Authors: Connie Shaw and Ike Allen

Publishers: First Sentient Publications

ISBN:  978-1-59181-104-6

This purse-sized volume containing Walt Whitman’s words and additional comments by the authors is the sort of aid to “keeping cool” that many people at their prime will appreciate. Daily life can be so harried that we forget who we are and want to be. These wise advisors remind us to stop in our tracks and really dwell on a single idea. It takes a willing heart, however.

Fifty-two weeks of daily meditations are included here in spare prose (the reading of which will take no more than ten minutes out of your day). There are no long literary passages from the American “poet of the people.” Shaw, a poet in her own right, and Allen, a student of consciousness and leader of transformational seminars, have carefully chosen a few lines for each ponderable subject: paradox, authenticity, miracles, wonder, shadow, chaos, and so forth. Then they have added their suggestion of a quick application to the reader’s own train of thought. Sundays are reserved for their thoughts, brief and provocative, arising from their practice of Taoism.

The introduction explains that Taoism is the “ancient Chinese philosophical and spiritual tradition that emphasizes compassion, humility, and moderation.” Who can doubt that these qualities are needed as correctives to the competiveness of the workplace and playing fields of our time? Wisdom that is “ancient” gives us perspective, as does the sensibility of an observant 19th century poet. Whitman was born to a working class family only three decades after George Washington was named President of the United States. He grew up in Manhattan, then just becoming an urban center in a nation that was newly formed as a democracy, inspiring pride in its leaders. His biographers ( note that he loved riding the ferries and thus the idea of “crossings” became central to his mystical thoughts; crossing was the passage from life to death; it was the service of his poetry to cross from poet to reader and back.

Shaw and Allen are quick to say that none of what they have compiled is required reading; they want us to use what they have culled from ancient and historic thought as we see fit. They also confess that they are not Whitman scholars. English majors such as I am may find it frustrating not to know the source of each poem excerpt – or they might find themselves trying to remember. That’s a distraction. Still, the handy guide to improving each day by one positive act (whether it is to host a party or simply smile big at passersby) is extremely useful, especially to Americans who will appreciate that the gift of democracy is, at its core, plain decency.

The 52 themes present a variety of moods. You will experience wildness:

Unscrew the locks from the doors!

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!”

You will accept responsibility:

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things

from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

There’s even a passage on silence:

I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen

And accrue what I hear into myself….and let sounds

Contribute toward me.”

Follow Here To Purchase The Tao of Walt Whitman: Daily Insights and Actions to Achieve a Balanced Life (Sentient Tao Series)