Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Book Review and a Lamentation

I'm just finishing up a book on mindfulness and eating, one of four books on the topic that we have in the store at the moment.
Its a completely relevant topic. The notion and exercise of cultivating mindfulness has grown in popularity. We've adopted it for our nefarious Western purposes, but the concept is Buddhist in origin; right mindfulness is the 7th spoke of Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path.
In Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznick Ph.D., she applies the Four Noble Truths systematically to our attachment to desire for food. Ronna has extensive meditation training and a talent for clear thinking and speech. Put simply, this is one of the best books I've read about the nature of mindfulness and how to practice it in the face of desire. This book is tightly written and resonant. Resonant in the way that a point is made, a specific word chosen, and you feel like you've already been thinking that very same thing--just yesterday, I swear!

From the back (hardly ever a reliable or well-written resource for the contents of a book, but uniquely helpful in this case): "From a Buddhist perspective, overeating is a disorder of desire. Our emotional appetites will never be satisfied until we learn how to manage the desires that keep us looking for peace where it can't be found".
I have a qualm with the title and subtitle. The Zen of Eating is too simple and doesn't reach the heart of its contents. It seems anachronistic, like its the title of a Buddhist teachings meets the West book from the 90's. The subtitle is "Ancient Answers to Modern Weight Problems", which might throw someone off. Ronna gets below weight problems to directly focus on what's roiling under the surface when we experience desire. In effect, and to vaguely quote her without looking for the direct passage, she wants to uproot the tree of attachment to desire rather than just cut the tree down and leave the roots for future re-growth (much more succint and better written in the book).
My last point on this book is the general lamentation that books have stopped including a font type description and history of the font used for the text. I'm not talking like the next Grisham novel typed up in Times New Roman, but an awareness of the beauty of book construction in all of its facets. A mindfulness, if you will.

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