‘Review originally posted on Recommended Reading – Donovan’s Bookshelf’ by D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Calm Brain Powerful Mind: Abolish Stress to Unleash Your True Potential is a self-help program for abolishing stress using brain power. It is recommended for readers who would adopt strategies presented as a series of ‘journeys’ that range from sitting in silence and conscious breathing exercises to understanding the science and art of applied meditation techniques.

Aziz Velji focuses on the nuts and bolts of both creative survival processes and applied brain science research, pairing everyday examples with bigger-picture thinking about life: “We want life to fit into our framework of beliefs, our parameters. We want it to flow according to our plan, based on our experience. We try to use logic and rational thinking to understand life, but we don’t succeed, because life is not logical; it is not rational. It does not flow in a sequence of events. Life is uncertain, unpredictable, multidimensional, and chaotic—everything is happening at the same time, so logic and rational thought can never understand the complexities of life.

Many books about stress reduction or meditation border on being idealistic and impossible. Velji presents proven, tested techniques, moderating these presentations with an acknowledgement of their difficulties: “We have worked out flight paths, gravitational pulls, trajectories for space crafts and landed man on the moon with precision, but we haven’t been able to solve the problem of stress—our mental suffering. Yes, our materialistic thinking can come up with all sorts of phenomenal drugs to counter the effects of stress, but this way of thinking cannot help us eliminate it. Stress is a problem that the thinking, rational mind will never be able to solve because the intellect on its own cannot help us calm our fears and anxieties which create stress—we can medicate ourselves, but we can’t think our way through fears and anxieties.

This practical approach will appeal to those who find the usual meditation advice too simplistic or idealistic. It not only acknowledges the difficulties posed by the brain’s interactions with daily life, but the challenges involved in applying mitigating techniques that work.

Its explanations of why these approaches succeed where others fail are clear and informative: “Conscious breathing stops the mind—one cannot simultaneously breathe consciously and think. When your mind calms down, the right course of action is revealed. Otherwise, you are just reacting to the crisis, that will continue to smolder and occupy your mind.

Pragmatists not usually drawn to self-help books about empowerment will find much supporting evidence and a concrete focus on not advice, but why the techniques work to mitigate life stress. The only prerequisite for successfully using this guide is an openness to considering its exercises and their effectiveness.

Readers will find Calm Brain Powerful Mind offers a solid bridge between pragmatic and holistic approaches. Its observations and tips will appeal to disparate audiences with useful approaches that blend scientific understanding with applied techniques.