Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dreams and Meditations

Recently I read some Kindle ebooks that dealt with raising our consciousness, expanding our reality, and generally improving our lives: Lucid Dreaming Now, The Ultimate Zen Guide to Meditation, Buddha in Blue Jeans, and Original Zen.

Let's start with dreams: My Grandma Ruble was a great believer in the meaning of dreams; she had a well-thumbed dreambook wherein she'd look up the meanings of whatever she dreamed about. I seem to remember that dreaming of a birth meant a death and dreaming of a death meant a birth. I think she also believed that you shouldn't tell your dreams before breakfast. I don't know if that meant bad luck or if it meant the dream wouldn't come true. She also believed in ghosts and in planting by the signs. She consulted her almanac as frequently as she consulted her dream book. While I'd heard a lot about the meanings of dreams when I was a kid, I'd never heard the term "lucid dreams" until I read the Lucid Dreaming Now (and I discovered there are a lot of ebooks and print books about lucid dreaming!).

According to the ebook, "Lucid dreaming is technically the state when you are aware that you are dreaming." In other words, even though you're asleep, you know that you're dreaming. I've had dreams like this—many times, I remember thinking this is only a dream as I dreamed about something. Now, I have a word for what I was doing.

Lucid Dreaming Now very briefly mentions the history of lucid dreaming (Aristotle, for instance, was interested in it) and briefly tells how it helps relieve stress, helps with problem solving, helps you deal with fears, etc. It lists ways you can remember your dreams (many of which I'd heard before—a dream journal, for instance) and gives hints for having lucid dreams.

While Lucid Dreaming Now is interesting as a brief introduction to the subject, it lacks depth. I really wanted to hear about the author's experiences or about case studies. There weren't any. I was hoping there would be a bibliography, but there wasn't. The table of contents wasn't linked (which is one of the things I expect in an ebook), and there was not even any author information whatsoever. If I'm reading non-fiction, I want to know the author's connection with the subject matter and maybe the author's qualifications to write the book. The book could also have been arranged in a more logical manner.

I also thought it odd that the author's name ("Nick Bell") was not on the book's cover (and was different from the name of the woman who contacted me on Facebook and recommended I read her book). Also, Nick Bell,  despite having written numerous Kindle books—about such conditions as hyperthyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome—has no Amazon Author Central page in his name. At the end of Lucid Dreaming Now, the author asks the readers to "check out my other book: Steve Pavlina's Ultimate Guide to Lucid Dreaming"(approximately 21 pages, $2.99), which is credited to Nick Stevens, who does have an author page wherein some of the 20 ebooks are written by Nick Bell and some by Nick Stevens. Call me confused! Who is the author?

Coincidentally, I have read Nick Bell's The Ultimate Guide to Meditation (approx. 17 pages, $2.99), which I got as a free download a year ago. I'm not sure how "ultimate" a subject can be covered in approximately 17 pages, though, and was not surprised that the book is very general. Again, there was no name on the cover (but a sticker proclaims it an Amazon bestseller), and—other than the author's mention that "I'm much more present, alert, I sleep better, and I don't get overwhelmed with anything that comes my way anymore!—no personal experiences or info about his qualifications to write the book. The book was arranged just like Lucid Dreaming Now, and the table of contents wasn't linked to chapters. I got the impression it was hastily done. And—I think—some info was just wrong: "Meditation . . .  helps your body get into better shape. Since meditation requires some physical movements, it can already serve as your daily workout." Huh?

And later in the book, meditation is finally defined: "Meditation is a self-imposed technique that can be done anytime and anywhere you please. You can do it on coffee breaks, on the couch, and even in the bathroom." Self-imposed technique?! And one of the tips for beginners: "As a newbie, you can start by enhancing your focus by using props, i.e. candle, flower, etc. to which you would try to give your full attention." Double-huh?

The "Tips on How to Meditate" chapter was, er, strange. One tip: "Try to find a spot that you find peaceful. It doesn't matter  if it is surrounded by some noise, because you can eventually use this noise to further enhance your senses."  This completely contradicts what I've read in other books about meditation. Consequently, I found very few of the tips helpful. Despite its title, the guide isn't ultimate.

On the other hand, Buddha in Blue Jeans: An Extremely Short Guide to Sitting Quietly and Being Buddha (approx. 31 pages, free), while also very brief, was much more readable. The hints were almost like very short poems. The main idea was sit quietly, be yourself, and pay attention to your breathing. This book is considerably more helpful as an introduction to Zen than The Ultimate Guide to Meditation. According to his Amazon page, author Tai Sheridan is a Zen Priest. He has several other free e-books about Zen.

Eduardo Mitchell's Original Zen (approx 120 pages for $2.99) goes into much more detail than the other two books and includes the author's personal experiences as he follows the path to enlightenment. He learned meditation from a Tibetan monk, teaches meditation himself, and has a master's degree in psychology.

Mitchell's definition of Zen is "the pathway to discovering your own inner nature and finding the knowledge that is stored deep inside you, which is knowledge you were born with." Of the three ebooks on meditation, this one is the most valuable because of the author's greater attention to detail, longer explanations of how and why Zen works, and personal experiences. The book is well-organized with a table of contents linked to the 13 chapters and to a glossary. The helpful hints  ("The Eight Steps to Quieting the Conscious Mind") are much more logical and helpful than the "Tips on How to Meditate" in The Ultimate GuideOriginal Zen effectively combines memoir and how-to advice.

Disclaimer: I did a bit of editing for Original Zen before it was published, so I read it several times. Because of it, I became interested in reading more about meditation.

Thanks to Amazon's "Look Inside the Book" feature, you can check out the beginnings of these ebooks yourself.



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