About two thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and a Stoic thinker, implored himself in his own journal: “Throw away your books: stop letting yourself be distracted … Discard your thirst for books … Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions (of life) the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them … ”
What was he imploring himself to do? Why was he begging himself to throw away his books, or, at least, to put them aside? Marcus Aurelius was calling on himself to stop accumulating wisdom and knowledge and to go ahead and finally engage in a meditation practice. (The quotation above is from his collection of writings, called Meditations).
The Mindfulness Project are Alexandra Frey and Autumn Totton. I had a pleasure of meeting them a few years ago when they came out to Pittsburgh (where I live) to invite me to be on their advisory board. A year or so ago they came out with a book called “I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal.”
Prior to writing this review I went to Amazon.com and read through some of the reviews of their book. The book is doing great – great reviews. But I am afraid the book is still underestimated. Some of the reviewers see this book as a charming gift; a few others see it as a kind of introduction to mindfulness meditation and practices. The former are, of course, right – the book is a charming, all-occasion gift. The latter – those who are jonesing for a more in-depth discussion of meditation and mindfulness – are missing the point.
So, here’s my point: if you want to develop a meditation practice or a mindfulness practice or a mindfulness-meditation practice, at some point you need to stop reading books and blogs about meditation and mindfulness, and you need to actually plunge into the practice itself. That’s what Marcus Aurelius was raving about in his old age. And that’s what the “I Am Here Now” book is about. It’s not about reading, it’s about mindful doing … and mindful non-doing. The book is a series of provocative illustrations and experiences, with minimal text and instructions. Each page is a clue. If you follow it, you stand a fairly good chance of finding Reality, as it is, in its fleeting, moment-specific suchness. Each page is a pithy pointer that first leads to yourself and then, past yourself, into the ineffable evanescence of the Moment.
This is not the only book of this kind. On my bookshelves, somewhere, I have a copy of 1971 “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass – it too is an illustrative mind-trip into the nowhere-of-the-moment. I also have a 1972 copy of “10 Ways to Meditate” by Paul Reps. Reps’ book is also thin on text and rich in calligraphy-inspired whimsical doodles. But notice the years – 1971, 1972. It’s been quite a while since anyone has produced this kind of book and, believe me, I’ve had a chance to plow through hundreds of mindfulness- and meditation-oriented books over the last twenty or so years. All these books – the one by The Mindfulness Project and the ones by Ram Dass and Paul Reps – have one important aspect in common. They ask you to let go of your attachment to thinking. They call on you to stop your preparatory procrastinations and to kiss the ever-waiting lips of Reality.
Mindfulness is about finding yourself here, now, in your fleeting, moment-specific form. That is action, of a non-doing kind. The rest is words. It’s time to go beyond words.
You can read about The Mindfulness Project here
And about the book here