Review: Awakening to Mindfulness

Awakening to Mindfulness: 10 Steps for Positive Change – Richard Fields, Ph.D.

scheduled for publishing 2008 – 169 pages

From the back cover -

Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that fosters heightened awareness of the self, of the senses, and of the outside world.  It is a state of being “aware.”  Reaching and sustaining this state is what makes or breaks successful recovery, according to Dr. Richard Fields.

In this highly engaging and highly practical book, Dr. Fields, an accomplished mental health and addictions counselor and speaker, “awakens” the reader to new, positive, healthy life changes and possibilities.  He clearly explains how mindfulness and meditation practices can help us all to a better, more enlightened life, a life of freedom from our addictions and delusions, a life with compassion for self and others.

My thoughts -

I received this book from Fields’ PR rep, who contacted me because I had done a review of one of her other clients’ books, and she thought I might want to review this one as well.  Overall, this was not my favorite self-help book, but let’s start with what I did like about it.  The subtitle in this book is 10 Steps for Positive Change, and one thing that I appreciated about this book was that Fields broke his theory down into ten, easy to follow steps that should be used in order to achieve mindfulness in one’s life.  I also like how the book was infused with Buddhist thought and Buddhist teachings, which I’ve always been intrigued by.  At the end of each step was a meditation script, so that one could understand and deeply explore that step while meditating.  There was also a mantra attached to each step, so that while in the car, the store, or getting ready in the morning, one can repeat this mantra to more fully divulge into that step throughout an ordinary day.

Now, on to what I wasn’t crazy about.  My main issue is that I think the majority of this book is common sense.  When I read self-help books (and honestly, I don’t read too many for this reason), I expect to be wowed by some idea or principle that I hadn’t thought of before.  I expect to be hit over the head with what exactly I need to do to achieve whatever goal the book wants for me – and I expect it to be new-to-me actions and practices that will help me get to this point.  Maybe it’s because I have a degree in psychology, but this book was nothing new to me.  For example, some of the things that Fields suggests we need to do to achieve positive change are feeling compassion for others, accepting yourself as you are, and embracing healthy habits like eating right and exercising… none of which I was shocked by.  I feel like this might be a good book to have around in an addiction/recovery place (which I think is one of Fields’ intended uses of it), and maybe a prison or other type of rehabilitation center where the people there NEED to know how to make positive changes, but for the average person, I just think the tips and tools in this book are mostly common sense.  Although, “common sense” isn’t always so common, so I could be wrong.

Would anyone else be interested in reading/reviewing this book? I’m thinking of giving it away…. just let me know. :)

Review: House Rules

House Rules: A Memoir - Rachel Sontag

published 2008 – 261 pages

From the book jacket -

At an early age, Rachel Sontag realized there was something deeply wrong with her father.  On the surface, he was a well-respected, suburban physician.  But questioning his authority led to brutal fights, disobedience meant humiliating punishments.  When she was twelve, he duct-taped her stereo dial to National Public Radio, measured the length of her hair and fingernails with a ruler, and regulated when she could shower.

A memoir of a father obsessed with control and the daughter who fights his suffocating grasp, House Rulesexplores the complexities of their compelling and destructive relationship, and his equally manipulative relationships with his wife and other daughter.  As Rachel’s mother cedes all her power to her husband, and her sister fades into the background of their family life, Rachel fights to escape, and, later, to make sense of what remains of her family.

 My thoughts -

It’s hard to know what to say after reading memoirs of abuse.  Saying that I loved this book doesn’t seem right somehow, because it is a sad and troubling portrayal of a person’s real life, and it was somewhat of a disturbing book to read.  But I did love the way Sontag wrote about her family, the way she put it all out there and let the reader experience what she (unfortunately) experienced in her life.  I have no doubt that her father was every bit as terrifying as she made him sound, probably more so, and reading this book simply made me feel sad for her.  I actually truly feel for Sontag, because when I was growing up, I went through similar types of things with my father… he wasn’t anywhere NEAR as abusive and controlling as hers, but he did do some of the same kinds of controlling and abnormal behaviors with myself, my mom, and my brothers and sister.  So coming from that perspective, I truly understand and appreciate her telling this story and needing to tell it in order to heal from her past.  At the end of the book, Sontag explores her relationships with her mother and sister as they stand now, and I truly hope, for her sake, that those three women are able to patch up their relationships with each other and lean on each other.  I’ve learned through my life that the only people you can really count on are your family – and when some members of your family are less than ideal, you really need to stick by those family members who ARE there for you.  So I hope that they can forge a friendship with one another from here on out.

I’d definitely recommend this book, especially if you like memoirs, this one is a really good, quick read.

Also reviewed by: Bookroomreviews at Bookroomreviews’ Weblog.