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Making Waves and Riding the Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom Hardcover – January 21, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Making Waves and Riding the Currents

"It was long believed that wisdom is to the soul what health is to the body. Charles Halpern has lived as if there is no distinction--that body, soul, wisdom, and health are one and the same in a life fully lived with great passion. This most creative of public citizens--lawyer, educator, philanthropist, catalyst of ideas and institutions--has put into practice what he writes in these pages. A nation wandering in the wilderness, as we are, could not ask for a better guide toward clarity and compassion."
--Bill Moyers, journalist

"Charles Halpern is uniquely qualified to give advice about how to work for a better world. His experience as a lawyer and social entrepreneur combined with the study and practice of mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy leads him to the conclusion that cultivation of wisdom and compassion makes for more effective activism. He challenges us to apply the lessons he has learned in our own lives and work. This book is highly readable, inspiring, and important."
--Andrew Weil, author of Healthy Aging and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health

"An honest, humorous, and profoundly illuminating account of one man's persistence in navigating the lessons of personal integrity, mindfulness, and balance while contributing successfully to greater wisdom and compassion in our social institutions. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about leadership and social change, and bringing the inner and outer arcs of one's life and work together into a life-serving and meaningful whole."
--Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses and Arriving at Your Own Door

"At a moment when many activists may feel overwhelmed and enervated, Making Waves and Riding the Currents provides strength, insight, a path. In describing the course of his own remarkable career, Charles Halpern provides a model for social transformation that rests on persistence, bravery, and the need for conscious reflection as an integral component of civic regeneration. This is a revivifying sourcebook of good causes, great ideas, and transcendent lessons about the personal and collective benefits of working in the public interest."
--Patricia Williams, Professor, Columbia Law School, and columnist for The Nation

"Nothing is more needed in the world today--yet more elusive--than wisdom. In this fascinating memoir of his life and work for social justice and environmental sustainability, Charlie Halpern shares with us his path of learning to integrate mind and heart in pursuit of wisdom. Enlightening lessons for each of us!"
--William Ury, coauthor of Getting to Yes and author of The Power of a Positive No

"This is a rare and fascinating account of a life that deepens as it progresses. Charles Halpern made difficult choices again and again. With each purposeful transition, he became a better and more interesting man. He became wiser, wise enough to be able to point the rest of us in some of the right directions."
--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

About the Author

ROBERT B. REICH is a professor at Brandeis University. He has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, most recently as Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. His work has appeared often in major national publications. This is his tenth book. He lives in Cambridge, MA.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; First Edition edition (January 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576754421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576754429
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,579,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jim on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Halpern is the acknowledged father of the public interest law firm having founded the first such firm in Washington, DC in the late 1960s. Halpern followed his success at the Center for Law and Social Policy by becoming the founding dean of the nation's first (and I think only) law school(Queens Law School a part of CUNY) whose mission is to train public interest lawyers. Not only do I echo the comments in the editorial reviews quoted above, but I also I conclude the book reflects an extremely honest account of the author's motivations and emotions as well as the pluses and minuses of his career choices. I was particularly struck by something he said in his introduction that each person has to make their own decisions "about how he or she wants to balance competing objectives: taking risks and finding security; personal life and career; idealism and compromise, service to the larger community and concern for self." Even though I've made different choices than Halpern made, I continue to admire the choices he made, but his book also made me feel more comfortable about the choices I've made.

In addition to being a memoir, Making Waves is a "self help" book on how to find wisdom and balance a high octane, pressure career with inner peace As Bill Moyers concludes in one of the editorial reviews, one "could not ask for a better guide" than Charles Halpern for learning to live in a way in which "body, soul, wisdom and health are one and the same."
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ASK on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An enjoyable and inspiring read!! I loved this thoughtful and honest account of the struggles of building a successful career that incorporates a contemplative practice. Great wisdom and advice runs throughout this memoir - and I return to it frequently as I try to balance all aspects of my own life.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Copthorne Macdonald on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
From the beginning of this tale of Charles Halpern's remarkable accomplishments, it was obvious that he was an intelligent, effective individual with many skills. But competent doesn't necessarily mean wise. Fortunately for us readers, interwoven with the story of his doing is the story of his psychological/spiritual development -- the story of his growth in wisdom and the integration of that wisdom into his many activities.

Halpern had the courage to place himself in a wide variety of challenging, often uncomfortable, growth-fostering situations. Too many to recount here, they included a winter camping adventure in the Adirondacks, a week-long vision quest based on Native American traditions that included many hours in a sweat lodge, and a five-day mindfulness meditation retreat led by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. This last was a watershed event, about which Halpern wrote: "The experience of extended meditation practice...awakened my interest in exploring the connection between meditation and wisdom. Could I undertake to practice wisdom, living the wise life that would generate wise actions and decisions? Could this be a new way to approach activism, to start from the place of wisdom and compassion rather than the place of anger and insistence on legal rights?"

Meditation became a central focus in his life, and numerous retreats followed. To some extent facilitated by the Nathan Cummings Foundation of which he was now President, he met and got to know many of America and the world's foremost spiritual teachers. "Longtime meditators and respected teachers," he wrote, "gave me a new model for a way to be in the world--committed to serving others, cultivating wisdom, being open to changing themselves, and exposing their own vulnerability.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michaela on February 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Making Waves and Riding Currents is a book that everyone should read. No soft tale here but a journey not unlike rafting white waters. Charles sees the real and the ideal, the what "could be and is not yet", takes time to grasp the whole, sees the way and then takes it. He combines courage, a genuine interest in life and a willingness to "live and learn" both on a professional and personal level. This is a story of major entrepreneurial ventures that impact our own lives, created and co-created, experienced and shared in ways allowing every one involved to learn, use their experience, as well as to question and relinquish old patterns, recognize blocks and crack open into wider realms of understanding and living that center on Wisdom. This book documents changes in thinking that have make our society more humane and just. This is not your usual "lawyer" story. This is speaks to everyone's potential to develop wisdom, played out large, and saying: Come on, you can do it! I can't stop thinking about what one life can do.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Fersh on March 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
No matter what your political persuasion or your profession, this book is a great source of wisdom and insight. Beyond a fascinating history of the birth of public interest law, Charlie Halpern provides a deeply personal and affirming account of how to pursue one's ideals in a way that is nurturing of our deeper selves and respectful of others. A key lesson of this book is that it is not just what you stand or fight for, but who you are and how you act as you do it. By cultivating an awareness that allows a deeper wisdom to emerge, Charlie points to ways we all can contribute to the world in a way that contributes to far greater tolerance and balance, without compromising our effectiveness. And in the process, we also become healthier and more loving and also create a world that reflects this.
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