Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book review - Seeking Peace by Mary Pipher

When you pick up a book with a cover where the autho’sr name appears in a font size twice as large as the title, you know that the author MUST be famous. And so it was that I picked up Mary Pipher’s “Seeking Peace – Chronicles of the worst Buddhist in the world”. Following success of her earlier book titled “Reviving Ophelia – Saving the selves of adolescent girsl” first published in 1994, Mary Pipher’s quiet life in small town Nebraska gets into the fast lane. After years of book tours, speaking engagements, promotion for subsequent books, life as she knows it changes significantly. This book discusses her meltdown after achieving fame and recognition, which she terms “an avalanche of roses”, and her recovery thereafter.

The memoir describes Pipher’s early childhood experiences and traces her personal history as far back as the grandparents on each side of the family. As the eldest of four children, she talks about feeling responsible for the brood in the frequent periods where her parents were absent physically and/or emotionally. Her own adult life of escaping reality to find her true calling is candidly put forth. She finally finds equilibrium as a therapist in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband and children until the fateful success of “Reviving Ophelia”.

Through her easy writing style, we see the author as a driven woman who excels in multi-tasking, revels in responsibility for all those under her care, fills every minute of her day with tasks but is also afraid to disappoint others. We watch her go under as she finds it exceedingly difficult to cope with the constant and mounting pressures in the eight years from her first success to meltdown. Mary Pipher comes across as a genuine person, not a whiny celebrity who cannot find sympathy among all the others out there who long for the kind of success she witnesses in her late forties/fifties.

Mary Pipher recovers from her depression and misery using many techniques that she has prescribed to patients but also learns new coping mechanisms. From being a whirling dervish, she tries to meditate and understand Buddhism, she goes to yoga class, experiences the healing nature of massage, eats comfort foods, learns to laugh once more and finds support from family, both present and past. She learns to notice and then treasure “moments” which she describes as “discrete time, complete in themselves and utterly distinct from the habit-bound wave time in which we all live much of our lives. While minutes are earthbound and can be measured, moments both merge with eternal time and exist outside time altogether.”

I was drawn to the book from the first pages of the prelude itself. I could see myself in the paragraphs where Pipher describes her personality and tendency to maximize every experience by continuously seeking more. “Being a seeker is both a gift and burden”, she muses. “But the gift of seeking is growth”. And certainly this book has the potential to be an instrument for growth for all among us who have been seekers.

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