“Aware, Awake, Alive: A Contemporary Guide to the Ancient Science of Integral Health and Human Flourishing,” Elliott Dacher, M.D., Paragon House (St. Paul, MN), 284 pp., practice CD included, $19.95.
Elliott Dacher, M.D., has taught several hundred Islanders to meditate, in courses he continues to teach through the wellness outreach program at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. His approach is essentially humanist and free of foreign terminology, and it is grounded in the experience of his students who share their progress in meditation, including their challenges and frustrations, in weekly group sessions through the fall, winter and spring months.
“Aware, Awake, Alive” arises out of that teaching experience, originating in the manual Dr. Dacher developed for the basic meditation course. As such, it is the perfect introduction for anyone wanting to understand what meditation is, how to do it, and how it can make a difference in one’s life. Aware, Awake, Alive is more than an introduction, however. Dr. Dacher provides detailed instruction in meditation techniques and in taking those very same principles into everyday life, where they become a guide for living.
In the book, Dr. Dacher draws on a lifetime of dedication to human healing techniques. For more than 20 years he practiced internal medicine and, increasingly through the years, began to incorporate the principles and practices of consciousness and integral health. Throughout his medical career, Dr. Dacher built a growing reputation for his commitment to bringing together physical science and internal awareness. The titles of his previous books are sufficient to convey this commitment: “Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing” (Basic Books, 2006), “Whole Healing” (Dutton/Plume, 1996), and “Intentional Healing” (Marlowe, 1996). Dr. Dacher is a past fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and past advisory board member of the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.”
Dr. Dacher has, moreover, dedicated his life since the mid-1990s to the study of consciousness and the wisdom of the East. Over the past decade plus, he has made annual trips from two to six months to study in India and Nepal. He has immersed himself in the study of inner health and healing through a program of daily meditation, extensive readings, and attention to the teachings of great contemporary spiritual masters such as the Dalai Lama.
Throughout his book, Dr. Dacher establishes a very clear linkage between the humanist techniques he teaches and the great traditions of Asian thought. He quotes from poets such as Mary Oliver, Naomi Shahib Nye, T.S. Elliot, and Rainer Marie Rilke — as well as ancient masters Shantideva and Tilopa. In “Aware Awake Alive,” Dr. Dacher brings together the teachings of Plato and the ancient Greek healing traditions, symbolized by the Caduceus, with the Medicine Buddha and the Eastern spiritual traditions, noting that both had originally called for the integration of outer knowledge with inner wisdom.
In “Aware, Awake, Alive,” the reader feels immediately at ease. Dr. Dacher guides the reader with a gentle hand and a reassuring voice across the landscape of human consciousness. He makes a pact with the reader at the outset to undertake this journey together, and he is with the reader every step of the way.
Life in today’s world is extremely challenging. We are bombarded from waking until sleeping with information, noise, and demands for our attention. Our minds fill to bursting with the frenzied babble of radio, television, and social media. A quiet moment often seems impossible to obtain. Peace and tranquility are rare and welcome gifts. And happiness? That is the elusive goal most of us search for continually and only catch glimpses of.
“Aware, Awake, Alive” is the perfect antidote to the frenzy of today’s world and, as Dr. Dacher makes very clear, a practical guide to personal transformation and a life of meaning and happiness. In addressing serious challenges to our happiness and health, Dr. Dacher devotes separate chapters in his book to addiction disorders, heart disease, depression, attention deficit disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He closes the book with his vision of the Center for Human Flourishing, a modern healing center modeled on the Aesclepian centers of ancient Greece. This is a deeply humanist book, imbued with the wisdom of both Eastern and Western traditions of healing and thought. Dr. Dacher thoughtfully includes a CD with the book to help ground the meditation practitioner and guide the practice of meditation that is at the core of “Aware, Awake, Alive.”
“Aware, Awake, Alive” book signing with Elliott Dacher, M.D., will be on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 7 pm at the Vineyard Haven Library. Call Betty Burton, 508-696-4211, for more information.
Meditation and the Art of Happiness
Meditation classes begin September 27 (Tuesdays) or 29 (Thursdays), 6 to 8:15 pm, meeting for eight weeks consecutively. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Staff Library Room. Call Allison Walker, 508-862-1940, to register.
Michael West lives in Vineyard Haven, and has two sons, Chris and Harry. He enjoys meditating, writing, and performing poetry and music.