Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
by Paul Wilson
November 2006, 29.95, ISBN-10: 0230016065, Paperback: 256 pages
I imagined that this book would be full of holistic claptrap, like the transcendental yoga (‘truth is one’) I rejected from my hippy parents while growing up. But Paul Wilson’sThe Quiet isn’t really like that at all. Firstly, the whole notion of the quiet is about finding that core of peace within yourself, not about making a new age guru rich while trying to get someone else to tell you what to do. It’s about practice, not dogma. It almost seems too simple. Just front up, and put in 13 minutes of calm centred focus a day, and the rest will take care of itself. That’s the premise of the book.
Wilson’s “no worries” approach is lighthearted and relaxed. The book centres around something he calls “The Quiet Approach” — a little exercise which you do daily. The whole book is split into two sections. Book A is about the mastering method for stopping the world for a few minutes and just calming yourself: being quiet, and allowing yourself a respite from everything we experience in modern living. That might sound laughable when your live is full of family and work concerns—people wanting your attention and jobs needing to be done, but it isn’t that hard. There’s always 13 minutes somewhere, whether it’s first thing in the morning before the race begins, or in that quiet moment when you’re putting your child to sleep (that’s when I do it and it’s not surprising that the deeper my internal focus, the quicker my daughter nods off). There is a certain mystical sense that Wilson infuses “the quiet” with, but the anthropomorphism is only a metaphor to help make that difficult to describe feeling of absolute peace which you get in certain moments of your life—maybe while doing some kind of regular exercise (thanks to the endorphins) like swimming or bushwalking, or while sitting on a stunning mountaintop. But maybe you’ve never experienced that sense of absolute calm. It’s pretty rare in our modern, noisy, tick-the-box world where everyone is too busy. Wilson claims that it isn’t hard at all. That you don’t need a mountain top or even a swimming pool. You just need to put aside 13 minutes a day, using a few regular visual and emotional cues, and the Pavlovian response and your own internal capabilities will take care of the rest:
A lot has been said and written about the way to get the most out of meditation. While every teacher has their own way of looking at this, there is one secret that tops them all.
It’s turning up.
That’s all. Just turn up, sit down, every day. Put aside the time – time you devote entirely to yourself – and don’t give another thought to what’s meant to happen. (59)
There are three different types of meditations to choose from – “Deep”, “Directed”, and “Aware”. Each has a slightly different approach and focus, although all involve putting aside a few minutes, and using the principle of “CentreWidenListen+Observe” to bring your attention to the right place. There’s no rush to master this, and Wilson is careful to stress that the speed of your transformation is the least of your concerns. After all, there’s no point in getting stressed about being calm. When, and only when, you’ve come to grips with the whole notion of taking 13+ minutes a day to achieve this state of calm, and are experiencing the considerable benefits such as a state of inner peace, clarity, stability, lightness, and wellbeing, you can move onto Book B.
Book B is a little more esoteric, and looks at the relationship between spirit and body and takes the reader a little further on the journey to self-awareness and enlightenment. It probably won’t suit everyone and Wilson is fairly comfortable with that. His main objective is to get people doing the exercises. After that, if you want to go further and intensify the experience, taking those moments of calm beyond the 13 minutes and into your life as a whole (though Wilson suggests that will also happen to a certain extent naturally), there are additional exercises and visualisations.
The Quiet is an easy to read book which steers clear of too much dogma and focuses instead on helping readers achieve their own sense of calm. It is written in simple plain language on nice matt recycled paper, with attractive turquoise diagrams. For those looking to help themselves feel less scattered, and more centred in our busy modern world, this book is a very well presented, easy to use, and not too demanding self-help book with potentially excellent ongoing benefits.
For more information on Paul Wilson and his many books on achieving peace, quiet and calm, visit: http://www.calmcentre.com