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“Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants,” by Arnie Kozak, PhD

Wild chickens and petty tyrants 108 metaphors for mindfulnessA delightful, readable, and humorous book offers 108 images to help us understand the intangible qualities of mindfulness practice.

This enjoyable little volume offers 108 different images and metaphors to apply to one’s experience of mindfulness. It is written by Arnie Kozak, the founder of Exquisite Mind, a consultation service offering mindfulness to manage stress and enhance one’s quality of life.

Title: Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
Author: Arnie Kozak, PhD
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
ISBN: 0-86171-576-4
Available from: Wisdom, and Amazon.com.

The book is divided up into five main sections.

Metaphors for mind
This includes such things as: “Doggie Mind and Monkey Mind” and “Different Kinds of Snow”.

Metaphors for self
This includes such things as: “Thoughts like Soap Bubbles” and “The Finger Pointing to the Moon is Not the Moon Itself”.

Metaphors for emotion, change, and “ordinary craziness”
This includes such things as: “Thirty-one Emotional Flavours”,” Perfectomy”, and “the Pause Button”.

Metaphors for acceptance, resistance, and space
This includes such things as: “The Swept Floor Never Stays Clean”, and “Don’t Waltz in the Minefield”.

Metaphors for practice
This includes such things as: “Learning to Play a Musical Instrument”, “Just Do It!” and “Sit … Sit … Sit … Good Puppy!”

Here’s an extract from “Divide and Conquer,” in the “Metaphors for Practice” section:

In Northern New England, where I live it snows–a lot. During one storm it snowed two feet. My driveway is over one hundred feet long. That’s a lot of snow–thinking about it, it must be literally tons of snow. Pondering the sheer weight of all that snow, together, I didn’t think I could possibly do it. But instead of thinking of the whole thing I made an effort to just mindfully move one shovelful. And then another. And one more. Eventually, I cleared a path, one shovel-full at a time…

At the end of the book there are five appendices that give full instructions on the mindfulness of breathing, body scan meditation, walking meditation, relationship practice, and informal practice.

Each section is very brief — no more than two or three pages of the small format volume. This makes the book very readable and the tone is light and humorous.

Although I personally found the book lacking in depth, it is admirable that the writer has attempted to come at mindfulness in this non-conceptual, image-based way. At heart, mindfulness is of course ultimately inexpressible and all writers who are exploring the subject must navigate through this paradox: how to communicate the inexpressible through words?

Arnie has done the subject a service by offering images and metaphors as ways of evoking the qualities of mindfulness without trying to pin down the topic too precisely. The book stands as a worthy companion and balance to other volumes that investigate mindfulness in more depth from a more conceptual point of view.

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About Vidyamala

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Vidyamala is a co-founder and director of Breathworks, a company offering 'mindfulness-based strategies for living well'. She runs courses for people suffering from chronic pain and illness, teaching them how to optimize quality of life using meditation and other mindfulness-based strategies. Vidyamala's CDs of guided meditations -- developed as part of her Breathworks pain management program -- are available for sale in our online store. Vidyamala's book, "Living Well with Pain and Illness: The Mindful Way to Free Yourself From Suffering," was published by Little, Brown in November of 2008. Read more articles by .

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