Removing Clutter, Finding Compassion and Letting Go

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    Clutter Junkie No More: Stepping Up to Recovery, by Barb Rogers (Conari Press, San Francisco CA, 2007) $12.95.

    Feeling constantly overwhelmed? Tired of trying yet another organizational system that promises to transform your life? Have trouble setting realistic goals and accomplishing them? Is your living space constantly a mess, no matter how much you clean? Not all that different from alcohol or gambling, clutter can be used to keep the world out by staying overly busy-or junk can be piled up around you to create a safe nest. Written by a recovered addict and based on the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous, Clutter Junkie is no mere book on how to organize your papers, or what new fangled gadget you need to buy to make your life easier, but a viable journey into self-discovery and recovery from a life-diminishing addiction. Focusing on uncluttering your mind and your spirit, Barb Rogers steps you through the process of letting go of what no longer enhances your life and removing the barrier between you and your emotions. Taking one small step at a time, she guides you through finding your long-buried dreams by releasing the experiences that maintain your fear of living life, loving others, and taking risks. "In no time, you will be looking into the mirror and recognizing the person you are, what you are capable of, what you want out of life."

    Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness, by Marc Ian Barasch (Rodale, New York, NY, 2005) $24.95.

    Running rampant in the animal kingdom, why does compassion remain so elusive to us humans? Rhesus monkeys refuse to eat if it causes harm to another monkey. Bonobos (our closest primate kin) live a peaceful existence with nonbelligerent, cooperative, matriarchal ways in which they hug and kiss each other daily. Even a reading of Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man reveals the use of the word "love" 95 times, while "survival of the fittest" appears only twice. The conundrum of our frequent and easy use of the concept of survival of the fittest in our human society, while the attainment of love and frequent use of compassion appears inaccessible or superfluous, sends Marc Ian Barasch on a journey to determine "what it takes to overcome that I-me-mine I’m convinced ruins everything." How does one go about finding that pair of "magic glasses with special lenses that only see the good in people?" Indeed, are humans even wired for this ability? Investigating compassion and her sisters empathy, love and kindness, Barasch, with credits ranging from ex-editor of Psychology Today and Natural Health to workshop leader at Omega and Esalen Institutes, introduces compassion in its many forms, including mirror neurons, laboratory findings on forgiveness, the science fiction writing of Ray Bradbury and the experience of homelessness. Gathering a wide range of clinical data and reflecting on his own field experiments Barasch confirms with intelligent whit our human capacity to practice compassion as a route to a life fully lived and fully loved.

    Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation, by Lama Surya Das (Broadway Books, New York, NY, 2003) $15.

    To become the best version of yourself, it is necessary to change-to lose some part of yourself as you are currently defined, whether it be by your job, family, politics, health or friends. It is into this process of transformation that Lama Surya Das initiates the reader by offering both a theoretical perspective and practical solutions for dealing with loss and change. Rooted in the Dzogchen lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Das is an American teaching American Buddhism. Discussing issues as broad as the death of a loved one, the pain of unrealized expectations, the perceived extremity of celibacy, and the frustration of a new toy suddenly breaking, he teaches how to use difficult experiences to deal more intelligently with loss and thereby become more compassionate toward others. It is possible to gain from loss, Das assures the reader. Through the act of letting go, pain can be experienced without suffering. "Unfortunately, too many of us are paying members of the worldwide church of control-freakism. And the dues can become outrageous." Through detailed reflections on his own losses, Das shows how to begin to shift into the world of embracing change without suffering. Explaining the power of mindfulness, Das outlines a six-week program that guides the reader in transforming how one experiences the world, deals with anger and wears down fears. However, change is never an easy process; Das likens it to "Leaping into burning buildings to save ourselves."

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