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Book Review: Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine by Irini Rockwell

March 12, 2012 5 comments

White cover with a slowly assembled flower on it.Summary:
Utilizing the traditional Buddhist five wisdoms–presence, clarity, richness, passion, and action, Rockwell seeks to show readers their own personal strengths and possible weaknesses.  Rockwell then seeks to demonstrate how to bring out the other three to four wisdoms within your personality to achieve more balance.

Review:
Before I had a book blog, I read quite a bit of Buddhist literature.  My minor was Religious Studies, and I also had an interest in it from a psychiatric and personal perspective.  Certain aspects of Buddhism are used in modern psychiatric treatments, for instance.  In any case, this is not my first Buddhist read.  I am familiar with a lot of the terminology and ideas.  This book though was nearly impossible to follow.  Quite possibly the worst book on Buddhism I’ve ever come across.

First, there’s how Rockwell talks about the five wisdoms.  Instead of consistently calling them by either their English name, Sanskrit name, or a hyphenated version of the two like most Buddhist works do, Rockwell bafflingly switches back and forth between English and Sanskrit without any rhyme or reason.  Particularly in an ebook where it’s difficult to flip back to the earlier pages where the wisdoms were introduced, this makes it really hard to follow the author’s thought-process.

Similarly, random information is inserted but then not fully explained.  I wonder if in the print version these are set apart in boxes?  Not sure.  For instance, the section introducing the five wisdoms has a completely random blip about the colors Tibetan Buddhism associates with them inserted in the text between the fourth and fifth wisdoms.  It’s just jarring and odd.

Finally, I didn’t really learn anything of value from the book.  Rockwell talks at length about what a person who is mostly possessing the wisdom of passion might look, behave, and even dress like, but not much is discussed about how to put this knowledge to good use.  It’s almost as if Rockwell got so caught up in describing the wisdoms that he forgot to talk to us about how to put this knowledge to much use.  Besides, does it really help to know to label the person who is passionate as exhibiting the passion wisdom?  We already know instinctively what they are like and how to deal with them.  Labeling it doesn’t really help, does it?

Overall, I found this book to offer very little in a way of self-improvement or aid in dealing with people.  It is confusingly organized without much valuable information within it.  Although it is a readable book that is not at all offensive, it just doesn’t seem like reading it is worth the time.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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DBT and Me

April 21, 2010 6 comments

When I tell people my current career track is librarianship, they often answer, “Oh, that is so you,” and they’re right.  It is so me.  Unfortunately, some of the things that make me a good librarian don’t always mesh up with the type of person I want to be.

I am a perfectionist, which works really well when organizing, cataloging, and hunting down the proper information.  It doesn’t work so well in cooking dinner, hanging out with people, getting dressed in the morning, etc…

I tend to see things in black and white.  This is good when you’re researching a topic, and there is such a thing as wrong information.  It’s not the best when discussing life topics with friends or just getting along with the populace in general.

Of course I know the wise adage–Everything in Moderation.  I can be a good librarian who is attentive to details and carefully checks the facts without being a black-and-white seeing perfectionist.  So, I am working on it.  Those character traits above are just some of the things I’m working on in my Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

DBT is a therapy technique that helps people with, let’s call them “personality flaws,” rewire their brains so that their personality moves toward a healthier place.  The thing is, DBT is all about small steps that take time, and sometimes I really just wish I was re-wired now instead of having to wait on the baby steps.

I want to be calm, loving, completely attuned to and in control of my emotions now.  But it doesn’t work that way.  So, it can get tiring and frustrating.  It’s hard to do small things every day and have to wait a long time to see the big picture results.  Sometimes, I neglect to notice the small ways that I am changing for the better.

Like how in undergrad, I would cry if I didn’t get an A. (We’re talking an A minus would make me cry).  Now I don’t care about my grades as much as I care about making sure I’ve learned something from class.  So I got an A- on that presentation.  Big deal.  I learned a place my presentation techniques can improve.

Or how a couple of years ago a toddler asking me “why” repeatedly would make me frustrated, and now I enjoy doing my best to answer as many “why” questions as I possibly can.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m even trying to change myself.  Aren’t we supposed to accept ourselves for who we are?  Well, I say who I am is who I want to be.  I’m not the personality quirks that I landed with as a result of genetics, brain wiring, and my childhood.  My inner self tells me who I truly am, if I can just get fix the wiring.  So DBT is about accepting myself for who I am.

So, yes, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am better now than I was then, and if I keep plugging away, someday I’ll be fully realized as the person I want to be looking back and saying, “All those small steps and struggling and work was the real me trying to get out, and here I am, and I’m just as proud of me then as I am of me now.”

In the meantime, I will do or say some things that don’t match up with who I am inside, but taking baby steps means that it won’t happen overnight.  There is no magic pill.  Beating myself up over it is just making it worse.  Mistakes are part of the process.  At least I know there’s less of them now than there used to be, and I will keep progressing until I truly just am who I am.