A Life Worth Breathing (Kind of a Book Review)

Via Jay Winston
on Mar 29, 2010
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I think if we take a look deep within ourselves with piercing honesty, we could agree that we carry around a file of our inadequacies with us—a file that contains many reasons to loathe ourselves…
Max Strom

…for me, it’s probably more like a file cabinet…or storage locker full of file cabinets…but point taken…

Somebody from this publishing house said she wanted to send me a book to review…called A Life Worth Breathing…by this famous yoga teacher I’d never, at that point, heard of, named Max Strom…to which I replied if it’s for free, it’s for me…though not in so many words…figuring, if all else failed, I could call it a veritable tour de forceseminal…say it belongs on every yogi’s bookshelf…or it’s perfect for the yogi on your Christmas list….

…or, on the other hand, could actually read the thing…which I did…deciding in the process the book was actually worth writing about…meaning both that it was worth reading and I thought of some stuff to say about it that seemed clever…at least to me….found it at times illuminating…other times irritating….then, it’s the lot of the yoga cynic to rarely read anything that doesn’t have at least a 50/50 irritating/illuminating ratio…particularly when the author talks about subjects like…um…let’s see…God

…but then, in the words of Ancient and Venerable Yoga Cynic Sutra 35:78…it’s always the really irritating stuff that makes ya think…and, big a deal as Max* makes of the metaphysical side of things, the book’s centered…literally and figuratively…at a far more basic level…on the breath…paying close attention to it…when practicing forearm stands or cutting toenails**…following and listening carefully to what such a simple, elemental process can tell about what’s going on inside…where the real action happens…

No matter how many vinyasas we do, no matter how much wheatgrass juice we drink, no matter how many kirtans we attend, we will not have a happy life if we are carrying resentment and hatred inside us…
Max Strom

how you gon’ win when you ain’t right within?
Lauryn Hill

…as well as in the minute details of our lives…how we treat the people serving us coffee*** likely more revealing than any formal spiritual practice

…and ya gotta like a guy who, for all the reverence expressed…and there’s a lot…toward celebrated holy people, says he thinks the only truly enlightened person he’s ever met was a homeless girl who didn’t say a word…

…overall, it’s a book that, in retrospect, had a lot more of an effect on me than was apparent while reading…(though…full disclosure…that might’ve been at least partly because I was thinking about what clever stuff was gonna end up in this post)…(seriously, dontcha love that Lauryn Hill quote?)…in the sense that it’s actually gotten me thinking more about the breath and what I can learn from it…the subtle but deeply important signs that, like most people, I put a lot of effort into dulling or ignoring…so that ya could say the book actually made me a bit more conscious of those little things that are really the big things…

…or, y’know, ya could call it a veritable tour de force


* the guy’s a yoga teacher…so first names all the way…and, like this blog, his book is probably best experienced barefoot…

** or, conceivably, for really, really adept yogis, cutting toenails while doing forearm stands…though, truthfully, Max really doesn’t go into that…

*** Max disses coffee…repeatedly…but that’s cool****…

**** while perhaps not quite yogic enough to abstain from coffee, I’m exactly yogic enough not to be bothered by the fact that even-more-yogic types often diss it…

*cross posted at Yoga for Cynics*


About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.


One Response to “A Life Worth Breathing (Kind of a Book Review)”

  1. Hi, Jay.

    Thanks for the recommendation and a very entertaining review.

    For those who are interested, here's a talk by Max on his website:

    Bob Weisenberg