by Michou Landon, unless otherwise noted
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Children's Book Title: How Roland Rolls
Author: Jim Carrey
2013, Some Kind of Garden, Inc.
Jim Carrey: brilliant physical comedian, compelling actor and children's book author? The very one. The nugget of wisdom that rolls out in How Roland Rolls is hardly revolutionary. It's a well-travelled analogy in man's attempt at describing the paradox between separate self-hood and Cosmic Unity. It's a little epiphany many of us come to on our own, and here it is delivered in a slick and kinetic package for kids (and growing adults): SPOILER ALERT! "You're not just a wave, you're the whole big wide ocean!"
No complaints with that. Who would besmirch any attempt to impart this comforting bit of (watered down, if you'll excuse the pun) Advaita philosophy to today's kids, who are growing up in a cultural sea of unprecedented anxiety and pressure to be an individual.
The book, as a work in and of itself, is also a product of the contemporary, Jim Carrey culture. And this may give it far more appeal to younger generations than it had for me. Rob Nason's illustrations—which are like composite stills from animation-- are an interesting combination of minimalist simplicity and high-tech polish, and they communicate that careening physicality of Jim Carrey's best comic work. (They come on like a consummate, but just slightly in-your-face salesman!) That can be charming, I reckon.
The verse that the story is written in, though, suffers from that same sort of careening quality. This might be a very intentional, precise imprecision, but to me it just came off as needlessly clumsy doggerel.
Looking at it more deeply-- and I'm not sure how deeply this book was meant to be analyzed!-- this chaos creates a cogent tension. As we take in the illustrations, we can become palpably aware of any anxiety we harbor about loss of our bodily integrity, our discrete identity, or, even beneath that, aware of the background angst of separation consciousness, itself. The pictures of calmer water lend ease, and the pictures of waves and water ruptured by collision with solid objects and shattering into spray have quite contrasting impact. In this way the illustrations have a not-so-subtle power. Alas, for this reader there was a slippery glibness to the presentation, and a sloppiness in the verse, that prevented her from giving over completely to the book's charms.
I am not the audience How Roland Rolls targets, however. Were it not for my position as a reviewer, decades would undermine the relevance of my opinion. With guns like Carrey and Nason behind it, I'm sure How Roland Rolls can be easily found at most booksellers. The jacket instructs one to look for it under "Juvenile Fiction/Visionary & Metaphysical." Check it out and cast your own vote.
Book Title: Secrets of Heaven: Mystery Teachings of the Angels
Author: Channeled through Messenger Marshall Vian Summers
2013, New Knowledge Library
ISBN: 978 1 884238 16 1
It really is hard to know what to say about this book. It is important and potent, and the wisdom it contains is, ultimately, for all humanity; but the book isn't for everyone right now. Yet those who are ready to receive it would be well-served to know about it, because these people probably already find themselves well along a uniquely arduous path, finding themselves straddling paradigms and feeling, often, alone in this. And while each of us must cultivate our own will and instrument on our path and in our service to the cause, as one passage in the book says, "...from this place forward, you cannot lead yourself. You cannot go alone. You need guidance and companionship, a spiritual community both here and abroad...;" and "The one who thinks he or she can enter Knowledge alone will risk insanity an despair. It is highly unwarranted."
Secrets of Heaven is a cumulative collection of "answers" to the question heard echoing in the collective yearning heart of humanity, often drowned out in the din of worldly concerns, but never silenced. The information concerns the major transitional stage humanity is in at this time. And from what is communicated here, one gleans that the wave of change, the paradigm shift, upon us now far exceeds what our limited human perspective can conceive of, or would care to comprehend. The Presence and quietly incontrovertible authority of the "Teachers" from "The Greater Community," who offer this wisdom, is almost palpable as one reads the clear, concise and simple passage on each page. The information is parsed out this incremental way—in thoughts of just a few sentences at most-- to encourage thoughtful digestion of the insights delivered and discouraging of a quick, cursory read. Chances are, though, that those drawn to the book, drawn in by a subtle "recognition" as much as the content, are likely to be savoring, as at an oasis, what is being offered, letting it seep deep and impart its subtleties in the intervals between the words, passages and layered meanings.
There is a similarity in themes and vocabulary with the truths found in A Course in Miracles, although there are significant divergences, if not in the original cosmology, at least in what the "Angels" choose to emphasize in the teachings they offer humankind at this stage. Even so, a serious student of ACIM might find the similarities striking and somewhat comforting. I found that the voices of these two works support one another.
The language is often very general here, leaving it to the intuition, to the Mind beyond our intellects, to connect the dots. But that knowing is activated as one reads; one has the sense of understanding more beyond the cognitive level; indeed, more than the egoic mind wants to know!
This book is not the first to come through Marshall Vian Summers, who has been vehicle of delivery for this "New Message from God" for decades now. More can be found out about the Society for the New Message at newmessage.org. But this book is a good place to start. It is unflinching and unsentimental in the message it delivers and yet an enticing invitation from Self to Self.
Book Title: God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Author: Mirabai Starr
2012, Monkfish Publishing
God of Love, as with most of Mirabhai Starr's writings, serves as an oasis for those who thirst; even, perhaps, in the case of this book, the unsuspecting Atheist. For, while this book laces together, with their common thread of essential wisdom and truth, the three main monotheistic religions, what gleams and pulses from its pages is a transmission of unnamable Spirit, dwelling in every human soul and in every sacred impulse, before and beyond belief.
It is a book that seeks, finds and cites commonalities among the Abrahamic faiths, but its inclusivity acknowledges that all cosmologies reach for Unity in some way. And traditions that focus less on origins and more on daily comportment, less on external divine, more on Immanence or Isness, uphold the same truths, promote the same qualities of honesty, humility, kindness, compassion, clarity, etc., the highest expressions of Loving Consciousness through the human instrument.
Depending on one's unique spiritual journey to date, the read can be one of revelation or simply remembrance. Although the words refer to God, the books is less about a Divine Personage than about the Divine Experience of Being Human. With a mystic's passion and a practitioner's compassion, Mirabai Starr, a celebrant of all faiths, weaves together the words of masters and mystics, with a poetic witness of the mundane, to build an overview of the perennial journey of Holy Longing.
With so many beautiful, potent passages and quotes from scripture (Christian, Islamic and Judaic), as well as luminary voices eternal truth, this is a book to come back periodically to for reassurance, replenishment; to remember the sacred scripture written in one's own heart. In the reading, one feels fellowship, validation, less alone in the longing, more empowered to live the truth we know: There is no difference; drop the distractions, discrepancies and other excuses; take responsibility for our own Life, Love and thread of the collective grief, and join the human Miracle.
CD Title: Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work
Artist: Ben Lee
2013 TenFingers, www.Ben-Lee.com
Years ago, I played the Dar Williams song "The Pointless, yet Poignant, Crisis of a Coed" to a friend. He erupted into appreciative laughter during the instrumental interlude of wandering cello glissandos. To me the song was cute, but, it was only when he explained that it really captured what it was like to be high (the song references pot-smoking), that I realized that I'd missed whole dimensions of the song's art.
Ben Lee is an established Australian singer/songwriter, with a name more familiar to me than his oeuvre. For some reason, I popped his CD Welcome to the Work into the car stereo before reading the promotional information, or even looking closely at the cover art. The music had seemed sweet, endearing, promising, but not quite enrapturing: an odd assortment of folky songs with contemplative lyrics and musical meditations and meanderings.
One song stood out, however, and invited me to listen more deeply: "The Will to Grow." It is the emotional centerpiece. It stirred in me remembrance, but of what was still a little vague. I consulted the liner notes; and, as with this whole album, context exponentiates its power.
Once I was reminded that Welcome to the Work is an homage to the potent gifts of the sacred South American psycho-tropic herb, Ayahuasca, the listenings took on richer and deeper poignancy, exploded with significance, rather like this indigenous medicine explodes through one's mundane consciousness. Needless-to-say, subsequent listenings made more sense, humbling and reaching beyond the filter of reviewer's mind, toward a collective Heart.
Ben Lee and his primary collaborator here, Jessica Chapnik Kahn, had been so impressed with their experiences with this Grandmother Medicine, that they were inspired to write an album for her and about her. Listeners with first-hand experience in sacred Ayahuasca ceremony, will recognize dimensions in the music that others may not. But even without that memory, the music carries the message of the medicine. The work is not only dewy with gratitude and tenderness, but certain passages admirably intimate ineffable phenomena often experienced in the arc of the Ceremony, as unique as every experience is.
Welcome to the Work is a sweet and reverent labor of Love and of skill. The Work here is that of healing. May the tendrils of the Divine Vine reach you through the music.
CD Title: A Deeper Light
Artist: Deva Premal and Miten, with Manose and Maneesh de Moor
"We see ourselves more as flame carriers of a 5,000 year old tradition than emotion-based musicians. The music we make is born out of a committed spiritual practice. We meditate -- we investigate -- and our music is a result of that experience. It's more a case of life and death than entertainment!" --Miten
With a deeper light, Deva Premal, Miten, Manose and company have plucked a select bouquet from the mantric garden and offer us their first "tantric-mantra dub" album.
They've drawn from an ancient well here, using primarily acoustic instruments, with respectful injection of dub flourishes, thus blending echoes of the 21st century into the echoes of history and eternity.
Strangely, the selections struck me as dry at first, but they open up their subtly-lush layering with listenings. I lifted the above introductory quote from the White Swan website, because it may speak to that initial impression dryness. These offerings aren't emotional in the dramatic frequencies and common currency of our time. They are tender, reverent-yet-playful recitations. Om Triambakam mantra is all the more powerful for its play in dissonance and experimental instrumentation.
These aren't quite the tuneful sing-alongs that some of their earlier renditions of classic mantras have become over the years. When these latest, simple tunes and mantras "catch" inside the us (and they do), we likely find they recite themselves through us. The effect is a meditative song cycle through the energies of innocence, refuge, devotion, healing, wellness, embrace, etc., which we don't so much think about as relax into or align with.
Don't let the word "dub" scare you. All the cuts are pretty subtle and mellow. This collection may not have any "hits" on it, but Deva Premal claims in the promotional blurb that it's her favorite yet.
Book Title: Guardian of Gaia: A True Story for Healing the Heart and Mother Earth
Author: Szuson Wong, RN, PhD
Sunrize Publications (Available on Amazon)
ISBN: 978 0 9859331
In Guardian of Gaia, Szuson Wong offers an account of faith and surrender of a degree relatively few have the courage to give themselves to -- surrender, in turns, to a powerful external teacher she calls Shaman and to the still small voice within.
There is a sweetness, honesty and humility in her delivery--one person in the "Praises" page called it understated--which can lull the reader into underestimating the discipline and courage demanded of her. Though the poetry of her experience is ever-evident, the language of her narrative seems vague, overgeneralized, even wispy at times--perhaps as much a weakness of words themselves to parlay such experiences as of the author's skill at conveying them. There is an aura to the tale, which pervades and transcends the lightweight reportage.
This is a tale of transformation, a song of serendipity and synchronicity, which cannot fail to inspire a heart open to the truths lived and observed in its chapters. And the serendipity is contagious.
As I read, I felt resonance with not only the general themes and teachings, quietly and candidly observed, but with specific details. I could feel stirrings of my own unfinished business in Arizona as hers unfolded. Within hours, an invitation came from Arizona to revisit and explore these.
That's a lovely testimony to the open channel that Wong is as a healer, and by extension, an author. The greater Grace to which she has given her self works through her on the reader.
Book Title: Brainspotting
Author: David Grand, Ph.D
Sounds True, 2013
Brainspotting is "a way of looking inside by looking outside." — Oliver Schubbe
It's a catchy title, and it's a relatively recent development in therapy, and, whether one's interest in psychology is personal or professional, it's an interesting read.
The term Brainspotting was coined by Dr. David Grand, sometime after he stumbled upon it while practicing his "Natural Flow" variation of EMDR in 2003. (EMDR-- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a neurobiological therapeutic method developed by Francine Shapiro). Having evolved from EMDR, Brainspotting itself has been evolving since, as it assimilates further discoveries and other therapeutic influences. To way oversimplify, it's a fascinating, versatile and powerful technique that enhances the efficacy of one-on-one talk therapy with attention to neurological cues discovered through the movement (or stasis) of the eyes.
A fundamental premise is that the brain (a quantum map of body and psyche) contains all the information and wisdom required to resolve and heal any presenting condition. The key is to accessing them, liberating them where they are tangled or blocked. To this end, a brainspot is the "location" of a trigger in the brain correlating with precise position of eye or eyes, unique to every individual and every trigger or trauma. If I understand correctly, it's like a key that unlocks a neuro-network in which a traumatic memory, or train of them, is encoded. Therefore, Brainspotting is especially effective in pinpointing and discharging sources of PTSD, phobias, limiting beliefs stemming from abuse, etc. It must be noted, though, that Brainspotting's applications extend far beyond trauma work. More on that below.
In his book, David Grand details the stages in which the modality and he (as a person and practitioner) evolved concurrently, and continue to do so. Each chapter describes an additional innovation, and, often a compelling account of the therapeutic situation or professional collaboration that prompted its emergence. It can be quite moving to read these accounts of how much chronic suffering is alleviated through an apparently simple technique. But the simplicity is deceptive. The cure is not always instantaneous. The brain is quite complex, the therapeutic choices quite subtle, and the courage many of the patients demonstrate in their process is admirable, if not overly emphasized in these relatively bare-bones accounts.
Perhaps more inspiring than these stories of healing and redemption were the later chapters of the book, which detail the modality's application to enhance athletic performance; artistic and creative confidence, depth and flow; and general well-being. He dedicates the penultimate chapter to self-help applications of the technique, that is those that can be employed safely, without a therapist's facilitation.
Indeed, Dr. Grand has presented the evolutionary story of his modality in this way in order to educate self-aware individuals in nuanced discovery of their own therapeutic and creative process with Brainspotting. Alas, the short chapter on "self-use" exercises, struck me as scant and anticlimactic, somehow not quite complete. This may simply be because the work is so experiential, individual and creative, or that it isn't designed for gentler objectives than drilling to the core of one's deepest stuff without a therapist.
Fortunately, all that precedes the self-help chapter offers plenty of useful, validating and inspiring insight to lay an intuitive foundation. These earlier chapters also provide a sense for the power and pitfalls of the therapy, for how it works at its best, and for the criteria of a quality therapeutic experience of it, should the reader wish to explore Brainspotting with a professionally trained practitioner.
The language in Brainspotting is accessible overall, although certain expository passages well into the book, can approach dryness. Those don't linger long. The book actually commendably balances the technical with the touching. I'm ready to sign up for a bit of Brainspotting myself!
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