Book Review: Look Up!

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lookup-ccIn a fast-paced world that often makes us forget our humanity, we need to be reminded that life is more than work and paying the bills. Life is about breathing and soaking in the magic that comes with being alive. Jennifer A. Payne’s book, Look Up! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, offers both an exploration and reminder of how nature can save us from ourselves.

A simple walk through the woods is all it takes. Payne’s meditative journey begins on a wooded path surrounded by trees and with a question, “And how have I missed this before?” The wind through the trees and the crunch of leaves beneath her feet suddenly became the missing pieces she craved.

Look Up! is unique in that it combines quotations from the likes of Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau with spiritual thinkers such as the Dalai Lama and Krishnamurti. In between lines of poetry and philosophical ponderings are Payne’s personal essays that explore her meditative journey to reconnect with nature and ultimately herself. Her candor and wit makes her personal journey relatable and universal to anyone who feels overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life.

Payne’s use of diverse perspectives serves as a reminder that meditation isn’t a one size fits all kind of thing. For some achieving total mental stillness is a possibility, but for others the mind never stops ticking. In one of her personal essays, Payne puts out the idea that a constantly ticking brain isn’t necessarily a bad thing in terms of meditation.

Meditation is all about slowing down and redirecting all of our energy towards something that isn’t a to-do list. If we take the time to slow down and simply be, we might just learn something. Dragonflies and even a mushroom can carry a valuable lesson that is worth seeking and contemplating.

In addition to carefully selected quotations and essays, Look Up! includes beautiful photographs of Payne’s interactions with wildlife. Everything from raindrops on water to slithering snakes to autumn leaves elevates this little book into something very special. It truly invites the reader to take a personal journey. Whether it’s on an actual trail or vicariously through the pages, the meditative path is one worth pursuing.

I read Look Up! in three sittings, but I highly recommend treating it as a daily, weekly, or monthly devotional. It’s divided into months and seasons reminding us all that a journey takes time and patience.

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Click on the image to purchase Look Up! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness

Visit Jennifer A. Payne via her blog: Random Acts of Writing [+art]

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing (Friday): Quotes to Ponder

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I’m a little late with this week’s Favorite Thing Friday, but its for a good reason. I was busy enjoying an amazing exhibit from one of my favorite artists!

As my longtime readers know, I’ve written many times about the Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei, (See Seeds to Ponder, Lost in the Zodiac, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or Favor).  Two years ago I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of his works while in London at the Tate Modern and Somerset House.  I found them to be immensely moving and stimulating, which made me an instant fan of this interesting and outspoken artist.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit the Indianapolis Art Museum and see the exhibit, Ai Weiwei: According to What? This is the first full exhibit I’ve seen of his work and it was nothing short of awe inspiring.

Aside from intriguing pieces of sculpture and photography, the exhibit included quotations attributed to Ai Weiwei. In many ways, his words are just as powerful as his work. While I took numerous photographs of his artistic endeavors, (which I will post in the near future). I also aimed my camera at the quotes on the walls.

If the print is too small, click on the image for a full-size view.

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This is a man who strives to create awareness and make people think in any way he can. Love him or hate him, he knows how to stir emotions. That’s why he’s one of my favorite things this week and always.

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Ai Weiwei Speaks and Quotation Pencils
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

A to Z Abroad: Ivan Klíma at The Globe

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Sometimes world travel can lead to the discovery of an individual in addition to a place. While in Prague, Czech Republic, I was lucky enough to find a writer by the name of Ivan Klíma.

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to visit several local bookshops. Even in places where English is not the primary language, bookshops provide a unique insight into the local culture. Besides, in many cases, there is a shelf for English translations of local writers.

In Prague, one of the more prominent bookshops is The Globe. Run by American expats, this bookshop includes new and used books in Czech and English. In addition there is a fantastic café tucked in the back.

The Globe Bookshop, Prague, Czech Republic
Photo by: c.b.w. 2008

I found several books by local authors, but Ivan Klíma’s books spoke to me the most. I ended up buying his novel No Saints or Angels, which has since become one of my favorite books.

Ivan Klíma is a renowned writer in the Czech Republic that explores topics regarding oppression and the concept of individual freedom. His personal history of surviving imprisonment at the Terezín concentration camp during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and his later struggles with the dictatorial communist regime all lend to the brutal honesty and hope presented in his novels.

Klíma’s stories always revolve the dichotomy of the human spirit and the cruelty of human nature. Through his works of fiction, he strives to illuminate the importance  of freedom of expression and individuality.

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What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions?  They stop thinking, most likely.    - Ivan Klima

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Suggested Reading:

9781862071032_p0_v2_s260x420  9781862075368

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Part of the A to Z Challenge!

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c.b.w. 2013

 

Unknown Path

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Photo and words by: c.b.w. 2013

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One never knows what’s around the bend, but if it were up to me, I’d travel down that barely there dirt path. It wonders beyond the easy curve and dares the traveler to see beyond the stones that block free will. Roots lay traps, while trees mark the way. Follow where courage leads and you will know freedom.

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c.b.w. 2013