Meditation in a NY Minute, Yoga Therapy & Sounds of Freedom

Mark Thornton, Meditation in a New York Minute: Super Calm for the Super Busy, Sounds True Inc, Boulder CO, 2004. $12.95

For the Super Busy who are inclined toward meditation, Mark Thornton, a former COO for a major international banking firm, provides an easily accessible introduction to instant stress reduction through meditation. Written in plain language and chock full of quick diagrams, tips and exercises, the text focuses on creating "micro-breaks" for calm in the midst of hectic activity. Stripping meditation of its philosophy and theology, Thornton offers only its core techniques for fast assimilation by those with little time for the lotus position. Focusing on how-to rather than why, Thornton details specific practices including the power breath, showering with awareness, creating anchors and magnifying wisdom. Some concepts, however, may sound near impossible for the Super Busy: accepting that there is no goal to achieve, that the application of effort only deters you from success, and that true mastery is unlikely. The surprising news is that busy people have already mastered all the skills needed to learn meditation: the ability to focus, to split your attention on multiple tasks, to overcome challenges, and to master subtlety. With this knowledge you can enter the practice, allowing each moment of application to create another link in the chain leading you to your center, to your calm. Having created this path, it can be re-traveled at any time: while riding in the back of a taxi, getting a cup of coffee, or waiting for the elevator. No matter your industry or your number of deadlines, Thornton supplies the essential guidebook for your journey into the "Super Calm."

A.G. Mohan and Indra Mohan, Yoga Therapy: A Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Yoga and Ayurveda for Health and Fitness, Shambhala Publications, Boston, MA, 2004. $21.95

Do you love your yoga classes but feel a bit lost on how to practice at home? Are you concerned that practicing asanas (positions) in the wrong sequence can lead to injuries? Dispensing with the notion that certain yoga postures have the occult power to bring instant perfect health, A.G. and Indra Mohan offer a rational and realistic approach to building your own asana programs that foster vibrant physical and mental health. Based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and their studies with the yoga master Shri T. Krishnamacharya (who taught B.K.S. Iyengar, among others) the Mohan’s focus is on breathing and the movements into and out of the asanas. Rather than providing an encyclopedia of asanas or a list of asanas to cure specific ailments, the Mohans give you the knowledge needed to observe, assess and correct your own posture and movement to facilitate the natural flow of prana. Explaining how and when to breathe, the importance of neck position, and how to hold your back, they introduce a few simple biomechanical concepts such as gravity and lever systems, and physiological conditions like muscle contraction and the alternating curvature of the spine. Using simple language and incredibly easy to follow diagrams, the Mohans give you all the tools you need to confidently create your own effective asana programs.

John Malkin, Sounds of Freedom: Musicians on Spirituality and Social Change, Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA, 2005. $18

"Spirituality is that thing that keeps us from going crazy. It gives us the determination and the centeredness of love in our heart to continue to move on…and that is the reason I make music," confesses hip-hop/ folk musician Michael Franti. Featured artists ranging from Ani DiFranco to Philip Glass walk in the footsteps of Bob Marley and Pete Seeger in John Malkin’s Sounds of Freedom. Through their music, we feel not only the possibility of a peaceful and loving existence, but for the length of a song we feel this dream to be reality. Thus we look to our musicians and artists for encouragement, validation, and guidance. But if we look to them for motivation, where do they look for inspiration? Revealing their personal sources for unwavering energy and conviction and discussing their coping mechanisms for when the daily lived experience strays from the beautiful truth, the musicians field questions such as: How do you cultivate hope within today’s apathy? Is revolution really possible? What role does music and art play in transformation? Should politics and spirituality mix? "The political movements that I know of, the left of my time and place, seem to be in opposition to spiritual modalities," Ani DiFranco says. "I long for a spiritual core to a progressive movement that is uplifting for all of us." Through their inspirational songs, the artists interviewed in Sounds of Freedom promise to guide us to this new land.



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