Summer Reading: A Westchester Teacher’s Book on Meditation and Anxiety

Daniel Smith of the College of New Rochelle has a new book coming out.

A few months ago I posted a short series on living mindfully in Westchester, where the level of stress is higher than in other parts of the country (click to read). It was prompted by a query from Lizzie Hedrick. “Mindfulness is great when you're already calm,” Lizzie wrote, "but how do you make it carry over when...there's a fire you have to run and cover or your boss is asking for 15 things at once. Basically, how do you incorporate mindfulness into Westchester life?”

A new book by Daniel Smith of the College of New Rochelle addresses that question and then some. Smith’s book Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety (Simon and Schuster) is about the role meditation plays in helping to alleviate anxiety. He notes that: 

…contrary to popular belief, Buddhists can actually be very anxious people. That’s often why they become Buddhists in the first place. Buddhism was made for the anxious the same way Christianity was made for the downtrodden or A.A. for the addicted. Its purpose is to foster equanimity, to tame excesses of thought and emotion. The Buddhists have a great term for the mental state these excesses produce. They refer to it as “monkey mind.” A person in the throes of monkey mind suffers from a consciousness whose constituent parts will not stop bouncing from skull-side to skull-side, flipping and jumping and flinging feces at the walls and swinging from loose neurons like howlers from vines. Buddhist practices are designed to collar these monkeys of the mind — to pacify them. Is it any wonder that Buddhism has had such tremendous success in the bastions of American nervousness on the West Coast and in the New York metro area?

One needn’t suffer from anxiety to benefit from meditation any more than one needs a vitamin deficiency to benefit from vitamins. All of us can derive benefit from this simple practice. 

Rabbi Mark Sameth is the spiritual leader of Joyful Judaism: Pleasantville Community Synagogue an inclusive, progressive synagoguewith members from twenty towns, villages and cities all across Westchester and “A Hebrew School Your Kids Can Love.” Read The New York Times article. Follow Rabbi Mark on Twitter . Weekly meditation at the synagogue every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. is open to the public; everyone—without exception—is welcome and warmly invited. OUR MEMBERSHIP DRIVE IS ON. See “Top Ten Reasons to Join PCS” at www.ShalomPCS.com.

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