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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 73 elephants have proven to be very useful companions, but they’re not born that way. A wild elephant runs away or goes on the at- tack. Such a large jittery animal can do a lot of damage and is not much fun to ride. Sound familiar? So, how do you train one? In short simple steps, Chozen Bays says. For developing mind- fulness, she offers fifty-three concise training exercises—a year’s worth if you work with one per week as she suggests. They range from the profound (study suffering) to the deceptively simple (look up) to the habit-confounding (use your non-dominant hand). If you finish them all and your elephant is still a little rest- less, you can start all over again. A lot of scientific research confirming the power of emotional intelligence and offering models for how it works has been done since Daniel Goleman released his landmark book Emotional Intelligence in 1995. In The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (More Than Sound), Goleman offers an updated introduction and guide to emotional intelligence in a condensed e-book format. This new type of book offers many owners of e-readers and tablet com- puters (iPad, for example) a size of book that would be uneconomical in print. At fifty-six pages and with large colorful diagrams, this book is more like a pamphlet, and it does its job beautifully. To get a clear and yet nuanced understanding of emotional in- telligence and how scientists currently talk about its operation in the brain, this electronic booklet fits the bill. I expect to see lots more in this format. The category of mindfulness fiction has been wide open, and now with Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda (Wisdom Publications), writer Lauren Alderfer and illustrator Kerry Lee MacLean (author of Peaceful Piggy Meditation) have made a serious entry into the field. It’s not all that serious, though, since it is intended for children. While I’m certain children will love it, adults are going to enjoy it nearly as much. It’s a page turner. I’ve read it five times myself, and intend to read it again. Suffice it to say that Monkey has issues. When he’s walking, he’s thinking about chores. When he’s doing chores, he’s thinking about reading. When he’s reading, he’s thinking about eating. We all can identify with Monkey. Fortunately, so can Panda, and he’s got some great advice. It’s also fortunate that his advice is straightforward, non-judgmental, and non-preachy. We all could use a little Panda. THERE ARE PLENTY of good books these days on cultivating mindfulness, awareness, and compassion. Here are a few that have especially caught my eye since last year’s mindful living issue. While it seems questionable that mindfulness can be learned and maintained solely through a book—a method one wag calls “shelf help”—a how-to guide can be a great aid to an existing practice. The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Every- day Problems (Guilford Press) by Harvard psy- chotherapist Ronald Siegel offers one of the best available compendiums of tips and techniques for applying mindfulness actively in your life, rather than leaving it in your meditation room. Siegel travels through the full range of life diffi- culties that arrive at the therapist’s door, includ- ing, fear, sadness, depression, pain, stress, loss, compulsion, illness, aging, and dying. In each case, what’s appealing about this book is the voice. It encourages us to apply mindfulness using a gentle and often humorous tone, which we can adopt as our own. I suspect that those of us dealing with the difficulties covered in The Mindfulness Solution (and who isn’t?) need a little help and guidance from live human beings, but this book also lets us know that there is a lot we can do ourselves. Many of us safely assume that a program of the “X Days to Lasting Y” variety—with Y being weight loss, financial freedom, or career success—is a gimmick. And Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-day Program ( Wo r k - man Publishing Company) by Sharon Salz- berg would seem to fit that bill. Yet beyond the gimmicky title, this book has real depth. Salzberg has a feel for our minds and how they work—for good or ill—that comes from years of clocking in twenty-eight day stretches of mind training. Whether you fol- low the program step by step doesn’t really matter. You can open this digestible little book to any page at any time and find a valuable insight or useable practice. As a bonus, chapter 2 provides one of the clearest overviews of the current science on mindfulness I’ve seen. Sometimes an analogy fits so well you forget it’s an analogy. Reading How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness (Shambhala Publications), by Jan Chozen Bays, I truly see how my mind is an elephant in need of a worthy trainer. In India over the centuries, Reading on the Mind BY BARRY BOYCE The Mindful Society