Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘mind’

As the Mind Turns

Reprobates by Louise Blackwick.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

417SIUTkDtLNothing is what it seems when Marc Whitehouse and Chantal Innes check into the Totermann Inn to join the thousands coming to England to witness the once every 4000 years solar eclipse, which has all the planets aligned at the same time. Everything becomes disorienting and bizarre, as Marc tries to get some sleep in a room that has a window nailed shut, and a large rat he calls Chubby. There is also a mysterious elderly lady (Chantal Innes), who innkeeper (Rob Sequies) says, “practically lives here”.

Reprobates reminded me of the film Barton Fink, where John Torturro plays a screenwriter frantically trying to finish a screenplay. He doesn’t sleep for days, starts to see things, and begins to question his sanity. The twists and turns in his mind, as to what is real and what isn’t, are seen as he sees them. It also has elements of the movie Shutter Island, though I will not say anything further about, especially the ending.

Here are a few brief lines from Ms. Blackwick’s well written tale. “He couldn’t bring the last of his memories into focus; he couldn’t bring order to the chaos of his mind. He shut his eyes, allowing his mind to be flooded by the maddening sound of falling rain, the escape attempts of the fly and the squealing of a hungry Chubby. A little past midnight, Marc no longer looked forward to any future.”

If you enjoy a story that doesn’t give anything away, and keeps you guessing about what is going on, then you’re in for a treat with Reprobates. The author writes believable scenes, and takes readers’ inside the head of Marc, as he loses his bearings, and questions how he go to where he is, what his life is about, and why his father keeps coming back to visit him in dreams and visions.

Strange Bodily Happenings

My Terrible Book of Happiness… Love, Anxiety and Everything
by Margaret Lesh. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51DM674eXbL._SY346_One of the things I greatly appreciate about My Terrible Book of Happiness, is that Ms. Lesh doesn’t claim to be an “expert”, or have all the answers, but simply shares what she has experienced, and what has helped her in her life, when anxiety, hopelessness, and depression are present. The very first line says, “There is no one-size-fits-all cure to sadness, but it helps when we share our life experiences – the stumbling parts, the dark places – so we know we are not alone. The end of 2016 and first half of 2017 found me mired in a trap of anxiety, worry, and depression: three things I happen to be good at.”

These essays, antidotes, stories, and trivia, includes four sections (Anxiety, Peace, Love, and Hope). One of suggestions is to take a break from social media and the news, and only take it in in small amounts. There is also a chapter with a great title “Swiss Cake Rolls, Other Strange Bodily Happenings, and Walking”, where she shares the affects that having a child and going through menopause have had on her belly and health, and the benefits of exercise to not only make one fit, but to also ease anxiety. This essay is called “Move It, Baby”. The author speaks frankly, and insightfully, about the benefits of meditation in her section called “Meditation for the Meditatively Challenged (Like Me)”.

After a number of entertaining, and enlightening stories and events, Ms. Lesh summarizes what she has learned by saying, “Unplugging, turning inward, reassessing, and refocusing on my mental and physical health were what I needed to do to pull myself out of my long slump. Walking, yoga, meditation, prayer, active gratitude, mindfulness, music, laughter, and spending time in nature are all things that helped me through the dark times.” The postscript includes a list of what has helped her the most, resources available to readers’ and numbers to call for help. My Terrible Book of Happiness isn’t sad, or depressing, but hopeful, honest, and perhaps a lifeline for someone reading the words within.

I Couldn’t Breathe

Anxiety Girl by Lacy London.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Some people’s reality as fiction, and fictional fears may become reality. Anxiety Girl is told by Sadie Valentine, as her world feels like it is falling apart. She describes her symptoms to the pharmacist. “My chest became really tight like someone was squeezing me from the inside. My head started to pound and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was like I was drowning. I really thought I was going to die.” Ms. London’s imaginary character is a reflection of what many experience.

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The author states in the prologue that she wanted to write a fictional story that dealt with a real-life situation, one that she has experienced herself. She does so with insight, interest, and flare. Sadie is lucky to have a close friend, Aldo, who is also her roommate. He sticks by her through thick and thin, as she begins to feel as if her world is turning upside down and she’s going to fall off. She thinks everything is fine, and that it is the breakup with her boyfriend that triggers her intense fear and helplessness. It’s not.

Characters in the story seem like people you might know if you live in Chelsea (London), and have the luxury of time on your hands to be creative, hang out with friends, and go out dancing and drinking every night. That is what Sadie attempts to do after the breakup, with one man after another, and one drink following the last one. No matter what she does to avoid, or numb, her feelings, takes a toll, and it doesn’t work. After a scene in a restaurant, she begins to spiral downwards, and doesn’t know what to do.

Degrees of anxiety and depression are experienced by countless individuals throughout the world. It is nothing to be ashamed of, yet too often we are. Ironically, we have no problem telling someone, or seeking help for, a broken arm or flu, but when it is our mind and emotions that are effected, it becomes hush hush. Mental health is just one aspect of our overall health. With Anxiety Girl, Ms. London gives us a story that can help us know what anxiety feels like, that we aren’t alone, and that help is available.

RESOURCES:
Anxiety Anonymous
Work of Jodi Aman
Book by Constans

Five Pillars

51OeRQe8OxLDeep Personal Transformation: How to Achieve Inner Harmony and Ultimate Happiness by Nebo D. Lukovich. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

In my life, and that of most I know, I have learned how personal transformation can be the result of suffering and hardships. I’ve written extensively about resilience and the insights people can have when going through intense loss and trauma. In Deep Personal Transformation Mr. Lukovich provides an additional way to make such progress, or develop this inner knowledge, without having to jump into the fire before finding the water to put it out.

He writes, “Permanent transformation can essentially be achieved in two ways: through suffering or through wisdom. Either we painfully push forward through any obstacle or disappointment, learning our lessons the hard way and emerging from the experience more mature, or we chose a path of love, consciousness, and wisdom, which also makes us mature, but in a far more enjoyable and effective manner. This book is all about learning the second, the superior way.”

By integrating neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics, with accompanying illustrations, graphs, and quotes, Mr. Lukovich presents his reintegration technique. He says it is a result of over two years of daily meditating and mindfulness practice. The five pillars of this methodology are: 1) There exists an underlying reality, 2) Everything is interconnected, 3) The outer world is a mirror of our inner being, 4) Apparently negative inner structures have a positive origin and purpose, and 5) This is a world of polarities. In many ways, it all comes down to transforming the mind content with presence, also known as mindfulness.

The Inner Triangle is the main technique and consists of: Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI), Moving to the Heart (MH), and Dissolving the Temporary I Plus (DTI+). Though some of these practices and exercises at first sound complicated, the author breaks them down into discernible parts which are easily digestible and easy to use. Deep Personal Transformation is practical, methodical, and comprehensively designed. Mr. Lukovich states it so eloquently in closing. “Countless lessons are here to be learned, at our disposal, if only we are aware of them. In these lie the real strength of this system. Through your personal work and meditation and mindfulness, you will elevate your consciousness to unexpected levels.”

It Has Its Own Shape

Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss by Dipti Tait.
Review by Gabriel Constans.

411Up78mHJLGood Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is rich with personal insight, and emotional intelligence. The following quote alone is worth the book’s weight in gold. “It’s a natural process, like the tides that come in and out on the shore of the ocean of your consciousness. Some are high; some are low. It’s about learning how to surf the waves of grief and not drown in the intense sorrow of loss.” Ms. Tait shares the story of her experiences and reactions to her mother and father’s deaths, and how she has learned to not only ride the waves, but to help others stand up on their own board.

The realizations of grief’s depth and width within our lives is written with clarity, honesty, and compassion. The author’s realization that loss is variable and unique to each individual, based on a myriad of factors and conditioning, is vital for acceptance and healing. “A grieving period is individual to the person who grieves. It has its own shape, form and identity based on belief systems, personal experiences and our own unique programming.” This is so true, and yet we often want a cookie-cutter method of how to proceed and navigate loss, without taking our uniqueness into consideration.

This book shares many aspects of grief that we may feel, or think about, but often do not acknowledge, let alone process. There are chapters on loneliness, guilt, shock, stress, and the reality of loss in our daily lives, as well as the possibility for growth. Ms. Tait provides a number of ways to work with our emotions and thoughts that surround grief. These include journaling, the Three P’s (Positive thought, Positive Actions, Positive Activity), moving into emotional intelligence, and the “No/Yes Principle”. “The self-healing process begins when a person can recognize that they want to change.”

There is little doubt that Good Grief: A Companion to Change and Loss is well worth your time and attention. You may also find that it helps you live with the pain of loss with a little more understanding, and acceptance, and provides that bit of support that perhaps you had not have realized was needed, or available. In addition to getting a copy of Good Grief, by Ms. Dipti Tait, you may also wish to take a look at my book Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter. It is similar to Ms. Tait’s, but told through the eyes of a number of people experiencing the death of a loved one, as well as my interactions with them.

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

The Art of Thinking

51M7PrIvLmL._SY346_Who Are We: Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of One Another by Hussam Atef Elkhatib, Ph.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

How we think about experiences, places, or situations, and what we are aware of when and while we do, provides infinite possibilities to see ourselves and connect with others, by seeing their perspective and conditioning. Who Are We looks closely at practically every thing in life that can, and does, contribute to and shapes, who we are, how we see the world, and why we react the way to do to what is before us. Dr. Elkhatib offers the means with which we may use this awareness to, “Guide our vision through the way we see things.”

Though many of the topics may seem obvious at first, I have never seen such an extensive collection, and discussion, of all the factors which shape who we are, and how we behave, in one place. Each area is looked at closely with short essay-type sections. To give an overview of what is offered, here are some of the chapters that are included: 1) When You Were Born 2) Where You Were Born 3) The Control We have over What 8) How We Are 11) The Reason Behind Everything 13) The Art of Thinking 18) Internal Influences 20) Our Perceptions 24) What We Believe 26) Seeing the Big Picture.

Here is an example of some of the thoughts within. Nothing new, but said simply and with insightful precision.

Seeing things the way they are enables us to accept reality and deal with it. It contributes to our peace of mind.

People are eventually the same. Some of the things they can control while other things they have no control over.

We are more alike than we are different, though it is in observing and studying the differences, and how our environment, home, country, beliefs, conditioning, thoughts, and actions create who we are, that we begin to see the basic humanity that runs through us all. When our minds are open, and we look at our thoughts, it provides the opportunity to also see ourselves through the eyes of one another and discover that who we are is always in relation to other people, things, and circumstances. Take the time to ask the question, and open the pages of Who Are We.

 

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