Friday, 12 February 2010

Doris Lessing - The Grandmothers

BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize For Non-Fiction Doris Lessing on right, with Beryl Bainbridge, 2008
This is a collection of 4 short stories published in 2003 when Doris Lessing was I think 84.  It is an excellent book, with very different stories, circumstances, people.  It's as if she wants to convey the whole of her perception of humanity and her values, through these stories, which are very readable, clear prose.  I think she wants to pass on what she knows and feels - about education, the value of culture, the different experiences of love, of the history she has lived through.  I've always loved her books for this huge view she has, ranging from politics, prophecy, different countries, states of mind (mental illness included), much about relationships between men and women and love, spirituality in its broadest forms, the environment.. and all very clear-sighted.  My favourite is the 'Children of Violence' series ending in 'The Four-Gated City'.  I haven't read it for decades but I still remember it.

Full Catastrophe Living - reduce your stress using 'mindfulness'

This book, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is a course used in the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre for stress management and reduction.  The people using it, whose case histories are included in the text, are not ‘burnt-out yuppies’ but people with very pressing physical or emotional problems, including chronic pain and frightening illnesses.  It involves using a secular form of meditation, relaxation and yoga for an 8-week period, during which no goals are set, in order to release people from striving to achieve a result, just as they might do in their everyday lives.  I liked this attitude – an achievement orientation can be a curse for those who like me were recovering from ME, though motivation is important.

I used this course and book in my own way – following the relaxation and meditation practises but not the yoga or ‘walking’ meditation.  I found that it was very helpful in reorienting myself to ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, creating a feeling of more space in my life to appreciate things.  The relaxation exercise was helpful in increasing my sleep at night and properly relaxing during the day, which felt healing.  The 8 weeks was just a start for me – this is a life’s work!

In addition to the course exercises there is a lot of useful material here on all kinds of stress – ‘people stress, ‘time and time stress’, ‘working with physical pain’, ‘working with panic, fear and anxiety’.  These provide useful fuel for your mind at bad moments, and the case histories mentioned are very encouraging.  I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to improve the quality of their life, including their health.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Seabiscuit and me

I just noticed I had this comment on another book on my personal blog - here it is for you, in the hopes you'll enjoy this book, which is a great yarn and a true story.

I have just finished 'Seabiscuit' by Laura Hillenbrand. It is a fantastic true story, well told, and I was very involved with it (OK I cried at times). It's about a bow-legged horse who makes an unlikely racehorse, and the stories of the team who worked with him.  At the time of the Great Depression people all over the USA were obsessed with him and his rivals.  Although I knew nothing about horse-racing before I read this, it didn't matter - all was explained, in a page-turning absorbing manner.

Then I read Laura H's article about her illness (CFS) which is another moving true story, of determination against the odds and terrible setbacks to produce a best-selling, award-winning book. She is still ill. I do hope she finds ways of recovering like I did.

I am getting better after a long CFS-like recurring virus since April. I am relieved I can use the Lightning Process to get rid of it, even after I'd left it awhile to try and clear up on its own. I am plugging away at my walks and short drives, and seeing people in the village, and I'm seeing positive results again - phew!

Laura Hillenbrand's story and her book have moved me. Not the drama and the struggle but the characters' creativity and enjoyment of life, even when they are in pain. Keep on trucking!