daunting variety of postures and poses.

Poses, postures -- and mudras. Mudras are the various hand positions the Buddha might take, Jeff explains. Each mudra represents one of the Buddhas many attributes. "Fear Not" or "Turning the Wheel of the Law" or "Calming the Ocean." And:

Once, at a temple in Thailand, I think I saw a gesture called 'Forbidding His Relatives to Fight with One Another.

So many shopping choices. So many Buddhas. Enough to fill a book. Thanks, Jeff.

c Text and photos copyright 2015 Barbara Falconer Newhall. All Rights Reserved

"Shopping for Buddhas: An Adventure in Nepal," by Jeff Greenwald, Travelers' Tales, 2014, $15.95, paper.

"Recovering Joy: A Mindful Life after Addiction," by Kevin Griffin, Sounds True, 2015, $16.95, paper.

A version of this story first appeared on BarbaraFalconerNewhall.com, where Barbara riffs on life, family, books, writing, and her rocky spiritual journey. Barbara 's interfaith book from Patheos Press is Wrestling with God: Stories of Doubt and Faith.