Mind Matters — Out of the Box Beach Reads

Memorial Day—pools open and the trek “down the shore” (New Jersey!) or “to the beach” (Delaware!) begins. Reviewed here are several books to consider reading when the escape into mystery or romance starts to be boring.

Let’s start with Just One Thing by Rick Hanson, PhD. His book integrates neuropsychology with Buddhist based mindfulness, but there is no need to be put off by this combination. In fact, this tiny tome is simple, succinct and short, and covers themes of how to be good to yourself, enjoy life, build strength, engage the world—and at the same time be at peace.

To attain peace, Hanson reminds us that evolution has given us an anxious brain so that we could survive the tiger in the rushes. Trouble is, we don’t turn off the hypervigilant anxious state even when there is no “tiger.” Yes, indeed, there are environments and places in our country and in the world that have their own metaphorical tigers to fear. Be that as it may, many of us fear the tiger in the television, becoming saturated with and over-stimulated by 24/7 “news.”

Hanson invites us to find in ourselves a sense of safety by calling upon our own inner resources and helps us recognize our own “paper tiger paranoia.”

While Rick Hanson’s book has a basis in neuroscience, Expect the Unexpected by Bill Phillips makes no such claim. This book explores how to achieve peace, healing, and hope from “the other side.” That is, Phillips is a psychic medium whose first encounter with the “spiritually alive” was with his mother after she died when he was fourteen. This is not a book for the empiricist or the skeptic, but it may be a book for someone who wants to find hope regarding a loved one who has died. Having facilitated a grief group for over ten years, I know that people there have had experiences that defy usual explanations.

Another book, not of the mundane self-help genre, is Robert Moss’ Sidewalk Oracles. This author is noted for his dream workshops, and having attended one, I can attest that he is quite an engaging and charming character. In this book that plays with “signs, symbols, and synchronicity in everyday life,” Moss encourages us to explore our working life as we would our dreams, finding wonder and surprise—to get beyond routine. He asks us to be open to new experiences, to notice special moments, to develop gratefulness and to be willing to “step outside the box.”

I think last week I stepped outside the box when I went to hear Sr Simone Campbell speak at Daylesford Abbey. Campbell’s book is A Nun on the Bus. She and her cohort of Catholic sisters comprise Network, a Washington lobby that seeks to promote economic and social justice in federal policy. In 2012, the Network nuns wanted to get their message out across America and did so by traveling on a bus that served as a rolling billboard. Wherever they stopped, they initiated dialogue about the congressional budget that was cutting funding to vital social programs for both the poor and the middle class. Hers is a story of compassion and service that offers hope.

Who knows, reading this memoir, one might decide to leap out of that beach chair and join forces with the Network and their cause for a caring community!