Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity

Trying Not to Try The Art and Science of Spontaneity A deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand and why it is so essential to our well being Why is it

  • Title: Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity
  • Author: Edward Slingerland
  • ISBN: 9780770437619
  • Page: 423
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand and why it is so essential to our well being Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting Or be charming and relaxed on a first date What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whA deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand and why it is so essential to our well being Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting Or be charming and relaxed on a first date What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire In Trying Not To Try, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive, and shows how early Chinese thought points the way to happier, authentic lives We ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly The early Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way of being in the world, which they called wu wei ooo way They believed it was the source of all success in life, and they developed various strategies for getting it and hanging on to it With clarity and wit, Slingerland introduces us to these thinkers and the marvelous characters in their texts, from the butcher whose blade glides effortlessly through an ox to the wood carver who sees his sculpture simply emerge from a solid block Slingerland uncovers a direct line from wu wei to the Force in Star Wars, explains why wu wei is powerful than flow, and tells us what it all means for getting a date He also shows how new research reveals what s happening in the brain when we re in a state of wu wei why it makes us happy and effective and trustworthy, and how it might have even made civilization possible Through stories of mythical creatures and drunken cart riders, jazz musicians and Japanese motorcycle gangs, Slingerland effortlessly blends Eastern thought and cutting edge science to show us how we can live fulfilling lives Trying Not To Try is mind expanding and deeply pleasurable, the perfect antidote to our striving modern culture.

    One thought on “Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity”

    1. I did not experience flow while I read this book.I picked this book up after I heard this author interviewed on NPR and the book sounded interesting, but it really wasn't. I'm fascinated by the concept of flow, which was what this book was supposed to be about, and it wasa little. Mostly it read like a history book about ancient Asian religions, which I'm also interested in, but the book was dry, flat and boring. I read this as an audio book and I was trying not to stop listening to it. Then I t [...]

    2. Okay, I know that's a cliche. Worse, perhaps, it's a cliche born of a sneaker commercial. But how often do you hear some other person--or yourself!--say something like this: "I'll try to make it by eight o'clock," or "I'm trying to lose some weight," or "trying to write a novel/finish a painting/make a fresh start"? The truth is, the longer you keep trying to feed the dog, the sooner the poor creature starves. Trying, in other words, doesn't hack it. It doesn't get the job done. You say it becau [...]

    3. Won through First Reads.Thank you!This book is outstanding. When I first read the title I thought maybe this was yet another book on "new age" thought. I couldn't have been more wrong. What the author did was guide me through Ancient Chinese thought from Confucius to Zhuangzi. His book gave me a clearer understanding not only of the historic time period, but also how and why these texts were written and the powerful influence they still have today.This idea of "trying not to try" is what Ancien [...]

    4. Succeeding without tryingIf you ever had a sleepless night, then you will perfectly understand why trying to fall asleep does not usually work. Instead, by making yourself fall asleep, you became more awake and soon began to ruminate how much time had been wasted and how dreadful the next morning would be. The moment when sleep became a deliberate and effortful action, sleepiness vanished, leaving us wide awake.    There is one defining feature about sleep—it is totally spontaneous. We sim [...]

    5. From the title of this book, I thought it could go in many different directions. And where it went, I hadn't guessed. This is a description of different Oriental religions through the ages and how they suggest that people reach their own state of flow. And more. The descriptions are wrapped in questions of whether trying to reach this state is good, or if trying is bad, or if trying to build the tools to reach this state is good, and the ancient books he describes give different answers for all [...]

    6. Wow. I tried forcing myself to read this book thinking it will somehow get better or more interesting but quite frankly I don't know if the topic is dull or the author needs to learn how to write. It's just so boring, repetitive and useless. I didn't find this book informative in any way although it did reinforce my opinion on traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy. Am I bias against the Chinese or was this book just terrible? I mean how can a book manage to make a person so angry! Edward y [...]

    7. Wow, what a book Full of philosophical ideas from early china and psychological studies from today this book comes together to make an amazing read. Focusing on 4 ways to living our lives and finding happiness we see the good and bad to each, pointing out the benefits and flaws to all of them, this book just flows. Although the topics covered steal the show, I have to mention the writing style here. Edward Slingerland does such a great job leading us through these complex ideas and topics and le [...]

    8. The author discusses the idea that by not concentrating on a task but actually trying to relax the mind the desired outcome can be achieved more readily. He attempts to encourage the reader to free the mind from distractions as outside influences are reduced. This was a free proof copy and does contain a very interesting [to me] concept.

    9. When he was a teenager, we all noticed that my nephew Charlie was surrounded by beautiful young women, though he seemed less accomplished than his older brothers (he wasn’t; he was just younger). You’d go over in the morning and one girl would be hanging around, playing chess, go by in the afternoon and another was there. It was like a beauty pageant. We were never sure what was going on, but they were around, and obviously liked Charlie. I of course thought he was a great human being, but f [...]

    10. Overall, it’s a good read that I enjoyed, but it falls about 75% short of its target. Its value is in still having flown 25% of the way in the right direction. An interested reader can pick up the trail and walk the rest of the way himself.In detail:It’s a good overview of the main bullet-points of the major Ancient Chinese philosophers/schools of philosophy (though by no means exhaustive as far as each school is concerned — I think Zhuangzi has suffered a lot). It gives a decent treatment [...]

    11. Originally posted on bluchickenninja.This book will not teach you how to be more spontaneous. Because of the very nature of spontaneity it is not something you can learn from a book. However it does show how not concentrating on a task will help achieve the desired outcome.This book also explores the meaning of the Chinese concepts of wu-wei. The book is full of examples of the action-less doing of wu-wei (being in the zone) as well as examples from contemporary neuroscience. It even goes as far [...]

    12. Gateway drug to Chinese philosophy (unfortunately and somewhat misleadingly packaged as a self-help book) that now has me wanting to read Zhuangzi, whose work is evidently filled with "talking animals, mysterious leviathans that transform into huge birds, witches, hunchbacks, ghosts, talking skulls, and ancient sage kings brought back to life." Sold!

    13. I won this book through the giveaway program. The book was interesting (although I was bored in some places because it felt like the same things were being repeated). I did like learning about early Chinese thinkers and relating those ideas with my experiences with my Chinese in-laws.

    14. This book’s paradoxical title is perfect for its paradoxical subject matter, which is famously expressed in such quotes as, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone” [ver. 48 of the “Tao Te Ching.”] Slingerland lays down the ancient Chinese wisdom of “wu-wei” and “de,” but provides something novel by putting it in the context of the positive psychology and neuroscience of today. “Wu-wei” literally means “no doing,” but can be more meaningfully defined as “effortl [...]

    15. Meh. begon met lezen, begon met scannen, hele boek doorgebladerd Erg veel nadruk op Oosterse filosofie, klinkt allemaal heel complex, ziet er niet toegankelijk uit vanwege een gebrek aan witregels, ziet er ook niet heel praktisch gericht uit, wat ik zo lees.Jammer maar helaas. Ik denk wel een goede voor als je geinteresseerd bent in oosterse filosofie want boeken van Maven Publishing leggen de onderwerpen altijd wel goed uit. Maar het was dus niet wat ik zocht

    16. This book discusses the universal and long-standing paradox: how to work on being spontaneous? The book examines four schools in ancient Chinese philosophy to explain the paradox. In the last two chapters the author offers his own view, and his recommendations on how to achieve spontaneity in both moral behavior and in skills. I don't think he provided a good solution (nobody can). However, the whole discussions are very interesting to me. Besides, the language of the book is very enjoyable. The [...]

    17. I casually ordered this book because I had read an article in Nautilus magazine of Butcher Ding and his effortless and unselfconscious way with a meat cleaver, having dispatch an ox smoothly and efficiently for the emperor. I thought this was an eastern spin on the idea of flow, a concept that Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi established in western psychology literature. While Csikszentmihalyi approached it from a strictly western way, using neurosciences and psychology to try to teach how to get flow in [...]

    18. ~4.5h @ 2x. A welcome blend of Taoism & modern dual-process theories of cognition (like Kahneman / Haidt / Greene / others I don't know of). I thought about rating it a 3, but it was fun to listen to & kept my attention, & since I'd already rated the [much/even] lighter The Tao of Pooh with 3, have a 4. This goes through some of the scientific results quite fast, but then again for references the author does refer you to his academic works including perhaps Effortless Action: Wu-We [...]

    19. The thing about ancient Chinese philosophy is, it's ancient. As relevant as the core teachings might still be, the original context and many of the metaphors suffer from such an enormous time gap that many modern-day folks (myself included) simply can't relate, and therefore miss the message. These days one typically isn't faced with dilemmas such as how to most elegantly butcher an ox for ceremonial offering, or what to do with a crop of comically oversized gourds.And from a Western point of vi [...]

    20. The content deserves a 5/5 but the author's voice is too smug for my liking, so the result is a 4/5.The content:An overview of ancient Chinese (with a dash of Japanese Buddhism) thought focused on spontaneity. Cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience make appearances, mostly to support the ancient texts the author cites, and about midway through the book the author also injects some shallow anthropology to provide some context. So its a book with a lot of ground to cover, and to his credi [...]

    21. Ideal companion to the Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014. Like the Chinese philosophers over 2,000 years ago, Olympic viewers are stuck with the paradox of spontaneous versus meditated behavior. Do we root for the natural skier or the one who approaches the moguls like a physicist. Trying Not to Try by Edward Slingerland combines the ancient Chinese philosophy with contemporary neuroscience to address the paradox of the timeless debate of trying versus not trying, thinking versus not thinking, learn [...]

    22. Trying Not To Try provides a general background to eastern philosophy in the context of "flow" and the paradox of virtue. I found the book to be confusing, without a clear point until the very end. I feel some sort of introduction that provided an overview of the author's direction would have improved the book greatly. I also noticed a couple of the scientific studies were poorly explained, although a citation is provided in the back of the book if anyone is interested in finding the truth. For [...]

    23. Edward Slingerland has synthesized Chinese thought, cognitive science, and ancient culture like no other in this amazing book. It is refreshing to see a scholarly work on Chinese thought and the great philosophers of the Warring states period of China. He articulates perfectly the philosophy of all the great Chinese philosophers and how their approach to wu-wei differs and also how this relates to inducing different cognitive states. If you have been interested in the effortlessness of wu-wei an [...]

    24. This book explores the concept of "wu-wei" which is defined as "the dynamic, effortless, and unselfconscious state of mind of a person who is optimally active and effective." It gave a description of the history of different schools of Chinese thought - Confucianism and Daoism - and what they believed was the best way to reach "wu-wei." The four main people discussed were Confucius, Laozi, Mencius, and Zhuangzi, and each had a different method and way of thinking about spontaneity. I really enjo [...]

    25. The first two chapters of this book were hilarious and interesting, and everything I thought this non-fiction find would beAfter that, it turned into a history of ancient Chinese philosophy. Slingerland is a professor of the topic at Vancouver University.I read through other reviews, and some people think its okay and some people feel bamboozled. Honestly, I'm in the second camp. There was no indication this book would be mostly about Confucius. I read and enjoyed the entire book, but remain fru [...]

    26. Edward Slingerland is not the first thinker and writer to have noticed that the modern field of neuroscience, on the one hand, and the ancient schools of thought from Asia such as Daoism, on the other hand, sometimes talk about the same topic, just using different vocabulary. He is not even the first person to attempt to translate one into the other, or both into something an ordinary human such as myself, neither a neuroscientist nor Laozi, can understand.He is, however, the first writer I have [...]

    27. I expected a lot from that book because I heard the author talking in a podcast. But in the end I didn't learn how to be spontaneous because I discovered from the book that the matter is complicated. so there is no magic way to have all that you want without trying. I enjoyed some of the stories about ancient china, but the book isn't great as I thought it would be

    28. This book was very enjoyable to read. While comprehensive it is written in such a way that it doesn't feel like a text. I loved the stories that went along with each topic and the underlying theme that was easily followed throughout. A fun, interesting, thought provoking book and a good read.

    29. Don't read this book without checking out the MOOC he runs on EdX, 'Chinese thought: Ancient wisdom meets modern science'. It's 5 stars, no, 6 stars. This book reads like he had to mix up his material so it wasn't exactly like his lectures, which are excellent. GO SIGN UP TO THE MOOC!

    30. Big thanks to Brolin for this recommendation and letting me borrow his copy. A piece of "the paradox of wu-wei and de" I see now contributed to a major writing problem in my thesis - how to get people interested in something they aren't already interested in. I loved the set-up and work flow of ideas in this book too. Everything was very easy to follow and not overly-made up with "road map signs" about what we've covered and what's up next. I couldn't mark up the book because it's Brolin's copy, [...]

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