How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness By Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

From this book, we learn how not being present leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, while being in the present moment is restful

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Published by: Shambala Publications, Inc.

ISBN: 978-1-59030-817-2

Pages: 224

Price: INR 579

We can endure busy lifestyles and increasing stress levels only up to a limit. There comes a point when the desperation to find ways to regain your balance becomes a priority. The concept of ‘mindfulness’ is fast catching on as more and more people wish for a meaningful life. For the sceptic, there is scientific research to prove that mindfulness brings significant benefits for both mental and physical health.

Mindfulness can be defined as ‘consciously paying attention to all that is happening around us and within us, without criticism or judgement.’ Practising mindfulness is easy when we start by focussing on one small area in our life until it becomes a habit.

The author Jan Chozen Bays, a long-time meditation teacher and physician, presents the book beautifully with a series of exercises that specifically outline how to cultivate mindfulness. They address various aspects of our lives and are geared to help the reader become aware, happy and comfortable with her busy life.

Each chapter offers one exercise and is divided into several sections beginning with a description of the task, and ideas to help you remind yourself to do it throughout the day and week. This is followed by ‘Discoveries’ listing peoples’ insight and feedback and ‘Deeper lessons’. All chapters conclude with “Final Words”, a summary of the exercise.

The exercises in the book are fun and easy. For example,

  • Use your non-dominant hand to perform routine tasks each day.
  • Choose one room in your house. For one week, leave no trace that you used that space.
  • Eliminate filler words from your speech, that is, words that add no meaning to what you say.
  • Once a day, think of someone close to you and give them a genuine compliment.

The best part is, you don’t need to seek expensive retreats or invest in gadgets to practise mindfulness. It is possible to do it with what you have. It only takes a shift in perspective. The whole point of the book is to become mindfully aware and be present in each moment so we can appreciate, be grateful and happy. The author specifically lists the benefits of mindfulness while busting some interesting myths about being mindful.

A great way to use the book is to use one exercise per week for 52 weeks of the year – to cultivate the habit of mindfulness. The book’s website at http://www.shambhala.com/howtotrain offers printable reminders to help you. The author also suggests journalling your experiences to record and review your experience.

Some of the exercises in this book can be extended into periods of meditation, contemplation, or prayer.

From this book, we learn how not being present leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, while being in the present moment is restful and enjoyable, bringing a sense of discovery to even the most mundane of everyday activities. Being mindful is clearly the best way to improve our overall quality of life.

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