The Key to Calm by Linda Blair presents a superb five-step plan that will help anyone to enjoy more calm, clarity, poise and purpose in life. The author has over 30 years of experience as a clinical psychologist, and is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and that background is evident throughout this title, with the emphasis being on practicality and the real-world application of proven principles. This book is not a specifically Buddhist title, but it is one that we can certainly benefit from, and one that a Buddhist would feel perfectly comfortable sharing with non-Buddhists who would like to live a healthier and more mindful life. The book is divided into five main sections, with each section being dedicated to teaching one of the five steps of the programme, as follows:
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Step One – Stop, Look and Listen
This chapter teaches the value of mindfulness, and discusses awareness of the present moment as a new way of being for anyone who wants to explore it. All of the most common questions about mindfulness are addressed, including how one should reconcile the value of mindfulness of the present moment the pursuit of goals for the future, and the author provides a clear and straightforward guide to becoming more mindful in daily life.
Step Two – Take Care of Your Best Asset
Having helped the reader to establish a foundation of mindfulness, the author then addresses the importance of taking good care of the physical body. Topics discussed here include the psychological and health benefits of mindful breathing, physical movement, exercise, sound nutrition and rest.
Step Three – Know Yourself
The third step of the Key to Calm programme is to take a good look at your background, personality, character, strengths and weaknesses so that you can make better decisions in life and focus on activities and courses of action that are best suited to you. If you have ever wondered how your upbringing, birth order position or sibling relationships have helped to shape your inclinations as an adult, you will find this section of the book to be particularly insightful.
Step Four – Streamline Your Life
Clutter can be a major source of stress in life, and this second of the book explains how we can reduce that stress by reducing its cause. Here you will learn to reduce physical clutter, psychological clutter and even schedule clutter so that you can streamline your life and give yourself a lot more breathing space to pursue the things that really matter to you.
Step Five – Reach Out
Human beings are social creatures, and the fifth step of this programme is for you to acknowledge that fact and make sure that you socialise regularly. The author provides plenty of advice for anyone who wants to make new friends and widen their social circle, so there is no reason why anyone should fail to reach out and enjoy the benefits that come from being part of a larger community.
As we said at the outset, The Key to Calm is not a specifically Buddhist book, but it is definitely one that is compatible with Buddhist principles. If you would like to reduce the amount of stress or anxiety in your life by taking a holistic approach to the task – or you know someone who would – this title is highly recommended.