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When Meditation Is Not Enough

Why does walking the path of spirituality or self-help so often lead us to a dead end? “It’s because,” as Alan Anderson writes, “we are confused from the get-go: spiritual practice doesn’t mean improving ourselves; it means facing ourselves.”

Change is sometimes a choice that wells up from within and we enter gracefully. At other times it is utterly choiceless and our past, present and future get burned up in the most unforgiving flames. We either accept it and abide by its demands or kick and scream as we get pulled into the abyss.

Regardless of which path we choose—whether we feel brave or cowardly—none of us gets let off easily. No book, teaching or religion can fully show us the way…or the way out. No amount of positive affirmations will release us from the biggest obstacle to change—our reluctance to face ourselves, free from self-deception.

When Bad Lands is a guidebook for this deeply challenging and rewarding journey. It is not a shortcut to clean up the surface or soften the edges. Rather, it is a mirror for courageously seeing ourselves as we are, with humor and heart, free from exaggeration or denigration. 

This book introduces us to a unique collection of Seven Skills that allow us to fully own who we are and build a bridge from who we were to who we need to become.

  • Not Believing Everything We Think
  • Not Pretending Things Are Otherwise
  • The Mirror of Meditation
  • Filling Ourselves with Wisdom and Reminders
  • “This is (Fear)” Practice
  • The Genuine Heart of Sadness
  • The Four-Way Mirror

The key is to face ourselves with bravery, honesty, and mountains of curiosity. There is no mystery and no shortcut. Instead, we take the manual approach and see ourselves, fully, as we are.

This approach encompasses a vast universe of wisdom, but Alan has done what we could all do, which is to gather a few of its choice aspects—just a handful of that stardust—and apply it in life-changing ways. When Bad Lands is the manual that helps us come face-to-face with our deepest challenges and not look away.


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Praise for When Bad Lands

Despite all the positive hype about mindfulness, dedicated practitioners of the discipline soon discover that meditation is often more demanding than relaxing; more sobering than it is "blissful" and more noble than it is productive. In this insightful and playful text, Alan Anderson explains how mindfulness-awareness meditation not only unleashes our natural health and wisdom but more importantly introduces the possibility of living a fearlessly compassionate life. For those interested in “going deeper” with their mindfulness practice, this book is for you.  

— MICHAEL CARROLL, Buddhist teacher and author of Awake at Work and Mindful Leadership Training

Alan Anderson and I both grew up around Milwaukee, and When Bad Lands adds a welcome dose of Midwestern practicality to today’s fervent quest for mindfulness. Anderson pulls no punches  —  there is no negotiating with the truth. With equal parts pragmatism, hard work and humor, When Bad Lands is the road map you want in your pocket whether you are revisiting your past trials or ramping up for the journey ahead.

— JANE KACZMAREK, screen and stage actor, 3-time Golden Globe and 7-time Emmy Award nominee, star of Malcolm in the Middle

Alan Anderson has written a compelling guide for relating with — or reawakening — our heart and mind when we are consumed by discouragement and self-doubt…a place we’ve all been at one point or another. His commitment to be continually open and share his hard-gained personal experience and insights generously makes his wisdom available to all of us.


When Bad Lands is a guide to navigate the human experience that is at once simple and comprehensive (kind of like life itself!). Alan Anderson does a brilliant job of compiling wisdom both ancient and modern, while offering new insights and quite practical techniques to realize the miracle of basic goodness. The 7 Skills presented in When Bad Lands are crucial to sanity and clarity in our wonderfully and increasingly chaotic society. 

— ARNO MICHAELIS IV, author of My Life After Hate

The Buddha invited us all on an exploration to uncover our own deep awareness and understanding of the beautiful mystery of life. Anyone who embarks on this journey is likely to encounter serious hindrances which at times can be overwhelming—and discouraging. When Bad Lands is a close and profound examination of these pitfalls by a long-time practitioner and scholar who examines some of his own obstacles at depth. This book is a helpful guide for anyone with a heartfelt interest in the path of awakening. I love the book.

— JIMMIE DALE GILMORE, singer/songwriter, meditator

When Bad Lands offers a crucial perspective for this era of quick fix, sound bites, and glossy promises — even the mindfulness craze has missed something. That is, to become a whole and integrated human being, we must stop trying to avoid the pain of our lives and instead be willing to face ourselves. Alan Anderson’s courageous book gives practical guidance toward that end. By being present to all aspects of ourselves, our humanity awakens.

— HOPE MARTIN, meditation teacher, somatic educator: Alexander Technique, Focusing, & creator of The Shape of Awake®

It is deeply refreshing to read Alan Anderson’s honest and challenging perspective on mindfulness meditation. His is a genuine Buddhist view: Mindfulness is absolutely necessary, but not at all sufficient. The core of the Buddhist path is facing our fears, accepting our frailties—and others’—with an open heart, and allowing our innate wisdom to be revealed.