Monday, November 21, 2016

An Exercise in Contemplation

I'm an avid reader, and Goodreads is my favorite app for exploring new books and authors. I also tend to be quite a slow and careful reader (I make it through maaaaybe a book or two a month on average), so I am usually highly selective about my books, and I have no problem abandoning a book before I finish it if it hasn't captured me. Who has time for that?! Not me, Ms. Slowy McSlowReader!

My selective book vetting doesn't necessarily mean I have a discerning taste in books -- it just means that I like what I like. Sure, I read my (small) share of "high-brow" books, and my reading materials span a diverse range of genres, but darn it all if I get a hankering for some cheesy chick lit or low-common-denominator popular fiction, then I'll go ahead choose that sillier selection, and I'll do so without any hesitation or guilt.

One of the reasons I enjoy Goodreads is because of the reader reviews, and I often rely on those reviews as I vet my next book choice. While I've read many reviews, I've never written one of my own. Because the truth is, not only am I a slow reader, I'm a slow, ploddy writer too. Therefore, I just haven't wanted to mess with the time, energy and brain power it takes to crank out a decent book review. Plus, I generally don't want to risk sounding like an inarticulate, shallow-headed moron. Silly fears, perhaps -- especially since I never much care if I sound like an idiot here on the blog -- but real fears all the same.

All that said, I recently read an article that talked about the importance of contemplation as a means to fuel productivity and happiness.  One quote that stood out from the article is "The most productive and successful people tend to find ways to force themselves to think more deeply." Reading that article was a little bit of a wake-up call for me. Was I missing a greater sense of fulfillment by failing to take the time to reflect after finishing a book?

It didn't take long for me to answer that question with a big fat YES, yes I WAS missing out. Because, truth be told, lately I've been feeling quite a vacancy in the "fulfillment" and "meaning" buckets of my life (what else is new...oy). So, if taking a little reflection time to write a book review might help me to capture a tiny taste of contentment, no matter how fleeting, I decided it was worth the time and the risk of sounding like a simpleton.

Since reading that article, I've written not one, but TWO Goodreads reviews. I painfully (and embarrassingly) overthought my first rambling, lengthy review - especially considering it was a somewhat fluffy memoir about weight loss. The writing of my second review came much more freely and easily -- a brief reflection on a piece of historical fiction. Neither review is particularly deep or scholarly, however, if you are interested in reading them, you can check them out here and here.

Ultimately, the resulting end product of the written reviews isn't really the point at all. The point is, simply by partaking in the exercise of focused reflection and writing, I did somehow feel more connected, engaged and in-tune with myself and with world-at-large, if only for a limited time.

Of course, a contemplative practice need not be solely for the sake of crafting a book reviews. My writing here, after all, is one big deep think practice at purposefully digging beneath the surface, to work out my shiznit, and explore new angles and perspectives.  And given my continued struggle with finding and maintaining any sense of productive focus and sustained feelings of happiness, maybe it would be good for me to start challenging myself to do this contemplative writing thing with a little more discipline and frequency.


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