Many books on the healing power of meditation belabor the importance of breathing and focused practice. In her new book, DDnard — the popular name of a spiritual guru in Thailand — concentrates instead on Buddhist parables.
As DDnard explains in The Compass of Now: How One Woman Became Financially Free, Healed Wounds, and Inspired Millions of Hearts, she was just 27 when her husband suddenly died. There she was alone, with an infant to raise — and saddled with the U.S. equivalent of $3 million in debt.
But, she writes, rather than give up, she turned inward and used meditation and intensive spiritual focus to help her get through grief, loss, debt and career issues, and other challenges.
Her book, then, is a pocket guide that summarizes the most important lessons she learned during her recovery. But while her aim is ostensibly to help readers make positive changes in their mindset and their lives, DDnard focuses too much on the circumstances of her own unusual life. She does convey some important teachings about empty searches for happiness and how to truly live in the present, but the text ends up being more of a portable “parable a day” than anything else.
DDnard first takes us through a series of lessons designed to show the error of conventional thinking. She writes that we have “wrong priorities on a national level” — that we value everything in financial terms, even though many activities “have no economic values, but are rich in well-being values.” Humanity, in other words, cannot be measured by the GDP. On an individual level, DDnard writes, the same problem arises. We value money and possessions, and yet our happiness is missing.
Like other self-help or spiritual books, Compass asks the reader to “see the life you want to have.” The intent here is to pause, step back, reflect, visualize, and then finish the segment on wrong priorities with a keener sense of awareness.
Remarkable about this book is the assumption that the reader will first analyze and realize his flawed thinking before trying meditation. With this approach DDnard seems to suggest that before we can still our minds and achieve the life we want, we must first admit that there is a problem with our current thought patterns.
Sound familiar? The same concept of “first admit there is a problem” is used in many recovery programs, among them Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. DDnard applies this adage broadly as part of a total life-thinking platform — and does it well, in a way that is easy to understand.
What is less easy to understand is why DDnard works hard — sometimes too hard — to use herself as the main example. Yes, her experiences as a young woman are tragic and her successes since then are impressive. But these experiences do not translate easily to the average reader. That average reader, who cannot necessarily relate to being a widow, then starting a million-dollar diamond company in Thailand, then becoming a nationally-acclaimed spiritual guru, would benefit more from a step-by-step guided-meditation script.
It may be that the book has an identity crisis: Is it a spiritual autobiography, or self-help?
Whatever DDnard’s intent, the book, colorfully rendered and quaintly illustrated, does beg the reader to reach out and hug her inner child. And although it may not be a great guide to meditation, it provides Buddhist parables that will make you think.
The Compass of Now: How One Woman Became Financially Free, Healed Wounds, and Inspired Millions of Hearts
The Life Compass, August 2013
Paperback, 214 pages