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November 16, 2012
Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz
Phillip Moffitt’s life is right out of that classic story in which a financially successful man — one who seemingly has it all — realizes he needs something more.
He realizes there’s something deeper, something more meaningful to life.
At the height of his career, Moffitt was CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Esquire magazine. However, Moffitt was not satisfied. So he traded his traditional successful life for a shot at inner peace. He took up mindfulness meditation and changed his life.
Today, he is a meditation teacher and co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. In his newest book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life, Moffitt takes what he has learned firsthand and shares those teachings in a readable and thoroughly enjoyable way.
Moffitt was 34 years old when he began to focus full-time on personal growth. He had enjoyed great success, but his life “seemed out of balance. I felt as though I wasn’t living from my authentic self. Even though my external life was fun and stimulating, my internal experience was that of not being connected to a larger purpose.”
One of the main themes of Emotional Chaos to Clarity — and a prime reason why it is so appealing — is that while Moffitt is a teacher now, he wasn’t always one. He has a story. He took a path. Moffitt is not some guru born on the side of a Nepalese mountain, unaware of the day-to-day “realities” of Western culture. In this way, his story feels more “true” in a way that is sorely lacking from much of the spiritually-tinged self-help field.
Furthermore, because of his unique backstory, Moffitt’s appeal is immense. Anyone who has felt a gaping hole in his being can relate to his story.
Moffitt’s a skilled writer. There is no flowery language painting an abstract portrait of the secret to life. He writes cleanly and directly. However, he still thoroughly conveys his message. He strikes the perfect balance.
Moffitt’s teachings revolve around two central ideas: Mindfulness and intention. He writes:
The combined skills of mindfulness and intention described in this book represent an approach to transforming life’s many challenges into opportunities for growth. This approach constitutes the foundation for a more authentic relationship with yourself and others. As you apply these life skills you will feel more grounded and oriented in your life. My purpose in writing this book is to assist you in this process of learning how to live more skillfully.
As might be expected with a book with such heavy subject matter, Emotional Chaos to Clarity should not be viewed as a quick read. Each chapter should be studied, and, both literally and figuratively, meditated upon. At the end of each chapter, Moffitt provides an exercise or some closing wisdom. Because the book demands work on the reader’s part, it’s perhaps best to read about a chapter a day or so. Mindfulness is a skill. It is one that must be cultivated. To rush through a book like this essentially defeats its purpose.
Moffitt’s ultimate goal is to eliminate or lessen what he calls “the emotional chaos of the untrained mind.” Our minds are constantly racing in a state of turmoil. We make plans and they fall through. We react and we often react poorly. What Moffitt would like us to do is to not perceive ourselves as having to react, but rather choosing how to respond. This slight adjustment in perception can make a world of difference.
Emotional Chaos to Clarity is a wonderful contribution to the self-help field. It is one that deserves to stand out and be recognized. Moffitt’s messages are universal, while the manner in which he conveys them is poignant, proper and downright perfect.
June 4, 2012
Vitality Magazine, Toronto
by Susannah Kent
Imagine learning to accept gain and loss equally, deriving wisdom and insight from both. Also imagine a life where you feel empowered to pursue your dreams and goals without worry, opening your heart and mind to a deeper, richer, more satisfying relationship with your life just as it is. In Emotional Chaos to Clarity, Philip Moffitt, former editor-in-chief/CEO of Esquire magazine, and renowned meditation teacher, offers concrete, practical guidance on how to make these imaginings a real possibility.
Moffitt states that the purpose of writing this book was to “help people learn to live more skillfully,” just as he began to do at age 40. Leaving behind a successful career, he embarked on a journey of study, meditation, and Jungian analysis to discover new capacities in himself, and a connection to a larger purpose. That larger purpose evolved into helping others find clarity, direction, and meaning in their lives.
His approach, influenced by Western psychology and Buddhist philosophy, involves using a combination of mindfulness and intention. This can provide the foundation for a more authentic relationship with yourself and others, resulting in the ability to transform life’s many challenges into opportunities for growth.
Moffitt suggests that we often confuse who we really are with the emotions, thoughts, and impulses we experience, and then react in ways which bring emotional chaos to our lives. He says this emotional chaos (confusion, uncertainty, anxiousness, and feelings of conflict and indecisiveness) is a result of reactive mind states. The reactive mind is one pulled in many directions depending on our perceptions. According to Moffitt, in order to rid ourselves of emotional chaos we must move from a reactive mind state to a responsive one. In a responsive state, one knows and understands one’s true self; a state that is grounded in our deepest values during all of life’s ups and downs.
Moffitt wholeheartedly believes that it is mindfulness that allows us to set intentions through understanding what matters most (your values). Being grounded in intention and aligning one’s actions to those intentions “as best you are able is what provides integrity and unity in your life” (clarity).
The book is divided into three sections. Part I, “Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity,” explains the concept of mindfulness, explores ways to discover your true self (not the one guided by misperceptions), and introduces such practices as living an intentional life, letting go of expectations, starting over, and balancing priorities. The next section, “Developing Skillful Behaviors,” presents skills that will guide you to live according to your values and intentions. Skillful behaviours include making wise decisions, cultivating the qualities of loving kindness and compassion, living life through gratitude, doing the right thing, and overcoming attachments through generosity. Part III, “Removing the Sources of Chaos,” looks at what Moffitt calls unskillful behaviours; the ones that bring chaos and suffering not only into our lives, but to those around us, such as failing to set and maintain boundaries or practice restraint, along with compulsiveness.
Each chapter includes a related self-assessment exercise, as well as a set of practices or meditations to help the reader cultivate clarity and live more skillfully. Moffitt also shares inspiring stories from some of his clients and students, relating their struggles, insights, and successes.
At its core, Emotional Chaos to Clarity is an honest and compassionate invitation (and offer of assistance) to discover a richer, deeper, more balanced life. This is an invitation well worth accepting.
May 24, 2012
Phillip Moffitt was editor in chief of Esquire magazine when he abruptly resigned. Friends and colleagues thought this was a strange decision, yet he felt it was refreshingly authentic—he never again wanted to get stuck in overvaluing worldly accomplishment. Now Moffitt is a co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California, and the founder of Life Balance Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps people find direction and meaning in their lives.
Drawing on his own experiences, as well as on the experiences of his students, Moffitt helps readers develop inner strength and happiness. There are three parts to the book. The first lays the ground by addressing what it means to be human and reconnecting us to what really matters, the second focuses on developing the behaviors necessary to meet life more effectively and authentically, and the third offers strategies for overcoming obstacles on the road to clarity.
February 15, 2012
Moffitt (former editor in chief, Esquire; founder, Life Balance Inst.) describes emotional chaos as a reaction to negative life situations rather than an honest and clear response. He shows how a proactive response, using the skills of mindfulness and intention, can transform life’s challenges into opportunities for growth. Through Moffitt’s explanations, exercises, and assessments, readers can cultivate the practices of “skillful living,” e.g., learning to let go of expectations, ending the cycle of self-violence, and living life with gratitude. VERDICT: Moffitt includes case studies and psychological insights geared toward general readers. A helpful book for those who need a clear focus.
January 1, 2012
At age 40, Moffitt, owner and editor-in-chief of Esquire, left to “explore the inner life.” After drifting with no clear direction, he moved from New York to California, went on meditation retreats, underwent Jungian analysis, and founded the Life Balance Institute. Moffitt summarizes the philosophy underlying his work in this guidebook for navigating through confusion, disappointment, and tough decision making. Part one, “Practices That Empower You to Achieve Clarity,” helps the reader connect with what matters most. The second section, “Developing Skillful Behaviors,” focuses on goals that enable one to confront life more effectively and authentically. The third part, “Removing the Sources of Chaos,” examines why people behave unskillfully and cause suffering for themselves and others. Each chapter, dealing with issues such as developing loving-kindness and recognizing personal boundaries, is followed by a self-assessment exercise, such as the Compassion Practice meditation with a repetition of phrases: “I can feel your suffering. May your suffering cease.” Though rife with buzzwords like “mindfulness” and “authenticity,” and the less elegant “imaginative possible,” the book still delivers valuable tools for psychological self-development and a more harmonious relationship with life.