After reading your book Getting a Life in entirety, and letting
all of its lessons ruminate conjunctively in my brain for a little over
a week now, I think I can finally speak analytically, and with confidence
about my experience reading your book. First of all, it was an experience
in every sense of the word. After having read your book, chapter by chapter,
week by week, it is undeniable that I've become a different person: worldly,
engaged, more understanding, and insightful seem to be a few qualities
that are stronger in my day to day life. My transformation did not happen
all at once as I read the last word and closed the back cover of Getting
a Life. It happened over the course of about nine weeks, as I read
about two chapters per week. After picking up your book to read each week,
I couldn't help but feel as if some bigger cosmos was toiling with my
fate. Your words seemed to be uncannily chosen to counsel and clarify
confusions I faced at that specific point in time. I realize now that
what I perceived as an amazing coincidence was really just my interpretation
of your words, so applicable in so many situations, and me relating them
to my own life and experience.
I am not overly enthusiastic about every single word printed in Getting
a Life, but I hardly find myself downright disagreeing with it. Your
words can be argued in every direction. I have to admit that your advice
is wonderfully fitting for all kinds of lives and people. It is open to
interpretation on so many levels. I feel if anyone were to embark upon
reading your book with nothing but an utterly open mind (not a critical
or skeptical one), they would find that the content is relatable, pertinent,
and appropriate for many scenarios, certain ones befitting some more than
others. When I read your book there were phrases and sentences that stuck
out to me. I assume that the same thing happens to each reader, different
chapters resonate more strong than others depending on the unique life
that sits reading. I think it is these touching tidbits, unique for each
reader, which I remember. Here are those points of mine, ones that jumped
out at me as I read them and left me thinking, "How does he know?
This relates perfectly to...".
1. Chapter 2: Being a Learner: This chapter struck a deep chord. At
the beginning of this third semester of my college education, a question
crept up in my mind, which had remarkably never showed itself before.
Not in all my years of high school had I asked: "Are you learning
everything you want to know?" I realized that there were skill sets
and knowledge that I had always wanted to learn, but never pursued because
I was led to believe their priority was far below what I was learning
in mainstream schooling. The kind of education I was lacking, the kind
involving apprenticeship or travel, was always thought of as an addendum
to my education that I might "one day pursue in my spare time."
It quickly dawned on me that I was not sure what I meant by "spare
time," and when exactly I was waiting for it to consume my life.
It was time to become my own teacher, and this revelation has changed
the way I live my life day-to-day.
2. "There are people who get very upset by uncertainty
people prematurely undertake a course of action just to ease their uncomfortable
feelings." This quote from the chapter entitled "Doing it
Now," is the equivalent for me of what some people pay hundreds and
thousands of dollars in therapy for: an exact description of the personal
quality that is causing them their strife.
I am controlling. There I said it; I am a control freak. It is an incredibly
stressful way to live life. I often lie to my conscious mind in order
to keep calm. I try and convince myself that things are still in my control,
even when they are undeniably not. I'll "undertake a course of action,"
that eases, assuages, or simply distracts me from the unnerving notion
of helplessness. I'm on the lookout these days for this unhealthy habit
forming where I refuse to address whatever uncomfortable situation is
at hand. Just like the first step out of the 12 steps for a recovering
alcoholic, my first step was admitting to be a control freak. Now
I am working on facing the uncontrollable, and not allaying or appeasing
it with distractions or irrelevant busyness.
Chapter 6-Confident Knowing: Listen to your intuition. In our society,
or the one that I am immersed in day-to-day, I feel that one's intuition
is manipulated from the get-go. As you get older, you become more and
more detached from recognizing that voice that isn't in our head, but
in our "gut." This chapter was a mind-quieter for me. I finished
reading and my brain, constantly "buzzing," as you so accurately
described, was far less noisy than usual. The voices that normally occupy
it, ones of other people and institutions filling it with their thoughts
and opinions, was not quite as loud. Something I had read had quieted
the extraneous stimuli flickering through my consciousness. I had become
just a little bit closer to hearing that voice from below (my gut instinct,
that is). I try to quiet my mind with those voices and opinions I too
often confuse with my own. I am trying to get back in touch with this
intuition that is so often stifled by expectations, regulations, and outside
influences. It is easier said than done, but you certainly have to be
diligent about trying, which is what I aim to do now.
Chapter 13-Transcending Loneliness: I think nothing spoke to me
more than this chapter. When you said, "To an extent greater than
we might like to admit, loneliness drives the human race, and determines
our behavior." I stopped and thought for a long time. I think that
to a point our moment-to-moment engagement with the world, being active
and engaging our brains with constant activity, is our tendency to want
to stave off one thing only-feeling alone.
To clarify: I don't think that everyone on the planet needs to have a
partner or another person to console his or her loneliness. Everyone has
a different shape puzzle piece to fill the void that leaves them lonely;
it may be a hobby, an activity, an adventure, a purpose, and in some cases
it is another person. Looking at loneliness through this wide lens, I
think that this can explain a lot of the incentives behind decision-making,
which can help you properly analyze how you will react to certain events
and situations. Looking back on my decisions I can analyze which ones
have left me feeling "full," satisfied, or content, which helps
me pinpoint the source (or shape) of my loneliness.
These are only a few of the concepts and topics you address in your book,
which I found struck a familiar chord within me. Your book is one that
I'd like to go back and read someday, many years from now. I think it
will be the same, slightly unnerving experience where, as I read, I can't
help but admit how eerily relevant it is to my life at that point in time,
The question in class has often come up where we ask ourselves what would
make a "good life," were we are hypothetically lying on our
deathbed, many years from now, and looking back on the life we have lived.
Would we consider it "good"? Your book, Getting a Life,
has helped me attain a lifestyle that I feel more at home in, more fulfilled
by. I think, when you're on your deathbed, a life of personal satisfaction
is all you can wish for, which is all that I strive for from this day
Thank you and best wishes,
so much for taking the time to get your thoughts together in such an effective
way, and to share them with me. As you know doubt know, you are an excellent
writer. And I find your ability to examine your mind and "know thyself"
to be exceptional, not just for a person of your age, but of any age.
very much your comments about trying to separate your own deeply personal
intuitive knowing from the cacophony of voices trying to influence us.
I'm glad that your reading of Chapter 6 helped you move closer to that
gut level knowing. But as you say, in our culture "it is easier said
than done." In my comments to the class the other day I touched on
what I have found to be the most effective way of quieting those other
voices in our planning, remembering, thinking intellect and opening up
to the quiet, subtle, feeling-expressed intuitive knowings. The quiet
mind is a habit that can be developed through practice. It takes repetitive
effort just as learning to play a musical instrument does, and like that
kind of practice, it is often frustrating at first. If you feel like exploring
in this direction I have two suggestions. There is a guided mindfulness
meditation online that is basically the beginning meditation that one
finds in all branches of Buddhism, and these days also in many secular
settings. The URL is http://www.wisdompage.com/Audio/GuidedMeditation.html.
The second is a technique that came out of biofeedback research called
Open Focus. That URL is http://www.wisdompage.com/aboutopenfocus.html.
again, Kelsey, for all your supportive comments. I think a lot of people
are intimidated by the thought of writing to book authors. Consequently,
we don't get nearly as much feedback from readers as most people assume
we do. I very much appreciate yours.