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The Szen Zone: Finding Positivity Among Challenges

It has been quite a while since I have done a book review, and I was sent a copy of Szen Zone in exchange for my honest review. I have been looking forward to writing this post, and the life got in the way. From Monday evening until today at 1pm I had a terrible migraine headache, and my productivity was significantly impacted. However, I realized that it was a situation that lead to reflection about how to find positivity among the challenges that we face in our daily lives.

This week is quite busy for me academically and personally, I have a number of larger papers and projects due in my classes and a few personal projects that are in the works. As many of you probably know, I find joy in busyness (but of course, busyness with a purpose). I have been reading Szen Zone for the past few weeks before bed, and it was quite a grounding way to end each of my days regardless of the challenges that I may have faced. If there is anything that I could definitively assert that I took away from this book, it is that we all face similar struggles and that we all have the power to make them something that has a resoundingly positive impact on our lives.

Gary Szenderski summarizes the intention of the book, which I believe is fully realized in its contents: Although everyone is different and it’s a very individual and sometimes internalized process, the principles in this book can help you establish the context and right frame of mind to embrace and manage change” (viii). As I read through the book, I started to think about ways in which I could use similar strategies in my own life as I come face-to-face with challenges. For example, though the migraine put a significant dent in my productivity levels during an imperative week, it was a chance for me to realize that I needed to prioritize self-care alongside success and that I can’t have one without the other.

In Chapter 2, The Productivity Promise, the concept of time is discussed in a way that really resonated with one of the lessons that I have learned over the past few years: time is valuable, and one of the most important ways to spend it is intentionally. “We all commit time, invest it, waste it, and eventually run out of it. Throughout all of our time, time remains a constant companion…But because it’s free, we sometimes think we can always get more” (59).

Another reflection made within this chapter is making more “being alive” moments, which has also been one of my goals as I continue on my life journey. When I left high school, I realized just how much time I never used to simply be. In college, this perspective changed and I feel as though I am using the time that I have to truly connect with the world around me. My meditation practices have allowed me to connect with something that is all to easy to forget: the miracle of our own breath. My journaling practice allows me to spend time in my own thoughts, productively releasing all of my emotions onto paper in one of my favorite mediums: free-form writing. Spending my “free time” by choosing to exist in the moment has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. This feeling was affirmed in this chapter, as I read through the experiences and revelations of others as they also made the conscious decision to live vicariously in each moment.

The act of living in each moment can vary, and in Chapter 4 (Living in the Present) the definition of a moment is provided in a number of contexts: first, a time that arrives from circumstances and situations out of our control. Second, a time that arrives from events that we cater “to our own liking” (96). Knowing that there are two ways to exist in the present moment is one of the first steps for identifying how you can live in that moment. One of the seasons of my life that I have been fortunate enough to experience recently given my college and young-adult experience is the season of becoming: “The process of be-coming or the passing into another better season or chapter in our lives is something to be cherished…your heart orchestrated everything you needed to get you to this point” (97). Being able to identify when we are becoming something else, and entering a new chapter of our lives, is something remarkable. I have been able to experience this change countless times over the past few years, and I am grateful for every opportunity it has brought. The art of becoming is one of the most wonderful things in life, and is something that happens to everyone during the entire duration of their life. There is no time limit on becoming, you always have the power and the desire to become.

In Chapter 7 (Taking Chances), Szenderski discusses the importance of reflecting on the difference that we can make in this world. We all have the capability to make a difference, and we can decide exactly what that difference will be: “It’s all in you and waiting for the right time and place to change a world. You can and will make a difference. You must make a difference, that’s why you’re here” (154). In my own life, I have thought about the difference that I want to make. I have learned that my passions lie in many different areas, ranging from my academic studies of religion and politics, to my pursuits of creative writing and compassionate living. I want to make the world a brighter place for all beings, and to exercise kindness whenever possible. I want to be kind to myself, grow as a person, and help others to do the same.

This book reinforced how I have come to see the world over the past few years, and introduced new ideas that have affirmed many of the beliefs about positive thought that I have developed. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to learn how to add positivity to all situations, and how to change perspectives and cultivate the positive and loving energy that we all possess. You can purchase a copy of the book here if you’re interested, and if you give it a read I would love to know your thoughts! How do you cultivate positivity and definitive change in your life?

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.

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