My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is an Indian guru headquartered in Bangalore, India. In addition to his work as a spiritual leader, he heads up an organization called the “The Art of Living,” which has both a philanthropic mission and a role in spreading knowledge of yoga. Among his most important accomplishments is the development of a breathing technique for helping to attain greater emotional well-being. However, he may be most broadly known for occasional appearances on television programs such as those of CNN International.
The slim volume K(no)w Your Mind contains a series of short chapters, many of which are partly in Q&A form–coming from talks he has given internationally. The common theme of these discourses are how one can understand one’s mind and learn to live in a way that maximizes happiness.
Sri Sri’s approach is quite mainstream when compared to more controversial gurus such as the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (i.e. Osho.) There is little that would raise hackles of most people. It proposes nothing magical–though Shankar supports belief in some, broadly defined and mystical, deity. His approach doesn’t rely on said deity. The book is essentially just about training the mind to look at the world in a different way.
One example that the author uses in various permutations is that people dwell on the negative. As he says, “When you are healthy, you never ask the question, ‘Why am I healthy?’When you are sick you say, ‘Oh, why am I sick?'” Similarly he mentions that, if someone tells us they like us we don’t question it, but if they tell us they hate us, then we do.
When asked how to avoid stress, he states flatly that one shouldn’t avoid it, but rather learn hope to cope with it more effectively.
On the positive side, the book conveys a lot of good information in a highly readable format. Shankar explains the mind with humor and occasionally with a parable or narrative to help make the lessons more memorable.
However, if one is looking for a systematic approach, one won’t so much find that here. It’s clear that this is a series of snippets from talks combined together. If that’s what you’re expecting, then it shouldn’t be a problem. However, if one is expecting a step-by-step guide, this book may not suit one. Occasionally it’s helpful if on has some yoga terminology in one’s head like samadhi or pranayama, but context should make the meaning clear.
I’d recommend it for someone looking for food-for-thought on bite-sized pieces on issues like memory, emotion, and mindfulness.