Long time, no chat. Between the holidays and making a VERY last-minute decision to move this month–not to mention working and yadda yadda yadda…something had to give, and that something was keeping up on the blog. Things are (slowly) beginning to settle, and I’m back with a new review for you! New World Library sent me a copy of Mark Coleman’s recent book Make Peace with Your Mind, and boy, did I take my sweet time reading it. With the nature of this book however, slower was definitely the better option.
Let’s jump in. So you know that voice (or voices) in your mind that berates you when you make a mistake? The one that appeals to your doubt and convinces you not to do something and then immediately gets on your case for not doing it? Also, the one that has the power to send you into a guilt-trip/anxiety-laden/self-admonishing downward spiral? Yeah. That one. That’s your Inner Critic darlings and Mark Coleman’s Make Peace with Your Mind is the book to read to learn how to free yourself from it. Coleman proposes you accomplish this by practicing mindfulness and compassion towards yourself.
What is mindfulness? According to Coleman, cultivating mindfulness is a “skill that gives you the awareness to see, with focused clarity, what is happening in your mind and body.” He also reiterates throughout the book that mindfulness isn’t something that just occurs magically one day. You have to work at it. This might be one of the more meaningful aspects of this book that I found–mindfulness is not ignoring the negative. We don’t shove it in a dark corner somewhere and hope that it goes away. No. Mindfulness is being aware and accepting ALL parts of you. Coleman uses a great quote from Carl Jung to really emphasize this point:
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
Recognizing my penchant to be long-winded in an effort to be thorough and precise (thanks, mindfulness) instead of giving you an extensive breakdown of the entire book, I’ll just tell you what I think. Isn’t that the nature of a review anyway?
I think this book is worth the read. I think this book is helpful. Each chapter is short, clear, practical–and yet when all flow together–incredibly thorough. At the end of each chapter of MPWYM (yep, I went there) Coleman provides simple, practical exercises to practice mindfulness and work on releasing the Critic’s hold on your mind. Using real-life experiences from his own life and the lives of his students (he’s a teacher of mindfulness and mediation) in each chapter as examples, he brings the much-desired relatability factor that some books in this genre lack. Coleman is open about his background, his own struggles with his Critic, and how mindfulness helped him transform his life.
While I’ve been reading MPWYM, I’ve definitely noticed some changes in my own thought-processes. My personal Inner Critic is a jerk and I’ve enjoyed learning new techniques to deal with it. During Portland’s recent Snowpocalypse, I managed to get my car stuck in the snow while on my lunch break. Frustration hit. Immediate reaction? “Jesus Megan, taking this road was really stupid.” Pushed that one to the side and started to attempt to put chains on my tires. To make a long story short–I was wildly unsuccessful and my Critic had a field day. Was I so incompetent and so stupid that I couldn’t even put chains on my tires that were touted as being SO EASY to put on? This spiral went on for a few minutes before I stopped. I realized that my critic was feeding on my stress and frustration and that these thoughts were not going to make the situation better. Let’s go back over that one a second–I REALIZED my Critic. I was able to recognize what was happening and stopped those angry negative thoughts in their tracks and say, “Hey, thanks for your opinion, but I’m going to be okay.” Holy mindfulness, Batman.
If you think you might have an Inner Critic that’s giving you grief, and really, most of us do, go pick up this book. It’s a self-help book that actually helps, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Cheers to the weekend Darlings, and namaste.