A summary of an audio and text book journey of growth...past midlife crisis

There is a common concept out there of the mid life crisis.

According to physcologists there is no such term, but on feeling unfulfilled I took a journey to try and grow as a person, and here is a choronical of this journey.

Initially I went back to books I had read in my twenties, but found that this knowledge while interesting again did not assist. Deepak Chopra, Dale Carnegie did not quite hit the spot. I started turning to many others, and I also started listening to audiobooks.

For me atheism was not answering many questions I was asking. Questions like: What causes life? If we are all conscious, then is consciousness finite or infinite? What happens to consciousness when we die, it is energy and energy cannot be destroyed?

While the formal occasions and traditions of religion have been dissected and picked apart by many people, not the least of which was Dawkins which is so well known, these concepts are either mythical or magical, to use Ken Wilber’s words.

The first few steps where to look at Jungian based texts. My Mom was always a big advocate of him so it was a good starting point. The three most influencual books I read as part of this phase (and most of them I read a number of times, and even purchased the audio books) were the two James Hollis books: Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life and The Middle Passage.

The second Jungian book, was a methodology to deal with the Shadow by Debby Ford: The Dark side of the light chases. While Jung’s work is more academic in nature these books are accessible and are helpful in understanding the source of the problem and how to fix it (or at least start too).

I then stumbled upon Ken Wilber. Ken takes an extremely academic look almost at everything. In fact he has written a book A Theory of Everything, and A brief history of everything that is not as popular as a similar titled Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything amongst others.

The one book of his that appears to be his life work, was a watershed for me was the Integral Life Practice. Which breaks down our existence into quadrants and sections. The four sections are the Shadow, the Body, the Mind and Spirit. He builds up a quadrant based Mindful living guide which is called AQAL, and looks at the (I, We, It and Its) of the world, so both the internal world and the external world). It is a book I believe everyone should read, it is a summary of 1,000 of books and one that I use a lot to explain and understand things.

From Ken Wilbur I started reading Eckhart Tolle, who like many before him, including one of the authors I loved in my late teens and twenties Colin Wilson, realised that the voice in his head was talking to him, so who was the voice? He has written a number of books about consciousness. And I believe he is probably the most important author I discovered. He studied at the same university as Steven Hawkins and at the end of his degree became depressed and then one night had an epiphany which led to the work he does now. His first book with is a Q&A style book I think you need to read at least 3 times before you get what he has to say, then read the New Earth.

The basics are if you are conscious, you control the power of your mind, you can decide what you think and when you think or, or even better learn to take thought as it comes, and for what it is and that it is thought. We spend too much of the current moment thinking about the past, or planning the future, we need to spend more of the current moment concentrating on the current moment. I have gone back to these books over and over again since the concept of living only in the current moment is a lot easier than it sounds, and applying this to the other texts I have read give fresh insight. He also introduces the concept of the pain body and the way it links to the ego, even drives it.

He lead me to Thích Nhất Hạnh, who is a Zen Buddhist originally from Vietnam but now living in France, and his books on Fear and a lecture series I got have the on mindfulness are excellent. He is a great source on midfulness and mindful breathing techniques.

I then went back to more scientific stuff, and one that stood out for me (and also lead me down a different path) was a book that a friend introduced to me, called the Brain Rules. This book looks at 12 (and now 13 in the new edition) rules that explain how the brain actually works. Although it is quite scientific the author John Medina shows his understanding of the brain by writing it in bite size chunks and it is very easy to read, and get the information. He does have a web site with the summary of the book, but the book is very good.

After reading the book I found I had to refer back to a lot that I had read and listened to in the previous year, and found the new insight helpful.

I am enjoying a new book The Enlightened Brain by Rick Hanson. This is a audio book with guided exercises and meditiation. The book basically ties much of above together. Explaining that the brain may create the mind, but the mind has the power to change the organ it is created by. The more we consciously use our mind to do things we enjoy the more the brain gets stronger in those areas that make us "happy". We need to be conscious of what we think and do, since the mind builds stronger neural network paths between tasks that are do more regularly.

While I am not finished the book, I can tell you that you really are what you think. So the sooner you become conscious of what you are thinking, the sooner you can change. This is a new science called neuroplasticity and the amazing thing is it links to your DNA genes.

After finishing the book I then got the real book version: Budha's Brian, which Richard Mendius, puts Dr Rick Hansons work in a more structured way. To list some of the important things from this book are:
  • The brian is 70% more tuned to stick than carrot, avoiding pain is more important to the brian the getting reward
  • Only a small portion of the left hand brian is used to identify you and seperate and yourself. In percentage terms it is tiny. So that part of the brian is the part that is the part the is your inner voice. Not really worth worrying about ;), but we do.
  • You can change the way you brian reacts, thinks and does with your thoughts.
  • if you still you inner voice and live with only be aware of everything, see thoughts as you woudl see a bird flying past. That is the real you.

Hope this helps you if you are on a simialr quest.