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

Making Prayer & Meditation Work for You


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.


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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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.


A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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