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Review: The Art of Power June 7, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in review.
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I recently finished reading The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh. When I first picked up the book I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it surprised me by turning out to be an excellent read.

The main message of the book was to change our ideas of true power from external forms of power to internal power. In other words, from the idea of power as controlling or influencing others or acquiring wealth or possessions to the power to be able to be happy in the present moment and free from afflictions.

I was surprised by the book because it seemed to be so applicable and relevant to living in a modern, industrialized society. Thay tries to convince us of the dangers of placing high values on materialism, or achieving status, wealth and material possessions. I think in this culture, this is the common assumption that the way to become powerful is to gain wealth, status, and possessions.

Nevertheless, Thay tries to convince us that there is a better way to live, and a better way to gain power. Mindful living is a more wholesome way to live and become successful in all areas of our lives, not just in material aspects.

Some of the ideas that Thay describes seem to be contradictory at first, but I think this reflects our cultural conditioning. For instance, the idea that slowing down or doing one thing at a time can allow you to get more work done. When Thay explains ideas like these more fully, and I remembered lessons from my own experience, I was able to see that they do make quite a bit of sense.

I really enjoyed the piece describing how money might be seen as power: When we have lots of money we have power over other people because we can pay them to do things that we want. We also feel more powerful because we have more choice available to us in how to spend our money and what services and products to buy.

To me, this was an excellent description of how democracy has become commercialized in Canada, and perhaps to a larger extent inNorth America. Currently, the phrase “one dollar, one vote” is commonplace, and reflects the idea that we exert power by buying things. So really, our power is “buying power”. But the message is that this type of power isn’t true power, and actually can cause a lot of problems in our lives.

Thay included a lot of practical suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into work life and work settings. These suggestions seemed quite practical and simple, and made quite a bit of sense in Thay’s descriptions. A lot of emphasis was placed on leading by example, instead of using direct suggestions. Thay discussed using a different viewpoint of our coworkers as a kind of family, and the best way we can work is when we care for our coworkers.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for ways to live a healthier, more wholesome life in a materialist and consumerist society.



1. Quote: The Cosmos Offers Us Love | Living Abundance - July 5, 2013

[…] – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power […]

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