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Making Prayer & Meditation Work for You


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

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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. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A moving, heartfelt account of a hospice veteran.

Lessons about life from those preparing to die.

A longtime hospice chaplain, Egan (Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago, 2004) shares what she has learned through the stories of those nearing death. She notices that for every life, there are shared stories of heartbreak, pain, guilt, fear, and regret. “Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and pull meaning out from under us,” she writes. “Everyone who does not die young will go through some sort of spiritual crisis.” The author is also straightforward in noting that through her experiences with the brokenness of others, and in trying to assist in that brokenness, she has found healing for herself. Several years ago, during a C-section, Egan suffered a bad reaction to the anesthesia, leading to months of psychotic disorders and years of recovery. The experience left her with tremendous emotional pain and latent feelings of shame, regret, and anger. However, with each patient she helped, the author found herself better understanding her own past. Despite her role as a chaplain, Egan notes that she rarely discussed God or religious subjects with her patients. Mainly, when people could talk at all, they discussed their families, “because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives.” It is through families, Egan began to realize, that “we find meaning, and this is where our purpose becomes clear.” The author’s anecdotes are often thought-provoking combinations of sublime humor and tragic pathos. She is not afraid to point out times where she made mistakes, even downright failures, in the course of her work. However, the nature of her work means “living in the gray,” where right and wrong answers are often hard to identify.

A moving, heartfelt account of a hospice veteran.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59463-481-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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