Review: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Wherever You Go, There You Are
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wherever You Go, There You Are
By Jon Kabat-Zinn

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

The rest of the title is; ‘Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life’ and though it was written in 1994, the concept is pretty timeless. And since the political landscape has gotten so charged, I figured it would be helpful. Similar to Eckhart Tolle’s book, ‘The Power of Now’ author Kabat-Zinn stresses the importance of being present.
Not being a present as in gift, but stepping into your life with clarity and presence of mind is the key element discussed in this guide. This is harder than you may think. One of the linchpins that the author shares, and I find useful, is to focus on breath. Don’t worry that you have to have a fancy chant, use some kind of shrine or bang on a gong. You don’t. But you do have to breathe. The author says it best;
“Think the grass is always greener somewhere else or life is better in someone else’s shoes? If so, life will constantly disappoint you. True contentment comes from within—and you can uncover the spiritual treasure buried within you through meditation.”
“Blending Western thought and Eastern practice, this is the book that introduced meditation to America…you can learn the simple practice of breathing and focus to keep yourself in the present…to let stress wash over you rather than try to shut it out…find strength where you least expect it and even take charge of your health by adjusting your perspective.”
One aspect of this book/guide I did find a tad confusing was the explanation of just exactly what is meditation. Being a semi-normal dude I want to know how it’s done, right? As if there’s this exercise that I can latch onto and power through and when I’m done, and catch my breath, I’ll have this sudden clarity. Well, it’s not as simple as that and this is why the author spends a great deal of time using metaphor and quotes to give the reader examples of meditation.
“Meditation is more rightly thought of as a “Way” than as a technique. It’s a way of being, Way of living, a Way of listening, a Way of walking along the path of life and being in harmony with things as they are.”
In other words, it isn’t something you do in physical terms, though breathing is pretty important, it is a state of mental ‘being-ness.’ Put another way, meditation isn’t a way to change how you think by thinking more. It’s the act of watching, observing thought. This is where so many who want to bring this practice into their daily lives seem to get stuck.
Being ‘mindful’ is another way of considering this.
“TRY: Setting aside a time every day for just being. Five minutes would be fine…Sit down and watch the moments unfold, with no agenda other than to be fully present. Use the breath as an anchor to tether your attention to the present moment. Your thinking will drift here and there, depending on the currents and winds moving in the mind, until, at some point, the anchor-line grows taut and brings you back to the breath in all its vividness, every time it wonders…Think of yourself as a mountain.”

• Mindful groups are forming all over
• Take a walk
• Be present

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Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

Man. If you have not heard of this author, Backman, you are in for a major treat. Major. Over the holidays my mom handed this off to me and said to ‘just give it a look.’ Right. I read it in like three bites and am going to read everything this author has even thought of writing. Hard to explain his particular technique. First off, this story is fiction, takes place in Sweden and centers around a really unusual character. Ove.
Early on, as the story begins to weave its magic, you learn that Ove’s wife, Sonja, has passed away. How and why and all that surrounds it will be shared in little bits as you move along through Ove’s life in the row house he has occupied for a very long time. To say the man is anal—set in his ways like a train to a track, is honestly putting it lightly. Within this tight framework that will completely envelop you, in waltz the most colorful and kind and broken and overweight and pregnant and needy neighbors. Together they forge a family of misfits that will steal your breath away.
But it’s the love and loss he holds in his enormously huge heart for Sonja and their unborn child that carries him on.
“And she wept. An ancient, inconsolable despair that screamed and tore and shredded them both as countless hours passed. Time and sorrow and fury flowed together in stark, long-drawn darkness. Ove knew there and then that he would never forgive himself for having got up from his seat at that exact moment, for not being there to protect them. And knew that this pain was forever.”
Though the bulk of the story is told in third person; Ove did this, Ove kicked that tire and so forth, many of the kernels filled with gold are given life through author Backman’s snappy dialog.
“Good Go—are you crying now?” Ove asks in amazement. “I’M NOT BLOODY CRYING!” she howls, her tears spattering over the dashboard. Ove leans back and looks down at his knee. Fingers the end of the paper baton. “It’s just such a strain, this, do you understand?” She sobs and leans her forehead against the wheel as if hoping it might be soft and fluffy. “I’m sort of PREGNANT! I’m just a bit STRESSED, can no one show a bit of understanding for a pregnant bloody woman who’s a bit STRESSED?!”
The pacing of the novel was at first a little tricky to get used to; leaping from present to the past and back again, but after a few chapters, you get the rhythm and fall for Ove and can’t seem to stop flipping pages. Throughout the novel are little life lessons all woven into the utterly amazing world of Ove. A world full of need. And it is that single thing that gives him a reason to live without his dear Sonja.
Even if you choose to not read this novel, take this with you;
“One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps. Afternoons in the sun with someone’s hand clutched in one’s own. The fragrance of flowerbeds in fresh bloom. Sundays in a café. Grandchildren, perhaps. One finds a way of living for the sake of someone else’s future. And it wasn’t as if Ove also died when Sonja left him, He just stopped living.”
But you, dear reader, have not. Now go and get you some Ove!

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Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hillbilly Elegy
A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

This is how this book begins;
“My name is J.D. Vance, and I think I should start with a confession: I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd.”
Well, absurd is how many feel right about now considering the election of Donald Trump. A total opposite of what one would imagine a hillbilly to be. Yet he was elected by what many refer to as the forgotten ones; rural working-class whites. It is from this group that author Vance addresses (in sometimes clumsy prose that truly could have used at least one more edit) an often-neglected sector of voters in search of a hero. His story is full of heart-ache and wrapped up tight in a strong desire to give voice to what he refers to as his people.
“…I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.”
Pretty raw. Instead of me waxing on this way or that, I’m going to let Vance paint more of his life for you.
“I was one of those kids with a grim future. I almost failed out of high school. I nearly gave in to the deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me. Today people look at me, at my job and my Ivy League credentials, and assume that I’m some genius, that only a truly extraordinary person could have made it to where I am today. With all due respect to those people, I think that theory is a load of bulls@#t…I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels.”
And this, this is the sentiment that sums up Vance’s struggle to find his place.
“And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.”
There. That should open the door to this young man’s thoughts and frustrations, his really, really hard struggle to simply find what so many of us, hell, most of us, take for granted.
“…to understand my story, you have to delve into the details. I may be white, but I do not identify with the WASPs of the Northeast. Instead, I identify with the millions of working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree. To these folks, poverty is the family tradition—their ancestors were day laborers in the Southern slave economy, share-croppers after that, coal miners after that, and machinists and millworkers during more recent times. Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash. I call them neighbors, friends, and family.”
After time in the marine corps, Vance is accepted to Yale Law School and graduates with full honors at the top of his class. Yet this is not a story of how to make it in the world, it’s an expose of the underbelly of a world most of us know little or nothing about.
I think it’s time we did.

• #1 bestseller in—Poverty
• Great for Book clubs
• Needs to end—Poverty

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November and NO Snow—Nice…

sunflowers-on-the-porch

 

This is our front door and those awesome sunflowers we grew from seed. Even at my age I still feel there’s a touch of magic in growing things. It just never ceases to amaze me that you can grow something so darn beautiful from a little seed that fits in your palm.

 

Love the mystery of it.

 

Could be why I enjoy the art and freedom and yes, mystery of writing. When the words are flying into my head and zipping through my fingers and onto the laptop-page, well trust me, I feel something. Not a believer in having a muse or wearing a lucky hat or all that other stuff so many authors seem to lean on. I simply read a poem to warm up, or gaze at a bouquet of wild flowers or sneak a look out my window, and if things are unfolding with my story in all the right ways (or wrong) off I zoom!

 

If the words are not lined up and ready to move onto the page, I get up and do something else. If I force the work—that’s exactly how it will read.

 

So, if inspiration doesn’t come into your current project—

 

Know that in the spring the seeds will grow again and somewhere—the sun is always shining.

Get Hoppy—It’s National Frog Month!

Toad

Welcome to spring and maybe to your first time over here in/on/with my personal website. It’s hard to know precisely how much effort to load into this baby since I am a trusty Facebook dude and post over there constantly. But don’t ask my mom, she is rarely on. Too busy.

 

Yet here I can expand more and not feel as though the entire world (wishful thinking, I would imagine) is going to pop in and place judgement. Being National Frog Month I will hop around a tad, taking advantage of this silly premise because as everyone knows, every day is Frog day—or rather Toad Time!

 

I am partial to toads.

 

Frogs, in my book, can take a leap.

 

Honestly.

 

They tend to be on the slimy side and have only croaks and ribbits to share where’s toads tend toward handing out warts and hop more than swim and certainly are more into hanging in the garden than splashing around in the pond—pad-to-pad—as it were.

 

And since we’re on the subject, (you started this after all, hopping over here) I really find it rather odd why on earth folks munch frog legs and then, on top of it all, say the most ridiculous things such as:

 

“…Tastes like chicken!” Usually with a miniature Kermit-like foot hanging from their surly lips. Is that what a lion murmurs finishing off a human?

 

These and other priceless gems are what you get to devour when you hop on over to this webpage. And don’t forget to add your very own comments and thoughts and ideas of things you’d like to know more about and skip the frog recipes please and that would go double time for toad.

 

Now hop outside and don’t forget to take a book!