We can use a little Zen these days.

In June 2007 I interviewed Kat Brady of Life of the Land, a non-profit Hawai’i-based and -focused environmental and community action group supporting sustainable land use and energy policies. They work on issues, not people or politicians. In Brady’s other role as Coordinator of Community Alliance on Prisons, she works to develop effective interventions for Hawai’i’s nonviolent offenders. It’s little wonder that she’s drawn to Zen practices, world events, and the lives of the disadvantaged in her reading.

Her full interview is now available below; her short interview is now available only through the Honolulu Advertiser archives.

What I’m Reading | Kat Brady
Assistant Executive Director, Life of the Land
Coordinator of Community Alliance on Prisons

Q&A with Christine Thomas

–What are you reading?

Right now I’m reading “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by a Vietnamese monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Zen master and the author of many, many books, and he really inspires me. I love the passage from this book that says: “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle, but I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air but to walk on the Earth.” I really support that. I think every day is a miracle, and I approach my life that way—positive expectancy.

And then I’m also reading a novel called “Exile” by Richard Patterson, which is a really great current novel published this year about the Middle East. It’s about two law school students who fall in love; one is Jewish and one is Palestinian. … But then I just finished an awesome book called, and this is someone’s inmate number, “The Making of #A0210208.” It’s by an author who uses a pseudonym, named Jayne Dough. It’s a true story of an extraordinary woman who bares her soul to help people in her same situation, other battered moms. … It’s really a journey through her valley of darkness. To me it was so moving because I work on social justice issues. She bared her soul but also explained why people use drugs. …

–How did you discover them?

Actually, I look on Amazon and on the web a lot for books on how people got to where they are today, and you know everybody has a story. I guess that’s why I really like the Thich Nhat Hanh book, because his whole philosophy is engaged Buddhism; you need to be aware at any moment of what’s going on around you and inside you. I’m really motivated by people who have walked through the valley of darkness and come out the other side with some incredible insights.

–Which one do you most like?

I guess the meditation on mindfulness is really important to me because I think as humans we sometimes let life get in the way. We get caught up with the everyday and forget the wonder that surrounds us. We have to remember to sit back and reflect on just how wonderful the world is and how we can help others see that wonder too. … If everybody just took time to breathe and look around us—we live in the most amazing place on the planet—that would do a lot to further peace.

–I imagine your work to protect the environment and people can sometimes seem like an overwhelming goal. Do you persevere in your fight to protect people and the environment through mindfulness, as he suggests?

Oh yeah. I mean, I’m an eternal optimist. I believe that things can change. I believe that change is difficult but not impossible. Books like “The Miracle of Mindfulness” are, to me, really important. Some people who work on a lot of issues think they’re going to live or die on one issue. I have a bigger picture and more holistic view of the world where I don’t think that one thing trumps the other. I think that until there’s justice we’re not going to have peace, and justice crosses all sorts of lines. I like to look at the world and how all the pieces fit together and how we can make them fit better.