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Wake up to Your Life: Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention

Wake up to Your Life: Discovering the Buddhist Path of Attention

by Ken McLeod

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It is easy to lose your way exploring how to benefit from Buddhist wisdom in the contemporary Western world. In this fresh and original work, Ken McLeod demystifies the essential teachings of Buddhism as he illuminates a path to living fully in the present. Writing without jargon or obscure terminology, he uses delightful stories from around the world to explain


It is easy to lose your way exploring how to benefit from Buddhist wisdom in the contemporary Western world. In this fresh and original work, Ken McLeod demystifies the essential teachings of Buddhism as he illuminates a path to living fully in the present. Writing without jargon or obscure terminology, he uses delightful stories from around the world to explain clearly and compellingly how we can utilize the practices of Buddhism to awaken to the full potential of our lives.

Most of us live behind a wall of illusion. Wake Up to Your Life gives us all the tools we need to "dismantle" that wall. Readers will learn to move out of the reactive patterns that create suffering and curb true freedom by using meditations and reflections that point the way to wisdom, awareness, compassion, and inner strength. Each meditation is described in detail and is accompanied by a lucid commentary on its meaning and value.

Using everyday language, stories, and examples accessible to westerners, Wake Up to Your Life presents the Buddha's original teachings separate from the cultural context of religious ritual and belief. Highlighted with quotes from thinkers as diverse as Mulla Nasrudin, Samuel Beckett, Yogi Berra, Albert Einstein, Kalu Rinpoche, James Baldwin, and Bob Dylan, this authoritative guide offers a warm and engaging approach to awakening our true self and walking the liberating path of mindful and compassionate living.

Editorial Reviews

Ken McLeod, a widely respected teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, shows the way to "living fully in the present" by demystifying the essential tenets of Buddhist philosophy. His writing style is at once informative and accessible, helping the reader use the most meaningful disciplines. The book includes insightful quotes from the likes of Samuel Beckett, Kalu Rinpoche, Yogi Berra, and Bob Dylan.
Surya Das
Reading this book is a wake-up call to your true life. Ken McLeod reminds up on every page how to live a more mindful, attentive, and authentic life.
Stephen Batchelor
Ken McLeod's eminently practical manual goes straight to the heart of what the Buddha taught.
Sharon Salzberg
When the Buddha sent his first students out to instruct others, he told them to teach in the local idiom. Ken McLeod takes this advice to heart, taking ancient teachings and meaningfully translating them for us, in our time.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book's promotional material asserts that author McLeod "is no guru and has no meditation center; rather, he is a life trainer." Perhaps only in contemporary America can this be touted as an advantage for a Buddhist teacher. McLeod, no doubt, is not the least bit bothered by the implications, as he is writing expressly for "Americans in a thoroughly American way." Still, potential readers should not fear that McLeod has shortchanged them on the details of the Buddhist path. He offers very charming stories, unclouded prose, step-by-step meditations, charts and quotes from such varied sources as Bob Dylan, Milarepa, Rumi, Yogi Berra and anonymous Buddhist sayings ("Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet"). McLeod delivers a hefty how-to manual that could prove useful to a single soul in the hinterlands or a sophisticated searcher in Los Angeles, where McLeod directs Unfettered Mind, a Buddhist teaching and counseling service. This text's apparent self-help style is somewhat ironic, since McLeod pointedly asks, "Can you do this work on your own?" and immediately responds, "Basically, the answer is no.... We need a teacher," going against the American apotheosis of the individual. Whether he cops to it or not, McLeod has illuminated the path for solitary individuals who want a long-lasting handbook to begin the journey toward wakefulness. (Apr.) Forecast: A five-city West Coast author tour and a February 15 excerpt in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review should boost sales of this book, which will have a 25,000-copy print run. Advertising is planned in PW and in Tricycle. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Prince and the Horse

In a faraway country, now lost in the mists of time, there lived an old king and queen. Their son, a young prince, though proficient in matters of war and clever enough in the affairs of state, showed little interest in the responsibilities that would one day come his way. As the king was old and his health failing, the queen was increasingly worried about her son and the way he conducted his life. Not knowing what to do, she visited a sorcerer and explained her concerns.

The sorcerer listened in silence and then asked, "What does he like most of all?"

"Horses," said the queen. "He's passionate about horses. They are all he really cares about."

"That will do," said the magician, and he told the queen to walk in the palace gardens the following afternoon.

The next day, after lunch, the queen asked the prince and the court retinue to stroll with her in the palace gardens. just outside the palace gates, at the end of the garden, stood a beautiful white horse. An old man held the reins. The prince ran to the horse, examined it for a moment, and turned to the old man. "I have to have this horse," he said. "It's a magnificent animal. How much do you want for it?"

The old man bowed and said, "Not so fast, not so fast. You're a prince. I would be foolish to sell you this horse before you ride it. Mount up! If you still want it when you come back, we can discuss the price."

The prince needed no urging. He quickly mounted the horse. The moment he was in the saddle the horse began to gallop. Oh, how that horse could gallop! Faster and faster, they raced through the town and outinto the surrounding farmlands. The prince was thrilled. He had never ridden such a swift and powerful beast.

They galloped across the countryside, into the hills, and high into the mountains, over passes and into the next kingdom. The horse never tired. They galloped far beyond any villages and towns, into regions the prince didn't know. Finally, as the sun began to set, the horse slowed to a walk and stopped in the middle of a deep forest.

The prince looked around. He had no idea where he was. He dismounted and led the horse along the path. Evening was coming and the prince was a little worried, but he saw a light in the distance and went toward it. The light came from a small cottage. He knocked on the door, and a beautiful young woman opened it. The prince explained his plight, but she had never heard of his kingdom. Still, night had fallen, so she invited the prince in and introduced him to her father, an old man who still worked as a woodcutter.

The prince stayed the night and set out the next morning to find his way home. He traveled as far as he could and asked every person he met about his home kingdom, but no one knew anything about it or how to help him find his way home. Each night the prince returned to the woodcutter and his daughter. Eventually, he began to help the old man with his work. He learned how to cut wood and grew wise in the ways of the forest. The prince was increasingly attracted to the daughter and she to him, so they married.

The prince settled down into his new life and new trade. Occasionally, when he saw the horse by the house, the prince remembered how he had come there, but he didn't dwell on the matter long. In time, his wife gave birth to a son and a daughter. His life was full. The old man retired, and the prince took over the business. He cut wood, stacked it, and took it to the market. The income wasn't much, but it took care of their needs, and, as they had few other cares, they lived happily and peacefully. The memories of his former life as a prince faded away.

The prince often walked far into the forest. On one of his walks, he came to a glen he had not seen before. In the glen was a pond with water so clear and still you could see all the way to the bottom. The glen, the pond, and the still, clear water drew him for reasons he didn't understand. He went often to the glen, where he would sit, looking into the still depths of the pond.

One day while he sat by the pond, he heard a cry. His two children came running out of the forest. A tiger was chasing them. He had never seen a tiger in the forest before. The prince jumped up to protect his children, but before he could do anything, his children ran into the pond and disappeared. The tiger jumped in and disappeared as well. His wife came running up and ran in after them. She, too, disappeared. The old man came hobbling along and, following the others, disappeared into the water. At that moment, the prince's horse galloped up, leaped into the center of the pond, and disappeared. The waters of the pond became still and clear again, but no traces of his family or horse or the tiger were to be seen.

The prince was dumbfounded. What had happened? In the space of two minutes, everything in his life had vanished. Unable to take in what had happened, he continued to look into the water, perhaps hoping to see something. When the shock of his loss finally hit him, he fell to the ground, his body shaking with sobs, and he cried and cried. Then he felt a hand softly touching his shoulder.

The prince looked up. Above him were the eyes of his mother, the queen, and around him were the concerned faces of the court retainers, the palace gardens, and the horse, standing quietly. The queen was relieved. She told him that as soon as he had touched the horse, he had fallen to the ground. He had been lying there in a trance for two or three minutes.

"No," said the prince. "No! Not two or three minutes. Years. I had a life, a family, a trade, people I loved, a wife and children. I had things that mattered to me. I lived my whole life. It wasn't two or three minutes. That isn't possible." Dazed and bewildered, he stood and walked away.

The old man bowed to the queen, took the horse, and left.

The prince was profoundly moved by this mystery, and his attitude changed. His heart opened to every moment of his life. After his father died, the prince ruled wisely and well, fully present and attentive to the concerns of his people and the welfare of the kingdom.

Meet the Author

Ken McLeod is widely respected as an authentic Tibetan Buddhist teacher who has trained for years with renowned teachers, including his teacher, Kalu Rinpoche. He directs Unfettered Mind, a Buddhist teaching and consulting service in Los Angeles, CA.

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