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‘Book Reviews’ Category

  1. Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing

    February 17, 2019 by Diane

    The authors, building on their interest and study in the philosophical and spiritual traditions of East and West, and borrowing teachings from the ancients to present day, developed a program for emotional fitness and general wellbeing called LIFE XT. They tried it on themselves. They tried it on others. And now there’s a vast community of people who have read this book*, or taken the course, and who follow the program to ease a host of problems, from anxiety and depression to feelings of disconnection, lack of focus, and general blah.

    It’s the subtitle that caught my eye. I like the idea of mastering the habit of wellbeing. And the authors include an interesting technique on how to build a habit and make it stick. Hint: it involves setting up a cue.

    So, what’s the program? In a nutshell: First, you “train” your body and mind with meditation, movement, and what the authors call “inquiry,” or examining stressful thoughts. Second, you practice “being” in the moment through presence, gratitude, and compassion. Last, you practice “doing” through engagement, relationships, and contributing to the world, or at least to the people you meet in the grocery store. Over nine weeks, by adding one practice a week, you will, according to the authors, notice an improvement in your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

    Being the self-improvement junky that I am, I’m game. If nothing else, the book does a nice job of bringing together a wealth of wisdom that can be applied to everyday life.

    *I read the actual book. You know, one of those things that come with pages and don’t require headphones, a battery, or an electronic device. Just saying.


  2. Book Review: The Productivity Project

    July 9, 2017 by Diane

    The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and EnergyThe Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    A guy takes a year off from work to experiment with ways to be more productive, but experimenting to the extreme. Like meditating for 35 hours a week. Or taking in no nourishment (because it’s too time-consuming!) other than a powdered drink called Soylent, which sounds like something made from humans, but isn’t. And isolating himself in a basement for 10 days. Is this guy a monk yearning for a cave? No. He’s Chris Bailey, and he’s come up with a whole new way of looking at time management, procrastination, and being more productive which, to my mind, is refreshing.

    For starters: evidently, it’s human nature to procrastinate. Chris looks at this bad habit as, basically, putting something off for your future self to deal with. Personally, I never thought of it that way. And he offers suggestions for connecting to that future self. Like a nifty website called FutureMe.org, where you can send yourself an email that arrives days, weeks, months, or years from today. How cool is that!?

    Time management gets a new spin with Chris, too. He talks about scheduling three things a day, releasing the unimportant, plowing through chores on a “Maintenance Day,” rather than getting sidetracked with them throughout the week, and working on projects in less time to force yourself to focus.

    To be productive, we need to manage more than our time. We need to harness our energy, too. We need to track our most energetic times of the day and schedule important tasks during those times, and unimportant tasks when we’re brain-dead (like at 3:00 in the afternoon). We need to eat, exercise, and sleep well, and Chris covers tips on how to do all three (which doesn’t involve Soylent).

    The third ingredient of productivity, along with managing time and energy, is managing attention. Here, Chris brings up the benefits of a meditation practice, and reassures the reader that meditation doesn’t require sitting in a lotus position for hours. He talks about working slowly and mindfully to work more deliberately, and introduces the twenty-second rule for avoiding distractions. He busts the myth that multi-tasking makes us more efficient, and hails the art of doing one thing at a time.

    This is the best book on productivity I’ve read, and I’ve read many. Not only does the author shine new light on the subject, but through his year-long experiment and the knowledge gained through interviewing productivity experts, he’s put together a program that’s imminently doable. As a bonus? He starts each chapter with an estimated reading time, down to the second. And it was spot-on, for me.


  3. Book Review: Hope and Help for Your Nerves

    December 14, 2016 by Diane

    hope-and-help-for-your-nerves

    I don’t know if this book is still in print, but it’s worth scoping around used bookstores to find a copy so you can underline helpful passages. And there’s much to underline here.

    First, Claire Weekes uses the old-fashioned term “nervous illness,” which sounds more tolerable to me than the word anxiety. She takes the shame out of anxiety by referring to the illness as “severe sensitization” of the nervous system. Nerves become sensitized after a surgery, a major illness, prolonged tension, dieting, and whatever stresses the body. The body reacts with the symptoms of anxiety: a churning stomach, sweaty hands, racing heart, etc. These reactions become a habit.

    Second, the author explains every symptom in her no-nonsense yet reassuring tone, taking the fear out of the experience.

    Third, she encourages the reader to face the fearful symptoms, and not add to them through what she calls “second fear”–those worrisome what if thoughts that keep the stomach churning, the palms sweating, the heart racing.

    She reminds us that overcoming a case of sensitization doesn’t happen quickly, but, like any habit, it can be changed. The sufferer can be cured.

    This book, as well as a steady practice of meditation, helped me kick the panic habit. If I overtax myself, or stop taking my “meditation medication” and start becoming sensitized again, I often reach for this book, and Dr. Weekes’ understanding, encouraging voice, to steady my nerves again.