Posted by: librivore | January 15, 2009

Another Book Up For Review

Just for a change of pace (and to get out of my own head for a little while), I thought I’d start to review one of the books I picked up for one of my classes this semester.

Strength in the Storm: Creating Calm in Difficult Times: Eknath Easwaran

Obviously this is a book that appeals to me, since I’m going through several difficult times at once right now. This book presents what my teacher calls “mindfulness meditation.” When I first started reading it I thought I’d accidentally picked up the wrong book because psychology teachers don’t normally present this kind of material, period, let alone as actually credible. But, here it is, telling me to pick up a mantram and use it, even when I’m feeling okay.

This will be an incomplete review since I’ve only read the first three chapters, but so far I’m still rather intrigued by the fact that this is actually being used a textbook. Not only that, but there is helpful advice in here, although the reader must set aside some of the hokey-sounding though rather confident in the quiet ways one can train the mind to live in the moment. Using the mantram seems to be the dominant tip here, but they also mention making a “To Be” list, recognizing the hold that our concept of time has over us–many things that Americans especially would consider sacrilege.

One thing that I do find particularly annoying, however, is that the book preaches focusing on the task at hand: “Attention doesn’t wander because a job is dull. It’s the other way around – a job seems dull when we allow our attention to wander” (55), but it has all of these little colored boxes and quotes that stand out from the rest of the text. If that’s not one hell of a contribution to my mind taking off wandering, I don’t know what is. As a reader, I would normally try to keep up with all of these things, but this book presents itself a contradition and it irritates the living hell out of me.

Setting that aside, though, I find that this mantram does help in the attempts I make to keep myself calm. The key, the book says, is to use it often, like when you’re standing in line or washing dishes or whatever. If the task does not require your mind, then say the mantram. It apparently digs deep into you so that when you are experiencing negative feelings, you automatically start to use your mantram, and it keeps your mind calm and clear. This is only my first report back on how it’s working, but even just using it as a tool keeps me kind of calm. I hope that when I’m done with the book, I’ll be able to utilize all of the tools and it’ll keep me calm when I need it the most.

So far I’ve been unimpressed with my classes. I was hoping for a pretty easy semester, but it’s starting to look not as easy as I’d hoped. For one thing, I do have to churn out some papers for one class, and a project for another. Granted, it won’t be as bad as having even just one English class, but I was hoping to focus more on my writing, for myself, not for my teachers. And right now, my biggest issue is feeling so burned out already in the first week that I can’t seem to make myself care much if I don’t go to class sometimes.

That being said, however, I find my own work fascinating and encouraging. I’ve somehow managed to pump out four chapters, and a prologue, for my book. I had hopes that I could finish it by the end of the month, but just thinking about homework slows me down and gives me a headache. At least I know I’m on the right track–the more I work on it, the faster I’ll get it done and out the door. Look out, publishing world, I’m hunting you. šŸ˜›

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