Just Sit: Book Review (and the best advice I got this year)

I have loved road bike riding ever since my handsome husband Rob took me out on a ride in the mid-90s.  Similarly, I have loved yoga since he took me to a class during that same time period.

I can’t imagine my life without either of those things.  Then… I had to. I had a pulmonary embolism in July of this year, and between the infarction that destroyed one of my lungs, and the blood thinners I had to take; I was down and out.  No biking, no yoga (at first.)

Review of Just Sit book
Yep. They make it that simple.

Luckily – a dear friend Laura (and yes, my co-founder here at MobileOm) brought by the book “Just Sit.”  Its subtitle is “A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know they should but Don’t.”  Yeah, me. I mean, I teach yoga, I know all the science on how meditation makes you healthier and more effective.  But other than at the end of a yoga practice – those magic moments, I didn’t make time for it.

Well, I had time now!  Reading the book was the first step, and it was surprisingly easy.  The authors, Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz have a tone that is helpful, playful, but insistent.  They lay out the book in small, highly effective sections that get inside your mind, and help you make the decision that this is something you want to, and can do.

Getting into the book.

The preface is very thought provoking.  They tell the story of a gentleman in the 1960s – one of the author’s father – who went out for a run.  He was stopped by the police, as it turns out that someone going out for a run in that time frame was not really something people did.  The policeman thought it very odd. But today – no big deal, right? On any given pleasant evening, what neighborhood doesn’t have its share of health enthusiasts out running, and there are even treadmills busily enabling those without outdoor access to the benefits of running.

They posit that we are at a similar place for meditation. What was once an exotic habit will be, in the next generation, something that is acknowledged to be almost universally accepted as a healthy, mainstream way to heal and safeguard good health.  

They lead into the introduction, giving their own journey’s to the mat, and then follow with a timeline of meditation; starting from the days of 400 BC writing of the Yoga Sutra’s in India, through yoga and meditations journey to the US (yes, including the Beatles.)  with meditation ending up on the cover of Time Magazine.

The heart of the book.

What I enjoyed so much about the book is they acknowledge that meditating is both incredibly simple and incredibly hard to do (at least at first.)

They get right to demystifying the how to do it.  Its right on page 4 where they break down how to “just sit” telling you both where to put your body, and where to put your attention.

You might think ok… is this a 4 page book?  Nope.

The rest of the book deals with why meditation is hard to do; and why people like me who know they should but still don’t.

Meet The Trickster; they introduce a concept of the part of the mind that wants to stay incognito.  Other schools of yoga might call this the Ego, but they’ve given it a little character (note: the illustrations in this book are quite adorable and engaging)  The trickster is the one feeding unhelpful thoughts into your daily monologue. For people who don’t meditate, this trickster is the source of a lot of pain and stress.  

In addition to the tricks the trickster plays to keep us squirrely, they also give very thoughtful answers to many of the conscious objections people may have to meditation. (Is it against my religion / do I have to be religious to do it?  How do I pick the right kind of meditation? How will I know if I’m getting any benefit.)

Finally, they end this “objection” section by giving us new friends.   Just as they personified the ego as the trickster, they give us allies; such as “the brain trainer” “The DNA Repairman” “The Anxiety Killer” – letting you pick from the native internal cheerleaders you may have waiting to step in and help you.  

Each chapter ends with a charming “note from the cushion” from our authors.

The rest of the book goes deeply but charmingly into the health benefits of the practice, and many practical tips about how to make it a habit.  They have an 8 week guided tour of many different kinds of mediation that will let you figure out what will work for you; suffice it to say Week 1 – follow the breath gets you started down the right path, and each week adds additional grace and flavor.  I especially like the “spark” section where they list common things you already do (walk the dog/take a shower) that can be the starting point for your daily meditation.

So I Sit.

The book was a gift from a friend, but my daily sitting is a gift I’m finally able to give myself. Do I feel the difference in the 3 months I’ve been doing it (on top of the wonderful yoga and cycling with are now back in my life?)  Yep – I do.

Whateever I was doing in those 20 minutes, I don’t recall and do not miss.   It’s nice to be able to something that I knew I should do and now I want to.