When I learned that Jeff Bridges released a book on Zen and mindfulness last year, I didn’t exactly fall off my meditation pillow (as the NY Times review explained, the book was what you’d expect). The actor who played the unemployed, roach-smoking Dude in the ’90s cult hit The Big Lebowski makes the perfect guru for the chill life.
But high-octane achievers like Russell Simmons and Arianna Huffington? Their books made me stand up and take notice.
I know–I’m confused about why they came out with these books, too. Let’s poke at this.
In case you haven’t heard, in the past few months both of these American icons have published books on meditation and slowing down–Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple for Simmons and Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder from Huffington.
To boil it way too far down in the interest if concision, Simmons and Huffington are moguls of hip-hop and news media, respectively. They’ve built multi-million-dollar companies, snagged speaking engagements around the globe, and written shelves of books. Meditation seems like a better fit for those of us who realize we have yet to make our first million or publish a best seller. That’s at least why I started dabbling. I blamed my lack of success on my tendency toward distraction, inefficiency, lack of clarity, and hyper sensitivity to life’s slings and arrows.
By contrast, to do what Huffington and Simmons have done, one must have the focus of a nanolaser. These two probably accomplish more before they roll out of bed (either an actual or staged one) than I manage to do in a week. They’re visionary and savvy, resilient and charming. At least from what I can see.
They now say in interviews and book reviews that this life isn’t as glamorous or healthy as it seems. As Huffington is putting it, success has more to it than money and power. There’s the “third metric” of wellness.
Is there something to this idea? My cynical mind says this is just the celebrities’ next project, fueled by an agent who called one day only to be told “Ms. Huffington is on a journey to presence right now. Can you call her other Blackberry in 20 minutes?”
My most high-strung client meditates? The agent thinks. This could be big! (Yes, Huffington says she’s on a crusade to save you from collapsing in your office and beaning yourself on the way down, but I think many a book deal is born before the passion for the topic kicks in).
At the same time, I understand Simmons’ and Huffington’s need for self care. In a public radio interview (I think it was this one), the host pointed out how antsy Simmons was in the studio. On the Arsenio Hall Show, the founder of Def Jam Records patiently answered questions about his history for a few minutes before asking if they could please talk about meditation. He really wanted to get down to mindfulness. (Extended clip here).
Another question: Why are these books best sellers? The cynic comes out again here, knowing that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, advocating a more intense approach to work rather than a slow down, was also a wild success. I can’t help but conclude that if a book bears the name of a rich, charismatic person, no matter what he or she has to say about running yourself ragged or sitting on a rug, readers will grab it.
Whatever the motivations on either end, I do believe that a fascination with physical and mental wellness is a good thing. I even plan to read these new books–just as long as I can get them at the library.