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Saturday 10 December 2016

How to achieve the perfect mind/body balance in life

Mindful Walking Walk Your Way to Mental and Physical Well- Being By Hugh O'Donovan Hachette Ireland (2015) €17.99 HHHII

Rene Descartes has a lot to answer for: the body/mind dichotomy is not useful, and privileging one over the other - most often, the mind - is getting humanity nowhere near the road to full mental, physical and emotional health.

O'Donovan proposes a sort of t'ai chi of forward movement, a slow pace that by extension, ought to slow down our thoughts as well, allowing us to experience the present moment with all our senses, whether we're on the way to work or working our way up a mountain.

Personally, I've been walking more slowly due to a banjaxed Achilles tendon, and it's been an interesting experience. I have to warn those who wish to walk with me that I am slow, allowing them the opportunity to go at their own pace.

In more instances than not, the person will attempt to keep at my pace, and then gradually increase theirs. I've found it a challenge to keep to the speed that is healthy for me, and have to fight the urge to go faster.

It's uncomfortable! It's also illuminating: I used to speed along, because I was just so busy; now, I find I do in fact get to where I need to go, no matter my pace, and I see more of the world around as I take my time.

So, I'm all for the notion of mindful walking, and I particularly like O'Donovan's suggestion that walking added to talk therapy is a way forward for those looking to minimise their emotional challenges, whether they are presented via anxiety, panic attacks or depression.

He points out that we are often less guarded, and more fluid in our verbalising of our emotions when we're walking and talking with a friend.

The notion that talk therapy can be taken out of the therapist's office and out into the world is fascinating. I'd like to read about that, in fact.

This is something you can do without a ton of bells and whistles, in keeping with the simplicity of the philosophy. I was displeased by the layout of the book, which has blown up the font size almost to a point where I don't need my specs.

This does the writer a disservice, as it only serves to annoy a reader who has paid almost €20 for a tome that is probably half the length of its 300-plus pages. It is a shame, because O'Donovan's thesis is entirely sound.

Heart of Miracles

My Journey Back to Life After A Near-Death Experience By Karen Henson Jones Hay House (2015) €16.50 HHHII

Diagnosed with Sudden Arrhthymia Death Syndrome, a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly and, in severe cases, stop and cause early death, the author undertook surgery to implant a device that would basically shock her heart back into action should she go into cardiac arrest.

It didn't work, and just before collapsing, she was conscious enough to say to her mother, "I am going to die now."

Her subsequent out-of-body experience inspired her to get her act together and truly live from her spiritual heart.

Her survival was nothing short of miraculous, and her story is indeed a cautionary tale for those who keep putting off living their best lives.

Yet her writing isn't preachy, despite her experience heavily involving divinity as framed in a Catholic perspective.

Dreams at the Threshold

Guidance, Comfort, and Healing at the End of Life By Jeanne Van Bronkhorst Llewellyn (2015) €19.50 HHHHI

Dreams play a big part in psychotherapy, and the notion that they are only now being used in hospice and end-of-life care seems like an obvious enhancement once Van Bronkhorst lays out the benefits and shares inspiring anecdotes.

Unhappy, frightened people find hope and joy in their dreams as they prepare to move on, and the richness of such an approach in hospice is one that I hope to hear more of as time goes on. The text gets slightly repetitive as Van Bronkhorst categorises the sorts of dreams that can be experienced, when it basically boils down to narratives of moving, packing, crossing bodies of water or tracts of land - metaphors that are fairly straightforward in interpretation.

I disagree with her when she tries to classify visitations as an unconscious experience, as before my father passed, he was sitting around chatting with his mother, who had died many years ago. Otherwise, this is a wonderfully compassionate breakthrough for those struggling with end-of-life issues, and there is much comfort to be found here for friends and relatives, too.

Insatiable

A Memoir of Love Addiction By Shary Hauer She Writes Press (2015) €8.11 eBook HHHHI

This pain-filled account of love addiction is almost too painful to read, which is a testament to the author's honesty and is a challenge to the reader's fortitude. 'Love addiction' is almost too simplistic a label to place on an almost ungovernable pursuit of affection.

Addiction as a state-of-being has been softened to buzzword, which is a tragedy given the number of people in the world who struggle with it in any way, shape or form. In this case, it can be minimised by terms like desperation or neediness, making it seem like a boy-crazy - or girl-crazy, for that matter - adolescent condition.

Hauer investigates her own life in a forensic manner, tracing her issues around not having enough love back to her family, and through the relationships with men that followed.

There's hope at the end of the tunnel. This is not for the faint of heart, but it is for the strong of spirit, especially those who can stand to look in the mirror that Hauer holds up.

Reprogram Your Life

Bioscience for a Healthier You By Dr Steven Willey Smith Publicity (2015) €8.23 eBook HHIII

It took ages for Willey to get to the meat of his thesis: that a balanced diet that ensures your insulin is working to its best effect, wedded with a good strength-training and aerobic programme, will help you be healthy and live longer.

In other words, not much new here. This felt like a protracted sell for an accompanying app. Frankly, I think that the app has incredible value, and you'd need it were you going to keep up with the suggested fitness programme. But if you're looking for inspiration, you may find it here.

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