A highly accessible, comprehensive resource for all meditative skill levels that may also attract a few history buffs.

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Free Your Mind

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN GUIDE TO MEDITATION AND FREEDOM

Rainey’s debut seeks to introduce meditation to African-American audiences by integrating the historic figures of the Underground Railroad into its teachings.

With meditation increasing in popularity as a method to conquer stress, anger, and discontentment, the author seems surprised that it hasn’t been more enthusiastically adopted by African-Americans, who continue to face the frustrations of racial prejudice each day. Rainey writes that he hopes to use meditation as a tool to battle these social inequities by focusing on the hardships, triumphs, and travels of Harriet Tubman, along with many other former slaves and abolitionists. Each chapter features an Underground Railroad station on the road to freedom in Canada, accompanied by a history lesson about the stop and guides for techniques for breathing and introspection that reflect these lessons. Rainey describes the techniques in meticulous detail, including black-and-white photographs to aid readers in posture and positioning; he even supplies more than 20 pages on basic yoga poses. The book helpfully bolsters the exercises by drawing parallels to the struggles of African-Americans in the antebellum period and by describing how they overcame discomfort, fear, and negative thinking to ease their minds, embrace charity, and promote community. This latter element is particularly important, as it encourages meditation practitioners to include their families, friends, and neighbors. The book’s remarkably expansive notes section and thorough index and bibliography provide a wealth of further reading about the Underground Railroad, Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and their compatriots. Though aimed principally at African-Americans, the text is highly approachable, and its combination of history and self-help is likely to attract readers of many races and backgrounds. Even experienced meditators will find new contexts and methods to diminish stress and pursue enlightenment.

A highly accessible, comprehensive resource for all meditative skill levels that may also attract a few history buffs.

Pub Date: July 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4927-6920-0

Page Count: 478

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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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.

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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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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