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Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity | [Edward Slingerland]

Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity

A deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity - an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand - and why it is so essential to our well-being. Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting? Or be charming and relaxed on a first date? What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes? In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire.
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Publisher's Summary

A deeply original exploration of the power of spontaneity - an ancient Chinese ideal that cognitive scientists are only now beginning to understand - and why it is so essential to our well-being.

Why is it always hard to fall asleep the night before an important meeting? Or be charming and relaxed on a first date? What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes? In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire.

In Trying Not To Try, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive, and shows how early Chinese thought points the way to happier, more authentic lives. We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort. But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. The early Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way of being in the world, which they called wu-wei (ooo-way). They believed it was the source of all success in life, and they developed various strategies for getting it and hanging on to it.

With clarity and wit, Slingerland introduces us to these thinkers and the marvelous characters in their texts, from the butcher whose blade glides effortlessly through an ox to the wood carver who sees his sculpture simply emerge from a solid block. Slingerland uncovers a direct line from wu-wei to the Force in Star Wars, explains why wu-wei is more powerful than flow, and tells us what it all means for getting a date. He also shows how new research reveals what’s happening in the brain when we’re in a state of wu-wei - why it makes us happy and effective and trustworthy, and how it might have even made civilization possible.

Through stories of mythical creatures and drunken cart riders, jazz musicians and Japanese motorcycle gangs, Slingerland effortlessly blends Eastern thought and cutting-edge science to show us how we can live more fulfilling lives. Trying Not To Try is mind-expanding and deeply pleasurable, the perfect antidote to our striving modern culture.

©2014 Edward Slingerland (P)2014 Random House Audio

What Members Say

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  •  
    Elisabeth Doherty 06-27-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Description misleading"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The history of Chinese philosophy is no doubt interesting and I enjoyed learning about these thinkers. But the book falls far short of the mark when it comes to practical applications for contemporary life. In addition, I found it deeply strange the amount of times dating strategies are mentioned; the author even addresses "The System"and "The Rules".


    What could Edward Slingerland have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Made the book a more even split between philosophy and practical advice.


    What does Marc Cashman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He reads with a sense of humor that made the long summaries of history more enjoyable.


    Do you think Trying Not to Try needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Not really, it just wasn't interesting enough for me to justify reading another book by Slingerland.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Sheaffer Renton, WA 08-25-14
    Michael Sheaffer Renton, WA 08-25-14 Member Since 2014

    Michael E. Sheaffer

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    "Interesting...at first-then-too much history"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Well spent-but he goes into way too much historical detail and lost me towards the end. The history of the Chinese philosophers is great-but it becomes nothing but a history lesson and does not really offer practical advice for harnessing "flow"


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Marc Cashman?

    probably not


    Could you see Trying Not to Try being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    less academia and a little more practical advice on uses would be more helpful

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Richland, WA USA 03-08-15
    Amazon Customer Richland, WA USA 03-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Another X-Ray Through the Crystal of Being Human"

    Strongly resonated with me, and have me a glimpse into Chinese philosophy and worldview. Gave me permission to relax more and let things just happen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MartinaF 06-26-14
    MartinaF 06-26-14
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    "Pseudo-scientific drivel"
    What disappointed you about Trying Not to Try?

    The premise of "being in the zone" (interesting enough) is diluted with endless Taoist stories. I gave it an hour, and when there was no science to be found, I moved on. A real disappointment.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Edward Slingerland again?

    Not likely.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The concept is simple - the author simply padded it out ad nauseam.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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