It was by chance that I stumbled upon this book. I was waiting for my train at the railway station and as I glanced through the usual glossy magazines I found this little book with a modest cover priced modestly too! Not being a very good manager of time, I bought the book and have never regretted buying it ever. It seemed co-incidental to me to chance upon a book written by an author I hadn’t heard of who was from Kerala while I was living in Kerala! In fact, I have read it so many times over and over again that I was tempted to review this book. So, here goes.
Eknath Easwaran dwells upon common day to day thoughts that run through the minds of ordinary souls like us. What is charming about the book is that it is not aimed at any specific audience and the instances used in the book are all taken from the author’s own life in India and abroad. The book is a self help book about ‘finding a balance in a hurried world.’ Eknath gets to the point convincingly without having to resort to any preachy stuff. He talks about an 8 Point Program for people wanting a little peace and joy in today’s overstressed, competitive and insecure world.
The first step is about Slowing Down which may seem very obvious to us but is usually never followed as we are constantly competing with ourselves and with others. Waking up early to do some nice reading is how he asks us to start the day. This way, we not only get our precious moments of solitude but we also make a great start to the day with some inspirational stuff. However, he points out that slowing down must not be ‘confused with sloth..’ By slowing down he suggests that we ‘attend to details giving your very best to even the smallest undertaking.’ Training Attention is the second step in the 8 Point Program where in one place he quotes Buddha, ‘When you are walking, walk; when you are sitting, sit. Don’t wobble.’ ‘Don’t bring the poodle home’ he says as it will keep yapping away and chew your valuable personal time at home. Changing channels in your mind as you would do when something comes on television that you don’t like comes easy when the mind is trained to do one thing at a time, Eknath says.
Juggling with our likes and dislikes form the third step which is Training the Senses. ‘Training the senses,’ Eknath says, ‘is not denying them or depriving them. It means educating them not to demand things that will cost us in health, security or freedom.’ Not wasting time in too many thoughts of the past and future, eating what is good for your body, and reading, watching and listening what is good for your mind helps elevate your image in your eyes and in the eyes of the others. ‘To live in balance, we need to drive the way skilled highway patrol officers do, with one foot on the gas and the other poised over the brake,’ he says. How very apt. Putting Others First doesn’t come easy but is not impossible. Sometimes, in times of conflict when you try putting others first you find that a problem did not exist at all. Not competing in relationships is what he prescribes – ‘complete each other instead’ he advocates. Spiritual Companionship is not getting all religious and spending your time in religious groups. Eknath says that spending time with people who make you feel good and comfortable is what spiritual companionship is all about. Even eating dinner together happily is ‘satsang’ or spiritual companionship, he says. Now Spiritual Reading is not something everyone would go out and do willingly but reading something inspiring, of the faith you follow and believe in just before you go to bed or early in the morning is one hell of a way to lay the foundation for a great day the next day and a peaceful sleep at night. I follow this although I admit not regularly but it works you know!
For all of us who are not atheists, Eknath suggests that a Mantram, a holy name or a prayer, if uttered silently in times of conflict, restlessness, problem or sickness can do wonders. It is the ideal way to feel comfortable as it helps your mind to rest and think better and more clearly. Finally, Meditation is prescribed for all and sundry. Nothing complicated, just a few minutes or maybe half an hour early in the morning or in the evening when you are sure to not get disturbed by anyone. Sitting in the same place everyday and reciting or reading prayers make you feel good. It may seem ritualistic at first but as you make it a routine you feel begin to feel the spiritual vibrations whenever you sit in that place. But, he does say that this needs to be done slowly ‘because the usual tendency is to race through the passage, escape from your meditation room, jump into your car, and rush back into the rat race.’
What I liked most about Eknath in this book is the fact that he drives home the point that we need to connect with people, communicate and make time for one another. He says that differences are part of any relationship, accept it – ‘You open Pandora’s Box expecting doves and out come a couple of bats instead!’ His sense of humor is great even as he tries to explain something serious.
I know that a book like this can make you feel, ‘oh not one of those books again’ but when you read this book as I did, you realize in the words of Eknath Easwaran that “a slower life is not an ineffective life. It is much more effective, much more artistic, much richer than a life lived as a race against the clock. It gives you time to pause, to think, to reflect, to decide, to weigh the pros and cons. It gives you time for relationships.”
Isn’t that what we always wanted?