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How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness [Paperback]

Jan Chozen Bays
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 12 2011
A growing body of research is showing that mindfulness can reduce stress, improve physical health, and improve one’s overall quality of life. Jan Chozen Bays, MD—physician and Zen teacher—has developed a series of simple practices to help us cultivate mindfulness as we go about our ordinary, daily lives. Exercises include: taking three deep breaths before answering the phone, noticing and adjusting your posture throughout the day, eating mindfully, and leaving no trace of yourself after using the kitchen or bathroom. Each exercise is presented with tips on how to remind yourself and a short life lesson connected with it.

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How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness + Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food--includes CD
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Review

“Among the current spate of books on mindfulness, Bays’s distinguishes itself with 53 simple practices tested through 20 years at the Great Vow Monastery in Oregon. [She] brings gentle compassion to the task of integrating mindfulness into a busy life.”—Publishers Weekly

“With simple exercises designed to bring mindfulness into daily life and with gentle ways to remind ourselves to practice, the author leads practitioners to the discoveries and deeper lessons that each exercise can reveal. With [Jan Chozen Bays’s] help, mindfulness practice becomes a powerful yet delightful gateway to the inner peace that is within reach of us all.”—Spirituality & Health


“In a brilliant, practical, and elegant way, Bays has answered the question most frequently asked by students of meditation, ‘How do I bring this practice into my daily life?’ Here is a jewel box of insightful, wise, beautiful, and compassionate ways to do so.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart

“A delightful collection of simple, down-to-earth exercises anyone can use to live each day more mindfully. Rich with wisdom, psychological insight, and fresh perspectives, this is a great resource for anyone wishing to live a fuller, saner, happier, more conscious life.”—Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, assistant clinical professor, Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindfulness Solution

“A collection of mindfulness practice gems. The writing is often funny and always forthright. How to Train a Wild Elephant is an accessible, helpful, and thoughtful book.”—Dr. Arnie Kozak, Beliefnet blogger for Mindfulness Matters


“This warm, welcoming, and wise book invites us to practice mindfulness now, right in the midst of life. The weekly exercises are illuminating, immensely practical, and fun.”—Diana Winston, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, co-author of Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness

“Regardless of the path you travel on your spiritual journey, How to Train a Wild Elephant can help you ‘live life more fully and joyfully.’”—Portland Woman magazine


“This is the kind of book you can open to any page, anytime, and read something that just might stop your mind in its tracks.”—Nexus

“Inspirational collection of 53 fun, simple exercises designed to increase awareness and fulfillment in everyday life. The refreshing primer insightfully explores compassion, creativity, faith, and fear.”—Library Journal


 

About the Author

Jan Chozen Bays, MD, is a Zen master in the White Plum lineage of the late master Taizan Maezumi Roshi. She serves as a priest and teacher at the Jizo Mountain–Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. She is also a pediatrician who specializes in the evaluation of children for abuse and neglect.


Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars June 17 2014
By Lace55
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't wait to read this book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being engaged without being attached... July 12 2011
By Sreeram Ramakrishnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Without any reliance on overly religious constructs, Bays provides a collection of exercises that will force a reader to reevaluate one's degree of engagement with oneself and the surroundings and improve one's mindfulness - the ability to be engaged without being critical or judgmental. (Review based on a review copy via NetGalley and adapted from my blog)

Not surprisingly, the core message is similar to other Eastern thoughts - for example, Krishnamurti's "being engaged, but not attached". What Bays is able to accomplish in this book is to interpret rigorous philosophy, frame it using psychological studies and provide an actionable exercise with clear instructions on what to observe and anticipated impacts. In that sense, this book is deceptively simple - it can come across as an oversimplification of the mindfulness discipline but after practicing 4 exercises chosen from the book, its profoundness in simplicity is remarkable.

Bays provides a series of 52 exercises (one for each week) for improving one's mindfulness. Each chapter provides a short description of the exercise itself, the philosophical underpinnings, observations from those who practiced that exercise, and a 'deeper' interpretation ("what does this exercise really mean?"). The succinctness of each chapter is matched only by its simplicity. A reader will be tempted to be working on more than one exercise at a time...I think it is worthwhile to spend an entire week devoted to just one exercise - thereby achieving a degree of patience training as a bonus. For those more inclined to Eastern philosophy, pairing the exercise with a daily thought exercise based on Krishnamurthi's Book of Life is a good way to structure one's experiment with the exercises.

The exercises are not necessarily organized by any themes (perhaps intentionally), Whether they are in the form of breathing exercises (where the similarities with the Pranayama (yoga) is striking, though one shouldn't be surprised) or exercises associated with eating, or those geared towards increasing our field of vision and sensation.. each exercise provides a very subtle nudge for behavior modification - all, with the intent to increase awareness. These exercises are not very abstract either. For example, the very first one that aims to increase our awareness of our less dominant hand is quite fun to try out (in fact with Wii Sports and other games, this is an exercise which can actually use technology to observe one's behavior without any bias - the disparities in scores using my right and left hands decreased in a week's time... but, the exercise achieved its purpose - increase awareness of how for-granted I took the other hand...). Most exercises are structured in a way where one can easily quantify the impact.

Whether you are a novice to the mindfulness discipline or looking to enhance your meditation aptitude, or discover new ideas to improve one's awareness, this book will not disappoint. It is not intended to be an introduction to mindfulness - but an intermediate level practice guide for someone familiar with the concepts. On the other hand, Bays is also likely to inspire a reader to be more curious on the discipline. For the price of a few lattes, this book can potentially change the way you relate to yourself and your surroundings. One can't assign a value for that opportunity. A must read. (5*)
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Mindfulness Guide Aug. 24 2011
By Donald Altman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I write mindfulness books myself, and what I love about this book is that I can open it up anywhere and find a valuable mindfulness practice. Each chapter is short and to the point, which suits the material. There's a lot more in each chapter then meets the eye--meaning that you could easily devote entire week to each subject. Actually, Chozen Bays' own monastery uses each of the practices included here one week at a time. I like reading one a day as a centering practice. This book is for those who are new to mindfulness, as well as for those with an ongoing practice. Highly recommended!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book! Sept. 10 2011
By A. Blanchard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I got this book at the library and have enjoyed it enough to buy it myself. I want to take a week to practice and savor each exercise. As others have commented, it is very simple in approach but profound at the same time. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to slow down and experience more life in their body, as opposed to spending their life in their head (where I've been most of my life). This book is a terrific reminder to pay attention to ourselves and our bodies as we live. I love this book!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lets hope this elephant never forgets! Aug. 29 2013
By Wonderlust - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved the book!. I started "the leaving no trace project" that project alone got me on track. Everyone needs to read this book. It is more than a self help book, it truly can change your life one little step at a time. All you need to do is get on the path, stay on it, and never look back. I would highly recommend this book especially for senior citizens who are trying to decide whether to stay in their own homes or go into "assisted living." My advice: get rid of the clutter, take one baby step at a time, downsize everything, maybe get a like minded room mate and stay in your own humble little abode. Keep life simple.

Rosa McCurdy 81 year old former wild elephant loving life and keeping a neat home on my own!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing mindfulness to everyone Oct. 14 2011
By Scave31 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I never really thought about mindfulness before. It seemed too big, too general. But How To Train A Wild Elephant brings mindfulness to every day. With 53 great ideas for training yourself to be mindful -- one idea at a time -- being mindful is easier than ever. Some of the ideas seem great right away. Others need more of an explaination, which Bays gives with thoughtful thoroughness and sometimes humor. Whether you want to move quickly through each area of focus or take it more slowly perfecting your mindfulness skills in each area completely before moving on to the next, no matter how you do it. This book isn't just for budding Buddhists. It's for anyone who wants to bring awareness into their day-to-day lives.
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