Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of driving and suddenly realizing you don’t remember half your journey? It can be quite shocking to realize you have spaced out so deeply, you were functioning on “auto-pilot.” Just like with driving, it’s easy to get lost in the tempo of life and feel as though you are functioning on auto-pilot, perhaps even using it as a survival mechanism.
But what if you took the time to come into full awareness? There are many individuals preaching and praising the act of living in the moment and being present. Chris Baréz-Brown has thrown his hat into the ring with his succinct work entitled, Wake Up!: A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now. If you are looking for a deep dive into living in the present moment, this book is not for you. However, if you are tired of hearing the talk around living in the moment and you want more of a how-to, Wake Up! is more suited for you.
The format of the book is simple and direct. It is divided into separate mini-chapters, each devoted to one specific activity. The mini-chapter is broken into three parts:
- The Insight
- The Plan
- The Payoff
The author introduces the theory and research behind each practice to provide background information (The Insight). The Plan describes the activity itself and The Payoff provides an explanation of how the activity can have immediate and lasting impact. Finally, there are several blank lines provided at the end of each mini-chapter for the reader to jot down a few of their own thoughts and experiences related to the activity.
Individuals who have read up on “living in the moment” will find some of the proposals in the book relatively familiar. For instance, the “Kill Your Television” activity requires taking a week off from watching any TV. This may actually mean taking a week off from the smartphone, since there are some people who spend most of their time playing on their phone and not watching TV. However, this activity will likely not be much of a surprise.
But there are a few surprises wrapped up in this book. The “Plug It In” activity requires readers to write a song. There are also a couple mini-chapters that require diet restrictions (such as dairy, caffeine, and gluten). Existentialists will likely appreciate the final challenge of sitting and contemplating that death is inevitable. This is a plight that will likely make some readers cringe and want to revolt. But as the author explains, “By remembering that we are not here for an infinite number of days, maybe we can all do that bit better by spending those we do have more awake.”
The design of the book adds a touch of whimsy and playfulness. There are pages that are not focused on the activities but provide insights in one-liners: “when you connect to what truly makes you tick you will find you will be more conscious of living it right.” Non-standard fonts are occasionally used for headers, chapter titles, etc. There are also carefully chosen images to add a bit of cheer and fun throughout the text. For those that may be put off by such additions, please note that the details are not childish or distracting.
Overall, Wake Up! is an interesting workbook for those curious about getting more in tune with their inner self and taking a break from the go-go-go of daily life. The various activities are simple and, often, not time-consuming. While some of the activities span the length of a few days (i.e., the restrictions on diet activities), they do not require too much planning or navigation in order to complete them. The most strenuous aspect may be the self-control, discipline, and willpower required for completion. I personally appreciated the addition of the lines for personal note-taking and journal writing. I am a fan of journaling and felt that the additional sections for writing were an unobtrusive nudge toward a new habit for those unfamiliar with the journaling process.
Chris Baréz-Brown has created a wonderful playbook in Wake Up!. This book could easily be paired with other texts on meditation or personal alignment. While not a substantial teaching text, it provides practical techniques for generating more awareness and alignment.
Wake Up! A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now
The Experiment, September 2017
Paperback, 304 pages