Book Reviews

Reviews by timlarison

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No Storm Lasts Forever

Aug 08, 2012


“Life was perfect!” says Dr. Terry Gordon in reflecting back to June 29, 2009. A successful cardiologist, Gordon and his wife were content in having raised three daughters and a son. The girls were all college graduates and son Tyler had just completed his sophomore year as a business major. Then tragedy strikes. That night Tyler is seriously injured in an auto accident. In a phone call early the next morning Gordon hears these dreaded words from the attending physician, “Your son is quadriplegic.”

In “No Storm Lasts Forever – Transforming Suffering Into Insight” Gordon shares with us his personal thoughts during this tumultuous time. “I have never kept a diary” Gordon writes, yet his son’s accident leads him to describe his frustrations and perceptions as he deals with his son’s injury. Little did he know at the time his diary was to later become this Hay House book – an inspiring tale for anyone going through a personal crisis.

I liked how Gordon relates uplifting stories of people he meets as he deals with his inner turmoil. Before his 40th high school reunion, for example, he reconnects with his first girl friend. He learns Marcia had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 25 years earlier. The one time actress and dancer is now confined to a wheel chair. “I am actually grateful for my disease,” she tells Gordon. “It has taught me more about myself then I ever could have found out otherwise. I learned how not to reject the pain of my adversity – how not to deny or ignore the hurt, but to embrace it as a precious gift from the Divine. I’ve found that by working through my turmoil, I’ve been able to discover goodness within the hardship, and, more important, what lies beyond the suffering.” These words are a comfort to Gordon as he struggles with why his son has to endure such a terrible fate.

Gordon has another chance encounter at an airport with a smiling man in a wheelchair. The author is amazed at the man’s cheery disposition. “His brilliant smile radiated from an enviable inner peace and happiness,” Gordon writes. In talking to the man Gordon gets new insights. “”I’m not going to tell you that the first two or three years were easy for me – they weren’t,” the man says. “They were pure hell. But you know what? At some point (your son) Tyler is just going to have to get over it.” After this encounter Gordon thinks to himself “When (Tyler) decides to change the way he looks at his circumstance, his circumstance will change.”

The book is full of inspiring stories like this as well as Gordon’s own discussions with his son Tyler. Gordon is a nature lover, and often he will describe a nature scene and turn it into a lesson to help him deal with his son’s condition. The title of the book, for example, comes from an encounter with a violent Colorado thunder storm outside Tyler’s hospital room. “Son, even God doesn’t create a storm that lasts forever,” he tells his son. “We must be patient, Ty. The sun will rise again. I promise you.”

I didn’t find the nature analogies as compelling as Gordon’s people stories in the book, but overall I recommend “No Storm” to anyone trying to make sense of a personal tragedy. There are no miracle cures in Gordon’s memoir, Tyler is still a paraplegic, yet Gordon writes, “the most profound thing I have come to accept is that why the Gordons are facing this huge challenge is immaterial. What’s more important is how we’re overcoming it.” The book can give you healing insights, too, in dealing with adversity in your own life.
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Grace, Guidance, and Gifts

Jul 15, 2012


One of the best books I reviewed last year was Sonia Choquette’s “The Power Of Your Spirit”. That book, as I wrote at the time, was insightful in helping me distinguish between the unhealthy messages of the Ego and the empowering thoughts of the Spirit. Now in 2012 Choquette has produced a worthy followup in the same vein, “Grace, Guidance, and Gifts”.

Choquette’s latest work could just as easily be called “Love Letters From God.” I felt Spirit was speaking to me through these pages - a devotional format with two to three page entries designed to be read daily. The book is divided into three parts as the title implies – one third of the book addresses Grace, one third Guidance, and the last third Gifts.

The foundation of my spirituality is the unconditional love of God. I liked how this love was emphasized over and over again in the Grace part. One example of a Grace prayer that resonated with me: “Grace my Spirit with the humility to cease foolishly trying to exercise control over life and especially those around me, and to quietly allow my day to unfold in harmony and with respect for your own graceful divine plane, without interference, disruption, or disturbance from the ego.” In saying these prayers I was reminded again of my own loving connection to Spirit.

The Guidance part also spoke to me. Each entry is organized in four sections: “Message from Spirit”, “Morning Prayer”, “Today’s Mantra” and “Your Personal Blessing”. I found reading a new entry first thing in the morning gave me a calming spiritual focus before entering into the activity of the work day. The mantra “I trust my inner guidance even when it is difficult to understand” was one I thought of often on the day I read it.

I wish the book had a more detailed index. “Grace page 1; Guidance page 89; Gifts page 155? is it. In the Gifts part various spiritual capabilities are discussed, each in its own entry (healing, compassion, patience, listening, leadership, silence, courage, friendship, and teaching are a few). I found these entries compelling; ones I will want to refer to again in the future, but with no index to lead the way it won’t be easy. Maybe I’ll make my own index!

I feel reading an inspirational piece at the start of each day is a powerful spiritual practice. Choquette’s book is full of such passages, and now it will have a permanent place in my meditation room. As a bonus a free CD is included with three meditation sessions led by the author. “Grace, Guidance, and Gifts” is a guide I will refer to often.

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Tales of Everyday Magic: My Greatest Teacher DVD

Jun 17, 2012


Dr . Ryan Kilgore is obsessed with his father.  Abandoned as an infant, the adult Kilgore sets out to find his father and deliver a piece of his mind.  "I have hated you my whole life, and I have carried this rage all these years, hurting everyone around me because of you," is the message he wants to give.  The story of Kilgore's quest, and the resulting healing he experiences, is presented in a new movie from Hay House: "Tales of Everyday Magic: My Greatest Teacher".

The movie, based on the life of inspirational author Wayne Dyer, works on two levels.  First it's a detective story.  We initially meet Kilgore holding a picture of his father at his grandmother's funeral.  Perhaps here Kilgore will have that long awaited confrontation.  When his father is not there we follow Kilgore through a series of synchronistic events, uncovering one clue after another as to where his father might be.  I was drawn into the film, wondering how this would all lead to Kilgore's father.

The more important message of the movie, though, is on the spiritual level.  As we follow Kilgore on his journey he encounters clues to where his father might be, along with bits of wisdom from the strangers he meets.  "Before embarking on revenge, better dig two graves," a waitress tells him, after a bar patron comments on Kilgore's "serious beef".  It seems that waitresses Kilgore meets are the ones that deliver the most potent lines.  And isn't that the way in our lives, when we get spiritual messages from ordinary people we meet in everyday life.  Spiritual lessons do not always have to come from a church.

In the end Kilgore finds his Dad's grave, and as he is releasing all the anger he has held for so many years he has an epiphany.  A sudden understanding of who is father really was, followed by a flow of love and understanding.  "Dad I see you now.  I see what you really are.  Not an enemy.  You're my teacher."

All of us no doubt have been hurt by one person or another in our lives.  Sometimes this pain can run deep, like Ryan Kilgore's.  I recommend watching "My Greatest Teacher" as it will lead you, as it did for me, to take another look at the people who have hurt you in the past.  Maybe, like the fictional Ryan Kilgore in the movie, you'll see them in a new light.  And be thankful for the lesson they taught you.
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The Chotchky Challenge

Jun 16, 2012


Could all the extra “stuff” I’ve accumulated over the years be weighing on my Spirit? That’s the premise of Barry Dennis’ new book: “The Chotchky Challenge: Clear the Clutter from your Home, Heart, and Mind … and Discover the True Treasure of your Soul”.

Chotchky is a Yiddish word that Dennis has a difficult time defining in the first pages of his book. “No one really knows,” a friend tells Dennis when asked what Chotchky is, “and yet we all know.” Eventually Dennis comes up with a working definition: “Something that has no use whatsoever. No intrinsic or even artistic value. Something that simply takes up space. And yet, because it exists, because it is, we justify a place for it in our lives.”

Chotchky, as Dennis tells us, is more than just extra material goods. “Everything has the potential to be or become Chotchky: anything that crowds, intrudes, clutters, or in any way distracts from our soul’s higher purpose,” he says. “An incredible amount of what we actually buy, accept, and allow into our lives is Chotchky already.” As we read on Dennis defines different types of Chotchky, such as “e-mailotchky” and “facebookotchky”. Do you spend too much time reading email or checking out Facebook? Those habits are Chotchky, too.

Dennis delivers his message in an easy to read conversational style. I found many of his stories to be humorous, like one where he tells of his 10 year old son tossing his iPhone overboard on a cruise while pretending it was a light saber. Dennis mourns the loss of his precious iPhone until his son reminds him, “Dad, maybe I threw your iPhone overboard because you had become too attached to it.” Dennis gets us laughing, and then drives home another point about Chotchky in chapter after chapter.

While I felt Dennis’ entertaining stories of different types of Chotchky were illuminating, after awhile I started to think “OK, I get it.” The book could have been a chapter or two shorter and not lose any of its effectiveness.

This is a minor criticism, though. Sometimes when I read a self help book like “Chotchky” I think “that was really good!” yet one week later I have mostly forgotten the message of the author. Not with the Chotchky challenge. After finishing the book I ventured into my bedroom closet and started sorting out all the excess clothes I had accumulated over the years. You can see a picture of my efforts on my blog post – a pile that will make a nice Goodwill donation.

I feel reading the Chotchky Challenge will cause you to look at the excess baggage you are carrying around, too, as it did for me. “It’s all Chotchky – all of it,” a friend dying of cancer tells Dennis when reflecting on her life. “With two very important exceptions: the ones you love, and your soul’s purpose. Those two things are all that matters,” she adds. Words to ponder as I continue to weed out the Chotchky in my life.
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Dying To Be Me

May 20, 2012


If you are like me, you don't think much about death. As those close to us pass away, though, the question will inevitably come up: "What will happen to me when I die?"

Anita Moorjani had that question, too, before being stricken with cancer. In her new book "Dying To Be Me: My Journey From Cancer, To Near Death, To True Healing" she tells a fascinating story of her brush with death, and in the process gives hope and comfort to those of us who would rather avoid the subject.

I like how Moorjani delays getting into her cancer diagnosis until chapter five. In the early pages the reader gets to know Anita through her stories of her youth. "Because of my Hindu roots, I grew up to believe in karma and reincarnation," she writes, yet she attended a Catholic grade school. The conflicts in these two belief systems became apparent to Moorjani early in life. A Catholic classmate tells her "You need to tell your parents to take you to church to pray to God every Sunday, otherwise you won't get to heaven when you die." Later she tells of backing out of an arranged marriage, and how she meets her future husband Danny. We get a full picture of the "pre-cancer" Anita, with the cultural and family issues she had to work through.

When Moorjani's best friend Soni is diagnosed with cancer, as well as her husband's brother-in-law, she is paralyzed with fear that she, too, may get this dreaded disease. Soon thereafter she discovers a lump on her shoulder, and her worst fears are realized after a medical exam. She has lymphoma. Moorjani tries yet is frustrated with various alternative healing methods. "I didn't know what was good for me and what wasn't, because each system of healing espoused a different truth, and they all conflicted with each other," she writes. "This confusion only added to my already overwhelming fears. And as the terror tightly gripped me in its vice once more, I watched helplessly as my health rapidly deteriorated."

Moorjani describes in detail her hospital stay, and the painful tests she had to endure. Eventually she loses consciousness and her husband is given this grave diagnosis from her doctor: "There's nothing we can do for your wife. Her organs have already shut down. She has tumors the size of lemons throughout her lymphatic system, from the base of her skull to below her abdomen. She won't even make it through the night."

Moorjani relates her feelings of being detached from her body during this time. "What I can only describe as superb and glorious unconditional love surrounded me, wrapping me tight as I continued to let go," she writes. "The term unconditional love really doesn't do justice to the feeling, as these words have been overused to the point of having lost their intensity." With this feeling of peace and love she returns to consciousness, and miraculously her body starts to heal on its own. Her doctors are baffled.

The best part of the book are the concluding chapters, where Moorjani explains her new understanding of God, Spirituality, and life with the lessons her near death experience taught her. She posts her story on the internet, where it is discovered by inspirational author Wayne Dyer. Though reluctant at first to tell of her experience to a wider audience, Dyer encourages her to publish a book and appear with him at various conferences.

Anita Moorjani's book at first glance appears to be about death and how we can better deal with it. But it is really a story about life. Grounded in an understanding of the unconditional love of God, she encourages the reader to "express your uniqueness fearlessly, with abandon! That's why you're made the way you are, and that's why you're here in the physical world."

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House. I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
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Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself

Apr 16, 2012


Can the average person understand and apply the principles of quantum physics to create a new reality in his or her life? A reality much more creative and fulfilling than the survival patterns most of us are operating out of?

Yes! contends Joe Dispenza in his fascinating new book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”. Don’t let the words “quantum physics” scare you away. Early in his book Dispenza gives the best explanation I have read to date of what quantum principles are all about. More importantly, in a detailed step by step manner he explains how we can take this knowledge to implement positive changes in our lives.

“When you and I can connect the dots of what science is discovering about the nature of reality, and when we give ourselves permission to apply those principles in our day-to-day existence, then each of us becomes both a mystic and a scientist in our own life,” Dispenza writes in the introduction. This was exciting to me, and I wanted to read more.

I liked Dispenza’s vulnerability in describing his own learning curve in quantum living. After being featured in the documentary “What The Bleep Do We Know?” Dispenza was in great demand as a lecturer. His problem, he soon realized, was that his daily emotional state depended on the responses he received from his audiences. “I saw that all of my perceived happiness was really just a reaction to stimuli in the external world that made me feel certain ways,” he writes. “I didn’t want to lecture again until I was the living example of everything that I was talking about. I needed to take time for my meditations and to make true change in my life, and I wanted to have joy from within me and not from outside of me.”

Dispenza made these mental adjustments, and he passes on the lessons he learned to his readers. He also gives many examples throughout the book of others who have made similar changes. Rather than reading like a dry physics textbook, Dispenza’s colorful descriptions of the quantum process gave me the confidence that I, too, can operate at this level in my own life.

Towards the end of the book Dispenza gives detailed meditation instructions to shift the reader’s base thought pattern from the draining “survival” mode to a more fulfilling “creation” orientation. I found this a bit overwhelming, so thankfully he also offers a couple of guided meditation audio files on his website to help with the process. I downloaded and followed one of the meditations, and I can already feel a positive shift inside of me regarding a life change I want to make.

“When you have thoughtfully rehearsed a future reality until your brain has physically changed to look like it has had the experience, and you have emotionally embraced a new intention so many times that your body is altered to reflect that it has had the experience, hang on … because this is the moment the event finds you!” Dispenza writes. “And it will arrive in a way that you least expect, which leaves no doubt that it came from your relationship to a greater consciousness – so that it inspires you to do it again and again.”
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Wishes Fulfilled

Mar 19, 2012


“I am God”

Early in his book “Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting” Wayne Dyer encourages his readers to declare this bold statement. The key to manifesting your desires, Dyer believes, is recognizing your divine nature and live from that.

Now this statement will immediately cause some readers to toss the book aside. “Much of organized religious teaching proclaims that God is an all powerful being outside of you,” Dyer says. People of that mindset will no doubt consider “Wishes Fulfilled” heresy.

I would encourage you to stick with Dyer and let him explain this different concept of God than what you may be familiar with. “There exists within all of us a Divine spark, called the I am that I am, and when it is kindled and nourished, it is capable of miracle-making at an astonishing level,” Dyer writes.

Two keys to “miracle-making”, says Dyer, are your imagination and feelings. “Once you place a thought into your imagination about who you want to become, I encourage you to live from that end, as if it had already materialized into the physical realm,” he writes. And “when you are able to passionately feel whatever it is that you wish to have or become, as long as it is aligned with your highest self – that is, God – you become it and it becomes you.”

I liked these ideas and looked backed at the accomplishments in my own life. Did I not first “imagine” that I could create something special, and “feel” it was possible, before my past visions became reality? Yes! Reading Dyer’s detailed explanation of this process encouraged me to make these mental exercises a part of my daily routine. I created a one page summary of the book’s key points and pasted it to my “quote wall” at home, where I look at it every day. I am excited to see what future “miracles” occur in my life by following these principles.

Dyer gives many examples throughout the book from his own life and from others on how this process can change lives. One in particular I was impressed with was the story of Anita Moorjani, a woman who was on the brink of death yet healed herself of cancer after a realization of her true loving nature. Dyer also touches on other spiritual phenomena, like the presence of mysterious “orbs” in photographs at his lectures, and his own remote healing from the Brazilian “John Of God”.

Wayne Dyer in my opinion is one of the great spiritual teachers alive on the planet today. “Wishes Fulfilled” is another in his series of inspirational books that have had a positive impact on my life. “Let your imagination explore your invisible realm in a way that will allow this new energy to permeate your life,” Dyer suggests. “Move to a place within yourself where Wishes Fulfilled is a new way of being rather than just the title of a book.”

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House. I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
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The Angel Therapy Handbook

Nov 30, 2011


As one of Hay House’s blogger reviewers, I get to choose the books I review and I have the freedom to write whatever I want about each one.  I had no interest in reviewing “The Angel Therapy Handbook” by Doreen Virtue for months.  I like the material from Hay House’s inspirational authors, such as Louise Hay’s affirmations, Wayne Dyer’s words on the power of intention, or Cheryl Richardson’s extreme life makeovers.  All with practical tips on how to live a better life.  But talking to angels seemed a bit bizarre to me.  You can get messages from angels?? Really???

Then I attended Hay House’s I Can Do It conference in Pasadena this Fall.  I noticed many authors had workshops in regular sized conference rooms.  Doreen Virtue drew such a big crowd that they put her in the main auditorium for her workshop.  “Maybe there is something to this angel stuff,” I thought, as I watched a stream of people going into Doreen’s talk.  Though I didn’t hear Doreen speak that weekend, I decided when I got back home to check one of her books out.

In the introduction of “Angel Therapy” Doreen explains how she connected with angels at a young age.  “I was teased for being weird and different,” she writes, “I rarely shared my odd experiences with others in order to avoid additional ostracism.”  I liked this personal biography to start the book, and I came away believing that Doreen really does communicate with angels, even if the idea seemed foreign to me.

After sharing her personal experiences, Doreen gives a very thorough explanation of what an angel is, the different types of angels, and how they communicate with us.  She reveals that angels talk to us in a combination of four ways – visions, feelings, thoughts, and sound – and that one of these channels is strongest for each of us (which she calls your “primary clair”).  In taking a short test in the book I was typed as “claircognizance” – or “an intellectual who receives direct communication through ideas and revelations.”  This I agree with. I am more of an “idea person” than the other types.  Communicating with angels through impressions or ideas didn’t seem so far fetched after all.  I found myself saying “that’s me” when reading her chapter on the features of claircognizance, and I suspect one of the four “clairs” will ring true for you, too.

In another chapter Doreen answers the common objections to interacting with angels. “Is it blasphemous to talk to angels?”, “What if I’m wrong or just making it up?”, “Isn’t it better to learn life’s lessons on my own?” are three of the questions she addresses.  I thought her answers to these and other objections were well thought out.  I came away thinking communicating with angels could be a loving, supportive area of growth for me, rather than a practice to be wary of.

Angel Therapy is also full of sound advice.  In addition to the detailed descriptions of angels Doreen sprinkles little bits of wisdom throughout the book. In one chapter she writes, “Two indicators that you’re aligned with your life purpose are (1) feeling joy as you engage in the activity; and (2) doors open for you easily while experiencing success with the service or product.”  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on my life’s purpose recently, and these words were encouraging to me.

After finishing “Angel Therapy” I regretted not hearing Doreen Virtue speak when I had the chance a few months ago.  While I still wonder about some of the material in the book, reading Angel Therapy made me more open to the angelic realm.   Maybe angels really are out there to support me.  Maybe I’ve been communicating with them in my own way for years, and I just didn’t know it.

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The Golden Motorcycle Gang

Jan 05, 2012


“What did my soul sign up for here that I have not attended to?” said the minister at my church Sunday as part of his message.  This idea that every soul comes to this earth for a purpose is one I am hearing more of these days.  It is a theme stressed in Jack Canfield’s and William Gladstone’s new book, “The Golden Motorcycle Gang – A Story Of Transformation.”

“The Golden Motorcycle Gang” mostly tells the life story of Jack Canfield, creator of the popular “Chicken Soup For the Soul” series.  In the book’s first pages Jack is described riding through space with a Golden Motorcycle Gang.  The year is 1943 and Planet Earth is in trouble.  Members of the Gang agree to incarnate as humans to help save humanity.

Whether this incredulous story is believable is not the point of the book.  Rather the Golden Motorcycle tale is used as a metaphor to pose the question, “what if each of us decided to come to Earth for a purpose, and what is that purpose?”

I found interesting the stories of Jack Canfield’s life and different lessons he learned.  Jack was very involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960's, for example.  One of his black friends joins the Black Muslim movement, and tells Jack “it’s inappropriate for me to associate with white people”.  Jack is heart broken.  In looking back at this incident later, he realizes the experience taught him how “devastating intolerance of any kind can be”.

In a second life story, Jack forms an unusual bond with an older business person who holds political views 180 degrees opposite of Jack’s.   Surprisingly Jack gets along very well with his conservative friend.  “When working with people, the key is to focus on where your interests and goals overlap, not where they differ,” the businessman tells Jack.  Yet another life lesson learned for the future Chicken Soup author.  As I read of Jack’s life, it caused me to reflect on events of my past.  I learned valuable lessons, too, out of different life experiences, some of which were not pleasant at the time.

Towards the end of the book Jack meets up with consciousness pioneer Barbara Marx Hubbard.  In a dialog with Barbara shared in the book, Barbara puts Jack’s new awareness that he might just have a life purpose in perspective.  “People are waking up, but they need support,” Barbara explains.  “They need to realize that their own critical breakthroughs in consciousness and creativity are not deviant or weird, but part of the new norm.”

If  “The Golden Motorcycle Gang” were a drink it would be Coors Light.  Not the hard stuff.  Check out “Sacred Contracts” by Caroline Myss for a more in depth study of finding your life’s purpose.  Yet Canfield and Goldstone’s book is an easy read and a good introduction to the subject.  “The Golden Motorcycle Gang is not just to entertain you, but to inspire you to take action that will improve your live and the lives of others,” say the authors in the introduction.  I think the book accomplishes that goal.

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Love, God, and the Art of French Cooking

Feb 21, 2012


We’ve all met them.  People we know who just seem to have it all together.  Positive people who live life to the fullest each day.  They aren’t famous,  but they are a source of inspiration to their family and friends.

James Twyman in his new book “Love, God, and the Art of French Cooking” tells his story of meeting a man like this.  Left abandoned by his girlfriend on the driveway of a Canadian bed and breakfast, Twyman is approached by a distinguished French gentleman named Roger.  It turns out Roger is the owner of the Drew House,  and also a renowned French chef.  Sensing Twyman’s despondent mood, Roger invites him in for a cup of coffee.

“The best life is the one that brings joy to others – that is the way to happiness,” Roger tells Twyman over the breakfast table that morning.  “This is why I love to cook, because when I use the best ingredients I can find and put love into everything I make, it changes people’s moods … and sometimes even their lives.”  Soon the two become friends, and the relationship would change Twyman’s life forever.

In “French Cooking” Twyman is very open in describing his issues with women.  The author brings the reader into the heart of his pain, and at times this can be depressing to read.  Yet in being open with his self doubt, Twyman sets us up to hear the words of wisdom from Roger.

I liked one segment early in the book where Roger instructs Twyman on the proper way to chop garlic, making an analogy to life in the process.  If you slowly cut garlic into little slivers, Roger says, it retains its juice.  By the time you put it on the fire, it’s locked its juice inside, diminishing the flavor.  A better way is to smash the garlic with great force, destroying it and completely exposing the juice.  “Your life is not meant to be slowly dissected, ” Roger relates, “it is meant to be smashed.  The juice inside you flows out and adds flavor to everything you touch.  When you try to control circumstances and the people around you, you’re doing so out of fear.  You need to let go of the fear and let it spill out into the world like this garlic.”  The book is full of cooking instructions like this, transformed into lessons about life.

I also liked how “The Art of French Cooking” builds nicely to a climax.  As Twyman works through one relationship issue after another under the counsel of Roger, the story leads to France.  Twyman and Roger fly to Paris to meet Roger’s mentor, Alain – a world famous chef.  “How could Alain possibly affect Twyman more than Roger has?” I thought to myself as I read through the pages, anxious to see how the book would end.  The trip to France does have a profound impact on Twyman, and he summarizes well in the book’s concluding pages what he learned about himself from these two French chefs.

I have admired James Twyman from his work in movies (such as “The Moses Code”) and from the wisdom he shared on his Hay House radio show.  But this was the first book of his I have read.  Twyman has the gift of opening up his life to his readers, allowing them to see parallels in their own lives.  I look forward to reading more from James Twyman.

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Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self

Aug 26, 2011


The book “Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self (Contemplations from the teachings of David R Hawkins) reminded me of mouthwash.


When I take my nightly rinse of Listerine sometimes I have to dilute it.  In its natural state it’s a bit too strong for me.  Though my dentist tells me it’s most effective if I don’t dilute it.

“Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self” contains a series of descriptions of pure Truth statements, organized in short paragraphs, on the nature of the Ego.  Strong stuff.  It’s good, but just like mouthwash, it is best taken in small doses.  It’s not a book to rush through, rather I recommend reading a paragraph or two at a time, setting the book aside, and contemplating what you just read.

Here is a passage from the book that resonated with me:

“Realization is a progressive process.  Spiritual progress is hastened by understanding the true nature of the ego.  It is not an enemy to be attacked or defeated, nor is it an evil to be vanquished.  It is dissolved by compassionate understanding.”

“The ego secretly loves and clings to the position of victimhood and extracts a distorted pleasure and grim justification from pain and suffering.”

When I find my thoughts going down a path of being “the victim”, I can think “OK, that’s my Ego talking.  It’s not bad – just my Ego.  Recognize that and replace it with more positive, life affirming messages.”

Here’s another:

“The first evidence of the Presence of God is an awakening of curiosity or interest in spiritual matters.  That is the crack in the ego’s dam.  When the person begins to desire or practice spiritual goals or pursue spiritual information, the Presence is already taking hold of his life.”

Whew!  That’s a relief.  One of my passions is reading about spirituality, hearing talks from wise teachers, in hopes that this information will help me live better each day, and be of service to others.  I have my moments, though, of self depreciating thoughts, forgiveness issues, and struggles just like anyone else.  This passage gave me comfort that maybe, just maybe, I am becoming more aligned with Spirit, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

There are numerous other passages in “Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self” that struck a chord with me.  While I prefer authors like Wayne Dyer or Cheryl Richardson who relay spiritual truths and life lessons through stories of everyday life, I still found this book valuable.  It helped me see how my sometimes distorted thinking is coming from my Ego and recognize that.  It’s a book to take in small dosages, just like mouthwash, to get the maximum benefit.  Read and savor each paragraph, and don’t take too much in at one time.

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Shift Happens!

Nov 01, 2011


In the movie Jerry Mcguire the characters played by Renee Zeilweiger and Tom Cruise have an on and off romance.  “You had me at hello,” is the most well known line in that film from Zeilweiger, when the Cruise character comes back to reconcile their relationship.

I thought of that line when reading Shift Happens! How to Live an Inspired Life … Right Now! by Robert Holden.  Early in the book Holden writes ”If your God is not a God of unconditional love, get another God!” The unconditional Love of God is the basis of my spirituality, and when I read this line I thought “this book is going to be good!”  Holden had me.  Throughout Shift Happens Holden returns to this theme often, calling this love “your Unconditioned Self”.

Shift Happens! is a work to savor.  The book consists of 55 short three to four page chapters ranging in topics from “There is nothing wrong with you” to “Get off your ‘yeah but’”.  I really liked this format.  It took me almost two months to finish Shift Happens but that’s because each chapter stands on its own.  I took Holden’s inspirational writing in small doses – reading one chapter each day.  This is not a book to rush through.

As a person who relishes reading books about spirituality and self improvement, this passage spoke to me:

“Many times I have watched people use self improvement as a covert form of self-attack—heavily laced with self-criticism, self-loathing, and a denial of wholeness,” Holden writes.  “Self-improvement often starts with a perception of lack (i.e., I am not good enough, I am not okay yet, etc.). Unless this perception of lack is changed, you always end up where you started, in lack! No amount of self-improvement is enough. There is no rest.”

Am I reading self improvement books because I think something is wrong with me?  If I am honest I must say yes, that is my motivation at times.  Holden’s words brought me back to his “Unconditional Love” world view.  There’s nothing wrong with reading self help material, I was reminded, but with the motivation of learning more about who I really am, rather than trying to “fix” myself.

Holden has many other nuggets of wisdom spread throughout Shift Happens.  I recommend the book for anyone who would like a daily dose of positive inspiration to start their day.

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You Can Create An Exceptional Life

Sep 22, 2011


“You Can Create An Exceptional Life” may well have been titled “Day By Day With Louise Hay”.  The new Hay House release features best selling author Cheryl Richardson relaying a series of conversations she had with self help pioneer Louise Hay.  “I’ve been thinking about things that are relevant to my spiritual growth,” Louise says in the introduction, “and I thought we could talk about that.”

The book’s conversational style makes it a very easy read.  Cheryl’s detailed descriptions made me feel like I was sitting at a table with these two remarkable women, taking in all the wisdom shared.   Once I picked up the book I could not put it down, finishing the 161 pages in three days.

I was impressed with Louise’s vulnerability in her descriptions of various challenges she had worked through in her life.  Devastated by a divorce  at age 42, a chance invitation to a lecture at a Religious Science church started her on the spiritual path.  “There I was, sitting in this lecture, when I heard someone say, ‘If you are willing to change your thinking, you can change your life.’  While it sounded like a small, tiny statement, it was huge to me.  It caught my attention,” Louise says.  Cheryl probes deeper.  “Why do you think that caught your attention?” she asks.  “I have no idea, because I was a person who never studied anything… But something about this subject spoke to me at that time, and I made a decision to go back,” Louise replies.

Louise Hay was a person who never studied anything??  As she relates her life story, Louise comes across as a very ordinary person, like you and me, who proceeds to transform her life through positive thinking and affirmations.  The message I took from the book: if she can do it, so can we.

Cheryl, too, adds her followup comments throughout the book which further enhances the lessons that Louise is conveying.   “As Louise and I talk about the ways in which our thoughts influence our lives,” she writes, “I become even more aware of how significant and powerful this idea really is.  So much of what we both believe, teach, and practice in our own lives is based on a concept that is still seen by many as far-fetched, New Age, or simplistic at best.”  In this way the reader gets the full impact of both Louise’s and Cheryl’s outlook on life, and it is quite a powerful one – two punch.

“You Can Create An Exceptional Life” is more than a series of life lessons from Louise and Cheryl.  To get maximum benefit I recommend trying the positive affirmations scattered throughout the book for yourself.  I have read of the power of affirmations but never really put them into daily practice.  I reviewed the “Collected Affirmations” summary at the back of the book and wrote down the ones that particularly resonated with me.  Now I meditate on those affirmations each morning.  It’s only been a few days but I can already feel a difference – I am slowly shifting to a more positive orientation.

“Today so many people want fast success.  But when we’re on the spiritual path and responding to what Life presents us, I think the most powerful work we do happens gradually over time.” Louise says in one chapter.  “It’s almost as though we don’t realize it’s happening.  We look back and think, ‘Oh my, look at all that!’”

“You Can Create An Exceptional Life” can be a valuable aid to your own gradual spiritual transformation.   It’s a book I have already started to reread – full of wisdom that just makes me stop in places and think “hmmm – I’m going to try that affirmation myself.”

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Jul 25, 2011


Carmen Harra grew up in an environment drastically different than your average American citizen. Raised in Communist Romania, Harra describes her upbringing as “extremely poor” yet with a strong sense of family. “Despite our poverty,” she writes, “we felt rich in our ability to lift each other up through any phase of life.”

Lessons from Harra’s upbringing come through in her new book “Wholeliness: Embracing the Sacred Unity That Heals Our World”. Harra defines wholeliness as “the condition, state of quality of being healed, whole, and in harmony with the Divine and all that exists.” Reflecting on her childhood and life today she writes “I’d always found it helpful to take part in certain practices – such as praying and sharing meals with others – that connected me to wholeliness and helped me reject the idea that life is a constant struggle for survival.”

I was motivated by the many wholeliness “lessons” throughout the book.  One feature I especially liked was how the author concluded each chapter with three steps for the reader to consider: Observe, Pray, and Act. I found these summaries helpful to anchor the main points each chapter was making. Observe: how in my present life am I not living in a way that supports wholeliness? Pray: pray for Spirit’s help in transforming me to a more “wholely” lifestyle.  Act: what small steps can I take today to change?  Transforming myself from a “me first” orientation to one of wholeliness is at first glance a daunting task.  The action steps at the end of the chapter helped me to see the transformation can happen bit by bit.

As I have written before, coming out of a fundamentalist background to a more inclusive, whole spirituality has been part of my journey.  I found truth in these words from Harra “The more that people feel insecure about what’s ahead, the more we can see them cling to whatever promises their safety.  But fundamentalism will ultimately fade as we find comfort in wholeliness.”

The parts of the book that didn’t resonate with me as much were her chapters on numerology and astrology, and on communicating with the spirits of deceased relatives.  Could these techniques help in achieving wholeliness?  Perhaps, but I’m just not there yet.  I also thought her predictions in the concluding chapter, such as “Barack Obama will be a one-term President”, veered away from her practical suggestions on how to live from a wholeliness perspective presented elsewhere in the book.

These are minor objections, though, as overall I feel “Wholeliness” is a book well worth reading.  “You are part of a large family called the human race,” Herra writes. “Peace and power are yours when you realize that you’re never alone – that you’re always loved, heard, valued, and supported. This knowledge will give you the courage to believe in tomorrow and keep pressing forward, even when the road is treacherous and the path in front of you isn’t clear. That is the power of wholeliness.”  I say amen to that, and Harra’s book is full of suggestions to help the reader live from a “wholeliness” orientation.

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The Map

May 27, 2011


Do you have competing thoughts in your head like I do? “Who do you think you are, writing a blog?  You are not a writer!”  says one of mine.  “You have insights to share – go for it!” says another.  Colette Baron-Reid’s new book, “The Map: Finding Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life” can help you sort out these conflicting messages.

At first glance the approach Baron-Reid employs to explain the mysteries of the human mind did not appeal to me.  She uses imaginary beings to identify the different voices in your head, with names like “the Goblin”, “the Gentle Gardner”, “the Bone Collector”, and “the Wizard of Awareness”.  Most of my reading is of the non-fiction variety, and I didn’t initially grasp the value of these fairy tale type characters.

“As an intuitive counselor, I look beyond the surface of things and into the intricacies behind people’s stories: the motivations, unseen patterns, hidden agendas, and ancestral legacy,” Baron-Reid writes.  To accomplish this goal she uses metaphoric language to paint an imaginary “Map” of your mind.  “If you’re willing to enter into a partnership with Spirit and allow your imagination to be ignited and inspired,” she writes, “you’ll be amazed by the results.”

“OK, I’ll give this a try” I thought and I soon became absorbed into the mythical world of The Map.  For example, Baron-Reid creates a character called “The Goblin” to represent negative messages you tell yourself.  “Think of the Goblin as the trickster, which is the most troublesome and wounded aspect of your ego,” she writes.  To overcome these negative messages she says “when we name a Goblin, he no longer has power over us … Just ask him ‘what is your name and birthday?’”

In Baron-Reid’s imaginary Map, a Goblin is born from a wounding in the past.  I thought back to a recurring negative thought that plagues me at times and asked myself, “when did I first start thinking that?”  Sure enough, I could remember an incident, a hurt, where I first perceived myself in this negative way.  By buying into The Map’s mythical character of The Goblin, I gained new insight and a tool to quiet this negative thought in the future.

Baron-Reid introduces us to many other characters in The Map, far too many to recap in this review.  A feature I liked about the book was the way she finishes each chapter with a section called “Traveler’s Notes” – a summary of the key points of that chapter.  The Map’s mythical language can be challenging to follow at times, and I found these summaries valuable in making The Map more understandable.

Throughout the book Baron-Reid has a variety of journaling exercises.  Sometimes when I read a book that encourages journaling I skip over the exercises and keep reading.  Not with The Map.  I took the Map’s journaling assignments seriously, and gained value from the probing questions the author asks.  If you read the Map I encourage you to do the journaling exercises to get the maximum benefit from the book.  I liked the journaling exercises so much that I have started this practice at the end of my morning meditation time.  I have not consistently journaled for years;  since reading The Map I now do it every day.

The Map is an excellent book to help you understand the mysteries of the human psyche.  The mythical characters of The Map are not for everyone, but if you allow Baron-Reid’s characters to weave their magic on you I believe you’ll gain new insights and healing.  I know I did.

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Be Your Own Shaman

Apr 28, 2011


At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Deborah King’s new book “Be Your Own Shaman”.  Coming from a fundamentalist Christian upbringing a word like “Shaman” made me wonder “is this some strange occult book?”  And while I now have a much more liberal spiritual orientation my first impression was that King’s book could be on the fringe side.

My impressions changed in the first few pages.  “So what does it mean to be a shaman today?” King writes in the introduction.   “Is it someone who wears a feathered headdress, shakes a rattle, and dances around a fire to the beating of drums as he communes with an invisible world of spirits?  It could be.  But did you know that the sweet little old church lady with blue hair and clothes from the 1950's could be a shaman, too?”

King goes on to define a shaman to mean “a healer – someone who expands his or her consciousness and conducts healing energy to help others resolve whatever is ailing them on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual planes … a person who acts as an intermediary between the human world and spirit worlds – between the natural and supernatural.”

By that definition I’ve encountered many “shamans” in my life – the minister in the church down the street, the therapist, the inspirational author, and others.  Far from being an exotic practice, shamanism is another term for something very commonplace.  I now take the term “shaman” to mean a healer who brings spirituality into his or her work.

“Real healing power is inside you,” King writes,  “it just needs to be awakened, nurtured, and practiced.  You can be your own shaman, and this book will start you on your way.”  She goes on to describe the many healing practices she has experienced in her life.  Her background is varied; she spent time with both Christian and New Age healers.  I never thought I’d see charismatic faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman and Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy mentioned in the same sentence. King describes how she studied both women extensively and saw similarities.

While I found the theological insights interesting, “Be Your Own Shaman” is primarily a practical book.  King shares various healing techniques with readers.  One forgiveness approach she describes, the Hawaiian ho pi’no pi’no, I tried myself.  An internal process where you think of a person who has wronged you in the past and apply this method, I felt lighter and freer after practicing it a few times.  It worked!

The author’s words about meditation also spoke to me.  Earlier this month I wrote about how I kept reading about the value of this practice, and how that motivated me to start meditating daily myself.  King gave me more encouragement.  She writes “the surest way to heightened consciousness is meditation” describing it as “the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for myself.  Meditation puts us in the present, completely relaxes the body and mind, and takes away stress.”

Other techniques King describes I wasn’t as open to – such as observing the movement of a pendulum as you hold it over the different chakra points of your body.  But she writes “You will always know when something does or doesn’t feel right for you, as healing is simply a natural extension of being in right relationship with yourself and the natural world.”   The reader can pick and choose from the many spiritual practices King described in the book based on his or her own intuition.

In the concluding pages King writes “The path of the healer is not clear-cut;  there are no memos to tell you what to do and no course laid out in stone to follow.  There are simply hints and glimmers of what lies ahead, whispers in the night, a voice in the wind as it calls your name.”

“Be Your Own Shaman” gives us some “hints and glimpses” into the ways of the Spirit.  The book opened my awareness to many new approaches; some felt strange but others resonated with me immediately.  King does excellent job in making an esoteric topic understandable to the reader.  It’s a book worth reading for spiritual seekers looking for new ways to heal themselves and others.

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Are You Tired and Wired?

Mar 24, 2011


When I volunteered to review Marcelle Pick’s new book, “Are You Tired and Wired?” for Hay House I wasn’t sure if I was the right man for the job. Or if any man would be. Pick, an OB/GYN NP, the co-founder of the Women to Women clinic and author of The Core Balance Diet, writes primarily to a female audience about woman’s health issues.

Surprisingly, though, I found value in “Are You Tired and Wired?” For one, I have bouts of burnout and exhaustion as a small business owner, and I could relate to the “adrenal dysfunction” symptoms Pick describes in the book. “Too many of us are living in a condition of near-constant stress, with no true downtime for our bodies, minds, and spirits,” Pick writes. “Adrenal dysfunction is the result.” While the term “adrenal dysfunction” was new to me, I certainly could relate to the high stress lifestyle she describes.

Pick says adrenal dysfunction is often ignored or misdiagnosed by most health-care practitioners. She does a thorough job of describing the symptoms of this malady. “The good news,” she writes, “is once you have identified adrenal dysfunction as your condition, you can address all your symptoms and heal the underlying problem that is causing them.”

The key to solving adrenal dysfunction, says Pick, is balance. “For stress to feel like an exhilarating challenge, rather than a debilitating drain, it must always be followed by a relaxation response,” Pick writes. “Our bodies simply weren’t designed for constant stress. When we ask them to keep performing and performing and don’t give them time to rest, they’re going to let us know that there’s a problem.”

That’s good advice for women and men. Reading “Wired” caused me to reflect on my recent work schedule. As a travel agency owner, January through March is our busiest time of year. People like to plan trips when the weather is cold. Since the New Year I often have been up past 11 pm each night working on different vacation requests for clients and responding to questions. It’s a fun job, but even planning “fun” can be exhausting at times!

“Wired” made me stop and think of my recent pattern of overwork. I did not follow all the recommendations (Pick has a detailed 30-Day Adrenal Friendly Eating Plan which I skimmed over). But the book did cause me to ask myself, “am I working too hard?” I thought of ways I could introduce more balance back into my life. The bike was brought to the shop for a tuneup, and now leisurely rides are a part of my weekly routine. I signed up for a meditation class, with the intent of establishing a consistent, daily meditation practice. These and other changes are helping me step off the work treadmill, at least for a few hours each day.

More than just a book that describes the physical symptoms of adrenal dysfunction, Pick addresses the underlying emotional issues that could be causing burnout. “No matter how disciplined we are about cleaning up our diet, taking our nutritional supplements, and getting regular exercise,” she writes, “if we don’t attend to the emotional piece of the puzzle, our adrenal symptoms won’t go away.” There is a whole chapter on emotional work, with suggestions for different types of treatments (such as EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique, Rolfing, Music Therapy, and many more). I found this to be one of the best chapters in the book.

I think “Are You Tired and Wired” is a good book to read through once, and to keep handy on the shelf for future reference. Women will especially find value in her focus on female health issues, but men, too, can gain wisdom from her message to just slow down.

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Mar 03, 2011


As a person who has long struggled with weight issues I was especially interested in Dayna Macy’s new book “Ravenous – a food lover’s journey from obsession to freedom”.

Ravenous is not your typical diet book.  “… diets have always felt temporary to me,” Macy writes, “We talk about ‘going on’ them, and that means we go off them, too.  There’s no middle ground.  I want to find a balanced way of eating that I can live with the rest of my life.”  Amen!  I feel that way, too, as I’m sure many others who strive to maintain a healthy weight.

To achieve her goal Macy takes the reader on a journey to discover how the foods she loves are actually produced.  For example, in one chapter she gives a detailed description of her trip to a California olive ranch.  We learn that the ranch grows six types of olives, only a few of the thousands of varieties of olives that can be produced.  I enjoyed reading these little food facts.  As a lover of olives myself I had no idea there were so many variations.

In other chapters I learned about the production of sausage, cheese, chocolate, squash, and other foods.  A few recipes of Macy’s favorite foods are included for good measure, too.

Intermixed with the author’s discoveries are bits of wisdom from the food producers she meets.  “If people understand where their food comes from and how it grows,” says a California Olive farmer, “they become more connected to their health and to themselves.”  Macy does a good job of bringing along the reader on her culinary adventures. As she discovers more about her favorite foods and the people who make them, we learn too.

I found the chapter describing the inner workings of a cattle slaughterhouse disturbing.  After watching the killing of a 1200 pound steer, Macy promises “to never be cavalier about eating meat again; to eat less of it; and when I do eat it to honor it.  And to support places like this, which takes such fine care of their animals in life and in death.”  With her riveting descriptions Macy makes the reader care, too, and think twice about the foods they consume.

To conclude her book Macy shares what she has learned, with insights any life long “dieter” like myself can relate to.  “I’ve begun to see through the delusion so many of us share – that when we reach a particular weight, we will automatically be happy,” Macy writes.  This and other perceptions from Macy end the book nicely.

In my “Candy Bar Cravings” blog post in December I wrote that to lose weight effectively I have to get to the reasons why I overeat.  As I read the author’s struggles with food, “Ravenous” gave me more insight into my own diet issues.  I recommend the book for anyone wanting to take a fresh look at why they eat the way they do.

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