It's not surprising that books like Elaine St. James's Inner Simplicity become national bestsellers in a culture hooked on quick fixes. Without a spiritual tradition we can call our own, we Americans tend to latch onto whatever we can find when a crisis occurs or general malaise sets in. But, the road to "inner simplicity" is anything but simple, despite St. James's comforting case to the contrary. As any church-going Christian or practicing Buddhist can tell you, true self-awareness is nothing short of a life's work. Still, this two-cassette version of St. James's bestselling book has a lot to offer any of us interested in reducing what she calls the internal "clutter" in our lives.
Narrated by St. James herself, with the friend-next-door appeal of her Kansas accent, the cassettes parade us through dozens of techniques for simplifying our inner lives. Here we learn how to master the basic starter tips-- "experience nature," "get in touch with your creativity," "slow down"--followed by more challenging purges such as "practicing dying," and finally the "hard stuff," like doing nothing and exploring sleep consciousness. Keenly aware that many of her suggestions are enough to send the average American running for the TV and a pint of ice cream, St. James breaks each idea down into non-threatening, commute-sized earfuls.
Through it all, her personal credibility gives us hope for our own out-of-control lives. A former fast-lane businesswoman without therapist or medical credentials, St. James has spent years sampling spiritual practices and self-help methodologies. Whether she now lives a more loving, compassionate, and tolerant life than the rest of us is anybody's guess. But, clearly, she lives a simpler one, backed by the conviction that what makes her happy has value for us all.