Those interested in attending a sesshin will find Landrum’s book useful, though the tight focus on the author’s individual...

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AN AUTUMN SESSHIN

JOURNAL OF AN ORDINARY WOMAN EXPERIENCING AND EXTRAORDINARY WEEK

Landrum, a woman well-practiced in helping others overcome difficulty and achieve success, offers her insights into the Japanese practice of sesshin through her personal journal.

To one unfamiliar with the practice of sesshin, this book at first appears to contain a misspelling. But Landrum, a behavioral health therapist, quickly clears that up, explaining the type of extended meditation involved in and encompassed by a sesshin. She then explains her purpose with this book—to demonstrate, through giving an account of her experience, what a sesshin is, specifically for those who may be interested in attending one. She then details her experience with a weeklong sesshin among California’s redwoods, during which she spent most of her time in meditation with a group. While Landrum’s details are fascinating and very specifically re-create her experience, it’s occasionally hard to tell if the book is targeted at outside readers with a general interest in the practice of sesshin or whether the details of Landrum’s experience are overly personal. Some of the information she gives, while important to her experience, would not necessarily be applicable to the majority of sesshin attendees. For instance, near the end of the week, Landrum struggles with the way one of the group leaders tries to control her and she ends up not attending most of the remaining group times. This is certainly key to her personal journey through the sesshin, but would probably not happen to most attendees. Some readers might wish Landrum’s journal had undergone another edit, so that she could share information relevant to a sesshin without airing personal issues. However, the details Landrum gives are not embarrassing and do not qualify as over-sharing, just potentially uninteresting to those in search of facts about attending a sesshin. But as the documentation of one individual’s experience within the practice of a sesshin, Landrum’s story nicely demonstrates the journey a soul can make through such a unique undertaking.

Those interested in attending a sesshin will find Landrum’s book useful, though the tight focus on the author’s individual experience may be too specific for general application.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456846664

Page Count: 54

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2011

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

OPEN BOOK

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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