Intuitive and inspirational; an invitation to tranquility for tortured psyches.

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Lighten Up

SEVEN WAYS TO KICK THE SUFFERING HABIT

Through personal experiences with “suffering addiction,”  Duda (Coming Home: A Guide to Dying at Home with Dignity, 1981) shares practical exercises for recapturing joy in her self-help book.

“[J]oy is our birthright,” says Duda, a psychologist and end-of-life counselor. Quoting the Dalai Lama, she says, it’s “the purpose of life.” At one point, she wonders if we’re “doomed” to joy since, as evinced by smiling babies everywhere, “it’s our original nature.” Yet for many, like the author, there seems to be comfort in pain, drama and depression. Wounded after a series of life-altering accidents, Duda fell into a deep despair. One day, a blind beggar reminded her of the importance of gratitude, triggering a state of grace she has spent the last 30 years writing about. Sure, depression has its place, admits the author, calling it a “fertile garden, in which the seeds of change can grow,” but only by stealing visceral moments throughout our daily lives and striving to remain in the eternal present, do we discover the resilience of joy and the ability to conjure it at any time. She notes that fellow addicts seek out additional highs through the violence and fear peddled by mass media. For them, joy is even more elusive and ethereal. The first part of the treatise takes the form of a memoir, with teachable moments of joy gained and lost throughout a busy, jet-setting life, including a harsh awakening with a consciousness-raising group that turns out to be a cult, a seminal meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and a year in Paris editing a book about torture. It’s also full of keen observations about our collective need to whine and the “killjoy” words and phrases we wield absent-mindedly in everyday conversation. The last third of the book provides exercises for readers to achieve Duda’s seven practices of joy. More than tips for meditation, the guide offers motivations and methods that make sense and, judging from her exuberant treatise on finding peace, seem to succeed.

Intuitive and inspirational; an invitation to tranquility for tortured psyches.

Pub Date: March 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475263787

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2013

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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