Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review of The Only 127 Things You Need

Every once in a while I get the happy “I-can-die-now” feeling, and I honestly feel like if I died in the next few minutes I would be satisfied with life. Other times, death—even a late, natural death—sounds like an insult and even a crime against me and all of humanity. I want that first feeling as much as I can in life, rather than feeling that sick feeling like life is speeding by way too fast and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s not that I want to die before my time, but I want to get my fill of it and have a grateful feeling for life, and not one of resentment towards God, nature, or, worse, myself.

I want to live, as Thoreau put it,

“…deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

I know by now that I have to grow used to the music of life flowing on, forever on, and appreciate the change as much as I appreciate the beauty. The change is a part of the beauty! But is there anything we can do to help us soak in every minute and fully appreciate and experience all there is in this short life to experience? Have I been missing out of anything that could potentially have made my life more fully of love, happiness, adventure, and beauty? Can I feel ‘finished’ or at least ‘full’ by the end of life so I don’t have to feel like I have anything left to do? Obviously these questions can’t be answered by a single book, but this is one of the best attempts I’ve seen any author make of cataloging those human needs and desires that must not go unheeded, and making a herculean effort to answer questions and suggest solutions that can help us live the best life we can. While this book looks on the cover to be the latest self-help book with generic information and platitudes about a happy life, I can assure you that there is some real muscle here for the more serious of ‘optimal-life’ connoisseurs.

Wilkinson has researched and solicited advice from the top experts in their fields to provide hard-core information for her readers. That is not to say that I was surprised by everything I read, but if I wasn’t surprised to learn something, it was because I already read about it in other books or health/brain magazines. It’s all legit, and it provides the latest research in all fields. Also, I was very surprised to find it so balanced: hardly anything was emphasized more than it ought to have been, and everything was touched on that I felt needed to be touched on. In other words, nearly all my questions going in were answered! When does that ever happen? And I trusted the advice from Wilkinson and her experts, which is another thing jaded victims of magazine-culture and self-help commercialism have a hard time coming to terms with regarding these types of books.

The “127” in the title was nonsense as a specific number, but it is poking fun at the fact that there are always more things that so-called experts are telling us we need, and this book is hoping to be the apex of up-to-date compendiums for body-mind-soul health…for now. The book is broken into the following sections and topics:

1. Body (food, sleep, exercise, overall wellness, clothing, and shelter and safety.
2. Mind (love and connection, a sense of control, mindfulness and acceptance, authenticity, and mental exercise)
3. Spirit (oneness and connection, reflection, awe and wander, sense of purpose, meaningful ritual)
I honestly can’t think of an area of growth and happiness that was neglected, and it was interesting to read the whole way through. However, as engaging as it was, it may help readers, like it did me, to take the book in piecemeal to better absorb the information. There’s a lot here that could change your life…you don’t want to rush it. Matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that if you truly work at applying what you learn from this book, I don’t see any reason in the world why you wouldn’t be a stronger, happier, more fulfilled person. This stuff works. But don’t take my word for it. Wait, yes, take my word for it. I’m living it.

A word of caution: there is a slant in the last book—Spiritual Health—towards spiritualism, but it quickly generalizes into spiritual health practices for any value/religious system and doesn’t get to metaphysical. Other than that, a specifically spiritual-religious emphasis throughout the book seems to be either non-existent or appropriately subtle.

I have no doubt in my mind that Donna Wilkinson is a very intelligent and happy author who genuinely cares about others and wants to help improve the quality of life of those around her. As a frequent reader of psychology and philosophy, I can tell you that this is really good stuff on a relatively low shelf for readers of all kinds. It’s essential for anyone wanting to better their life, especially for those struggling with negativity, anxiety, or depression.

You know how there’s no ‘owner’s manual’ on life waiting for you when you pop out your mama’s uterus? Well, this might be the closest thing to it.

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