Book review- Letting Go : The Pathway To Surrender

After reading all the books on mindfulness, the secret behind staying in the present is letting go of the past. I searched for practical tips on letting go and found this book.
 
Hawkins gives you a different perspective towards how to approach life and explains each of them with examples on how it changed lives and quotes the research material wherever available. 
 
In retrospection, this is not a book to read as a nighttime story and get done with.I haven’t learnt letting go by the time I was done with it. There is no step by step instruction or everyday exercises which I can follow to make it a practice. That was a disappointment for me. Otherwise, the various other information about emotions and energy levels was quite useful for me as I have been searching for books on that topic since a very long time. According to my understanding, you are majorly stuck at one level, but we can fluctuate between various levels throughout the day. 
 
You can benefit from the book, if you read it for the first time to understand the content and pick it up again to read one concept at a time and absorb it deeply and make it a part of your identity before you move to the next one.
 

Detailed Review

 
Chapter 1 – Introduction
 
The foreword and preface were boring enough to question my choice of picking up the book. But when I read the plethora of options people choose to deal with life from psychotherapy to meditation and everything in between but nothing seems to work for them, that is when I fell in love with the book. I thought Hawkins was going to introduce me to something which I haven’t tried before. But after that he again bores you with high promises being made on how he is going to make your life better without coming to the point.
 
Chapter 2 – The Mechanism of Letting go
 
This chapter was mind opening for me. I wonder why no one taught how to handle emotions back at school. Hawkins says that there are three ways to handle emotions : suppression, expression and escape. If you ever wondered how Netflix sustains itself, it lives off on your need to escape from emotions.  All the heart attacks at a young age are from the repressed and suppressed feelings. You are mistaken like me if you thought expressing is the best way to deal with feelings. When you express, you are giving the feeling greater energy to take over your life and also the remnants of expression are going to be suppressed.
 
“Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it.”
 
Now this sounds so simple. But how to do it in real is why I picked this book. How do I know when I am resisting the feeling or letting it run its course?
 
“To be surrendered means to have no strong emotion about a thing: “It’s okay if it happens, and it’s okay if it doesn’t.”
 
Now this is the crux of Bhagavad Gita too, do your work and don’t expect the results.
 
Chapter 3 – The Anatomy of Emotions
 
Here is where it gets interesting. I only knew before that there are negative, neutral and positive emotions. But Hawkins introduces you to a scale of emotions with an energy tag for each of them. Lowest on the scale is Shame and highest is Peace. In this chapter, he only gives a brief description of each. Anything which is below the level of courage is negative. At the level of courage, you repairing one area of your life helps in other areas of life too.
 
Chapter 4 – Apathy and depression
 
Starting with this chapter, he gives a detailed description to give yourself a reality check on where you stand in the energy scale and what you can do to embrace the let go technique.
 
1.I can’t vs I won’t
 
“Most “I can’ts” are really “I won’ts.” Behind the “I can’ts” or the “I won’ts” is frequently a fear. Then, when we look at the truth of what is behind the feeling, we have already moved up the scale from apathy to fear.”
 
2.Blame – Playing the victim card
 
“One of the laws of consciousness is: We are only subject to a negative thought or belief if we consciously say that it applies to us. We are free to choose not to buy into a negative belief system.”
 
“when we let go of blame, we experience forgiveness.”
 
3.Getting the positive energy
 
“choose to be with other persons who have resolved the problem with which we struggle”
 
Chapter 5 – Grief
 
“ Acceptance is different from resignation. Resignation says, “I don’t like it, but I have to put up with it.”
 
“God, Grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the
Courage to change the things I can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference.”
 
“Where am I looking to get love rather than to give it?”
 
“Internal joy comes from pleasure of giving and loving then we are really invulnerable to loss”
 
Chapter 6 – Fear
 
“What one holds in mind tends to manifest. What this means is that any thought which we consistently hold in mind and consistently give energy to will tend to come into our life according to the very form in which our mind has held it.”
 
“The more fear we hold, the more fearful situations we attract to our life”
 
Chapter 7 – Desire
 
“the essential point of freedom is whether we have chosen consciously to fulfil a certain want, or whether we are just being blindly run by unconscious programs and belief systems.”
 
“Desire, especially strong desire (e.g., cravingness), frequently blocks our getting what we want.”
 
“identify the goals and then let go of wanting them”
 
“the unconscious will allow us to have only what we think we deserve”
 
Chapter 8 – Anger
 
“The way to offset this anger is to acknowledge and relinquish the pride, surrender our desire for the pleasure of self-pity and, instead, view our efforts on behalf of others as gifts. We can experience the joy of being generous with others as its own reward.”
 
Chapter 9 – Pride
 
“The attempt to suppress pride out of guilt simply does not work.”
 
“Pride is sometimes seen as a motivator of achievement, what would be its higher level substitute? One answer would be joy. What is wrong with joy as the reward for successful achievement, rather than pride?”
 
Chapter 10 – Courage
 
This chapter doesn’t have any suggestions. It only talks about how great a state courage is to be in.
 
“On the level of courage, we really start becoming conscious. It dawns on us that we have the freedom and the capacity to choose.”
 
Chapter 11 – Acceptance
 
“I’m okay,” “You’re okay,” and “It’s okay.”
 
Chapter 12 – Love
 
“Forgiveness is an aspect of love that allows us to see life events from the viewpoint of grace.”
 
“Out of humility, all opinions about others are surrendered”
 
Chapter 13 – Peace
 
It is a state achieved by people like Buddha. Just good to know about it but might be impractical to reach it.
 
Chapter14-Chapter 20
 
From here on, it is loads of theory backed by research and examples. You can feel free to skip these chapters unless you are not convinced that letting go works.
 
Happy letting go!
 

Book Review – The Mindful Way Workbook

The Mindfulway workbook is an MBCT ( mindfulness based cognitive therapy). In addition to cognitive therapy, where you are expected to identify the negative chatter which runs through your mind, mindfulness brings awareness that the chatter is happening in this moment. The main aim of mindfulness is to help you identify the ego which is causing the chatter and thereby keeping depression and anxiety at bay.
 
MBCT has been tested on countless depressed patients and showed tremendous improvement in them. Just because it is a therapy, it is not just for dealing with trauma but a wonderful guide to learn to apply mindfulness in everyday life.
 
I discovered this book when I was searching for practical ways to lead a mindful life. Once I went through the book, I discovered how I was already doing some of the practices mentioned in the book and how adding a few more to my everyday life can bring tremendous change. Even though they give you more than a doable number of tasks each week, I suggest that you start slow. Pick something small from all you have read. Do it for a week or a month. Once that becomes a part of your identity, pick up the next habit. 
 
Once I started following what was mentioned in the book, almost for 10 days, I experienced a sort of bliss which never happened to me anytime before. As always, when you try to do a lot of new things, you can’t sustain them for a long time. Now, when I could not keep up with so many new habits, my life went back to normal. Unless you are depressed and need immediate relief, the best way to use the book is pick up one idea at a time.
 
The key habits mentioned in the book are
 

  1. Body scan
  2. Bringing awareness to Routines
  3. Mindful eating
  4. Pleasant experiences calendar
  5. Mindfulness of Breathing
  6. 3 Minute breathing space
  7. Unpleasant experiences calendar
  8. Mindful stretching
  9. Sitting Meditation
  10. Mindful walking

 
Pick Mindful way workbook as the next book on mindfulness if you want some practical tips on mindfulness.
 
Happy Mindfulness!

Book Review – Eckhart Tolle -The Power of now

Power of Now was in my to-read list for 3 years. All I knew about it was the story of a man who went from suicidal feelings to a joyous life. In my pursuit of mindfulness, I ended up picking this as the first book.
 
The entire book revolves around one concept “Now”. The past is for regrets and the future is for anxiety. The only moment you have control over is now. But you are wasting it away in the past or future. 
 

Why should you read this book?

 
I felt motivated to stay in the present after reading the book. There are a few instances in the book where Tolle questions you and gives you tips to stay in the present which are quite helpful. Apart from that the book is mainly theory on mindfulness which helps you catch yourself from drifting. 
 
Two main concepts which influenced my life.
 
1.Timelessness
 
We measure time in seconds but when you stay in the present is when you go into timelessness. It sounds absurd but at the same time means so much.
 
2.Giving energy to an emotion
 
After reading the book, whenever I experience a negative emotion, I keep a check on what are the thoughts I am holding to which is providing energy to the emotion and fueling it. I don’t live in the present like Tolle but this sort of awareness will definitely help me get closer to it.
 
This book is not for someone who is looking for readymade solutions. It is like the textbook on mindfulness concepts.
 

Notes

 
“Have you found the off button?”
 
That’s a very strong question to which a lot of us have a wrong answer. We don’t switch off. We switch the channel. If only we learn how to off our minds whenever we wish our lives are so much under our control.
 
“Just become intensely conscious of the present moment”
 
This sounds like a very tough job. But he gives a practical way to do this. If you are walking, pay your complete attention to the steps, movement and breathing.
 
“Everytime you create a gap in the stream of mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger”
 
If you have 100 thoughts bombarding you at the moment, if you can let go off the 101th thought, it is a little success to celebrate.
 
“80 to 90 percent of most people’s thinking is not only repetitive and useless but because its dysfunctional and often negative nature, much of it is also harmful”
 
When I did my thought tracker exercise a few years ago, I realised how I was wasting away my life worrying about the same things daily.
 
“To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.”
 
The very reason why we are either regretful or anxious.
 
“No-mind is consciousness without thought. Only in the way is it possible to think creatively, because only in that way does thought have real power”
 
Tolle explains the creative artists and scientists get their breakthroughs in no-mind state.
 
“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet”
“Research shows that strong emotions even cause changes in the biochemistry of the body”
 
“If you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level, as a physical problem or symptom”
 
It is one of the signs of the negative energy which is stuck in your head and shoulders as tension.
 
“What’s going on inside me at this moment? That question will point you in the right direction.”
 
“If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body”
 
This is one of the practical tip which helps you deal with identifying how emotion is affecting your body.
 
“Vibrational energy of the emotion keeps feeding the original thought pattern”
 
The very reason why you should be aware of that you and your mind are different entities and everything your mind says should not be bought.
 
“Pleasure is always derived from something outside you whereas joy comes from within.”
 
The reason why you are never satisfied with pleasure but joy makes you satisfied.
 
“The greatest part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”
 
If your mind dictates how you should feel, you have no control over your happiness.
 
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present”
 
When you stay in a state of denial, you are stuck in the same thoughts which broods negativity.
 
“To complain is always non acceptance of what is”
 
A simple truth which is very difficult to follow.
 
“You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state”
 
While other self-help books simply tell this, here he explains how to check the sanity of your inner state.
 
“Feeling sorry for yourself and telling others your story will keep you stuck in suffering”
 
I definitely noticed how self-pity reduced once I stopped complaining about how bad my life is.
 
 
Check out the book here in case you want to give it a shot.
 
Happy staying in the present!
 

Book Review – 10% Happier

 
After reading Power of Now, I was in search of a book with practical advice on mindfulness. One of the suggestions was 10% happier. I started the book with a 10% increase in excitement to know how to implement the power of now. 
 
By the end of the first chapter, my excitement levels became neutral. I thought Dan Harris was introducing himself. But, near the end of the second chapter, I doubted if this book was about mindfulness or not. I wavered between giving up on the book and skimming through it. I felt it was not worth my time to read what Dan Harris did for a living and his experiences as a reporter were. There might be a lot of others who had that sort of free time to read about him and get to know Dan but I didn’t. My goal was clear. I wanted to understand how to live mindfully daily.
 
Luckily, I came across a page, how he sits up all through the night reading ‘A new earth’  by Eckhart Tolle. This reminded me how even I read Power of Now because I could not keep it aside. Finally, he gets to interview Eckhart, that is where the story gets interesting. Dan looks at Eckhart, the man who is spiritually awakened as an alien and whatever he says seems practically impossible. That is exactly how I felt about mindfulness as described in Power of Now. Later, when Dan meets Deepak Chopra, he realises how Eckhart was genuine and Deepak was just a fraud who claims to know it all but can’t practise the same in his life. While Eckhart has just one secretary, Deepak has an entire business product range to run. The funniest part of the story comes when Dan meets Vitale, who speaks in the DVD version of Secret. Vitale said that thinking should be coupled with action which is glaringly obvious. But they still made millions of dollars out of that.
 
In search of practical solutions, Dan gets introduced to works of Dr.Mark Epstein by his wife. After reading endlessly all the works of Epstein, he felt that Epstein conveyed the message in a more practical way than Tolle. As usual, Dan now goes on to interview him. Unlike the previous people he met, he found him human who just embraced Buddhism and implemented those principles in life. Through him, he gets introduced to meditation and a retreat program.
 
The crux of the book starts here. Dan goes on to describe the experiences he goes through in the process of meditating daily and how the retreat program went from undoable to bearable. Similar to Dan,I always wanted to go for a Vipassana retreat but I always feared it. I also went through a lot of arguments in my mind about meditation to make peace with it as it is today. In the next few chapters, as he talks about his journey I could empathize with him and felt that I am not alone in the journey of mindfulness and everyone else out there also goes through the same stages.
 
In the last few chapters, he talks about incidents how people took him to be weak and not so ambitious just because he is into spirituality. He beautifully explains and sets things right in his career by showing that going after mindfulness and being relaxed is not the same as being lackadaisical. 
 

Why should you read this book?


Throughout the time I was reading the book, there were multiple moments when I thought this is the line which my friends who think spirituality is pseudoscience should be reading.
 
You should read this book, if you want to understand how meditation has got nothing to do with religion or spirituality and how you can practise mindfulness as a normal human being. 
 
You should not read this book if you are looking for tips on how to meditate. This book is mostly about the journey of Dan. 
 
This book is best for those who are struggling to meditate and are not sure if they are on the right path. You will find a virtual companion through this book.
 
In case you plan on reading it, here is the Kindle version.
 
Happy becoming 10% happier!
 

Book Review – How to sit

Author : Thich Nhat
Print | Kindle
 
When you read the phrase ‘How to Sit’, it sounds quite funny. You have been doing this all your life and you wonder what is there to know about it now.
 
You should read this book to know how sitting in the right way can change your life. Thich Nhat explains the basics of where, how and why of sitting.
 
Where
 
You can sit anywhere. What do you do on your commute? Worry about every possible thing about life. Thich suggests that the best way to make use of commute time is by sitting.
 
How
 

  • Sit straight with your body relaxed.
  • Smile so that it relaxes your facial muscles.
  • Don’t sit with an expectation because you won’t be in the present moment then.
  • When you sit, you should be at ease, happy and relaxed.
  • You can use a bell to practise your attention on breathing.
  • Just sit daily. It will help you create a habit.
  • When you sit, you can name your feeling as a pleasant feeling and a painful feeling which is the first step in distancing the feeling from you.
  • Count one to ten for every breath, if you lose focus anywhere come back to one. This is not as easy as it sounds.
  • Use a clock and breathe with its rhythm.
  • You can use a notebook to write notes while or after sitting about thoughts or insights.
  • Sitting in a group helps in utilisation of collective energy.

Why
 

  • You need a stable posture to ground your mind.
  • An ease in sitting helps in nourishing the body and the mind.
  • Sitting and breathing mindfully will bring into your life – peace, clarity, compassion and courage.
  • It helps you weather storms like strong emotions.
  • It is not an obligation but daily nourishment like eating.
  • It develops concentration.

 
The book makes you ponder on whether there is so much to sitting. When was the last time you sat doing nothing? With no thoughts? Just sitting there and observing how you breathe?
 
He defines sitting as “sit in such a way that you enjoy sitting, to sit in a relaxed way, with your mind awake, calm, and clear.” Did you ever feel the union of mind, body and breath? Did you know that just by paying attention to your breath can make it calmer, deeper, and more harmonious all by itself?
 
The book doesn’t tell you something new but presents the known in a calm way. Reading the book itself provides a sense of calm and motivation to pursue meditation. The book doesn’t have long chapters. Just a paragraph or two in each chapter. You can finish the book in half an hour but the satisfaction it leaves makes you come back to it again. Because you feel that you lost something and there are certain concepts you have not mastered yet. 
 
It doesn’t talk about meditation as a tough affair. It asks you to just sit. Practise sitting without worry first. Then learn to focus on breath. Then provides tips on how to keep the focus and make it a habit and how to save yourself from the possible distractions. 
 
Once you are into sitting, Thich talks about how you should start sitting in groups to make the meditation easy and how just being there for others. The book ends with guided meditation and how you can create one on your own.
 

Quotations

“I like to describe sitting as enjoying doing nothing”
 
“People can try to steal many things from us, but they can’t steal our determination and our practice.”
 
“I have passed through many storms. Every storm has to pass, no storm stays forever. This state of mind will pass”
 
“ Every in-breath can bring joy; every out-breath can bring calm and relaxation. This is a good enough reason to sit. We don’t need to sit with an intention like getting smarter or becoming enlightened. We can sit just to enjoy sitting and breathing.”
 
“Sit in order to sit. Stand in order to stand. There is no goal or aim in sitting. Do it because it makes you happy.”
 
“In the present moment, we can be free from regret concerning the past and from fear concerning the future. Happiness isn’t possible without freedom.”
 
“When you sit, sit in such a way that you feel you have already arrived. To sit doesn’t mean to struggle”
 
“Breathing in, I know that this is only an emotion. It’s not the whole of me. I am more than my emotions.”
 
What is your favourite book on mindfulness? What other books by Thich have you read?
Happy Mindfulness!

2020 April Review and May goals

April is always the special month of the year as I turn a year older and hopefully wiser. To stay positive amidst the epidemic, I cut myself off from all the negative news and focussed on what is positive in my life. This helped April in being a fruitful month which helped me to get back to a lot of things which I never had time for in the past.
 

Review of April

 
1.Mindfulness Routine
 
April was one of the true mindful months I ever had. My day started with a gratitude diary followed by mindful brushing. Then my pranayama routine of Kapalbhati followed by Anulom vilom. I increased the time and intensity for both of these. Then I practise Hatha Yoga for flexibility and mindfully notice the muscles stretching in each pose. I enjoyed my morning lemon water by feeling it. Apart from these, I did the regular meditation and yoga nidra. I was never this relaxed. It felt like why haven’t I tried this before. 
 
2.Books
 
To discover and continue my love for mindfulness, I kept reading books on the same topic. 10% happier, Mindfulness Workbook, Fear, Intimacy, Chakras, How to sit,Untethered soul. I also started reading Waking up and Letting go but just in the beginning. The other books which I read this month are Read this if you want to become a great photographer, Steal like an artist, Exactly what to say, Understanding color in photography,Tools of titans.
 
Every book I read has expanded my knowledge in its own way.
 

Plans for May

 
I am tempted to say that I will use the month of May for enhancing my mindfulness but it will be an escape from adding new habits. The one thing I do love a lot but have been ignoring for a long while is writing. So I want to use this month to get back to writing. I can’t commit for a 30 day blog post like I did in the past. The main reason why I was not able to stick to writing is the time it consumes to write a good blog post. So I want to take it slow and commit to an easily reachable target like 12 blog posts in May. Another question, which I always struggled with, was the topics. An easy topic now to write on are the pending book reviews since more than a year for all the books I have been reading. I have enough topics to last me for the next few months.
 
Keep watching this space for new content this month.
 
Stay Home. Stay safe!
 
Happy May!