2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards

Bronze_Moonbeam_LRI am very happy to announce that In the Garden of Our Minds and Other Buddhist Stories received a bronze medal in the 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in category 27: Religion/Spirituality.

Some information from the website: “The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading. The Awards recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of parents, booksellers, librarians – and to children themselves.” This year there “are 165 medalists in all, chosen from over 1,200 total entries. The winners represent 35 U.S. States, five Canadian Provinces, and 7 countries overseas.”


Jizo 13Parenting, publishing, taking the metro to work each morning – I have found that every aspect of life benefits from the practice of equanimity, described by Kalu Rinpoche in The Dharma That Illuminates All Beings Impartially Like the Light of the Sun and the Moon, as a state of mind in which “you are not overpowered by emotional afflictions such as desire, hatred and stupidity, but instead remain in the natural state of the mind.” Without mindfulness practice to ground me in equanimity, I all too easily get swept away by the emotional currents around me. In parenting in particular I have a real tendency to get caught up in whatever is going on with my children and husband. I have nicknamed this “empathetically induced anger”, though it’s simply lack of equanimity. A phone call from an upset teacher, a email from a stressed spouse, a child crying about something his or her sibling has done, and suddenly my own mind is about as far from peaceful as could be imagined. Almost immediately I feel corresponding physiological changes in my body and soon I am mired down in the very hell realm that I’d like to be able to raise those around me out of.

I wrote In the Garden of Our Minds and other Buddhist stories over a period of years where I was struggling to maintain my own sanity while also co-parenting two very energetic children and working full-time. The dialogues and practices described in the book are based very closely on ones I experienced and developed during that time. Parenting has been the most challenging experience of my life; it requires such a high number of on-the-spot reactions. For instance, it is one thing to consider questions about life and death in the abstract, but I have found a much higher degree of pressure when the questions are being posed by small sentient beings who I’ve vowed to raise and nourish and who are looking to me for specific answers about what I believe – and why. And there is no test of mindfulness and equanimity like parenting. I can have the most positive intentions in the world as I calmly breathe my way up the driveway, but if I walk through the door into a room full of people on edge and cannot maintain my peaceful mind, I will soon find that my own seeds of anger are not seeds at all, but little grasping vines ready to rise up and choke away every last good intention. Continue reading

In the Garden of Our Minds and other Buddhist stories

From Blue Moon Aurora, a book of children’s stories presenting the wisdom of Mahayana Buddhism through the accessible and entertaining lens of a modern Buddhist family.

ch-4-2Through books we do not only learn for this life but we also cultivate wisdom for future lives. When children read a book, it leaves an imprint in their mind, thus to teach them the dharma through books plants a seed of liberation in their minds. It is extremely important and beneficial to teach children when they are young; in this way they will form good habits for their entire life.
– from the introduction by His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche
ch-1-3Michelle L. Johnson-Weider’s book, In the Garden of our Minds and other Buddhist stories, provides a wonderful way to introduce Buddhist ideals to young children. . . My hope is that with stories like these we can help families, especially those with young children, live with compassion and, in that way, build a strong Western sangha.
– from the introduction by Venerable Bardor Tulku Rinpoche

Table of ContentsIn the Garden of our Minds

Prince Siddhartha Renounces the Throne
Fighting the Demon Mara
The Value of Persistence: the story of Mahaprajapati
In the Garden of Our Minds
The Doorway of Death: the story of Kisagotami
Lessons in Stopping: the story of Angulimala
A Visit with Rinpoche
Glossary of terms
Conversations with Children
About the Author and Illustrator

In the Garden of Our Minds and other Buddhist stories

Text by Michelle L. Johnson-Weider; illustrations and graphic design by Brian Chen.