Right in the introduction to ‘Breathe Believe Balance’, Shayamal Vallabhjee makes an unabashed confession: “I have been honest, transparent and emotionally vulnerable. If somewhere in your heart, you are holding on to the dream of a better life, I am going to give you the tools…. I have held nothing back. I know what pain feels like, and this is an honest attempt at giving you a chance to heal your pain.”
Stirring stuff, isn’t it? It’s the kind of appeal that can move even a frumpy old cynic like me. Unlike me, if you are better disposed towards those who promise to heal your heart and mend your soul, Vallabhjee’s emotive lines should have you leaping towards your favourite book portal. As it turns out, your tribe is growing at a faster clip than mine.
Lord Byron once said while it is possible for a woman to have no lovers at all, it is rare for a woman to have only one. In a sense, that holds for the self-improvement literature too. There are many people who have never read a self-help book, and appear none the worse for it. But there’s hardly a soul who’s read only one. He or she who reads one and is taken up with it will find the therapeutic effects wearing off after a while, and will soon be on the lookout for fresh supplies. This has kept self-help industry chugging for close to a century with every year seeing a new harvest of the genre.
This year brought us Vallabhjee’s effort to systematically, and perhaps scientifically, transform yourself into a happier human being.
Vallabhjee is a man of many parts – and startlingly different ones at that. By turns, monk of the Hare Krishna movement, performance coach, scientist (by his own admission) and the technical analyst who was part of the support staff of the Indian cricket team in the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. (You will remember it as the one where an inspired Sachin Tendulkar tore apart Shoaib Akhtar).
Vallabhjee’s first step on the road to the triple ‘B’ is to unravel the self – excavating emotions buried deep in the subconscious. That’s a long and tricky journey by itself, and Valabhjee guides us with a series of exercises. Doing them is hard work, but you need to stay the course. Your rewards along the way are a number of fascinating anecdotes drawn from books on psychology, philosophy, the works.
There are many performance truths to be re-learnt. These include the discipline of sticking to something long enough for change to be visible. You revisit the lesson that ‘it takes 3,000 repetitions to transfer a skills from the conscious to the sub-conscious mind’, and build muscle memory. You also get tips on ‘getting into your zone’ – that magical space where everything flows your way, and you can achieve your best.
There is certainly good stuff – pearls of wisdom if you like – in ‘Breathe Believe Balance’ but you need to dive deep into turgid waters to find them. Also, it is not easy doing all that Vallabhjee recommends. But then nothing worthwhile is ever a cake walk. If you really want to improve yourself, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to plough through 300 odd pages, and turn into a happier version of yourself.
Breathe Believe Balance
Author: Shayamal Vallabhjee
Published by: Pan Macmillan India
Price: Rs 350