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From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace Kindle Edition
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It's hard for me to know where to start, but here goes. The book is about awareness and becoming aware of our thoughts, the awareness BEHIND the thoughts (the "watcher", or "witness" if you will) and the consciousness behind that. In this way, it is connected to the Buddhist ideas about Mindfulness (and Ms. Lake mentions Mindfulness many times within this book) though it is by no means exclusively about Mindfulness. It is about "Presence" and becoming aware of Presence within ourselves. It is the author's contention that we become aware of that Presence by "noticing", slowly, that we are NOT the voice in our head which has been ceaselessly chattering almost from birth. If that voice can be slowed down through mindful awareness, meditation and intentional but gentle and non-forceful noticing, then the "spaces" between the chattering can be noticed and within that "space" a portal can open, or it might be better said that we can become aware of this portal as it has ALWAYS been there and has always been open and within that, Presence resides. This Presence is what is referred to in the book as "Stillness". Stress is something caused by identity with the mind and it's ceaseless, non-stop chattering, opinions, beliefs, strategies and a thousand other, mostly meaningless, THOUGHTS. The author makes a distinction between the endlessly chattering mind and the functional mind, the functional mind being what we need to calculate and essentially take care of the fundamentals. So, I hope this is not coming off as just one more self help guide, do this and you will be endlessly happy/enlightened/whatever. The author makes it clear that "this" means leaving the "comfort" (is it really comfortable? Familiar, perhaps, but hardly comfortable) of our mind based identities and coming, if you will, into the "open air" where real joy resonates. There is NO enlightenment because there's really no one, nor has there ever been anyone, to "get" enlightened. Gina Lake's writings remind me of MANY things, but mostly of what is called "Advaita", which I guess I can describe as a pure non-dualism or total Oneness-----there are not two, only One, and that One is all that exist and it's all that has ever existed and this book is about realizing That. And in this way the author reminds me of the words of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta. We are being "invited" to leave behind the competitive, mostly mean-spirited, rather ugly world of the ego and it's pettiness and ENDLESS competitive patterns ("you don't know, only I know, I'm on top and EVERYONE else is BELOW me") and are being asked to ignore, yes ignore, most of what comes from the mind and then to just observe and see what happens.
This book also reminds me a lot of "The Work" by Byron Katie and even mentions The Work. But the author also notes that she feels The Work doesn't go far enough in that it never questions the validity of the questioner. The Work simply poses 4 questions to ourselves that make us see the illusory or absurdity aspect of thought and the mind. "Is it true" "Can we be absolutely certain that it's true"? "How do we react when we believe that thought"? "What are we without that thought"? I really think there's tremendous value in these questions and in The Work itself, but I think what Gina Lake is saying is that perhaps the questioners themselves should be queried. In other words, WHO is asking the question?
Gina talks about living in our own mental holograph where nothing is experienced but the echoes of our own minds. Others might call this "hell". Here, Gina states that it's all a part of the evolutionary process and that "hell" exists to point us toward something beyond the conflict of duality.
The present moment, often referred to as "The Now", is featured throughout the book. Essentially, the mind (sometimes referred to in certain traditions as the "monkey mind") constantly jumps from thought to thought and these thoughts are either about the past, that which has already happened or the future, that which hasn't happened. BOTH are unreal and are literally figments of our imagination. Our current thoughts are colored by cultural, environmental, religious and educational conditioning. Barely anything gets through these filters. If this all sounds depressing, It is, but only if we believe or accept that all we are is this mind chattering automaton that is trapped in the endlessly repetitive patterns of its own thinking.
Gina Lake encourages us to pay attention to what is happening, right now, in this moment, without the color of thought or conditioning, without the desire that we be "anywhere else" or that we have anything else. Again and again she states that this is NOT easy, but takes effort, courage and even a certain degree of stamina and intention. It's paradoxical in that there's no "reward" at the "end of the rainbow", but being fully present to life "as it is", is its own reward. Over and over she states that "we" are the "thing that watches", the awareness or consciousness that is always "there", with us, closer than even our breath, yet so subtle it is often and mostly "missed", though it is the very thing that is life itself. This is an interesting book, though it probably helps if you have an interest in mystical "things". I really liked this book and I purchased all of the author's other books and I'll end this review in the way I began, the thread in all of her work is similar and, I say this as sincerely as I can, completely worth the time and effort. Hope this helps.
Mostly it is and where I am in life right now.
Here's my main problem with this - she looks at the ego as an enemy. And in a way she has a point. But when you live in true harmony, the ego serves the greater purpose. This is where I feel she hasn't really touched me. Yes, it is about moving out of the ego - but in some places I think the ego has a purpose and meaning.
If you're at this place in life I think it will help you a lot - that something you have to decide for yourself. For me it missed the point.
This book helped me a lot. Like all good books, what Gina says is practical and seems obvious... but so few of us actually practice it.
Most recent customer reviews
I found it at the fight time in my life
Thank you Gina!