Mindful Reading and Living: A Book Review

Jan Chozen Bays’ How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (229 pages)

Reviewed by Kathleen Bishop, Adjunct Faculty, Kaplan University Health Sciences Dept.

Who should read this book? Anyone who is interested in learning how to be fully present in life, at work, at home, driving in traffic, surfing the net, or cooking dinner. Most of us walk through life totally unconscious of the world around us. This book will help you live a more “conscious life.” Doing so will increase your happiness and your productivity. It will improve your relationships with the people in your life by letting them know you are really listening, really paying attention, and really focusing on them.

Wildelephant Summary: This book is written by Jan Chosen Bays, MD who is a pediatrician, a meditation teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, and yes, the abbess of Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. If you are wondering how she does it all you can find some of her secrets shared in this book. The book is based around short practices that you can do in only a few minutes or even a few seconds that bring you into the present moment and help you stay there. She defines the concept of “mindfulness” and then shares 53 exercises with you each designed to help you gain the benefits of mindfulness: mental and physical health. And I will add improved relationships with self and others.

Why I picked this book? This book was recommended to me by a member of my Zen group and a former teacher. She knew I was looking for some simple exercises to use in my classes and workshops to help teach the principles of mindfulness, to help my students concentrate, and get settled before the class begins. She was right! It is a great resource. I have used it in my life, in my classes on line, and in my face-to-face trainings and it has made a big difference. I have received the most wonderful feedback from my students and participants on how these techniques and this principle of mindfulness has helped them relax, stay focused, and get more accomplished.

Favorite quote from the book: “Mindfulness is a potent tool for training the mind, allowing us to access and use the mind’s true potential for insight, kindness, and creativity.”


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