Hasting-on-Hudson author Noah Elkrief and Bronxville editor Karen Wolfgang-Swanson's new book has hit number one on Amazon's Bestseller List in six categories. "Guide to the Present Moment" is now topping the charts in categories such as stress management and counseling.
The new book is about how to relieve stress and add more calm into your life. The book analyzes how one's reaction to a situation can be stressful or not stressful at all. For those situations that can produce stress, Elkrief offers a five-step process that can help anyone identify and stop believing the thoughts that create stress.
Patch spoke with Elkrief about his new book, and how it is different from other self-help books.
Patch: How did you get the idea for the book?
Elkrief: I had been meditating every day for pretty much my whole life. Then, in one moment in the summer of 2009, the vast majority of my psychological thoughts just vanished from my mind. I don’t know why it happened or how it happened, but it did. Since that moment, I have been left with a predominantly silent mind and the virtually uninterrupted experience of peace. But, the really shocking thing about this was that any time I began to experience any unwanted emotion, I would instantly recognize that the emotion was created by a thought in my mind, and then I would naturally see that I don’t know whether the thought is true. As soon as I stopped believing my thought to be true, my emotion would dissolve and I would come right back to my natural state of peace. My book shares a five-step process that uses questions to help readers to stop believing the thoughts that make them unhappy.
Patch: How is this book different from others that touch on the same subject?
Elkrief: The self-help genre is mostly focused on how to improve yourself and your life. However, this whole genre neglects a few very important questions: “Why do you want improve yourself and your life?” Most of us only want to improve ourselves and our life so that we can feel peaceful, happy, and whole. So the next question is: “Is everyone who has what you want happy? If not, are you sure that it will make you happy?” Not everyone with wealth, success, beauty, respect, or love is happy. In fact, the vast majority are not happy.
I don’t help people to improve themselves or their lives. I had the absolute perfect life. I achieved everything I ever wanted, everything was perfect. But, that didn’t make me feel whole, that didn’t get me to stop worrying about others’ opinions and that didn’t stop me from worrying about the future.
I have discovered through direct experience in my own life and in the lives of the people that I work with, that anyone can experience peace and wholeness right now if they just stop believing the thoughts that make them feel stressed, ashamed, and unworthy. Therefore, I help people to identify and stop believing the thoughts that create all of our unwanted emotions.
Patch: How has growing up and living in Westchester affected you stress-wise?
Elkrief: Generally speaking, when you are worried about your survival, it is very difficult to be focused on your happiness. Growing up in Westchester allowed me to focus on just having fun when I was young, but it also gave me the platform to succeed in the business world and achieve all of my goals. Ultimately, that was what allowed me to see that my goals couldn’t give me the fulfillment I wanted, and gave me the incentive and the luxury to be able to spend a lot of my time meditating, and to travel around the world going to meditation retreats.
Patch: How have you used the Westchester landscape to help you live in the present?
Elkrief: Most of us haven’t been taught how to be happy. In other words, we haven’t really been shown the specific thoughts that create our stress, worry, shame, anger. Basically, when we are at work or around other people, most of us are either worried about what others think of us, stressed out about the future, judging others, or getting angry at others. When we are in nature, it is much easier to stop thinking about all of this because it is not directly in front of us. Even though I am lucky enough to really enjoy my work, since I live near the woods, I spend at least an hour in the woods every day just being there with nature, and embracing the silence. It is a form of meditation.
Patch: What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part of writing the book was cutting out content that I loved. Through the editing process and getting feedback from friends and clients, I found that some content I loved was either hard to understand, didn’t provoke the reaction I wanted, or just didn’t fit in the book. It took a year to edit the book, and by the end of that process, I had cut out about 300 pages of content that I thought was great.
Elkrief: What were you most surprised about in this journey leading up to publishing your book?
The most surprising thing was how long it took. I was expecting it to take about three months. Man was I wrong. I worked on this book almost full-time for two years. I was also very surprised by peoples’ reaction to different sections in my book. Sometimes sections I thought would be helpful didn’t get great reactions, and sometimes sections that I wasn’t confident about provided people with huge benefits.