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I am not sure where to start; I did a search on the internet to see what is the best way to do a book review and well, I hope that I can do the book justice. So, here goes my first book review and hopefully, I can give you enough information that will help you decide if maybe you would like to read the book. I mean simply me saying that, “you should” is not enough, right? So, I will try and keep it short and not reveal too much about the book.
As I mentioned before, I found myself in a dark place, and I wasn’t sure how to get out of it. I struggled for nearly a month and half until I was finally able to write a post, but even now as I write this post, I feel the lingering of the darkness around me. I picked up the book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Strom by Thich Nhat Hanh. Now, I am not familiar with this author at all, and I did not realize that he is a practitioner of “Mindfulness”. I wasn’t sure what this really meant, I mean I did have an idea, but not a true definition of mindfulness, so I decided to look up the definition of Mindfulness.
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique” (Powered by Oxford Languages)
Thich Nhat Hanh shortens the meaning, with, “The Practice of living fully in the present moment” (Hanh, 2012). He starts out by talking about how we can be surrounded by all the conditions of happiness, but still not be completely happy. It made me think that maybe I must step back and look at what I have now at the moment, and maybe I have been missing out on everything that happens each day. He talks about the fears we carry with us every day, like, will I have enough to pay the rent or mortgage, will I lose what I love, am I safe, my children, friends, family, and pets safe, what will I do tomorrow, and why did I do that yesterday – we have a tendency of not living in the moment and worrying about the past, and the future while ignoring the present. He also talks about fears and that they don’t necessarily come from outside forces but can come from inside. He tells of a story while he was in Vietnam, and how he ran into an American officer and compassionately asked if he was afraid of the Viet Cong, which were Vietnamese communist guerrillas. The young officer immediately touched his gun and ask him if he was Viet Cong. You see every American soldier coming to Vietnam had learned that everyone in Vietnam could be a Viet Cong. They were conditioned by outside forces that everyone could be Viet Cong which created fear in every American soldier.
The first part of his book talks about fear, and how we can handle it if we just invite it and be aware of it. He further says that if you can deeply understand your fear, then you can really live. He provides several great meditation practices you can do, which consist of breathing and saying some phrases. Goes into explaining the “Original Fear”, which he refers to as the day we were born. From that birth, the original fear is instilled within us, but then the “Original Desire” is also born, which is the desire to survive. He believes that a lot of what we fear in our daily lives stems from the Original Fear and Desire. Fear of loneliness, being abandoned, growing old, being sick, and so on. Our desire is to have a partner and never be alone, someone to take care of us like our mother or father.
I found that this was one of the pieces that were dragging me into that dark place, the fear of being alone, the fear of not having enough when I get older, the actual fear of getting old was trench deep within me and slowly coming up and taking over my life. I did not realize that the things I said and worried about were the same things that were putting me in that dark place, I was mindless about it. He continues about practicing mindfulness every day, even in the smallest things. Like being mindful of each meal, each step, each breath. He talks about how the fear and desires are tied to our birth, that inner child that feels helpless and is always looking for that reassurance from our mother. He tells us about how we need to talk to that inner child and let him or her know that everything is ok. He continues to talk about the original fear and how fearing the past can be like watching a movie, I think you will like the analogy he used, it really puts things into perspective, and he does it with something as simple as going to the movies.
He talks about reconciling with our past, our ancestry, and how we are all one and the same. He talks about no birth, no death. I think we all go through this daily, we have some small and some very big fears we deal with each day, and we let them consume us and forget to live in the present. I know by reading this book that I have quite a few of these fears and I was not aware of them until I read this book. It’s funny how we can just go about our days, with all these fears within us, without really taking the time to deal with them, before they take over our lives. I think I have been doing this for many years and during the covid lockdown, I think these fears manifested into something bigger and put me in this dark place I am now in.
I could write a book here about what I read, and how I think I can apply it to my daily life, to hopefully get me out of this dark place. Now, I know I am sounding doubtful but I think it really comes down to me making the effort, the push to get out, it is all on me to apply these practices of mindfulness. You will say to yourself when you read this book that you have read about these concepts, or ideas, from other authors, and you and I know these exist, but why do we need another book to tell us what we already know. The author is great don’t get me wrong, and I am not saying he copied something or someone, I am just saying that the teaching of his writings we have all, if not all, at least I have read or seen somewhere, in some format. Maybe not explained as he did, but I have an idea that I fear getting old, I fear not having enough money for retirement, I fear sending my daughter to school, these are the things we all live with and are aware of, yet we need another book to tell us. Now, wait, I am not saying that this book is just like all the others, and that is not my intention. The book has some wonderful meditation practices, which I have already implemented in my life. I take 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening to practice his meditations, and maybe nothing has really happened yet, since it has only been a few days, but I am here in front of my computer again, typing away.
It’s tougher than it looks to write a book review. I want to talk about everything, and I think too much summarizing won’t give you the information you need to decide if you want to read the book. Now, I highlighted a lot of paragraphs, sentences, whatever you want to call them, in the book, things that caught my eye and made me think, dang that-that is me, this is what I am going through, this is what I need to do. I am going to write down a few of the things I highlighted that made me think about what I am going through.
“In addition to getting caught in dwelling on events that happened in the past, we often walk around in fear of what will happen to us in the future.” (Hanh, 2012)
“When we suppress our fearful thoughts, they continue to fester there in the dark. We are driven to continue (food, alcohol, movies, etc.) in an attempt to forget and keep those thoughts from surfacing in our conscious mind.” (Hanh, 2012).
“We cannot enjoy life if we spend our time and energy worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.” (Hanh, 2012).
“But destroying someone doesn’t reduce that person to nothing. They killed Mahatma Gandhi. They shot Martin Luther King Jr. But these people are still among us today. They continue to exist in many forms. Their spirit goes on.” (Hanh, 2012)
The book talks about society, building communities, connecting with yourself, body and mind, nature, the past, the future, but most importantly the present. There is a reference to Christianity and Buddhism, which I thought was cool because you got to see two points of view or ideas.
I believe that along with reading the book, following the meditations in the book, and understanding the deeper level of mindfulness, this book is a great read. It opens your eyes to something you probably already knew, but couldn’t get to come out from wherever it has been hiding. I can go on talking about the many thoughts, and ideas in the book, but overall, I recommend the book. It took me about 7 days to read sporadically – so if I hunkered down, I could have probably finish the book in a couple of hours, depending.
With that said, I know I got a little carried away with this post, so if you made it this far, I appreciate your hanging out. I wanted to leave you with one last reading from the book, “I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough to be happy.” (Hanh, 2012)
Click below to purchase the book, I believe you will enjoy it.
Here are a few similar books, and I was thinking for my next book it will be number 3.
- The Meaning of Happiness by Alan W. Watts
- 37 Motivational and Life-changing Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh by Christine Jay
- When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
Citation: Thich, Hanh. (2012) Fear Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. HarperOne, an Imprint of HaarperCollinsPublishers