Well Connected by Irmentraud Schlaffer has the subtitle Encountering Buddha in Everyday Life, and that is exactly what this book is all about. There are plenty of books that explain how Buddhists can deepen their practice on the cushion, or in an isolated retreat setting, and most of those are perfectly valuable, but titles that provide ideas for bringing the experience of awakening into the hustle and bustle of daily life are much thinner on the ground. Well Connected is one such title, and a very good one it is, too.
The seed of this book was found in the desire of the author to connect Buddhist ideas and practice with her everyday life. She asked her teacher, Rigdzin Shikpo, for advice on this matter and he responded with a question: ‘Are there any big trees on your way to work?’ When this question was met with a nod of affirmation, the teacher gave his student a simple yet powerful instruction in the form of a second question: ‘Why not think of them as Buddhas?’
The author did exactly as her teacher had suggested, and she quickly found that paying homage to the trees in this way completely transformed her journey to work each day. That simple and deliberate connection between an everyday task – travelling to work – and her Buddhist practice was a key that the author went on to make good use of again and again, and Well Connected is a book that shows us how we can all do something similar. The aim here is not just to relate something mundane to something sacred, but rather, as the author states, ‘to recognise that the seemingly mundane, everyday world is inherently sacred, in and of itself.‘ She continues:
… we don’t need to make great efforts to find the sacred in the ordinary. The world is already filled with sacred meaning and messages of significance―if only we could see them. The purpose of this book is just that: to help you see the world in a new way.
The way this book achieved that purpose is by taking the reader on a linear journey from the moment of waking up in the morning to the time of going to sleep and dreaming at night. Over the course of eighteen chapters, Well Connected points out the sacredness that is right there in front of us at all times, and shows us how to recognise and make use of the various symbols that we usually encounter without even realising it.
Writing in a pragmatic and down-to-earth style, and drawing from over 30 years of practising Buddhism, Well Connected serves as a no-nonsense guidebook to help you integrate your own Buddhist practice with your life off the cushion. Whether you are brushing your teeth, sitting in traffic, working at your job, cooking dinner or even watching TV, the sacred is always there to be experienced and appreciated, and Well Connected will show you how.