Friday, May 30, 2014

May 2014 Books

I've come to a recent epiphany: my "Grief To Reading Journey" chronicled on this blog can be more accurately described as "Grief to Reading to Spiritual Journey."

Because of my recent readings, I see the value of connection to the soul and now practice yoga/meditation on a daily basis.  And have come to a second epiphany: the books I've chosen to read (or not read) over the past five years since Josh's death are attributed to my soul's subtle guidance.  Not only that, but I see clearly the ones that are heavily dog-eared, underlined and written in the margins with such words as - wow!, so true!, I feel this too! -  are the ones that connected with my soul.  The author's soul to my soul.

I think this is why I've been drawn and helped by survivor of suicide books - written from an authentic place of deep emotion; by literary fiction - for an author to illuminate the nuances of the human condition, they must be writing from the place deep within, and now by spiritual books (not religious) - definitely written from the soul.

Power of the Soul: Inside Wisdom for an Outside World by John Holland
Published: 2007
Rating: 3.5
Author's Web site

I bought this book while at Kripalu last month.  At the time of publication, the author had been a psychic medium for 17 years.  In the introduction, he notes that in recent years there has been "an explosion go interest in spirituality, psychic phenomena, mediumship, metaphysics and self help" which he attributes to a newfound awareness that the physical world does not have the answers we seek.  "It's as if our soul is calling and reaching out to us."

He wrote this book to help people be "more in tune with their soul and tap into their own intuition."

The chapter headings give an idea of the content:
  1. Understanding the Soul
  2. Acknowledging the Source
  3. The Unfoldment of Your Soul Senses
  4. The Power of Love
  5. The Healer Within
  6. Breaking Free: Turning the Past into a Bridge for the Future
  7. Journey of the Soul
  8. Soul Living
Key points - all consistent with other books I've read:
  • Soul exists 
  • Death is only physical - the Soul does not die
  • Can access my Soul and souls on the Other Side by meditation
  • Reincarnation is the process that "helps the progression, evolution and advancement of our souls."
  • Suggests keeping a journal to record the Soul's journey and dreams (I have started this)
  • Includes several meditation exercises
He mentions "chakras" or energy centers in the body. I would like to learn more about this.  He suggests going on a "soul" retreat.  I've heard good things about Yogaville in Charlottesville, VA - not that far from the DC area.

Other books:
  • Born Knowing: A Medium's Journey - Accepting and Embracing My Spiritual Gifts 
  • Psychic Navigator: Harnessing Your Inner Guidance.

Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life by Brad Willis aka Bhava Ram
Published: 2013
Rating 5


This is a remarkable memoir of a man's journey from ego to soul by way of yoga and meditation.  It is a story of transformation - from a man who was in chronic pain due to a broken back and on death's doorstep with Stage IV throat cancer, permanently disabled, addicted to pain medication and alcohol, not expected to live past 12 months to a man pain-free, fully healed and in remission - a medical miracle.  

His remarkable journey at 50 years old began with a simple biofeedback session (basically meditation) which had such a profound impact that he began reading everything he could about the topic, listened to meditation tapes, added simple yoga poses, practiced religiously and fanatically, incorporated nature into his practice, became a vegetarian then a vegan undergoing a total mind, body, soul transformation within two years. 

He co-founded the Deep Yoga School for Healing Arts in San Diego, CA.

Favorite quotes:

Energy follows intention (Chopra says this too)
Your thoughts determine your actions.
Your actions create your habits.
Your habits form your character.
Your character determines your destiny.
I find this to be true:
When the student is ready,
the teacher will appear.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (#2 in Divergent trilogy)
Published: 2012
Rating: 3

Divergent book - interesting characters and world which makes up for the writing quality.

Divergent movie - excellent

Insurgent book - same as above so am looking forward to the movie. 

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
Published: 2007
Rating: 5

The introduction begins with Shakespeare's famous quote in Hamlet: "This above all: to thine own self be true."

The author then asks a simple yet profound question - "to which "self" are we to be true? Is it the one that shows up when we're in a bad mood, or the one that is present when we feel humbled by our mistakes?"

He then promises a journey to discover the "self" - not via knowledge but by experience.   
The chapters of this book are nothing but mirrors for seeing your "self" from different angles.  And though the journey we are about to embark on is an inner one, it will draw upon every aspect of your life.  The only requirement asked of you is the willingness to honestly look at yourself in the most natural, intuitive manner.  Remember, if we are seeking the root of "self," what we are actually seeing is you. 
It is a short book (only 181 pages) but could take me weeks to digest.  The Table of Contents reveals the journey:

Part 1 - Awakening Consciousness
  1. The Voice Inside Your Head
  2. Your Inner Roommate
  3. Who are you?
  4. The Lucid Self
Part 2 - Experiencing Energy
  1. Infinite Energy
  2. The Secrets of the Spiritual Heart
  3. Transcending the Tendency to Close
Part 3 - Freeing Yourself
  1. Let Go Now or Fall
  2. Removing Your Inner Thorn
  3. Stealing Freedom for Your Soul
  4. Pain, the Price of Freedom
Part 4 - Going Beyond
  1. Taking Down the Walls
  2. Far, Far Beyond
  3. Letting Go of False Solidity
Part 5 - Living Life
  1. The Path of Unconditional Happiness
  2. The Spiritual Path of Nonresistance
  3. Contemplating Death
  4. The Secret of the Middle Way
  5. The Loving Eyes of God

Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat by Richard Faulds and senior teachers of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
Published: 2005
Rating: 5

In the past my relationship with yoga was off and on - much more off than on.  

I did not get the following:
  • when teachers would say the practice of yoga is the "unity of mind, body and soul."
  • the time and energy spent on breathing. 
  • chanting OM at the end of class was uncomfortable. 
  • what did "Namaste" mean again?
  •  that yoga is a "moving meditation" - huh?
But as I've mentioned at the start of this post, I feel my reading journey has morphed into a spiritual journey and surprisingly enough, yoga and meditation are very integral parts.

So now, I practice yoga/meditation every day - either by myself or in a class.  I am understanding more - through my actual experience, by reading this book and from excellent teachers.  

My heart is wide open and I recall the quote from Warrior Pose above: "When the student is ready, the teacher will come."

Here are the chapters (about half the book) under the part called Psychological and Spiritual Growth.
  1. Deepening Your Practice
  2. Prana, the Life Force
  3. Pathways of Energy
  4. Purifying Body and Mind
  5. Experiences and Awakenings
  6. Building Character
  7. Opening the Heart
  8. Riding the Wave of Sensation
  9. Clearing the Mind
  10. Witness Consciousness
  11. Meditation-in-Motion
  12. A Living Relationship with Spirit
My daughter found yoga has helped with her emotional and mental health - I get it now.  

Life After Life: The 25th Anniversary of the Classic Bestseller by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., MD
Originally published: 1975 then 2000
Rating: 5
Author web site

Selected quotes in the preface:
"Twenty-five years ago Raymond Moody's Life After Life created a worldwide change in our understanding of death…Dr. Moody inspired a first generation of researchers dedicated to a scientific understanding of human consciousness and death, researchers who have in turn created a new science of near-death studies….It is fascinating to realize that Dr. Moody, a psychiatrist from Georgia; Dr. Whinnery, a flight surgeon for the Air Force; and I, a pediatrician from Seattle, each working independently, reached the same conclusions about near-death experiences."
I found this book to be very easy to read - there are no confusing medical terms or philosophical meanderings which one needs to read several times in order to understand.

After interviewing 50 people first hand who have had a near death experience, Dr. Moody gives over a dozen common elements.

  1. Ineffability - inexpressible. Our language limits the description of the experience.
  2. Hearing they were pronounced dead
  3. Feeling of peace and quiet
  4. Noise such as buzzing, loud ringing, bells, majestic sounds
  5. Dark tunnel - the sensation of being pulled through
  6. Out of body - able to float above and look at their physical body.  Some felt like "pure consciousness" or "energy".  
  7. As a spirit out of the body, was inaudible, invisible, weightless, timeless, could see anywhere, whole (undamaged) and thoughts transferred instantaneously. 
  8. Meeting others "spirits" to help with transition to Other Side.  Spiritual helpers or guardian angels.
  9. Being of Light - very bright light with personality.  Love and acceptance, no condemnation.  Perfect understanding and instant awareness.  Identified based on the person's religious background.
  10. The Review - panoramic view of life; extraordinarily rapid, instantaneous remembrance.  Incredibly vivid and real along with all emotions felt at the time.  Whole point of life is to 1) love one another and 2) acquire knowledge
  11. The Border or Limit - can see between the two worlds.
  12. Coming back - those who saw and felt the Light did not want to return.
  13. Absolutely no doubt about experience - it was real, not a dream.  Felt stigma so did not readily share. 
  14. New views on death - is a "transition from one state to another, or an entry into a higher state of consciousness or being."  Disavow the reward/punishment model (ie. heaven and hell).
He shares about parallel experiences of death in "ancient and/or highly esoteric writings from the literature of several very diverse civilizations, cultures, and eras" such as the Bible, Plato's writings in Phaedo, Gorgias and The Republics, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the writings of Swedish psychic, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).  

Moody also addresses his perceived reader critics and skeptics by a Q&A, the first one being: Are you just making all this up?

Other books that I may want to read:
  • The Light Beyond (1989)
  • Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones (1994)
  • Life After Loss: Conquering Grief and Finding Hope (2002)
  • Glimpses of Eternity (2010)
  • Reflections on Life After Life (2011)
  • Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife (2013)
According to his web site, Dr. Moody and Dr. Eban Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven have connected in a DVD called Conversations Beyond Proof of Heaven. 

Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra
Published: 2002
Rating: 4

I listened to this audiobook read by Chopra and bought the book while at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in April.  What I realize about myself is that for me to really take in a book like this, I need to read, underline and ponder within the pages of my journal which I have yet to do.

Chopra organizes the book into two main parts listed in the title, and five breakthroughs in each.

Reinventing Your Body

  1. Your Physical Body is a Fiction
  2. Your Real Body is Energy
  3. Awareness had Magic
  4. You Can Improve Your Genes
  5. Time Isn't Your Enemy
Resurrecting Your Soul
  1. There's An Easier Way to Live
  2. Love Awakens the Soul
  3. Be as Boundless as Your Soul
  4. The Fruit of Surrender is Grace
  5. The Universe Revolves Through You
Conclusion:  "Who Made Me?"

Chopra has written so many books - my structured, analytical, ordered self would like to read all of them from the start - but there are just too many!  

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson
Published: 2006
Rating: 4

I bought this book at my all-time favorite bookstore (Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT) while on a ski vacation in February because my daughter recommended the movie.  I like to read the book first.  

After one start and stop (I just couldn't get into it), I picked it up again while lounging by our pool and couldn't put it down. This just goes to show that the reader in me can be very fickle at times.  I've learned to just go with it.   

If one wants to know what it takes to become a Navy SEAL, read this!  Luttrell recounts the inexplicably tough training and hardship, especially during the aptly named Hell Week that turns an already tough soldier into a "mess with me at your own peril", very scary SEAL.

He is the lone survivor of a mission gone very bad and makes the case against ROE (Rules of Engagement) which are handed down by Washington bureaucrats instead of being left to the professional military and the liberal (anti-war) media.

I will definitely watch the move. 

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