Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Sales rank: 69,557
Pedram Shojai, the creator of well.org, has written a self-help book that combines Eastern wisdom, practices, and medicine with what he calls “modern hacks” to help readers achieve balance, peace, and happiness in their lives.
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of life, including stress, money, time, sleep, and diet. Each chapter opens with a case study based on Shojai’s clients, presenting their need for change and improvement in a particular area of life. The author then proceeds to break down the problem into smaller categories, and offer “urban monk wisdom”, which are ways that anyone can affect change in each specific area and achieve more peace and balance in their life. Many practical solutions are described, including meditation, exercise, and lifestyle changes. The author includes a personal anecdote in each chapter as well, entitled “Personal Journeys”, which serves as an example of how he has overcome the challenge presented in the chapter. Each chapter concludes with the action plan of the client introduced at the beginning of the chapter, and a bit of a followup of how successful they were.
One of the most useful aspects of the book is the resources section at the back. There are several video links per chapter that demonstrate specific exercises and meditation practices. The videos I accessed were short, and of good quality. There are also links to other resources that the author has used to support his work and his writing.
Some of the material presented in the book are common sense, but some, especially for readers unfamiliar with Eastern medicine and meditation practices, will seem like novel ideas (even though they’re ancient) and may help some readers view their challenges in a new way, and give additional avenues to wellness and wholeness.
I found the tone of the author’s writing to be encouraging, if at times self-inflated. It must be difficult to write a book encouraging people to join you on a path to wellness without making it sounds like you have all the answers and this is really the only way to go about it. Unfortunately, that is sometimes the feeling I got reading this book. It seemed that big promises were made, for example, “this exercise will …” (p. 19) What if this exercise doesn’t do it for me? Have I failed? How can I believe that the next exercise might do what it should? He also claims in several places throughout the book to have helped “thousands” of people, which is impressive, until he stated on page 115 that he spends “thousands of hours a month on the phone”. There are only 730 hours in each month. Are they both exaggerations, and how can I take the previous claim seriously?
Also, if you are sensitive to profanity being used in a work of non-fiction, beware. The author uses the word “shit” and “bullshit” liberally, sometimes twice on a page. Although those words are not particularly offensive to me, I believe they should be reserved for emphasis in works of fiction. In a work of non-fiction, like a self-help book that is probably meant to reach people of a variety of ages and backgrounds, I think the use of such words diminishes the message and reduces the credibility of the author. Much like the excessive use of the word “stuff” would. What meaning do those words hold? It actually makes me question the author’s education. The author also uses the “f-word” several times, for example, “we’ve been sitting in those f___ing chairs …” (p. 110) Do those chairs really need that much emphasis? I was put off by this, and each time I came to another offensive word, and there are many of them, unfortunately the author’s credibility crumbled a bit more for me.
Overall, though, the messages and practices presented in The Urban Monk are accessible, intriguing and manageable. The author sums it up well in the last chapter with a very encouraging invitation to readers to set their own path in a manageable way, with hope that change can occur, resulting in a calm and balanced life. There are lots of choices offered in this book, and anyone who reads it will likely be intrigued by at least one, if not many, of the ways to affect change in their own life.