Thubten Chodron, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, has studied and practiced Buddhism in India and Nepal since 1975. She travels worldwide teaching and leading meditation retreats and is the author of Buddhism for Beginners and Working With Anger. We have been especially impressed with the practical nature of her explanations of spiritual practices that can be done on a daily basis as we interact with others.
Chodron begins with an overview of Buddhist philosophy and psychology and ends with the history and development of Buddhism (with explanations of Buddhist temples, centers, ceremonies, and festivals) over the years and today. But for us the most engaging and helpful material comes in two sections on having good relationships and "Taming Bad Habits, Cultivating Good Ones" with pointers on how to practice the Dharma in our daily lives.
Chodron explains equanimity as "remembering that no person is our inherent, ever-lasting friend, enemy or stranger." The result of this practice means that we are not constantly caught up in the confused emotions of attachment, hostility, and indifference. Her simple but elegant example of this really struck home with us: "If we feel hurt or rejected because a dear one hasn't called us in a long time, rather than feel the suffering nature of our own attachment, we criticize our loved one for being unreliable and inconsiderate." By letting this person make or break our day by calling or not calling, we demonstrate that our attachment to that person is far too needy. Equanimity frees us from this constriction and enables us to have an equal feeling of openness toward each and every person.
Chodron hits high stride writing about practices that offset the bad habits of complaining, speaking of the faults of others, and ruminating (living in the past or future). It is possible to generate beneficial habits through positive motivation early in the day. Here is a tip she gives for work: "Think: 'I will use whatever happens at work today as part of my Dharma practice.' Generate the motivation to be open and receptive to whatever you experience that day. If someone praises you, remember that your qualities came due to the kindness of your teachers and others and in that way avoid being arrogant. If someone criticizes you unfairly, realize that he is miserable, and instead of taking the comment personally, care about the suffering of the other person. On the other hand, if someone criticizes you for a mistake you made, acknowledge it, apologize, and learn from the error. There's no need to become defensive or angry." Chodron, as you can see, is a master teacher with many down-to-earth practices to offer.