Book Review: Dancing on the River by Mark Susnow

Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes, by Mark Susnow. Available for purchase on Mark Susnow’s website.

Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes is an enjoyable read for anyone who has wondered how to approach life. Mark Susnow, a former trial attorney, life coach, and author, shares his own story in order to illuminate the idea that change is expected. I was intrigued by the idea that a successful, former trial attorney (for 30 years) embarked on a new career and trained as a life coach. After reading Dancing on the River, I see that it was a wise choice. Susnow is a writer who isn’t afraid to “put it out there.” He boldly shares the struggles he encountered throughout his life in order to highlight the point that life, like a river, isn’t always going to be serene. Change is inevitable – to be alive is to be confronted with change.

Dancing on the River is divided into fifteen easily digestible chapters. Susnow begins with the story that inspired the title of his book. At the age of thirteen, he nearly drowned on a river-rafting trip in Colorado. He learned eight lessons from that experience – find and live life from the center, get out of your comfort zone, learn to let go of resistance, be prepared, be willing to be connected, develop the practice of gratitude, be curious, and embrace the great mystery. These lessons formed the foundation for this book.

Susnow does an excellent job of helping the reader take hold of the idea that enjoyment and appreciation of life is not dependent on what might happen in the future; enjoying life in the moment is what counts. He also shares tools to help the reader cope with change – tools that will not only sustain a person during the changes, but also will help them emerge stronger for it.

As the remaining chapters unfold, Susnow examines the lessons he learned from his experience on that river in Colorado and from his own river of life. He uses real examples from his own experiences to illustrate the techniques he has employed in order to deal with the changes. At the end of each chapter, Susnow gives the reader the opportunity to reflect on the chapter. He encourages journaling – a tool that is underutilized and often difficult to develop.

Meditation is an important tool that helps Susnow on his journey. He emphasizes the need to take time for yourself everyday in order to maintain a healthy life. Although reluctant to try it at first, Susnow acknowledges that meditation is a critical to his overall happiness. He is more content and connected to everyone and everything when he meditates. In chapter 4, Susnow explains how to get started meditating.

Susnow goes on to explain that our intentions must be in line with our life’s purpose; however, there are no magic wands or secret spells that will align the stars and cause everything to fall into place. It takes work. The inner work requires a commitment to spiritual practice.

In the remaining chapters, Susnow tackles the five remaining lessons that he learned on the river so many years ago. Each one encourages self-reflection, and challenges the reader to take the time to explore what impediments to success are in place. Susnow explores the important concepts of gratitude, forgiveness, and connections in order to reiterate the need to take notice of the little things in life.

Dancing on the River was an easy read. It inspired me to think about my life and the journey that I’m on. I recommend it for anyone who has struggled to find happiness – personally or professionally.

Maureen H. Anderson, Associate Professor & Reference Librarian, University of Dayton School of Law

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