An impassioned plea to restore God to an alcoholic’s recovery program.

Making Prayer & Meditation Work for You

THE TRANSFORMING EXPERIENCE OF PRACTICING STEP 11—INCLUDES 90 DAILY MEDITATIONS RECOMMEND

A debut meditation guide focuses on one of the founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Step 11 of the AA 12-Step Recovery Program urges addicts to seek an improved contact with God through prayer and meditation. The step is of a piece with a great many other components of the program, which has always stressed not only fellowship with other alcoholics, but also faith in a higher power. Cathy C. uses Step 11 as the centerpiece of her work, which opens with the personal story of how she was driven to drink in the aftermath of a horrific car crash that took the life of her fiance and so badly injured her (broken bones, a brain contusion, the loss of memory and motor functions) that when she fought her way back to some semblance of civilian life, her doctors referred to her as a “miracle patient.” It was through this combination of trauma and desperation that she found AA, where “God started doing for me what no human power could.”  And it was in Step 11 of the 12-Step Program that she discovered the benefits of prayer and meditation (“The negative effects of my brain injury have decreased significantly since I have been consistently practicing prayer and meditation. I believe a big part of that is because practicing Step 11 is helping me have more emotional balance”). Her book is a careful, patient guide to teaching others some of the lessons about serenity and emotional control she learned the hard way. “You can start over with God any time you choose to do so,” she assures readers, and the bulk of the volume consists of straightforward and passionate encouragements for alcoholics to seek God through prayer, being mindful to set aside a regular time to “connect” with him. Her book includes 90 meditation exercises to help newcomers and experts alike. Although these meditations are overwhelmingly steeped in the vocabulary of monotheism, Cathy C.’s skill at generalizing her points about love and transformative caring should make the work of interest even to the most blatantly nonreligious reader who might come across her text.

An impassioned plea to restore God to an alcoholic’s recovery program.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-5404-2

Page Count: 146

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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