The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hack to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness and Peace, by Pedram Shojai

There was a time in my life when I read a lot more self-help books but after a while became more and more bored with the basic “maintain a good attitude” approach. I also started getting irritated with a lot of the unfounded or unsubstantiated claims in many of them. But I do like a book that offers some practical tips for change and this book did offer quite a few.

I recently finished Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which was VERY much needed and helped quite a bit with practical suggestions. (Clothes stage done, scary book state in progress.) I think that helped keep me open to picking up this book.

The full title of the book is The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hack to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness and Peace. As they say these days, the subtitle sells the book and there’s nothing like an extravagent promise.

The book centers quite a bit on qigong, which is something I began reading about several years ago. As a full confession, I was born clumsy. From childhood well into my thirties I could be blissfully walking along and suddenly find myself nose-to-nose with the pavement. No reason, just fell. I ran across a book on qigong, read more, and found some training DVDs (there weren’t any trainers in town at the time) so that I started practicing mornings before work.Within a few months I realized I had a lot of increased energy and, best yet, had stopped falling for no reason. Other than some slips on the ice that’s stayed with me since. It’s not why I started qigong but as a side-benefit I was very pleased.

The book covers a lot of ground, starting with basic qigong and moving on to areas like diet, meditation, changing your relationship to stuff, and practical tips for staying more centered in the modern world. Some tips are useful, some I may never adapt unless I’m kicking and screaming the whole way. (Really? Give up coffee?)

If you Google Pedram Shojai you’ll find that he has put a lot of energy into self-promotion. You’ll find lecture and training tapes, book offers, and seminar offers. Before you invest in the book it may be worth checking out some free stuff to find out if he’s the guru/trainer/life-coach for you. The book takes a conversational tone and along the way a lot of impolite language. I swear like a sailor who hammered his thumb but it’s not for everyone. He’s the only other person I’ve run across to use the word “shitshow”, which I first learned from an Italian priest artist friend describing the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

I nearly tossed the book early when he used the often-quoted figure that the CDC estimates that 90% of doctor visits are based on stress-related causes. I decided to check it out. There is a peer-reviewed paper from the 80s from a Kaiser physician making this claim, itself using data from a paper from the 40s. It’s far from something that’s been recently checked in any kind of systemetized way, and I really do wonder how you would test it. But at least he hadn’t pulled it out of his ass like figures used by other authors (“we only use 2% of our brain” is one of the most irritating.) I’m glad I stayed with it and I’ll see what I can adopt into my own life.