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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Book Review: The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

Image of a digital book cover. A pond in a forest in the winter with the name of the book.

Summary:
In this book, Pema provides the tools to deal with the problems and difficulties that life throws our way, so that we may let our circumstances soften us and make us kinder, rather than making us increasingly resentful and afraid. This wisdom is always available to us, she teaches, but we usually block it with habitual patterns rooted in fear. Beyond that fear lies a state of openheartedness and tenderness. This book teaches us how to awaken our basic goodness and connect with others, to accept ourselves and others complete with faults and imperfections, and to stay in the present moment by seeing through the strategies of ego that cause us to resist life as it is. 

Review:
The majority of this book suggests that fearlessness can be accomplished via mindfulness and various types of meditation. This may be true. I’m certainly not an expert meditator. Although it is something I have been working at for many years. But it was disappointing to me how much of this book was essentially – meditate and be mindful, and you will become fearless. It’s not that it might not work; it’s that I wanted more.

Some of the more that I was wanting did come up a couple of places in the book. The first was in a story of a couple who live in a gated community. They eventually become so afraid of what is outside the gates, that they basically stop living. They get so caught up in the what if’s that they don’t live. I liked how this showed that walls can be of our own making, and being fearless is a daily practice. You don’t just suddenly wake up one day walled in, rather you build that wall gradually day by day. The older I get, the more I appreciate the value of one small step a day.

I also appreciated the introduction to the idea of training in the three difficulties. This was a new a concept to me. I’ll just post the quote, since I doubt I could explain it any clearer than it is in the book.

[It] gives us instruction on how to practice, how to interrupt our habitual reactions. The three difficulties are (1) acknowledging our neurosis as neurosis, (2) doing something different, and (3) aspiring to continue practicing this way.

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This reminded me of the wisdom of early sobriety. Becoming sober is largely about changing negative habits into good ones. We acknowledge what isn’t working, commit to do it differently, and practice doing that every day. I liked the idea of applying that to anything I wanted to be braver at. I also like that it has a name. The three difficulties.

If you are new to meditation, the instruction in the book is good. It’s largely focused on metta (loving-kindness) meditation and tonglen (taking and sending). Metta is one of the first types of meditation I learned, and it definitely helps me when I’m in a bad mood. I’m not personally sure that it makes me braver, though. Although, who knows, maybe I would have been much more fearful these last years without it.

Overall, this is an interesting book and a quick read. It was not what I was expecting, but also had its moments of value. Recommended more so to those who are new to meditation and mindfulness.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 187 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Library

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Friday Fun! (Fondue and Seitan)

November 26, 2010 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  This has been a busy week for me, although I suspect not as busy as for those of you who actually traveled for the holiday.  Last weekend I hosted my first ever fondue party.  You guys, it was awesome.  I think this is something from the 70s that we need to make have a come-back.   Anyway, I made a beer cheese fondue in my crock pot.  It was *so* delicious!  We had crostini, broccoli, veggie sausage, pretzels, and more for dipping.  Also, one of my guests brought a chocolate fondue, and it was *to die* for.

There were no classes this week because of Thanksgiving, so with the extra time I had I was able to go to a meditation lesson for the first time.  I was kind of surprised at how much easier it is to meditate for an extended length of time when you’re in a room with other people meditating instead of doing it by yourself.  It was a lot of fun and surprisingly relaxing.  I think I’ll try out a few more centers before I decide on one to go to periodically, but I definitely think periodic group meditation is gonna be sticking around my schedule now.  Albeit, not weekly.  Maybe monthly.

Since I have to work today, I didn’t go anywhere for Thanksgiving yesterday.  I spent the day hanging out at home, reading, watching tv, and cooking.  I tried making seitan for the first time ever, and you guys.  It came out so good!  It was surprisingly simple, very filling, and gave me a lot of energy.  One batch makes plenty for a week, so I suspect this is now going to be in my rotation of yummy veg foods.

My other big project this week is incorporating some dishes some friends gave me into my kitchen.  I realized this is going to mean rearranging my tiny tiny kitchen to try to fit everything in.  I think I may wind up using nails to hang various mugs and pots and pans from the walls.  I have very little cabinet space.

I hope my American readers are enjoying their holiday weekends, and I hope the rest of you enjoy your regularly-sized ones.  Cheers!