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Zen Under Fire: How I Found Peace in the Midst of War Paperback – June 4, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402281110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402281112
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A human rights lawyer with some experience working in the Gaza Strip, Elliott accepted an assignment with the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan in 2005. On her first day, she is left in charge of the office when the leader of a tribe at war with another tribe is assassinated, signaling the failure of the UN’s attempt to negotiate peace. The intertribal strife is a proxy for tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Her experience with researching human rights abuses has not prepared her well enough for the mental and emotional turmoil she will face as she confronts the perils of war and threats of kidnapping. Elliott finds comfort in friendships, particularly with the women of Afghanistan; a sometimes rocky romance with a fellow UN worker; and yoga as she searches for calmness and assurance in her efforts to bring peace to a war-torn nation. After returning home to New Zealand, Elliott reflects on the psychological and emotional challenges of humanitarian work and the importance of bolstering the spirits of those who perform it. --Vanessa Bush

Review

"Elliott reflects on the psychological and emotional challenges of humanitarian work and the importance of bolstering the spirits of those who perform it." - Booklist

"An activist's candid account of the hardships she endured working as a human rights officer for the United Nations....Elliott describes her experiences with an open-heartedness that is admirable
" - Kirkus

"This book touched my heart, soul and intellect. Marianne is vulnerable and fearless in offering this sincere account of her experience in Afghanistan. She asks important questions and does not shy away from complex issues with no clear answers. Marianne takes the reader on an intimate journey that is raw and inspiring. I enjoyed every minute of it!" - Hala Khouri, M.A., Co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World

"This is an amazing book, kind of like if Eat, Pray, Love had happened in Afghanistan and the stakes were life and death."" - Susan Piver, New York Times bestselling author of Wisdom of a Broken Heart

"I could not put this book down...Marianne's story plunged into my heart but made me see I can make a difference, too. There is magic in these pages." - Jennifer Louden, author of The Women's Comfort Book and The Life Organizer

"In Zen Under Fire, Marianne Elliott doesn't just settle for narrating the dangers and dramas of her time as a human rights officer in Afghanistan, she displays uncommon skill in exploring the complexities and contradictions inherent in working across cultures and a rare and soulful vulnerability about her personal struggle to forge balance and find love along the way." - Lisa McKay, author of Love At The Speed Of Email

"A stark and valuable glimpse into one humanitarian's effort to bring peace to the Afghan people and herself" - Shelf Awareness

"For anyone looking for a better understanding of what it's like to live in a war-torn country, Elliott vividly explains the trials of daily life and the challenges to change in the region. It is easy to be enthralled by the perilous and picturesque villages of Afghanistan, ... both horrifying and inspiring." - Whole Life Magazine

"Elliott provides an excellent guide to the war-torn region in Zen Under Fire, taking readers by the hand and leading them into a new understanding of a part of the world that Americans know too little about." - Chicago Review of Books

More About the Author

An author, human rights advocate and yoga teacher, Marianne Elliott writes and teaches on creating, developing and sustaining real change in personal life, work and the world.

Marianne served in the United Nations mission in Afghanistan (2005-2007) with a focus on human rights and gender issues. Her book, Zen Under Fire, is a memoir about doing good and being well in Afghanistan. Marianne also helped develop human rights strategies for the governments of New Zealand and Timor-Leste, and has worked as Policy Advisor for Oxfam, a non-profit international development agency.

Much of Marianne's work focuses on the use of yoga and mindfulness to support sustainable, conscious activism. She created the popular 30 Days of Yoga courses to help people start their own yoga practice, and Changemaker School to help people find their own way to be brave, do good and stay well.

Marianne lives in a converted church above the zoo in Wellington, New Zealand, where she is woken by the lions roar, and works to the sound of singing monkeys.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This book was a great and relatively quick read.
S. Kraus
She writes with such truth and courage and passion that you feel as if she's speaking to you directly.
Kindle Customer
It will probably help you to understand yourself better too.
Eva

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
"Zen Under Fire" is the memoir of Marianne Elliott, who lived and worked in Afghanistan as a human rights attorney for the United Nations. Marianne's storytelling is thorough, detailed and inspiring. Before reading this book, I really did not know much about why my own country is in Afghanistan, nor what the war is truly about. This book has inspired me to learn more about the conflict, and to "get off the fence" in terms of what I believe my country's government is doing. It also inspired me to seek out news sources other than the mainstream media I had been watching, in order to get as much information as I can regarding current events. Before reading this book, I really was in a state of ignorance.

The author gives such excellent descriptions of the intricacies of the conflicts and issues that the people of Afghanistan face each day, such as violence against women, war-related conflict, tribal conflict, and the struggle to find and grow food. Her stories are very vivid and flow beautifully. Marianne also describes how her growing yoga practice helped her to cope with the extreme stress of her harrowing experiences in Afghanistan.

The only parts of the book that didn't fully appeal to me were the minimal portions of the book that pertained to the author's personal relationships with two men in her life. She described her experiences and feelings very well, but I preferred the humanitarian portions of the book. I do understand that the author included these personal stories in order to illustrate that, while she was living a very isolated and dangerous life in a war-torn region of Afghanistan, she was also going through private struggles of her own.

Overall, I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on August 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
Marianne Elliott has written a book with her heart. "Zen Under Fire" is a memoir of the two years she spent in Afghanistan working for the UN as a human rights officer. She writes with such truth and courage and passion that you feel as if she's speaking to you directly. You'll read about the violence, the corruption, and the unspeakable treatment of women, but you'll also read about the strength and courage and kindness of the Afghan people and the stark beauty of the country. Marianne tells a parallel story as well, what it's like to work as a human rights activist in a country still struggling to win those rights, something many of us don't think about. (Previous to going to Afghanistan, Marianne also served in Gaza and Timor-Leste.) Marianne helps us to see that very few of the problems in Afghanistan are black or white, in spite of what many of us may think. She also tells, with honestly and vulnerability,of the tremendous stress of trying to maintain normalcy in decidedly abnormal circumstances, of friendship and romance in a country where bombs can go off at any moment, and do, and people you know can be killed, and are, and how that affected her. And she tells how discovering meditation and yoga helped her to find the peaceful place within herself so that she could continue her work with courage and grace. Marianne is an amazing woman and "Zen Under Fire" is an amazing book! After you've read it you will have learned more about Afghanistan, about Marianne, and perhaps more about yourself as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eva on August 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is how I feel after reading this book. Grateful.
I read a lot about Afghanistan, so I picked this book from the shelve not even paying much attention to the details. If I would carefully look through every book.. Well I might end up taking several bags of them home.
It's a beautiful, well-written and honest story. It will help you understand another culture better. It will probably help you to understand yourself better too. Especially if you are going through some challenges. I don't even want to write a lot about it. I just want to say thank you, Marianne, for sharing with us!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Haverkamp on July 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book taught me a lot about overseas aid work and the people of Afghanistan. But mostly, I appreciated Elliott's ability to share so much about the emotional toll her work took on her, a toll that most of her coworkers seemed to paper over with toughness, booze, and video games. I appreciate her vulnerability, and can remember times in my own life when my emotional well-being was in shreds. Elliott slowly but surely chooses to cope with yoga, the teachings of Pema Chodron, soy lattes, and friendship. We could all stand to be reminded that real stress management has to start on the inside. Sometimes I got a little bogged down in all the detail about the local politics of the places she served, but on the whole, this is a great book. I also got to meet Marianne when she came through Chicago on her book tour - she's a wonderful speaker and person, don't miss the chance to meet her or hear her speak
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Format: Paperback
Marianne Elliott documented human rights violations in Afghan prisons and police stations and trained local law enforcement officers and prosecutors about human rights and Afghan law. Her life, first in Kabul, and then in Herat, was one of contrasts. Rules and procedures narrowed her freedom: she needs a driver or security officer with her whenever she travels outside her UN guest house, she can't walk alone on the streets, her dress and demeanor must at all times show respect for Afghan culture. But in countless other ways, Elliott's circumstances open her to rich experiences: the camaraderie of UN and NGO workers from around the world, the priceless friendship of her Afghan co-workers, and the indelible mark the Afghans she served left on her heart. Sometimes frightened, often edgy, occasionally endangered, and always driven, Elliott struggles to maintain balance in her life--she knows that a shell-shocked, stressed out aid worker would be less than effective.

Before arriving in Kabul, Elliott practiced yoga and meditation in her native New Zealand, and she continues during her time in Afghanistan. At first, her practice is almost mechanical. Unnerved by a phone call or a meeting, she'd head to her mat, do some simple breathing exercises and several sun salutes. While the stressful situation was often the same, it was Elliott who was different. Yoga becomes both her refuge and strength: "Yoga is helping me little by little to trust my breath and my body, and to loosen my tight grip on control. I am starting to get glimpses of what yoga might be able to teach me ..."

What I like so much about Zen Under Fire was the author's transparency.
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