I’m always interested in books that address emotional and spiritual wellness and growth. Recently, I came across two that were personally helpful to me in those areas.
The first is Emotional Intelligence for a Compassionate World: Workbook for Enhancing Emotional Intelligence Skills. It was written by Barbara A. Kerr, the instructor for an online course I took last year, offered by the Charter for Compassion. You can read more about the course in my blog Emotional Intelligence for a Compassionate World: Wearing Our Golden Rule Gloves. You can also read about the work of the Charter for Compassion in my blog Making a Difference: Charter for Compassion.
Barbara is an engaging instructor who interacts with her students and personalizes the course for each of them. In this book, she has incorporated the lessons from the course and included self-assessments and exercises that will help individuals learn about and apply Emotional Intelligence skills individually, within their families, and in the workplace. As greater numbers of individuals master and practice these skills, compassion may well become the norm for society, rather than the exception.
I highly recommend the book to anyone who is serious about enhancing his/her commitment to living out the Golden Rule, which is a foundational principle for all of the major world religions, as well as a principle of humanism. In this political climate that fosters America First nationalism and protectionism, we could all benefit from a refresher course in using our emotional intelligence to create a more compassionate world.
The book can be purchased from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Compassionate-World-Enhancing/dp/1544607660/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1494968009&sr=8-2&keywords=barbara+kerr
If I were to summarize the scientific evidence in just a couple of paragraphs, it’s probably fair to say that if meditation was available in capsule form, it would be the biggest selling drug of all time.
The second book is Hurry Up and Meditate by David Michie. I’ve been aware for some time of the benefits of meditation for relaxation and stress release; however, I became interested in meditation for spiritual growth several years ago when I was reading the works of Ken Wilbur. (See What About Us Baby Boomers?). I’ve never established a regular time for meditation and have always approached it in a random fashion. After reading this book, I have decided to make meditation a daily practice.
Mitchie begins by summarizing the extensive body of scientific research on the benefits of meditation; however, as one who has meditated daily for over fourteen years, he says that the value of the practice became self-evident to him as he became more and more experienced. At that point, scientific evidence became less important.
Just as we don’t need scientific research to persuade us that a long cool drink is wonderful on a hot summer’s afternoon, once we’ve experienced the benefits of meditation on a personal level, the clinical whys and wherefores no longer seem relevant.
Nevertheless, he begins with the research as a way to motivate and convince his readers to begin their own pathway to meditation.
Mitchie refers to numerous studies that affirm the physical benefits of meditation, studies concluding that it lowers blood pressure and heart rate, provides highly effective anti-stress therapy with no side effects, improves immune function, makes us more efficient thinkers, and boosts the hormone that slows aging. And the mental benefits are no less impressive. Meditation has been shown to heighten activity in the brain associated with happiness and relaxation without anti-depressants and anxiety drugs, as well as improve concentration.
Although Mitchie meditates daily for an hour, he claims that much shorter periods of time can be beneficial. He suggests starting with fifteen minutes and extending the time gradually. Attempting long sessions of meditation for a beginner would be like a person who decides to take up running starting out with a marathon. It would almost do more harm than good.
As the book proceeds, the author discusses various reasons for meditation, which include relaxation, greater peace of mind, prevention and healing of illness, accomplishment of goals and aspirations, and spiritual growth and awareness.
He also describes various types of meditation practices such as nine-cycle breathing, body scanning, walking meditation, object-focused meditation, visualization, religious visualization, mindfulness of mind, analytical and contemplative meditation, and meditating with a mantra. Mitchie advises against switching meditation types during a session to allow the meditator to maintain focus. He suggests beginning and ending each session with an affirmation related to the purpose of the meditation, e.g., “By the practice of this meditation I am becoming calm and relaxed, more efficient and happier in all that I do, both for my sake as well as for others.”
In a chapter entitled “The Nuts and Bolts of Meditation,” Mitchie answers questions about length and time for meditation, posture, and positioning of the body and hands. He recommends beginning with an objective in mind, addresses breath-counting as a foundation for meditation, and tells the reader of the types of mental agitation and distraction that are common during meditation.
After finishing the book, I was persuaded to make meditation a daily practice. How could I not? It’s free, it has no side effects, and there is scientific evidence that it can enhance and extend my quality of life. I highly recommend you buy the book and read it, or listen to the audio version. I think you’ll come to the same conclusion.