Book Review: Emotional Chaos to ClaritySusannah Kent June 1, 2012
Author: Philip Moffitt
Publisher: Hudson Street Press/Penguin Group
Book Publication: 2012
Imagine learning to accept gain and loss equally, deriving wisdom and insight from both. Also imagine a life where you feel empowered to pursue your dreams and goals without worry, opening your heart and mind to a deeper, richer, more satisfying relationship with your life just as it is. In Emotional Chaos to Clarity, Philip Moffitt, former editor-in-chief/CEO of Esquire magazine, and renowned meditation teacher, offers concrete, practical guidance on how to make these imaginings a real possibility.
Moffitt states that the purpose of writing this book was to “help people learn to live more skillfully,” just as he began to do at age 40. Leaving behind a successful career, he embarked on a journey of study, meditation, and Jungian analysis to discover new capacities in himself, and a connection to a larger purpose. That larger purpose evolved into helping others find clarity, direction, and meaning in their lives.
His approach, influenced by Western psychology and Buddhist philosophy, involves using a combination of mindfulness and intention. This can provide the foundation for a more authentic relationship with yourself and others, resulting in the ability to transform life’s many challenges into opportunities for growth.
Moffitt suggests that we often confuse who we really are with the emotions, thoughts, and impulses we experience, and then react in ways which bring emotional chaos to our lives. He says this emotional chaos (confusion, uncertainty, anxiousness, and feelings of conflict and indecisiveness) is a result of reactive mind states. The reactive mind is one pulled in many directions depending on our perceptions. According to Moffitt, in order to rid ourselves of emotional chaos we must move from a reactive mind state to a responsive one. In a responsive state, one knows and understands one’s true self; a state that is grounded in our deepest values during all of life’s ups and downs.
Moffitt wholeheartedly believes that it is mindfulness that allows us to set intentions through understanding what matters most (your values). Being grounded in intention and aligning one’s actions to those intentions “as best you are able is what provides integrity and unity in your life” (clarity).
The book is divided into three sections. Part I, “Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity,” explains the concept of mindfulness, explores ways to discover your true self (not the one guided by misperceptions), and introduces such practices as living an intentional life, letting go of expectations, starting over, and balancing priorities. The next section, “Developing Skillful Behaviors,” presents skills that will guide you to live according to your values and intentions. Skillful behaviours include making wise decisions, cultivating the qualities of loving kindness and compassion, living life through gratitude, doing the right thing, and overcoming attachments through generosity. Part III, “Removing the Sources of Chaos,” looks at what Moffitt calls unskillful behaviours; the ones that bring chaos and suffering not only into our lives, but to those around us, such as failing to set and maintain boundaries or practice restraint, along with compulsiveness.
Each chapter includes a related self-assessment exercise, as well as a set of practices or meditations to help the reader cultivate clarity and live more skillfully. Moffitt also shares inspiring stories from some of his clients and students, relating their struggles, insights, and successes.
At its core, Emotional Chaos to Clarity is an honest and compassionate invitation (and offer of assistance) to discover a richer, deeper, more balanced life. This is an invitation well worth accepting.