- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (March 26 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014219686X
- ISBN-13: 978-0142196861
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #369,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Calm Brain: How to Relax into a Stress-Free, High-Powered Life Paperback – Mar 26 2013
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"A welcome alternative approach to overtaxing our brains and then reaching for the pill bottle—should warrant serious attention."—Kirkus
“A Calm Brain brings the power of cutting edge neuroscience to everyday life. For anyone who wants to take charge of the 21st century while remaining calm, focused and productive - this is the book for you”—Henry S. Lodge M.D., author of The New York Times bestseller Younger Next Year
“A Calm Brain shows readers why the brain craves calm, and how this will improve your health and happiness. Blending stories, science, and practical advice, it offers a path to a calmer life.”—Paul J. Zak, author of The Moral Molecule
“Dr. Devi explores the brain of tranquility in this wonderful book filled with practical ideas that can bring composure to our mind and body in the rush of our daily turbulent and multitasking lives.”—Kevin Nelson M.D., author of The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain
“Simple and powerful techniques for breaking the vicious cycle of stress and poor health. Grounded in the best science, this is a wonderful prescription for leading happier and more productive lives.” —P. Murali Doraiswamy M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Mental Fitness Lab, Duke University
About the Author
Gayatri Devi, M.D., is a neurologist, the Director of the New York Memory Services, and a Clinical Associate Professor at the New York University School of Medicine. She lives in Manhattan.
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The book has two shortcomings shared by most books of this genre. The first is the lack of distinction between the destination and the path to get there. Second, more important, the book provides prescriptions for calm that are not easy to fill.
Let me explain.
Here is the portrait of a calm person. He (or she) goes to bed with no help from sleeping pills or other drugs. He never scrimps on his sleep. He gets adequate sleep every night and gets up with no help from an alarm clock. He welcomes each morning calmly, slowly pouring his mind and body into the day. He hugs his spouse with whom he has long lasting close ties. His partner offers both companionship and romance. He then leisurely walks to work; along the way, he smiles at a stranger and stops to pet a dog. When he gets to work, he does one thing at a time. If he needs something from someone, he does not email or text; he just walks over to the other person's desk to chat with her face to face. Even on a hectic day, he manages to create downtime. He laughs frequently. If anyone offends him in any way, he is quick to forgive and forget. He doesn't follow the clock. He eats when he is hungry, sleeps when he is tired and wakes up when he is rested. He has sex as often as he can and hardly watches television. The tapestry of calm woven by him is his own.
Wouldn't we like to be him, even though he seems to be from some sort of parallel universe, one with which we may not be that familiar?
Well, believe it or not, Dr. Devi's prescription to achieve calm is to do all those things that we believe an idealized calm person would do. My earlier description of a calm person is actually a prescription for becoming a calm person written by Dr. Devi. The prescription boils down to this: If you want to be calm, imitate a calm person. Maybe she is right. Maybe there is no way to calm, calm is the way.
That leads to the second shortcoming of the book: its prescriptive nature with not much thought to whether the prescription is fillable. How does one do all the things that were so painstakingly put together by Dr. Devi? Let's say I'm a divorced, middle aged, unemployed, isolated, single mom with no particular social skills, how do I suddenly develop long lasting close ties, find the person who would offer both companionship and romance? Just as a new meditator is puzzled by the instruction "Empty your mind!", we are baffled all the things we need to do to be calm and silently exclaim "By what means? By what means?" Some of the things that Dr. Devi recommends are far more difficult to achieve than calm. If prescriptions like achieving "long lasting close ties" and having "a partner who offers both companionship and romance" are easy enough to achieve we won't have the divorce rates we do nor would people be stuck in terrible marriages for financial and family reasons. If the prescriptions are more difficult to fill than enduring the symptoms themselves, what is the alternative? If you don't have lasting ties, would frequent encounters with "consequential strangers" help? How practical is it to counsel a rape victim to simply "forgive and forget"? Can something else be done to achieve calm? Dr. Devi, unfortunately, does not pay enough attention to such practical considerations.
I don't want to leave the reader with the impression that this is a terrible book. It is not. It has many good points. It explores how vagus nerve helps to create calm. It shows why yoga works. It shows how inversion table can be effective in creating calm as some yoga poses. My point is, if one invests time reading a book that runs over 250 pages book devoted to a single subject, one should have a reasonable understanding of the subject. I did not get that feeling, although I did get some isolated insights on the subject.
In the end, calm needs to be achieved under less than ideal conditions. When our life is not going right, when we are isolated, when we miss an important flight by a minute, when we lose our passport in a hostile country, when we lose our jobs, when our spouse leaves us, when our children become drug addicts, and when we are in a terrible relationship. Requiring near ideal conditions for achieving calm is a contradiction in terms. When you read a book like When Chocolate Runs Out by Lama Yeshe or Peace is Every Breath by Tich Nhat Hahn, you smile. You see how calm can be achieved irrespective of what goes on in your life. Being calm does not and should not require the implementation of a whole slew of things. Buddhist psychology as exemplified in books like the one I mentioned shows that it is practical and within the reach of most of us. Anyone who aims to achieve calm through a long list of prerequisites is unlikely to achieve it.
Calm is not rearranging everything so we can be at peace. Calm is letting things be where they are or go where they may while we remain unperturbed.
In my humble opinion anyway.
Easy to read and very valuable information.
This is a great book for anyone feeling stressed and also for parents because it really explains the different modes that the brain can go into and how different ways of being with your child may help or hinder your child's well-being.