To be published in Winter/Spring 2019 issue of The Mindfulness Bell
By Beth Howard
“Love will always take us where we want to go, whether it’s love of God or love of a dog.” These words end the prologue and begin Jane’s remarkable journey with her faithful canine companion, Serafina. We travel with them across the U.S. and then over the ocean to a melon farm in southern France near Plum Village, and on to Vietnam, Cambodia and beyond. This engaging tale brings you along for the adventure of a lifetime, and illustrates how spiritual practice encourages, supports and sustains us to live fully into our human lives. We see how, with practice, decades of suffering can be released and transformed to love and joy.
One element that drew me to the Plum Village tradition was the way in which Thich Nhat Hanh, monastic and lay teachers all used stories from their lives to illustrate the Buddhist teachings and share the Dharma. This made it not only an intellectual understanding, but a living Dharma, to practice and realize within my own life. Jane (who was previously known as Janelle) is a masterful storyteller and honors her teacher in this way. While sharing her own story, which is hard to put down, she seamlessly weaves through it the practices, teachings and insights that have supported and guided her along the path. She candidly shares both her challenges and successes, offering the reader opportunity for reflection on how fear might be limiting one’s own field of perception and possibility.
Time and again, Jane rests in the arms of the Sangha and seeks counsel from monastics and lay friends when she is feeling stuck or bewildered. This counsel in turn leads to some of her most profound insights. And what of Serafina? She is a loving companion and a faithful teacher throughout the entire book, appearing as both obstacle and opportunity, but ultimately offering the supreme lesson of interbeing that love never dies.
During a question and answer session at Plum Village, Jane asks Thay about his poetry and the place of art in the Dharma. Thay replies, “The Dharma is always shared in beauty. … Daily life, what we call the living Dharma, can be beautiful. … Every moment of our lives can become a tale, a story.” No Coming, No Going is Jane’s story and a beautiful offering of the Dharma with something for everyone.
From Mish, Findhorn, Scotland: In our household, when it comes to books we have a ‘one in : one out’ policy which, on the whole, we are pretty good at sticking to. However, despite only being purchased out of mild curiosity, our copy of Jane Ellen Combelic’s book, ‘No Coming, No Going,’ has definitely become a keeper and now sits on the shelf reserved for books for which we have the highest regard. These are the special ones and this particular gem is not going anywhere.
Heartfelt, at times painfully honest, always engaging, this is the autobiography of Jane and her beloved dog, Serafina. Through reading of their lives in the U.S.A. and France I came to have great respect and affection for Jane as she survived, grew and thrived with the help and guidance of Serafina who, it quickly transpires, is in fact, an angel. This is essentially the story of Jane and Serafina’s transformative love for one another and ultimately, of Jane’s growing sense of belonging, compassion and love for herself which, once rediscovered, enables life and miracles to flow.
‘No Coming, No Going’ is a deeply moving book and a gift of profound love and wisdom to its readers. As someone unlikely to read a book about Buddhism, I found Jane’s descriptions of her life at Plum Village, receiving regular teachings from its founder, the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hahn and his nuns and monks, thought-provoking and deeply inspiring. In fact, my partner and I read the book over the same time period and we often ended-up spending time each day discussing what we had read and applying the teachings to our own lives. We were inspired to watch several videos of Thich Nhat Hahn’s teaching sessions and greatly appreciated reading Jane’s descriptions of the practice of mindfulness as an essential anchor in her life. This is something we have begun to practice and even in our early dabblings, greatly value its transformative effects. Jane Ellen Combelic is a wordsmith and storyteller and ‘No Coming, No Going,’ is an articulate, moving, informative and undoubtedly inspiring book. I can’t wait to read the next instalment of her life story.
From Susie, U.K.: I have loved reading your book, could not put it down. I have finished and now going to lend my copy to one sister (in Devon) and she will then pass it on to our sister in France. I visited Lower Hamlet with one of my sisters last year, I left a piece of my heart there and know I will go back one day.
There was one weird night when I could not sleep and in the middle of the night I put a light back on and carried on reading – it was the chapter when you talked about having trouble sleeping and Serafina came and slept with you. I don’t have a dog, and at that moment I wanted one!
I really miss my partner, he died in 2016 and I am working my way through that grief, and so I also loved your final chapter (My Angel Flies) when you talk about Serafina living in your heart forever – which is exactly how I feel about Dave.
I could hug you for your honesty and lovely storytelling.
From Auriol de Smidt, poet, author of Song Spiral: A Calendar of Poetry: No Coming, No Going is, paradoxically a book of journeying, of pilgrimage. It carries the reader through beautiful windows into a lifetime of discovering that which is always there, but always in hiding. It is a portrait of self-discovery, guided by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and companioned by an adorable dog, “pure mutt and all love”. Serafina, the angel who lightens the way. ‘In a world increasingly dominated by rules, regulations, and big money’ this is a personal journey, carrying the reader through vivid pictures of people and places; out from loneliness into belonging; from pain and confusion to awareness and engagement. On one level it is a marvelous travel book; on another it is a search for home and self-worth. It is full of deep questing and moment-to-moment delight. Thank you, Janelle, for taking me with you on this rich and heartfelt exploration, with all that is brought.