How to Meditate – Book Review

         How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery by Lawrence LeShan is a best-selling classic with more than one million copies in print.  Although, LeShan wrote this book over thirty-five years ago (in 1974), the benefits of meditation are needed now more than ever in our fast-paced, multi-multi-multi-tasking, high stress, latte-consuming society. 

        There are many ways you can meditate.  LeShan divides these ways into four different “paths,” as he calls them, which can each help you to achieve the same goals – less anxiety, better health, and a greater joy in living to name a few.  The paths are as follows:

1.  intellect
2.  emotions
3.  body
4.  action

        How to Meditate is a “practical instruction for anyone seeking inner peace, relief from stress, and increased self-knowledge.” I became interested in meditation several years ago when stress and anxiety started to negatively affect many areas of my life, including my sleep, my relationships, and my work.       

        Now, I meditate almost everyday for periods of five to thirty minutes. Even that little bit makes a huge difference in my anxiety levels and ability to calmly handle life’s normal stressors and even some of the big ones. 

        Do you use meditation as a way to cope with anxiety and/or depression?  How does it work or not work for you?


I Hate You – don’t leave me Book Review

“Am I losing my mind?”  is the question in large, bold-red letters on the back of the first edition of Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus’s I Hate You – don’t leave me, a non-fiction book about borderline personality disorder (BPD.)  Kreismnan, a medical doctor, and Straus, a “health writer,” “offer much-needed advice, helping victims and their families to understand and cope” with this disorder.

          The book was published (copyright 1989) when BPD was not yet well-understood.  Therefore, more recent and effective management techniques for families and those with BPD are not available in this edition as they may be in the second edition which was released in 2010. 

         However, the symptoms and theories behind the causes and/or correlations of the disorder remain similar to what they were twenty years ago.  I Hate You- don’t leave me delves into these issues in both an objective and subjective way.

          The authors provide statistical facts as well as many case-study examples of the similarities that those with BPD share.  Those with the disorder will probably be able to identify with the first three chapters which are:

1.       The World of the Borderline

2.      Chaos and Emptiness

3.      Roots of the Borderline Symptoms

          In chapter four, The Borderline Society, many theories attempting to explain the shifts in our culture as possible causes for this disorder are explored with particular attention given to the authors’ own biases, including the breakdown of the nuclear family, an increase in two-wage earning households, and geographical instability.  Moreover, the authors state:

“Like the world of the borderline, ours in many ways is a world of massive contradictions.  We presume to believe in peace yet our streets, movies, television, and sports are filled with aggression and violence.”

“Ideally we, as individuals and as a society – attempt to achieve a balance between nurturing the body and the mind, between work and leisure, between altruism and self-interest.  But in an increasingly materialistic society, it is a small step from assertiveness to aggressiveness, from individualism to alienation, from self-preservation to self-absorption.”

[And finally,] “The price tag of social change has come in the form of stress and stress-related physical disorders, such as heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.  We must now confront the possibility that mental illness has become part of the psychological price.”

          The last half of the book addresses those who have contact with individuals with BPD, including family members, friends, and therapists.  While these chapters give practical suggestions on ways to communicate with people who have BPD and also, how to cope with their anger explosions, rapid moods swings, suspiciousness, impulsive actions, and inconsistent communications, if someone with BPD were to read these chapters, they may – due to the very nature of their disorder – be offended.

          In summary, the authors, by their own admission, try to cover issues affecting both the individual with BPD and those whose lives are affected by someone with BPD, which leaves us with one book that has two halves; the first half being useful to those with the disorder and the second half being useful to families and others.  I think two separate books would have been more ideal.

          Do you or someone you know have borderline personality disorder?  Have you ever read I Hate You – don’t leave me?   If you did, was it helpful to you?

        Do we do things we don’t want to in order to please others? When we say “no” do we often feel guilty? Martyrdom is for saints. We are not saints. We are also not bad. We are sick and we are trying to get well.

        Unless we are doing for others for “fun and for free” we are harming ourselves as well as lying to ourselves and others about our motives for helping them.

        Today, I will give freely that which I can afford to give. I will not risk my physical, emotional, or mental health by saying yes when I want to say no or by feeling guilty for making my health my top priority.

Mental illness often runs in families.  Our parent or grandparent or other relative may have had or does have a mental illness.  Some of our family members may have been diagnosed and may be getting the treatment they need to recover while others may not.

When dealing with our family, whether they have a mental illness or not, they may hinder more than help our progress because of our deep emotional ties to them and theirs to us.  While they may love us, they may not know how or be unable to help us.

         Today, I will evaluate my support system.  I will call someone who is outside of my family; someone who can offer objective, unconditional support to me and I will know peace.

“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.”  ~ Richard Carlson

          Often our symptoms are triggered by stress.  Although, the bigger stressors aren’t usually the ones that get us.  We may actually feel better in times of crisis.  It is the little stressors that seem to befuddle us; our day-to-day activities somehow become more overwhelming than a huge crisis might be.

          Crises are often short-lived.  Anyone can do almost anything for one day.  Daily responsibilities, on the other hand, are life-long.  And when we focus on the “life-long” part, we may feel like giving up.  Yet, there is another way – to stay in today.

          Today, I will fulfill my responsibilities to myself first and next, to those around me to the best of my ability.  I will focus on my tomorrows when they become my todays and I will know peace.

I cry out for order and find it only in art. ~ Helen Hayes

                The correlation between creative and passionately driven individuals and mental illness appears to be high.  We are in impressive company:

Isaac Newton, most famous mathematician of the 17th Century, is suspected to have had Bipolar Disorder which was an unknown illness during his lifetime.

Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, had bipolar disorder.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of U.S., suffered from major depression.

Vincent Van Gogh, famous painter and artist, is thought to have experienced bipolar symptoms.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, (who, along with Roosevelt and Stalin, led the world to the defeat of Hitler in WWII) had major depression.

Virginia Woolf, the British novelist, experienced the mood swings of bipolar disorder her entire life. “She wrote to make sense out of her mental chaos and gain control of madness; and was greatly admired for her creative insight into human nature.”

The list goes on and on:

Leo Tolstoy, author

Charles Dickens, English author

John Keats, poet

Michelangelo, artist

Bette Midler, entertainer

Charles Schultz, cartoonist

Dick Clark, entertainer

Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky, composer

Charlie Pride, singer

Sylvia Plath, poet and novelist

Janet Jackson, singer

Patty Duke, actress

Roseanne Barr, comedian

Marlon Brando, actor

Ernest Hemingway, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

Tennessee Williams, American playwright

Today, I will write down two aspects of my life that have been positively affected by my mental illness; perhaps, someone I have met that I otherwise wouldn’t have or a creative talent I possess.  I will acknowledge the silver lining in the cloud of my mental illness and know that I am not unique in its negative or positive aspects.