Tuesday, March 20, 2012

At Left Brain Turn Right by Anthony Meindl

As most of my friends can tell you, self-help books are not my usual reading fare. In fact, by and large, I consider them a rip off. They are often platitudes wrapped in various mumbo-jumbo and try to claim they are the only answer, etc. I just don't understand taking generalized advice from a complete stranger that doesn't know anything about your situation and state of mind.

This book caught my eye when I was looking through the First Reads give-away on Goodreads, a social network for book lovers. There were two reasons this book grabbed my attention: 1. I thought my writer husband might benefit from increasing ways to access his creativity. and 2. I was drawn by the humor in the subtitle. Anyone that uses that kind of humor in the title of the book isn't going to be pretentious or self-righteous in their advice.

It is difficult to decide how to approach a book that you need to review quickly, yet is a 15 week process to achieve the goal set forth in the text. I decided to read through the whole book, and do the homework for the first two weeks. I plan on completing the exercises in their totality.

Mr. Meindl is straightforward and funny in his writing. Even within the scope of the exercises, he does not insist that there is only one way to successfully complete them. He provides a rough outline and gives multiple examples of ways to go about it to fit it into your existing lifestyle. He does not expect the reader to implement everything at once, hence the 15 week layout.

The first exercise is to stop playing with your phone. The first sentence of the assignment actually says to turn your phone off; however, Mr. Meindl fully recognizes that this isn't a realistic option for most as their cell phone is their only phone. I was already aware that I frequently use my phone as a security blanket, messing with it out of discomfort or boredom or anxiety about a situation. I had even focused on not playing with my phone in the recent past. This week went a little smoother. The trick is often figuring out the difference between when you are using it as a tool versus a toy.

The second homework assignment is to close your eyes for 5 minutes at the beginning of your day and just focus on your breathing. I admit, I was not successful with this one. I was waking up so tired that I feared falling asleep while breathing. I am going to make another attempt at this.

There were a couple of passages in the book that really struck me, other than his amusing anecdotes and stories from his childhood. In fact, it's something that my husband and I have discussed on many occasions and a big reason I dislike celebrity gossip magazines (though I still can't help looking at the headlines in the grocery checkout line) and reality tv shows.
Someone else's path may seem more glamorous, or more interesting, or exciting, but it's only because we aren't fully present to -- and living our own -- glamorous, interesting, exciting journey. We spend so much time and energy coveting what other have that we lose a sense of gratitude that we've been given our own path. We're trying to fulfill ourselves through the living of someone else's life.
I'm not saying that I'm a jetsetter in any way, but if you are always comparing yourself to the Joneses or the Pitts of the world, you'll never be satisfied with the good things you have. And keep in mind, that many of those celebrities would love to have a couple days where they could go to the store without having to hide or be mobbed by the press or fans.

Mr. Meindl offers 25 exercises, or homework assignments, to help you be more aware of yourself, your attitudes, and the events in your life.  He suggests ways to help you cope with the stressors in your life, yet never claims that what he's suggesting is a cure all or a miracle. Many of the activities will simply help you slow down and examine things as they are, and give you a way to step back from them a bit.  The focus of the book is on enhancing creativity, yet many of the exercises simultaneously offer a way for the reader to improve their quality of life by examining and adjusting their reactions to the events in their lives.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. I am also aware that some of the later homework assignments will pose a challenge for me as they will make me examine things that I would prefer not to. However, one can not grow without stepping outside of their comfort zone.