John C. Parkin
Hay House, 2010
I gave up on spiritual how-to books years ago when they all started sounding like the old Brenda Lee song, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To.” In my active seeking years I read enough that I finally set a book down and said, “Rebecca, he/she said the same thing he/she did a dozen books ago. If you haven’t picked it up by now, you never will.”
But I was suckered. This not too big, newly released spiritual self-help presented itself in a weak moment while I stood in a new-age bookstore lusting to buy something so I could satisfy my paper/ink smell habit. And yes, I noticed the clearly commercial appeal of the title.
It reiterated: Whatever or whoever you love, you will be fine if you lose it. Don’t overanalyze, instead start relaxing and genuinely enjoying. Accept life and yourself without constant need to call some things bad and others good. In life and yourself. Pay attention to breath and posture. The bottom line is say f**k it and relieve your body and mind of stress.
I did like Parkin’s casual approach to meditation. He introduced it as “sitting still for a while,” which should invite a few timid first timers. He introduced it like my granddaughters’ school introduced the rigors of musical training to fourth graders. “Here’s a viola (or violin) for the year. Take it, play with it, practice and decide for yourself at the end of the year what you think.” Neither of them continued musical studies, but if nothing else, they now appreciate those who do.
Like the rest of the book, the description of how life’s painful moments are transformed into stultifying fear was written to a contemporary reader without pretense or over-educated fussiness. Unfortunately, at times he does read like a little boy giggling over just putting one over on the adults. The book’s appeal is Parkin’s mostly successful attempt to write as a friend leading the way while not sounding too self-righteous about it. Though he does invite his readers to spend a week at his retreat in Italy teaching the f**k it way.
Parkin was writing to the choir here, so while the ideas were not new, nor would they be to many others, they did serve as a reminder and refresher course. The title feels like half blatant commercialism and half sincere effort to update timeless ideas for today’s seeker, which seems periodically necessary since few of us know how to read St. Thomas Aquinas, Longfellow or a good story about Buddha.