Monday, January 2, 2012

How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays

How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness

Those of you who follow my blog will have noticed I have not written in some time. This blog is about books, and even the most exciting fiction couldn’t compete with events in my own life these past few months. “Scattered” would be a kind way of describing my state of mind as I struggled to focus on tasks in front of me. I found myself murmuring “mindfulness” in an effort to keep my attention focused on things that perhaps matter more to others than to myself.

Jan Chozen Bays has written a book that brings us back to ourselves and calmly, gently, laughingly teaches us to focus on immediate tasks…not to get them over with but to be guided by the process. This is book meant to be read slowly, which is a good thing, for it took me a year. Each chapter is meant to be read one week at a time, giving us time to perform the daily exercise for a week. It gives us time to savor the moments of everyday life, not rush through them as though there were somewhere to be other than where we are.

Everyone can do these exercises. They do not require special equipment or set-aside time. They do require some flexibility, and the author encourages us to do them with a group that may meet at the end of a week and discuss the results. This seems a fine way to grow in closeness, since, as the author points out, intimacy is what we humans crave more than any other thing.

Whether or not one completes the exercises for a week at a time, just reading about them brings a sense of peace, lengthens the spine, deepens the breath. One wants to be in that place of mindfulness. And it is a book one can pull out again and again to remind oneself what it is to be “in the moment,” to focus, to notice. The group of exercises themselves will undoubtedly bring a sense of control, and of peace, to those that practice.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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