Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Search Inside Yourself

It's a truism in teaching that the people most in need of the class never show up to class, while the diligent students who don't need to show up for class do so anyway. Search Inside Yourself is remarkable in that while a book in itself wouldn't generally be read by the angry, unreflective people who really need it, Meng managed to get Google to set up a class that would be attended by such people.

While reading the book, I'm struck by how much work meditation is. I'm blessed with a happy nature, so I've never actually needed to meditate. In my younger days, when I was hot-tempered, the section in the book on how to create a gap between stimulus and response would have been helpful, but I found that section in Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and then discovered that aging naturally gave me the calmness I needed to control my emotions.

Or so I thought. After reading this book, however, I realized that my thousands of hours riding a bike was equivalent to all of the exercises described in this book. The focus on the now, for instance is required on a bike. And of course mindful breathing is what every cyclist who climbs mountains has to do. And of course, flow comes naturally to any cyclist who's ever enjoyed cycling on a lonely road.

But most people are not as lucky as I am. I know people who can't start or hold on to an exercise program even to save their lives, let alone just improve their mood. Those people would do well to read this book. On the other hand, this book misses a lot of the many practical tips that I think would be useful for most people. For instance, while meditation could help you control your anger and frustration on your long commute, I would consider it better to lose the need to meditate by living closer to work instead. Meng, understandably doesn't cover these important practical tips, which I consider far more useful for most people, because he's wise enough to live close to work.

While I don't consider the book a waste of time, I found myself thinking that Meng's assumption that exercise and meditation are separate to be false, and that for many people, happiness can be found in something as simple as hiking or cycling. Nevertheless, for those who can't (or won't) start cycling or hiking, this book holds hope that just sitting still could also provide similar benefits. I can recommend this book for those people.
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