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“Meditation is Not What You Think” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I picked this book up on a whim. I was at a Barnes & Noble café getting a coffee, and they were offering $5 off this book with any café purchase, so I could not pass it up. I had not read any Kabat-Zinn books, but had heard great things about him and was eager to read his work.

Overall, I really liked the book, a lot. It is the first in a four-book series, and was originally published as part of a larger book called Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. It seems like it is the appropriate length, and that it might have lost some of its impact if buried within a bigger tome.

In his introduction to the book, Jon eloquently expresses something that I have been feeling, that humanity is at a crossroads, or a threshold, and that the collective choices we make now will impact the course of humankind.

I don’t know about you, but for myself, it feels like we are at a critical juncture of life on this planet. It could go any number of different ways. It seems that the world is on fire and so are our hearts, inflamed with fear and uncertainty, lacking all conviction, and often filled with passionate but unwise intensity. How we manage to see ourselves and the world at this juncture will make a huge difference in the way things unfold. What emerges for us as individuals and as a society in future moments will be shaped in large measure by whether and how we make use of our innate and incomparable capacity for awareness in this moment. It will be shaped by what we choose to do to heal the underlying distress, dissatisfaction, and outright dis-ease of our lives and our times, even as we nourish and protect all that is good and beautiful and healthy in ourselves and in the world.

(p. xxiii)

While there is a wealth of insight and information in this short book, for me, there is one critical paragraph that, although long, really encapsulates everything that this book coveys: that collectively, we need to slow down, become more mindful of our thoughts and actions, and begin to shift the direction of humanity toward the kind of sane, sustainable, and supportive future that we so desperately need.

As the pace of our lives continues to accelerate, driven by a host of forces seemingly beyond our control, more and more of us are finding ourselves drawn to engage in meditation, in this radical act of being, this radical act of love, astonishing as it may seem given the materialistic “can do,” speed-obsessed, progress-obsessed, celebrity-and-other-people’s-lives-obsessed, social media-obsessed orientation of our culture. We are moving in the direction of meditative awareness for many reasons, not the least of which may be to maintain our individual and collective sanity, or recover our perspective and sense of meaning, or simply to deal with the outrageous stress and insecurity of this age. By stopping and intentionally falling awake to how things are in this moment, purposefully, without succumbing to our own reactions and judgments, and by working wisely with such occurrences with a healthy dose of self-compassion when we do succumb, and by our willingness to take up residency for a time in the present moment in spite of all our plans and activities aimed at getting somewhere else, completing a project or pursuing desired objects or goals, we discover that such an act is both immensely, discouragingly difficult yet utterly simple, profound, hugely possible after all, and restorative of mind and body, soul and spirit right in that moment.

(pp. 71 – 72)

Our paradigm is about to shift in a huge way, and I for one will do everything I can to attempt to make this shift a positive one, and that begins by changing myself. I have made a lot of conscious changes in my life over the past couple years, and continue to examine myself honestly to see where I can continue to grow and improve. Meditation and mindfulness practice have played an important role in these personal changes. I encourage you to pick up this book and begin to manifest changes in the world by changing yourself, if you have not already begun to do so. If you have already started on this path, I encourage you to continue. What we do today is important.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my musings.

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Thoughts on “American Gods: My Ainsel” by Neil Gaiman: Issue 01

This series has been on a long hiatus, but is finally back. While the artwork is not the best, the writing and the storyline are both excellent. But then again, I have not read anything by Neil Gaiman that I did not like.

There are a couple passages in this issue that are worth mentioning.

The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do.

I agree 100%. The pages of history are filled with stories of self-righteous fanatics who committed heinous acts because they were somehow convinced that they were doing the right thing. And this continues to this day. Any social or political issue that is contentious will have people convinced that they are on the right side of the argument, and will use that belief to justify their behaviors and actions.

There’s our bookstore. What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.

I am grateful that I live in a city that boasts several very good bookstores, and I try to support them as much as my finances allow. But just knowing they are there, being able to go in, peruse the aisles, get a coffee, is important to me. There is just something about a bookstore that fosters a connection, for me anyway. I feel that when I am in a bookstore, I am surrounded by kindred spirits.

Anyway, not much more to share about this. Hope you have an inspiring day, and get thee to your local bookstore soon.

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“Horse Child Breakfast” by Richard Brautigan

PillVersusSpringhillCoverThis morning, as I drank a cup of rich, Italian roast coffee, I read the following poem by Richard Brautigan:

Horse child breakfast,
what are you doing to me?
with your long blonde legs?
with your long blonde face?
with your long blonde hair?
with your perfect blonde ass?

I swear I’ll never be the same again!

Horse child breakfast,
what you’re doing to me,
I want done forever.

This poem conjures a really sweet image, that of a young man feeling the first stirring of love for a young woman after an intimate evening. I picture the woman as a free-spirited hippie girl. She is someone I imagine running barefoot through long grass, wind blowing her long blonde hair. In the morning light which casts a golden hue over her, the young man sees her as the beautiful, free person who she is and is overwhelmed by the desire to stay with her for the rest of his life, to bask in that moment of beauty and contentment.

One of the magical things about poetry is the way a writer can express pure emotion in very few words. This is something Brautigan does perfectly with this poem. There is no fluff here, nothing superfluous, just a quick glimpse inside a person, the sharing of pure joy and wonder.

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Kick-Ass: Issue #6

KickAss_6I am in the midst of reading a very good novel, so this morning I had to decide whether to read the next issue of Kick-Ass or continue with the book. I decided to read Issue #6 since it would be a quick read and then I would have something to write about.

It was a quick read, but unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot to write about. This was essentially one of those move-the-storyline-along issues. I could go into the details, but I hate spoilers. Basically, Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl, and Big Daddy end up falling for a trap set by the mafia, and in classic comic-book style, the installment leaves you hanging at the end. I’m tempted to read Issue #7 when I finish writing this, but I think I’ll read a chapter or two in Gone Girl before everyone wakes up. One of the great things about being an obsessive early-riser is that quiet time early in the morning when you can sit, drink coffee, and read. I am off to bask in that feeling.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Kick-Ass: Issue #5

KickAss_5There is nothing quite like drinking coffee and reading a comic at 5:30 in the morning.

This installment is excellent, probably my favorite so far. Instead of focusing on blood and fighting (there is neither in this issue), the writer incorporates some great social commentary.

This issue introduces Red Mist, a new “superhero” who captures the media attention and causes Kick-Ass to become envious. The public begins taking sides on who is the better superhero, resulting in tee-shirts claiming “Red Mist > Kick Ass.”

Dave: Actually, it’s the most stupid thing I ever saw. Red Mist is greater than Kick-Ass? What age are you, man? Ten?

Store Clerk: People just like taking sides, Dave. Is Batman cooler than Superman? Is Bourne better than Bond?

This sums up one of the biggest issues I see in society today. People always feel the need to pick a side or a “team” and support them whether they are right or wrong. Politics is the perfect example. Are you Democrat or Republican? Liberal or conservative? If you are part of the other team, then I will oppose you no matter what. It is this mentality that has led us to the situation that we are now in, where nothing gets done anymore because no one wants to be a “traitor” and collaborate with the other side. It’s like the team-sports mentality has seeped in to every aspect of our society.

The other thing that is addressed in this issue, and also in previous issues, is social media. Emphasis is placed on how social media defines who we are in today’s world. Bloggers provide commentary on events and that often sways public opinion. Additionally, success is measured in the number of hits or friends you have online, as demonstrated when Dave relishes the fact that he has “Two million hits on Google. A hundred thousand friends on MySpace.”

The issue ends with Hit-Girl and Big Daddy asking Kick-Ass if he wants to join them on a mission fighting against the mob. I suspect the red ink will be used liberally in the following installment. I’ll have my review up soon. Cheers!

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