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Benefits of ‘Buddha Standard Time’ not convincing

Posted: July 27, 2011 - 7:19pm
In this book cover image released by HarperOne, "Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now," by Lama Surya Das, is shown. (AP Photo/HarperOne)
In this book cover image released by HarperOne, "Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now," by Lama Surya Das, is shown. (AP Photo/HarperOne)

“Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now” (HarperOne), by Lama Surya Das: Surya Das may have figured out how to slow down the hectic pace of his own life, but his new book may not help readers do the same.

Das is a Buddhist lama who uses meditation to keep himself focused on the present moment. Meditation is often touted as a way to improve concentration and relieve stress, and in his new book, Das suggests it could also be a time-management tool. Das promises readers that if they meditate and open their minds to their higher Selves, they can free themselves from the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in their busy days.

That certainly sounds appealing. However, Das’ book doesn’t make a particularly convincing case, at least not for readers who are somewhat unfamiliar with meditation and Buddhism.

Das is the author of “Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now.” The book takes a different angle to time management, suggesting that we feel harried because we rush from one commitment to the next without taking stock of where we are right now. Learn to appreciate the present moment — to live in Buddha Standard Time — and Das promises that you’ll have richer relationships and less stress.

That’s a bold claim, one that requires strong evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, Das provides little.

He describes his own experiences with meditation and explains how his mental discipline has helped him become more patient and compassionate. But he honed his craft by spending nearly two decades studying meditative practices in India. Can the average reader get similar results in far less time? That’s not so clear.

Das offers anecdotes that seem to support his claim, but even those vignettes are inconclusive.

For example, he describes an attorney who was so frazzled that he joked to Das that he needed a clone of himself to keep up with his busy schedule. However, after attending a Buddhist retreat where he learned to walk more slowly, focusing on each step and each breath, the lawyer was so transformed that he now stops to feed pigeons in the park during lunch.

The man may have a fresh outlook, but presumably he has the same mountain of work back at the office. Das doesn’t explain how a new perspective alone solves that problem.

The book might appeal to those already familiar with meditation. Each chapter includes meditation tips, which generally assume the reader is already convinced that meditation is necessary and valuable. A beginner or skeptic might need more persuading that the unconventional tips are even worth trying.

In short, if you already meditate to relieve stress or improve your concentration, “Buddha Standard Time” might help you improve your time-management skills as well. But if you don’t meditate, or if you’re a doubter, you might get better time-management advice from more conventional sources.

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