|NOVA Magazine: Book & DVD Reviews
WOMEN OF THE WISE EARTH
Celebrating the Rainbow Symphony
Review by Margaret Evans
Women gathering in sacred circles to celebrate the Divine Feminine has been a source of liberating and empowering energy over eons. And what appealed to our ancestral mothers in prehistory still draws women to reconnect with themselves and Mother Earth today.
Women of the Wise Earth: Celebrating the Rainbow Symphony is the result of such a reconnection made all the more powerful by its link to the sacred numbers of 33 - the number of women who took part - and seven - their decision to meet in seven beautiful natural locations on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Each of the locations, from beach to hill to bushland, was chosen to honour one of the chakras - root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown. The result of this celebration of the sacred in the lives of 33 busy, stressed, time-poor Sydney women is something very gentle and beautiful.
The creative impulse behind Women of the Wise Earth is Nicole Gruel who describes herself as "a storyweaver with an insatiable enthusiasm for inner alchemy and the co creative process". She tells us the inspiration came to her one night of the full moon as she was taking her first steps towards a new chapter of her life.
Nicole's creative gifts and ability to inspire others to share her vision have resulted in a book that celebrates creativity in many different ways. We hear the strongly individual voice of each woman as she shares her thoughts and anecdotes, sometimes a poem and even deeply personal reflections on grief and loss. Such truths are rarely shared in today's increasingly disconnected world - and when they are they are that much more powerful.
I found the book a visual feast of colour, one for each of the chakras, together with some powerful illustrations by art therapist and participant Marjo Van Der Smagt and glorious outdoor photography of the group in each setting contributed by another who took part, Kristie Steers. Each chakra also has an invitation to "Let your wild child out to play" with a simple practical activity contributed by art therapist Marjo.
On reading the biogs of each woman at the back of the book, we discover what an impressive group of talents they are - most are involved in the holistic industry as teachers and practitioners, clairvoyants and healers, poets and artists. Reading from a distance I envied them their strong sense of spiritual connection and realisation they were taking part in a very special journey to wholeness in what must be one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Women of the Wise Earth is a journal to dip into at any time you want to honour or liberate your chakral energy or simply share the feelings of other women so very much like you. It is produced with love and it shows. www.WomenOfTheWiseEarth.com
||At Home on the Range
Margaret Yardley Potter & Elizabeth Gilbert
Review by Margaret Evans
How many of us mums have found the time while giving birth to discuss cooking with the midwife or nurse - let alone extract a recipe from her, even one for pickles! But that's just part of the varied life resume of a truly remarkable woman, Margaret Yardley Potter.
Along with her magpie desire to collect recipes, anywhere and everywhere, Margaret had a passion for food and eating well that we'd now recognise as very modern and "foodie" - so much so that her book first published in 1947 suffered from being decades ahead of its time. For instance, she describes discovering as a young mother with a second child due on her second wedding anniversary - the hushed disapproval echoes down the years - the joys of Italian Tomato Pie. She'd discovered pizza! Reading through her detailed recipe now (given to her by the signora at her neighbourhood Italian grocery store who recommended it as perfect pregnancy food), it sounds a classic pizza. Yet while she with her adventurous palate couldn't get enough, her already disapproving parents just huffed and puffed all the more.
Thankfully, this free spirit has found another family member who's become her champion, her great granddaughter Elizabeth Gilbert. And if her name sounds familiar, she is the author of the mega bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.
In her Foreword to this new edition, Elizabeth tells of her own excitement in discovering a copy of the book at the bottom of a box while unpacking after moving to her new home. As she says, "I cracked it open and read it in one rapt sitting." The insight, humour and cosmopolitan sophistication belied the bespectacled, white haired, pearl earringed image that graced its jacket. Her great grandmother doesn't seem to have given a thought to any PR, it just wasn't in her DNA.
Just like Elizabeth, I warmed to this individualistic, spirited woman who loved nothing more than being a warm and hospitable hostess opening her home and generally meagre "pocketbook" to all and sundry. Her passion was good natural food and she sought it out in farmer's markets in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, in all sorts of ethnic delights (Italian, Jewish, German and French recipes all figure prominently) and her determination to avoid short cuts and compromises of any sort in the kitchen. She firmly admonishes that any new recipe must be followed religiously the first time to avoid disasters and a "disappointed husband", but next time give full rein to your imagination. She was a great cook with so much to offer anyone today who takes their food seriously. Or not so seriously at party time!
Time and again in reading At Home on the Range I was taken back to my own childhood and memories of learning from my mother how to make a good white sauce or gravy (Margaret would have approved!) or breathing in the scent of fresh new peas as I peeled the pods to help out with dinner. Along with licking the cake bowl, it was a delicious pleasure of another age.
As many of us seek new ways with some traditional foods that are suddenly back in vogue - think Pea and Ham Soup or Cauliflower Cheese or homemade icecream - Margaret Yardley Potter has come into her own. I just feel a little sad that such a lovely woman with so many gifts and so much love for others didn't receive the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. Perhaps that's true of many women of her era.
In deference to her - and because it's a great little book crammed full of dishes I want to make - At Home on the Range is already in place on my kitchen shelf.
THE AVATAR PATH: The Way We Came
Star's Edge International
Review by Margaret Evans
I've always remembered the advice given by Deepak Chopra at a corporate conference that the secret to success for any leader was to be able to tell a good story. And, of course, he proceeded to tell a wonderful one.
Harry Palmer, founder of The Avatar Course and author of The Avatar Path: the Way We Came, is another consummate story teller and it's undeniable that his skills and personal charisma have been instrumental in the remarkable success of the course which, we're told, has spread to more than 72 countries and produced tens of thousands of graduates.
So what is Avatar? In his clear and often humorous way Palmer explains it is a method of making us aware of how our beliefs condition us and generally limit us to experience more of the same in all aspects of our lives.
Based unashamedly on the Universal Laws of Attraction, as is any powerful self development program, it acknowledges that our beliefs cause us to attract or create the situations and events we experience as our life - the bad along with the good. In a nutshell, Avatar aims to equip the individual with the tools to explore their own limiting beliefs and modify them to make life a more satisfying and empowering experience. The ultimate aim is to reach a state Palmer calls "Source Being, an effortless state of being". Many will understand this more readily as the transcendent states of nirvana in Buddhism, or awareness of Brahman in Hinduism, something that is essentially beyond definition. Palmer's advice is not to grapple with its complexities butv,"just relax and enjoy the experience".
While it is a big claim to be able to teach in days or weeks the skills that Eastern beliefs have been espousing for thousands of years, the success of this course demands acknowledgement. Palmer tells us of a prominent New York psychiatrist who sent his entire staff to do the course and afterwards enthused that its teaching methods of consciousness transformation were more effective than anything he'd learned in eight years of psychotherapy training. Of course, it comes at a significant cost, but Palmer is very transparent with the costs of each element of the course clearly outlined.
Overall, it is the openness of Palmer's approach in The Avatar Path that I found most appealing, whether he's telling us about his personal growth from working 60 to 70 hours a week for a religious organisation, what he calls a "10 year stint of poverty", incidents in his childhood that rooted deep fears he has recognised and "recreated" - being dosed with ether to have both his appendix and tonsils removed figures prominently - or his own qualms about whether he could draw any paying clients to share his insights. His first Avatar audience was "sixty people, two babies and a dog." Clearly, he's been persuasive.
Avatar's call to take responsibility is something that resonates with me as a holistic magazine editor and I particularly enjoyed a chapter called "Preserving your Creative Source Power". Palmer talks about "living deliberately", focusing on simplicity, integrity, service and acceptance. In living with awareness, others would say consciously, we preserve rather than fritter away our source power. When these qualities are in balance, Palmer tells us, we recover our power to create and shape realities.
The Avatar Path: The Way We Came is an appealing book, dotted with small illustrations, margin quotes to make sure we grasp the point and excerpts from some of Harry Palmer's speeches back in those early days of the late 1980s. As I said he's a great storyteller.
||Not the Last Goodbye
Review by Margaret Evans
Reading some books can be a humbling experience, and if we’re lucky, an experience that lives with us long after we close the final page. Not the Last Goodbye by David Servan-Schreiber, subtitled “On Life, Death, Healing and Cancer”, is one such humbling book; a work that transcends its small size and simple but rather elegant paperback format, to leave a deep impression on the reader.
Many readers will know the author from his bestseller Anticancer: a new way of life and it’s the bitterest of ironies that this passionate and eloquent advocate of adopting certain lifestyle and nutritional practices to defeat this disease has succumbed to it himself. In reading Not the Last Goodbye published late last year, we are aware from the outset that Servan-Schreiber has lost his struggle only a few months earlier at the age of 50.
As a doctor himself, Servan-Schreiber was acutely aware of the significance of the reappearance of his aggressive brain tumour 19 years after his original diagnosis and successful operation. The book opens with his description of his reaction on hearing the news after an MRI scan in Paris; in spite of the medical advice to avoid any jolts because the huge mass occupying his frontal lobe could kill him at any time (at that stage the diagnosis wasn’t yet confirmed) Servan-Schreiber leapt on his bike to negotiate the cobblestones of Paris rather than take a taxi. The ‘bike test’ reassured him that he had the courage and determination to outwit his foe.
And his courage never falters throughout this moving book. We share with Servan-Schreiber his hopes that are alternately raised and then dashed through three operations, radiation, and experimental vaccine treatment, all conveyed with clarity and grace and totally lacking in self pity or mawkishness. It is a remarkable book and one of his key motivations was to leave a personal testament to his children. Growing into adulthood, they will be very proud.
He explains that other key motivations are to question whether the “raspberries and broccoli” approach of Anticancer is still valid, and if so, why didn’t it protect him, and, finally, how will he face death when it comes?
In answering the second question, Servan-Schreiber emphatically restates his support for healthy natural nutrition and the ‘physical exercise, yoga, meditation and stress management’ advice of his bestseller and many others like it - and recognises his own lifestyle has fallen far short of his own advice. In the months before his relapse - and spurred on by the great success of Anticancer - he crisscrossed the globe, including monthly transatlantic flights, as well as flying within France and elsewhere in Europe once or twice a week. In subjecting himself to “numerous bouts of jetlag” in the full knowledge of its impact on the immune system, he recognises both failure and responsibility. He succeeds, though, in giving us a salutary lesson on the importance of maintaining calm and balance, probably at the expense of fame and accolades. We learn of a woman called Molly with a similar devastating tumour who has defied the odds and survived for the past decade immersing herself in the almost total isolation of nature, protected as she says by “the quiet”.
Not the Last Goodbye resonates with compassion - it’s an interesting point that Servan-Schreiber recognises he has become a far more compassionate physician after his first brush with death. It radiates with love for and from his large and attentive family, his friends and colleagues, and readers whom he guides with a firm gentle hand right until the end. As David Servan-Schreiber intended, his book is anything but demoralising; it is truly inspirational.
||You Can Create An Exceptional Life
By Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson
REVIEW BY ROSAMUND BURTON
You Can Create An Exceptional Life is a series of conversations between Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson, one of the many individuals greatly influenced by Louise Hay, and who has gone on to be one of Hay House's bestselling authors. The result is an easy-to-read guide to living life well, combined with inspiring personal anecdotes from them both.
Louise Hay has just turned 85 years old but, from what she says and how Cheryl Richardson describes her, it's obvious that she's definitely still living an 'exceptional life'. She is walking her talk. The combination of positive affirmations, a nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle give her the joy and vibrancy of someone years younger.
"We are powerful, creative beings who determine our future with every thought we think and every word we speak," Louise says, and she's every indication that this is true. I'm fascinated reading about the daily life of this inspirational lady who founded Hay House and is still very much part of the company.
What I also enjoyed about the book are some of the insights into her life. It's easy to think that she was an instant success when she wrote You Can Heal Your Life but actually she could only afford to get a few copies printed at a time and when she sold those she would get more printed.
In the book Louise consistently talks about things growing slowly.
"Today, so many people want fast success," she says. "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 is adamant that it's important to start each day well, and have some 'self-care' time, even if it's only 10 or 15 minutes before getting children ready for school and rushing out to work. Louise gives herself two hours, and in that time says positive affirmations, does stretches, enjoys some spiritual reading and might even do a crossword puzzle before she starts her day.
When Cheryl asks if she ever has a bad day, she responds:
"Not much anymore," and then adds, "I've been practising a long time and I have good habits in place. It's all about practice."
The final chapter addresses death and like the rest of the book it is another life affirming chapter illustrating how we can all make good decisions and choices. This is an insightful book. It is also full of practical advice and affirmations for healing and health, loving yourself and your life, for work, prosperity and also facing difficulties.
Review by Nicola Silva
In his latest novel, the autobiographical Aleph renowned author Paulo Coelho turns to the familiar themes at the heart of human life: love, betrayal, suffering, forgiveness, wisdom, with an exquisitely deft and very personal touch.
These strands are woven together against the sweeping background of the great continent of Asia. Brazilian-born Coelho is travelling across Russia on board the famous Trans-Siberian Railway, ostensibly on a book tour. The difficult, bone shaking and, at times, surprising 9288 kilometre trip from Moscow to the port city of Vladivostok, however, has a deeper purpose. Coelho, an instinctive pilgrim, is in search of his soul, his inner kingdom, which has become clouded with doubt and corrupted by routine.
As Coelho's teacher J. enigmatically points out to him, "You're not here anymore. You've got to leave in order to return to the present." Readers familiar with Coelho's work will no doubt hear echoes of The Alchemist at this point although Aleph is more concerned with redemption. How do you right a wrong as heinous as those committed during the Spanish Inquisition or is it more a question of forgiveness freely given? "It isn't what you did in the past that will affect the present," J. assures Coelho. "It's what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future."
Any journey is enlivened, or ruined, by one's companions and the unexpected arrival of tempestuous Hilal has an electrifying impact on the otherwise sober publishing group. Like an overzealous and rather demented fan, she demands to become part of Coelho's continent-crossing entourage. Hilal has a prodigious talent for the violin and an equally copious capacity for rubbing people up the wrong way. Is Coelho telling us that difficult people can also be our teachers? She is also the link between Coelho and a previous lifetime when the fate of eight young women hung in the balance. His choices on that far off day during the Inquisition have haunted him ever since, although much of what actually happened is hidden from him. During his life the author has met four of those eight women, each of whom provided a small piece of the puzzle.
Hilal is the fifth woman of that group, and the one who loves him without reservation or reason. Perhaps this is the key because on that seemingly interminable Trans-Siberian train trip, a portal mysteriously opens on to the past. It's the eponymous aleph which Coelho describes as, "...a window looking out at the world and its secret places, poetry lost in time and words left hanging in space". The aleph is the first letter of three alphabets; mathematically it means the number that contains all numbers; it is the entree to the divine. The Chinese call it qi.
As Coelho delves more into these mysteries he meets characters who are transient and memorable. These encounters may be fleeting but the stories and insights gained are vivid. We meet a shaman, a mafiosa, the author's artistic wife whose memory allows him to resist the temptations of Hilal and the aikido-trained interpreter Yao, a man who killed God. Coelho reminds us how we are all interconnected: "Everyone contributes a word, a sentence, an image, but in the end, it all makes sense: the happiness of one becomes the joy of all". Aleph is a great novel to read on the cusp of the prophetic year of 2012. It is at times a tender love story, at times a spiritual manual and in other parts deeply moving - who could forget Hilal's spontaneous outpouring of forgiveness in the Novosibirsk church? This book inspires us take stock of our relationships, honour our heart space and renew our personal journeys.
Parenting with Soul
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
In Parenting with Soul Sally Collings joins a small, but growing, group of modern authors who are willing to explore the myth of perfect motherhood through the clear and unsentimental lens of reality.
The truth is that parenting is tiring work and you're always on call. Ask any sleep-deprived-to-the-point-of-exhaustion new mum or dad. It's a dirty business; the little darlings are infinitely curious and will find creative ways of covering themselves with mud and muck the second you take your eyes off them. If you live far away from your extended family, as many young couples do, raising young children can often be a lonely task.
Until about 30 or so years ago, as part of their education, girls were taught unexciting domestic subjects that were intended to prepare them to become mothers of the future. Today's mothers were taught to excel academically and artistically, be socially confident and have successful careers. Many of them will relate to Collings who describes herself as a "self taught parent".
An intrinsically spiritual person, Collings realised soon after having children that she was missing the richness of an inner life. She had unaccountably lost track of the divine in day-to-day living. As any parent knows, the early years of childhood are so heavily driven by having to do innumerable tasks that there's very little opportunity to simply be by yourself. As a result, the daily routine starts to feel mundane and lacking in purpose; even soul-less, one could say.
How do you add soul to your life and what is it anyway? Collings enjoys Christian roots but she is not constrained by them and often dips into other spiritual and wisdom traditions. Her concept of "soul" encompasses a wider meaning than any narrow religious definition. Jung likened the soul to the rootstock of a plant: "What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains." Collings describes soul as the true essence of one's being regardless of the circumstances - how does a parent respond when their toddler wakes up at 3am having wet the bed?
Parenting with Soul suggests we plunge more deeply into the chaos and wonder of family life, rather than seeking to escape its unpalatable aspects. Some of the ways to add soul to your day are spending 60 seconds of mindfulness before you get out of bed in the morning, having a good laugh, or cry, depending on the circumstances, or saying a quick prayer while you're doing the dishes.
I like the concept of honouring the perfect, but flawed, beauty around us. This worldview is known as wabi-sabi and derives from the Zen Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Picture the wrinkle-wreathed face of an old woman or your child's battered, but beloved, teddy bear. The secret is to be on the lookout for richness in everything.
Einstein said, "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."
We take great care to feed the body; however, rarely do we remember to feed the spirit. Would our lives change if we took the time to nurture our soul in the same way?
Parenting with Soul is about savouring life in all its guises, something, funnily enough, small children are especially good at! This doesn't escape the author, who suggests children be allowed to be the guru now and again.
Sally Collings writes with humour and refreshing clarity. Best of all, this book is designed to be dipped in at random, perhaps during some rare quiet time when the children are napping. Just the thing for time poor parents.
|| You Are Abundant: Why You Are Enough the Way You Are
Review by Rosamund Burton
After the first few pages of this book I realised it was an invaluable message for this time. In the often frantic fast-paced world of today so many of us are dogged by self criticism and self doubt, and You are Abundant not only provides guidance on how to feel loveable, deserving and worthy, but also really clarifies the benefits to ourselves, those around us and the planet as a whole when we are kind to ourselves.
Drawing on angelic guidance, BelindaGrace provides practical insights on how to truly appreciate that each and every one of us is enough exactly as we are now. This is not to condone destructive or abusive behaviour, but rather to understand that we are each on a unique journey.
Many of the chapters also include short exercises. There is one for reparenting yourself, and for anyone wanting to be a parent an exercise called “Invitation to a Child”. One exercise I found very useful is “Moving Forward from the Threshold”, which is a great one to do when you are at a time in your life in which nothing seems to work out, and you are not able to move forward. It is about letting go and allowing the Universe to work its magic.
The chapter I really found illuminating is “The Return of the Divine Empowered Feminine”. This looks at both the masculine and feminine energies within us all. It discusses the Distorted Masculine, a desire to control everything and living through fear, and the Distorted Feminine characterised by negative emotions, neediness and a sense of powerlessness. Living with these, the angels say, is one of the greatest causes of depression. As BelindaGrace reminds the reader, we all have both feminine and masculine energy and once you have reintegrated the Divine Empowered Feminine, the life giving energy that provides the fertile soil for all our creations, the Divine Empowered Masculine, characterised by it leadership qualities, decision making, and more direct approach to getting things done, will automatically follow.
Another chapter that particularly resonated for me is the one of self acceptance and forgiveness, which includes a simple but powerful exercise to dissolve all the guilt and self blame stored in your cells and energy field.
This book is a gem. It’s accessible and easy to read, but provides so many powerful tools to release feelings and beliefs that do not serve our true purpose, and brings us into a state of true abundance.
||CASTLES, FOLLIES & FOUR-LEAF CLOVERS
ALLEN & UNWIN
Review by Margaret Evans
Regular readers of NOVA will be very familiar with the name of Rosamund Burton; in fact, there's even a feature written by her in this month's issue titled "Future Visions". Now, Ros has ventured into new territory and, in the process, as is the way of any pilgrimage, discovered as much about herself as the country she has traversed. Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers is the story of her trek along the ancient pilgrimage route of her homeland Ireland called St Declan's Way. While St Patrick has taken hold of the world's imagination as the patron saint of Ireland, it was St Declan who first left his imprint in this beautiful yet complex land, introducing Christianity around 400AD. Over the centuries his influence has been largely obliterated, lost in the entanglement of religious and political divides, much as the pilgrimage route itself has become hidden in overgrown brambles, boggy byways and fading memories.
But Ros has never been one to say no to a challenge. I remember her excitement when she first told me about her forthcoming adventure, sparked by being lent a faded map of the 60 mile route meandering from the fishing village of Ardmore on the south coast to the town of Cashel in County Tipperary . It has always been a surprise to me and many others that Ros, so English in her speech and mannerisms as many will remember from her time managing Sydney 's Mind Body Spirit Festival, is Irish. Yet as she wends her way along the arduous route, walking in the reverse direction to the norm from Cashel down to the coast, her true Irishness begins to blossom. It's revealed in her connection to the landscape where flowers and plants evoke legends of a pagan past - cream coloured meadowsweet we learn is the favourite of the moon goddess Aine, protector of women, and a plant considered sacred by the Druids -, her love of wild exposed hilltops particularly as she crosses the Knockmealdown Mountains that recur almost as a leitmotif throughout her journey, and most of all in her easy and effortless interaction with the locals she meets along the way.
In many respects, walking St Declan's Way is a homecoming for Ros. Although born in Ireland, she grew up in England (hence the accent) before coming home again at 18 when her father was appointed land agent to the Duke of Devonshire and the family moved into the east wing of spectacular Lismore Castle, situated almost midway along St Declan's Way. A highlight of the book for me was her meeting up again with so many old friends of the family who open their warm inviting hearths and a welcome bed for the night as Ros trudges in after yet another day battling the elements and often literally hacking her way through the bracken. It was her misfortune (although it adds a rather perverse flavour to the story) to encounter Ireland's wettest summer for 150 years and we sense the journey may have been just too much without these kind people to fortify her spirits with their food, shelter and good Irish fellowship. Nevertheless, with an earlier successful completion of the Camino behind her, it's obvious Ros has grit in her soul (and probably her boots as well) and, one way or another, would have made it to the end of this journey too.
Along the way, we're treated to some fascinating legends, and equally fascinating fairy folk - Ros describes seeing a photo of a 1.5 inch grey fur hat found on a foxglove which mysteriously disappeared from inside a locked room and can only have been reclaimed by its tiny fairy owner slipping through a crack, so the legend goes. Her book is peopled with eccentrics, many in touch with the psychic realms which seem to be interwoven into Irish life, many others surrounded by memories of fading grandeur as the new Ireland, the Celtic Tiger, changes the fabric of society.
And as befits a true pilgrimage, Ros finds herself changed at the end of her journey. No longer so sure of her commitment to Eastern philosophies like yoga and Buddhism, she finds a reawakening of her Christian faith; no longer feeling adrift in her homeland despite its hold over her, imbued with its physical beauty and the kindness of old friends and strangers, she feels a deeply fortifying sense of connectedness with all of life.
Where you have Irish blood in your veins or not, Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers is a rewarding read in the company of a charming, original and insightful wanderer.
Allen & Unwin
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
Recently, an acquaintance phoned me out of the blue; he was struggling, he said. About 12 months previously, he had lost his wife to cancer and understandably still missed her dreadfully. Although glad that his wife was finally at peace after suffering for so long, nevertheless, he and his teenage daughter remained overwhelmed by their loss. To those on the outside it appeared that the family was coping bravely; he knew it was finally time to reach out for help. At the time I hadn't read Barry Eaton's book Afterlife but anyone who is grieving for a loved one will find in its pages both hope and comfort.
It takes a certain amount of boldness to write about life after death, for this is an area of strongly held beliefs and deep emotions. Those who speak with authority on the afterlife are usually the leaders and ministers of established religions. Barry Eaton is an astrologer, medium, broadcast journalist and presenter of an Internet radio program with the intriguing title, "Radio out there". His comments on the afterlife are not gospel, but surely that's the point?
How do we discover the afterlife and interact with those on the other side? The ancient Greeks used mythology; religious people find consolation in their particular set of beliefs, but inevitably we seek simple human reassurance as we come to terms with our bereavement. How are our loved ones faring? What does dying feel like and what really happens after death?
Eaton answers these questions through the lens of his own past life experience as Brian, a 19 year old soldier fighting in the devastating Battle of the Somme where 58,000 British troops were killed on 1 July 1916, the first day of the encounter. Eaton paints a vivid picture of the terrors and degradations of trench warfare and the impact this has on an individual's psyche continuing after death.
As the reader follows Brian's shade beyond the battlefields, Eaton unravels the process of dying with sensitivity. It is comforting to read that the crossing from this life to the next is not lonely. Loved ones, guides, even pets who have already passed are often there to greet and guide the new arrival.
Eaton's vision of the afterlife is blissful and peace-filled, particularly in Brian's case as he requires much healing to overcome the trauma of his war death.
There is, however, no getting away from accounting for one's past actions while alive. The surprise here is that small details and passing acts of generosity and kindness are profoundly important because these are often moments of unconditional love: "We come to see that these were the gestures that mattered, because they were loving in nature."
Although I don't agree with everything Eaton says, I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book. Using a range of reports, anecdotes, exploratory research, his work as a medium and past life regression, Eaton weaves together a plausible picture of life beyond the veil. If you ever wanted to know what people do in the afterlife you will be pleasantly surprised. He also expounds on experiences in the tunnel, karma, soul groups, the Akashic Records and the inter-life period.
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of death or afraid of what it potentially represents - the end of all we have known, experienced and loved on earth. Eaton treats death as if it were a new beginning and this is deeply comforting. I don't want to sound morbid but some day we will encounter the great unknown for ourselves. Till then, though, books such as Afterlife add to our collective knowledge of life beyond the grave.
|| The Way of the Natural Therapist
Leisa Millar & James Ketub Golding
REVIEW BY MARGARET EVANS
“What makes a good healer or therapist?” It’s a question most of us have probably pondered at some time. And this inspirational book goes a long way to answering it for us.
For Leisa Millar and James Ketub Golding, their motivation in compiling The Way of the Natural Therapist was both philosophical and practical. They had both just left professional careers and the safety net of financial security for the work that spoke to their hearts. Now it was time to find out what was really involved in becoming a natural therapist - and one who was there for the long haul.
In a stroke of inspiration, they understood from the beginning that personal stories carry most passion and so this small volume contains 22 personal accounts from therapists in all branches of the holistic industry. They follow a structure, from a dawning awareness of working with the power of the universe, through the gradual opening up of a bud until it reaches full flower in Lorna Patten’s final story of dramatic highs and lows, “Opening Up”.
Along the way we meet some familiar names - NOVA’s own Chandrika Gibson, still continuing her journey into wisdom as a holistic naturopath and yoga teacher, and Jost Sauer, another national writer whose energy and drive for authenticity have taken him into many areas but who now finds himself returning to the teachings of Yogananda and the Dalai Lama. He says in a way that paraphrases many of the other contributors, “They are a constant reminder that we are all here on Earth to be of service to others regardless of what profession we are in.”
The best of these therapists, I feel, never lose sight of this awareness. It may wax and wane, generally in direct relationship to their financial situation, but those truly on the path - the Way - convey this sense of service and humility.
One whose modesty and balance speak to me is massage therapist Allan Mourad who describes himself after 26 years of practice as, “still stooped over a massage table, still fascinated and absorbed by the people I meet and treat, and constantly blown away with the body’s enthusiasm to heal itself.” His advice on avoiding burnout, something that’s stood him well, is to establish clear boundaries to keep energy in reserve at the end of each day, and to never lose your sense of humour. As he dryly suggests, “People are not usually seeing you because they feel great and on top of the world.”
A strong sense of self belief emerges as a clear common factor in the success of these practitioners, most of whom have been plying their trade for a decade or more. The antithesis of shallow ego, it is a firmly and deeply held respect for themselves which then flows on to a respect for others. I’m struck, too, by the depth of learning of many of the featured therapists, and in fact this was a factor in their selection to appear in the book. Many have travelled widely, often to the East to seek the most authentic traditions of India, Japan, China and elsewhere, and have completed multiple qualifications that show both the depth of their passion for following the Way and the breadth of knowledge available in today’s holistic industry in Australia.
Multi disciplined Paul Movsessian is a case in point with knowledge encompassing Ayurveda, macrobiotics, shiatsu, Bach flowers, Japanese sotai and other therapies, always seeking “to understand the strengths and weaknesses of any system”. As a holistic magazine editor, I support his determination to encourage his clients to inform themselves rather than accept as gospel the latest media hype, often generated by the biomedical model.
The Way of the Natural Therapist is a quietly empowering book and we should all be thankful for such committed and impressive practitioners working in our midst. Proceeds from sales go to the Gawler Foundation.
|| Soul Angels
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
There is something wonderfully comforting about the concept of soul angels - beings of serene and pure intent - being available to guide us in our daily lives. We live in times of such uncertainty and rapid change that the touch of the divine, no matter how light, feels uplifting. Jenny Smedley's book Soul Angels is both comforting and inspiring.
Jenny Smedley, who lives and works in Somerset, UK, has a rather unusual life story. At a time when Smedley was suffering deep depression and recurrent nightmares, she saw the popular American singer Garth Brooks on TV and immediately felt a mystical connection to him. Amazingly, her depression lifted.
In her search for answers Smedley underwent regression therapy. This led her to a past life where, as a young woman named Madeleine, she had been married to Brooks, only to be cruelly parted by disapproving relatives. The young man was sent to war; Madeleine, heartbroken and distraught later took her own life.
It says something for Smedley's persistence that she overcame numerous obstacles to meet face to face with Brooks. She says that their reunion, after 300 years, brought healing and changes to them both. She went on to be a columnist, radio and TV presenter and author of a number of books. Smedley is now well known for her work in past life therapy.
The belief in reincarnation is quite widespread in the world, particularly in Eastern religious traditions. Even in the West, where reincarnation was once considered rather mysterious, perhaps even self indulgent, the research of Brian L Weiss, MD, and others like him have shown that regression therapy can be beneficial, particularly where symptoms cannot be explained medically.
Soul Angels has a number of fascinating case studies where past life trauma manifests as unusual phobias or chronic, incurable pain. Particularly intriguing is the case of Georgina, a successful corporate executive, who suffered from debilitating migraines all her life. A regression led her to a past life in medieval England where she had been a village medicine woman and midwife. It was a rather primitive and isolated existence, as the villagers feared Georgina's talents and abilities.
When one of the women she was assisting died in childbirth, her angry husband later attacked Georgina, bashing the left side of her skull with a rock. Georgina claims that healing the trauma associated with this brutal death also healed her migraines.
No one could explain Sally's phobia of leaves, which had plagued her since childhood. Under hypnosis she was able to tap into a particularly horrific memory of being on the run from a group of attackers in a forest. She hid in a leaf-filled gully but was unable to escape the inevitable. Accessing this memory brought her freedom from this unusual phobia.
Such stories lead one to wonder what lies unrevealed in our own past. The history of our world contains wars, plagues and numerous personal tragedies. The other side of the coin is the possibility of tapping into the knowledge and expertise gained in happy, successful lives. Smedley argues that past life recall is the key to reuniting body, soul and mind.
Life is a journey is a familiar truism. Smedley's belief is that our origins are angelic and this life journey is a return to divinity. It is not a lonely path. She has coined the term "soul angels" to describe our divine helpers who nudge us along the way so that we keep to the correct path.
"We are masters and makers of our own destiny. We are much more powerful than we ever know," she writes. I find this viewpoint rather appealing.
|| The Power
Simon & Schuster Australia
Review by Rosamund Burton
The Secret was translated into 46 languages and became a global bestseller selling millions of copies worldwide. So I expected Rhonda Byrne's second book to be heralded with a great fanfare. But instead it has arrived very quietly, finding prominence in small new age outlets, rather than blazing its way into bookshops with huge window displays and massive amounts of publicity.
It was word of mouth that made The Secret so phenomenally successful, and it took about six months, so perhaps it is just a question of time before The Power is on everybody's lips.
Rhonda Byrne says in the Foreword: "The Secret reveals the law of attraction - the most powerful law that governs our lives. The Power contains the essence of everything I have learned since The Secret was released in 2006."
One of the comments many people made about The Secret was that it explained the law of attraction, but it contained very little information about how to use it effectively. The Power is certainly not a "how to" book, and is written in the same style of The Secret, but it does give many more practical guidelines for magnetising what you want and living a life of health, wealth and happiness.
Like its predecessor it is a beautiful hardback book. But rather than that old style looking paper and symbols, it is much more colourful, interspersed with full page orange and yellow illustrations, and brightly coloured painted sketches on many of the pages. Similar to The Secret it feels like a precious gift.
The first chapter, 'What is the Power?' explains that love is the force that creates in our lives. The reason many of our lives are not all we would like them to be is because we always have a choice and often we choose to focus on the negative, rather than on love.
The message is not new. At times, it reminds me of some of the writings of Esther and Gerry Hicks, particularly The Law of Attraction, but it is another reminder that each one of us is a co-creator of his or her reality. It made me aware of instances where I often, almost subconsciously, assumed a negative, rather than a positive, outlook. But I also realised how much of this information I have assimilated and am practising every day.
The book is interspersed with insightful quotes from famous figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and the Buddha. The early chapters of the book are general and then followed by more specific information on money, relationships, and also health, and each chapter concludes with Points of Power - a synopsis in point form of the chapter.
The Power also stresses the importance of gratitude and appreciation and explains that the commandment, "Love your neighbour as yourself" is actually the secret to life, because whatever you give to others, whether its encouragement, support, kindness or gratitude, comes back to you.
This is an inspirational little book, and a beautiful reminder of the power and importance of love.
Beyond the Secret DVD
Directed and Produced by Rick Walker
Created by Holli Walker
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
The first job I landed, straight out of school, was as a copywriter for a small advertising agency. Although it didn't pay much, I was thrilled to be earning my own money. One of our clients was a car company. Even as I wrote copy for the various car ads I was poignantly aware that I could not afford even the cheapest model. At the time, the thought of driving my own car seemed an impossibly unreal dream. Yet a few years later, I became the proud co-owner of a pre-loved red hatchback. I can't say that I set out to buy my dream car. I did, however, hope to improve my life and the steps I took along the way delivered a cherished set of wheels.
Beyond The Secret is rather like that. It has a heavy emphasis on taking action steps, even baby steps, to achieve results. While The Secret DVD was phenomenally successful in widely disseminating the teachings of the law of attraction, some have found it too ephemeral. They question whether daily affirmations and creating vision boards could really deliver the dream house or the loving relationship. Isn't it all just wishful thinking? What do you actually do and how do you do it?
After hitting rock bottom in an abusive relationship and having to fight for custody of her three children, Holli Walker, the creator of this DVD, turned her life around. She had the courage to ask tough questions of herself, enlist the support of a life coach and take the requisite steps. She acknowledges that there were bad days; nor did it happen in a month or even a year. She is now herself a life coach, guiding other people towards a better future and co-host of a TV show called 180 Degrees.
In Beyond The Secret Holli Walker interviews a cast of nine motivational speakers and teachers, including Bob Proctor from the original Secret, about, well, the secret to successfully achieving your goals in life.
Proctor says, "It's the little things you do that can make a big difference. What are you attempting to accomplish? What little thing can you do today that will make you more effective?"
Others in this compelling cast are Les Brown, Marcia Weider, Christian Simpson, Paul Martinelli, Mark Moffit, Steve Siebold, Ricki Byers Beckwith and Mary Morrissey. Their advice is rich and thought provoking. I found Les Brown to be humorous and charming; Mary Morrissey, engaging and articulate.
The style of delivery, however, is rather intense. The series of interviews run consecutively rather like an infomercial, interspersed with some true life stories from people who have used the tools to achieve their desires. The producers have given pride of place to the messages, so at times the viewer feels rather bombarded. There is a lot to digest. This makes me think Beyond The Secret will appeal to those who are seriously looking for change and willing to watch this DVD several times, taking notes as they do so.
What do we really want in life? This is the big question that comes out of this DVD. Often we dream our dreams during our youth and forget to revise them in later years once the house with the white picket fence has become a reality.
There is a school of thought that such programs can be rather materialistic as they often portray people pursuing higher-paying jobs or luxury cars. Of course, this isn't necessarily so. A universal principle like the law of attraction must apply equally, whether one is building a thriving local community or a shapely body.
REIKI MEDITATIONS FOR BEGINNEERS
REVIEW BY FOTINI DANGIRIS
During the course of the busy-ness of our lives, it's easy to neglect our spiritual life and remain caught up in daily dramas. In his new release Reiki Meditations For Beginners Byron Bay-based teacher, writer and practitioner Lawrence Ellyard offers beginners knowledge and meditations in the Reiki tradition and highlights the benefits of meditation practice to counter energy imbalance and dis-ease.
Reiki Meditations For Beginners is a comprehensive introduction offered in three parts: all about Reiki; an exploration of meditation; and Reiki meditations and visualisations combining traditional Japanese Reiki and Western meditation practices. Ellyard details the origins of Reiki from its Japanese meaning as the Universal Life Force Energy and its founding as a healing system to describing mudras (hand gestures), energy techniques and philosophical contemplations used during practice.
Ellyard offers a great introduction into the purpose and practice of meditation. He defines it as a way to "subdue disturbing impressions and emotions and bring our minds under control." He proffers reasons why people meditate: wanting peace, to understand their mind, or to seek enlightenment. From these reasons, Ellyard concludes there is a general feeling of dissatisfaction among those who choose to meditate and this is where Reiki as a healing modality comes in. Reiki healing combined with meditation aims to focus on this dissatisfied mindset and to "correct" any energy imbalances.
One way to obtain balance through meditation is to still the mind and to focus on positive thoughts. This helps us to recognise our true nature, and to develop a greater understanding of ourselves and any problems we might face. This promotes an active role in being solution-focused. As Ellyard writes, "Meditation is a pathway to freeing ourselves from our problems." Not as an escape, rather as a way to view our problems from a larger, greater perspective. From there, solutions may be sought. "Meditation also gives us distance," he continues. "Instead of responding too swiftly, we can maintain control and recognise disturbing emotions arising, which we have the choice not to act upon."
Ellyard discusses the importance of focusing on mental obstacles during meditation practice. These include agitation, regret, heaviness, dullness, doubt, wishing harm, attachment and drowsiness. He offers remedies to overcome these blocks in our daily lives, as well as countering them during practice.
Ellyard also discusses disturbing emotions such as anger, jealousy and fear. In explaining the nature of attachment and depression, he offers remedies to overcome these emotions or to "purify" them to bring us to a healthier state of mind. Among the many documented benefits of meditation practice, Ellyard discusses the heightened sensitivity of our senses, emotions, and intuition.
Ellyard is a strong advocate of the advantages of Reiki meditation, and the benefits devoted practice can have on the quality of our overall wellbeing. Focusing our energy towards a greater awareness of life will encourage those of us who are meditation novices towards a richer spiritual life and, with it, a greater sense of wellbeing and fulfilment.
| When All Else Fails
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
Not many people can claim to have visited the borders of death and live to tell the tale in fascinating detail. Carmel Bell has - on three occasions. Of all the stories of healing I've read over the years, hers is one of the most extraordinary.
There is now a large body of evidence into near death experiences, collected and analysed by respected researchers like the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that validate this fascinating phenomenon. Carmel was four years old when she somehow set herself on fire and died, albeit briefly. She travelled down the tunnel, familiar to so many near death experiences and towards a glowing light. At the gates of heaven, Jesus and an archangel named Metatron gave Carmel a healing gift, Metratonic Energy, which she later used to heal her burned body and damaged kidneys.
A rationalist would find it easy to dismiss this incident as a child's imagination. It is harder to account for Carmel 's 25 year career as a medical intuitive, using Metratonic energy on cancer, tumours, depression and other major illnesses with great success.
It's virtually impossible to explain away Carmel's near death experience on the night of 15 February 2009 when she had a cardiac arrest, "died" for 47 minutes and suffered severe brain damage. She was placed in a coma for four days and then spent six weeks in intensive care. The medical prognosis was she would be dependent on care all her life. Of course, the doctors did not take into account Carmel's indefatigable spirit - or her access to Metatronic Energy. Carmel is today a walking, talking medical miracle. Never was there such a case of "physician, heal thyself".
Ultimately, Carmel's story is one of hope because it shows the way to a realm of infinite possibilities for healing and recovery. She became a medical intuitive before it was fashionable; among her clients are medical practitioners who refer their patients to her. Carmel describes herself as a cartographer, reading the map of her client's bodies.
"Your story is written in every cell of your being. Every moment matters because everything you hear, think, feel, eat, read, see and do will be recorded somewhere in your body."
Under a facade of normalcy, many people hide sorrow, anger, disappointment and other corrosive emotions that don't show up on medical tests. So, in one sense, our medical professionals don't have the full story.
Carmel's abilities allow her see into the core of the illness and it's often not what's expected. She says, "Simply put, very few people are true to themselves. Their battle between their heart and what is expected of them, by themselves and by others, becomes overwhelming. They come to see me when all else has failed."
One of the touching case studies in the book involves a desperately ill woman named Carla, a mother and wife who had lived her life for her family. Carmel uncovered Carla's deep-seated feelings of disempowerment and being trapped in a life of service to others. Carla received Metronic Energy and made the necessary changes in her life, (she also continued with radiation therapy). About a year later, Carla was free from cancer and she was living a happier life.
Another medical intuitive Caroline Myss has coined the word "woundology" where people cling to their trauma and wounds; it invariably costs them their health. Metatronic energy can apparently repair and balance the body and remove toxins, including the story of the wounds, but ultimately the individual has to make a different choice. Carmel writes, "Do not cling to your pain. Let it go. Forgive yourself." Wise words.
|| BOOK REVIEW
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?:
Answering your Questions about Life after Death
REVIEW BY FOTINI DANGIRIS
Knowledge about the afterlife can be as vast and varied as that of life on earth.
There are probably more questions than answers, but internationally known psychic medium Jade-Sky delivers answers to a plethora of questions she has been asked about life after death throughout her career.
In What Happens Next?: Answering Your Questions About Life After Death, Jade-Sky covers questions relating to deceased loved ones, the nature and purpose of the spiritual world, what happens to the spirits of our children and pets after they die, the role of spiritual guides, angels, ghosts, and what to look for when interested in seeking out a psychic medium.
Jade-Sky offers her own story of her beginnings into spiritual service. Her discovery of her special gift started as a toddler hearing noisy spirits making their presence known in her family home.
The rest of the family discounted the noise as mice running amok in the walls, but Jade-Sky knew otherwise. "The spirits in our home were very strong," she recalls. "I often had three spirits around, but my favourite spirit was also my best friend, Carly.
She was the same age as me," she adds, "and we did everything together." Her family simply accepted these spirits as imaginary friends and a happy childhood ensued.
By the time she was a teenager, Jade-Sky's connection with the spirit world severed, replaced with a difficult adolescence as she experienced the separation of her family through divorce.
Her spiritual gifts dormant, clearly Fate was biding its time for Jade-Sky to be re-united with her destiny. "It wasn't until I left high school [that] I felt my spirit guides calling to me again," she tells us.
Her open minded answer to this call saw her life change direction, bringing her destiny back on course. "It started out as a feeling that I should or shouldn't do something, then I began to hear a voice in my mind which would tell me things...".
As she learned all about using fortune telling cards and began reading accurately for friends, Jade-Sky's confidence in her abilities grew.
Receiving an accurate reading describing her future husband became the catalyst for Jade-Sky to learn even more. She joined spiritual online community chat rooms, forging strong bonds with mentors in the field, particularly Native American mediums.
Jade-Sky's abilities flourished and the support she received led her to see her professional pursuits as one of great service.
Jade-Sky is passionate about imparting knowledge about the spiritual world as this book clearly shows. What Happens Next? is a delightful reference of the afterlife which will interest both new readers and those more familiar with spiritual literature.
Beautiful coloured photographs accompanying Jade-Sky's answers would make this book a lovely gift for those grieving for loved ones who have passed, or simply as a starting point of reading material about the afterlife.
Jade-Sky's real life stories make for enlightening reading as her passion and devotion to her work shines throughout.
Her offering will surely, then, proffer further questions about our spirit's journey toward its next destination.
| Time to Listen
How it Feels to be
Young and Dying
Review by Fotini Dangiris
It's not easy to read a book about a young person dying. At times, there is a foreboding tone of everything being so finite. There's also the "young person" factor.
There's an assumption and implication of great loss. Yet in Time To Listen by Amber Turk (edited by Margaret Brown), Amber's journal entries during her yearlong battle with a terminal brain tumour, tell us all about gain. What it feels like to be dying and to be grateful.
Like any 27 year old, Amber was full of life and making plans for an overseas trip to London with friends. But, in November 2002, Amber was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told she had months to live. She lost her battle almost one year after her diagnosis. To gain an insight into her emotions during treatment, Amber was asked to write a journal about her experiences. Her writing would provide medical professionals with greater knowledge to improve patient care.
Amber's entries show her emotional rollercoaster ride as she details her treatments, physical pain, and personal thoughts. On good days, her positive attitude made her more appreciative of life. "I have had a fantastic life," she writes, "and have been so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life that I have had the privilege of loving and who have loved me back." On bad days, Amber craved death. "I have asked to die. I do not want to wake up in the mornings anymore."
Amber's emotions range from anger, fear, and frustration to a philosophical outlook of life. "I have so much that I still want to do with my life and that although this is a hurdle in my life's path, I know it is a temporary glitch and I can overcome this. I am angry that this thing can come along and change all my plans. We fear change." Her physical pain leads Amber into an attempt to take her own life. Saved by her mother who found her on the floor following an overdose of sleeping pills, Amber revealed later, "It made me realise, who am I kidding, thinking I have any control over anything?"
Another reason Amber looks forward to dying is her strong belief in the afterlife. Having glimpsed her deceased father, she believes he and her deceased grandmother are waiting for her, and that she'll watch over her family before reincarnating. It's not surprising to read this - Amber wants a positive outcome from her journey.
Editor Margaret Brown delivers this book with great sensitivity, endeavouring to present a complete portrait of Amber as patient, daughter, friend, woman, and human being. We can only applaud and honour her courageous spirit. Mostly, it is Amber's fierce honesty that stays with us. She humbly takes a hard look at herself and life as a general observer of humanity. An invaluable and deep insight into the emotional life of someone living with a terminal illness, Time To Listen gives us the opportunity to understand them better.
The Power of Soul
Dr Zhi Gang Sha
Review by Margaret Evans
My colleagues can vouch for at least one aspect of The Power of Soul. Every morning since I received this quite remarkable book, they have been treated, often at full volume, to a glorious piece of music on the accompanying CD, the Soul Song for Rejuvenation sung by the book's author Dr Zhi Gang Sha. It is quite literally uplifting and rejuvenating, I suspect because Dr Sha sings with such abandon, such simple joy and to such delightful melodies. In this age of contrivance and compromise, it's such a relief to feel a connection that comes straight from the heart. Or is it the Universe?
And I'm not alone - in his Foreword to the book, Dr Norman Shealy, Founder of the American Holistic Medical Association who has practised meditation, OM chanting and many other chanting techniques, calls the Soul Songs "by far the most powerful examples of direct soul connection that I have experienced". He's right - it makes me giggle like a child and for an editor that's quite an achievement.
The truly remarkable Dr Sha is regarded as that very rare individual, a Master Healer, both a trained Western medical doctor and practitioner of ancient Chinese disciplines such as tai chi, qigong, king fu, the I Ching and Feng Shui. His Soul Power series of books are New York Times bestsellers and his message is both deeply compassionate and empowering.
We've all heard so much about the coming Golden Age, the Age of Transformation if only we can get over the hurdle of 2012! But, Dr Sha tells us, we're already in this transitional period heralding a new era for humanity. He calls it the Soul Light Era and he's very specific about when it began - August 8, 2003, just a month or so after he began his own work at the calling of the Divine. He's also very specific about how long it will last - 15,000 years - during which upheavals of the sort we're becoming all too familiar with lately will be part and parcel of the transformative process. While in the past mind ruled over matter, in the Soul Light Era soul will become pre eminent, leading all creatures on our earth towards healing and transformation. Hallelujah to that!
Dr Sha starts where any good teacher should, with the basics. We learn that a soul is a golden light, which can sit in different parts of the body, notably the chakra centres, and even within individual cells. So chanting or singing out loud with the sort of joy Dr Sha brings to his work is Yang healing, while even silent chanting has the capacity to heal each cell on a Yin level.
The Power of Soul is an unusual book. I wouldn't say it's an easy read - there's too much repetition and the reader is conscious of a very successful organisation behind the person that is Dr Sha. But what stands out like a brilliant beacon on a dark night is the generosity of spirit that imbues it. Dr Sha tells us constantly that he has been chosen by the Divine to be his vehicle of healing and transformation and he has committed his life to this purpose. To this end, he has included in the book what he calls Divine Soul Downloads for such qualities as love, forgiveness, peace and harmony, together with his own detailed techniques to ensure you receive this gift from the Universe. And there are songs, mantras, a serious teacher's urging to be true to your purpose. These are remarkable gifts in a book I'll return to for its very specific healings.
Simon & Schuster
Review by Fotini Dangiris
Life beyond the physical world has always had that element of scepticism and fear of the unknown following death. Dubbed Australia's "most trusted psychic", Coombes does his best to dispel any doubts in his new release Sensing Spirit. In this candid, yet informative offering, Coombes imparts his story of being a gifted psychic able to communicate with loved ones who have passed.
Coombes explains various other signs of life from the spirit world in the form of psychic hearing, symbols or certain objects, and feelings. He considers these as important messages deceased ones want to pass on through him to loved ones still living on earth. How can these signs assist loved ones left behind?
Ever the true helper, Coombes advises that consulting symbolism reference material can help with a personal interpretation of a symbol's or object's meaning and its relevance to one's current life situation. What's impressive about Sensing Spirit is that it's a book, which gives more to the reader than just the recounting of a gifted psychic's life and his abilities.
Yes, Coombes tells of his psychic beginnings at aged three, and yes, his open minded mother and psychic grandmother recognised the family psychic trait in their little boy. By the time Coombes was 12, his grandmother was teaching him how to read tarot cards. Fascinated and compelled to learn more, his abilities grew and grew. Coombes' nurturing of his gift led him to a prolific media profile as a psychic consultant to many celebrities.
Coombes expresses a deep gratitude for his gift and throughout Sensing Spirit, stories of his client consultations and his own experiences with the spirit world help him convey the link between the spiritual and physical worlds and how that may affect our life on earth. He finds it personally rewarding to be able to offer those clients grieving for loved ones who have passed the gift of such spiritual connection.
In addition, Coombes discusses different types of spiritual assistance available to us: angels, spirit guides, deceased loved ones, spiritual helpers, and master guides. He encourages us to develop our spiritual senses to complement our physical ones. He suggests spiritual "tools" we can use to cultivate our spiritual senses. He recommends making precious time for meditation, automatic drawing or writing, for example, to open our connection to Spirit.
In other words, our answers are within us if we open up ourselves to Spirit. This also promotes a great spiritual practice of helping ourselves. We attend to the balancing of our lives, taking time out of our daily physical grind and focusing within.
Perhaps this is Coombes' golden message. Open up to Spirit to gain balance within.
Also important is harnessing the power of our minds to turn "negative toxic energy" into positive energy to strengthen our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Doing so will instil an invaluable ability to combat any adversity we may encounter. If we take anything from Sensing Spirit, it's acknowledging that our spiritual senses are significantly connected to our physical life experiences.
Buddha at Bedtime
Simon and Schuster
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
I was born into a big family: three girls and two boys, in family photos we appear gathered like little satellites around our mother who was by then a single parent. It is an understatement to say that my mum was always busy. I don't recall her ever having the luxury of reading me a bedtime story, just the two of us sitting cozily together.
From experience I know that it is heartwarming to cuddle up with your small child and a good book, particularly now as the nights grow cooler. The mellow mood, your child's eager anticipation and the unfolding story create a sweet closeness.
For such times the delightfully engaging Buddha at Bedtime is an ideal choice for children aged six to 10. This is a collection of 20 stories from the Jataka Tales, ancient narratives attributed to the Buddha and retold for a modern audience. The richly illustrated Buddha at Bedtime takes the reader on a journey from the humble farmyard to the depths of the forest, to royal courts and fantastic realms beyond. There, a charming array of characters like the brave little parrot, Delightful, the loyal bull, and gentle hearted Roslina encounter adventures and mishaps, which serve to illustrate universal values such as kindness, generosity and wisdom.
Buddhist teachings emphasise compassion, peace and tolerance while acknowledging that suffering is an inevitable part of life. Distressing as it is, children too experience suffering, perhaps as a chronic illness, bullying or the loss of a beloved pet. The wisdom of the Buddha teaches us how to approach even complex problems with a positive attitude and find inner calm when we most need it. Before beginning each story you can set a relaxed mood with your child using the fun visualisation included in the book. There are also three short meditations at the back of the book, like the rainbow meditation, which introduce young ones to this valuable practice that may well stay with them for life. They will be happier and wiser for it.
Buddha at Bedtime is authored by Dharmachari Nagaraja, a guest presenter of "Pause for Thought" on BBC Radio 2's Terry Wogan Show in the UK . His work in radio broadcasting taught him that nothing captures a person's attention and imagination like a good story. Stories can provide an entrée into talking with children about complex issues like acquisitiveness or forgiveness.
Children feel it keenly when they're wronged or treated unfairly and it is often difficult to broach the subject of forgiveness in a way that they can relate to and understand. Actually, even as adults this is not an easy thing to do - just look at the numerous wars, conflicts and family feuds taking place around the world! One of the tales in Buddha at Bedtime is "The Kind and Wise Stag". Dinos is a magnificent bejewelled stag who saves the life of a drowning man, Arthur.
Many years later, Arthur betrays the stag after learning that the king has offered a reward for Dinos's capture. When the king discovers Arthur's betrayal he wants to punish the man, but Dinos intercedes on his behalf, showing a deep compassion that ultimately benefits all the characters in the story.There was a time when I wouldn't have picked up a book like Buddha at Bedtime thinking it would somehow contravene my Christian faith. This is limited thinking because the values espoused by the Buddha are universal and uplifting. Buddhists and non Buddhists alike can benefit from these tales.
Buddha at Bedtime is likely to become a favourite in any household with young children, and deservedly so.
|Stories from The Animal Whisperer
Published by Allen & Unwin
REVIEW BY NICOLA SILVA
Recently, while visiting a sick child in the children's hospital, I came across a most amazing sight. Also visiting the children that day were two very important canine visitors: an adorable border collie and a button-cute snow white toy poodle. The children's faces came alight as they watched the toy poodle perform a series of tricks, somersaults and backward flips. Meanwhile, the border collie cheerfully hopped onto the sicker children's beds for a cuddle, his wide trusting eyes conveying palpable sympathy. It was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary day for the children as they forgot for awhile much of the pain and suffering in their little bodies.
As any animal lover knows, pets have a unique way of bringing unconditional love, companionship and joy into our lives. At some time or another we have all gazed into the soulful eyes of a puppy or met the inscrutable stare of a cat, and wondered: if only they could speak. Well they do communicate; it's more a case of if only we could hear them. Now, Trisha McCagh opens the door to the world of animals with her book Stories from The Animal Whisperer.
Ever since she was a young girl, Trisha has spoken to the animals in her life but wasn't able to hear their stories until a memorable kitten named Beau came into her life. Beau died young and his parting gift to a grieving Trisha was an unquenchable thirst to develop and refine her communication skills with all creatures great and small, wild and domestic. "Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural. They show us what's missing in our lives and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally," she writes.
Trisha sees her role as helping to reconnect humans with the natural world. Her accuracy and authenticity have brought her international recognition as an animal communicator and she consults the Taronga, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth zoos. Animals, Trisha emphasises, can teach us many things if we only take the time to listen. For instance, dogs are eternal optimists; they teach us how to play and have fun on a daily basis. Cats are naturally meditative creatures, totally present and engrossed in whatever they're doing in that moment. The Animal Whisperer contains many wonderful stories filled with some real characters. There's Gerald, a farm pig who became disgruntled when his owner stopped their nightly ritual of watching the TV news together and munching on doughnuts! Meet Mr Red, a racehorse who felt most jockeys were morons! And my favourite, Bones, an injured lion cub who was raised on a plantation in Zimbabwe, yet felt the irresistible call of the wild.
Trisha is outspoken against any form of cruelty to animals. Her point of view is that wild animals should be allowed space in their natural habitat rather than becoming our exotic pets, confined in small cages. Losing a beloved pet can be a shattering experience. The Animal Whisperer dedicates an entire chapter to this topic that will comfort anyone who has lost their beloved pet. Trisha writes with beautiful clarity on the afterlife of animals and how bonds of love endure beyond the grave. Animals have a different perspective on death; one dog summarised this for Trisha as: Life is merely a transition, ready for the next adventure!
If you wish to explore the hidden lives of animals, pick up The Animal Whisperer. You're sure to be charmed, entertained and even surprised at what animals have to say. I'm off to start a conversation with my rambunctious puppy!
ALLEN AND UNWIN
REVIEW BY ROSAMUND BURTON
In Destination Saigon Walter Mason has combined his sharp eye as a foreigner with the knowledge of a local and the result is exquisite. Having visited the country nine times over the last 16 years and also fluent in the
language, Walter Mason takes the reader on a sensational journey through modern Vietnam.
Each chapter of the book is a vignette of one of his experiences and the anecdotes are very funny. Being a large man he describes how, with Vietnamese frankness, he is often addressed as "Fatty". Also, the agony when with great regularity, flimsy furniture, particularly plastic café stools, collapses under him, and the subsequent embarrassment when all the waiters in a place gather to erect a stack of stools deemed sturdy enough to take his great weight.
But there are advantages in being the "fat foreigner", one of which is that his presence is thought to be very auspicious. Not only he is considered a guest of honour at a wedding he is taken to by a junior policeman who is meant to be escorting him out of the district, but his presence is also seen by the groom as a sign that his bride will bear him many "fine fat sons".
Within the wonderful humour of Destination Saigon the realities hit home hard. Walter Mason describes how incredibly fortunate he is considered to be because of the freedom which the West offers him, not to mention his wealth. In Vietnam, he explains, the richest person always pays, and invariably coming from Australia, he is the richest person. People are working 14 hours a day seven days a week simply to survive. One Vietnamese friend tells Walter that he does not allow himself the luxury of having big dreams because he knows that in reality not much is possible.
Walter Mason describes himself as "a passionate, devotionist, a believer in spiritual potential and a lover of most paths to the transcendent" and running through the book is a delight in the divine. He visits many Buddhist monasteries and regales the reader with many of the less than spiritual aspects of the monks' lives, as well as moments of pure devotion. He climbs up sacred mountains, discovers Vietnam's best known Catholic shrine to Our Lady, honours Kwan Yin, known in Vietnam as Quan Am, and even finds an old derelict Hindu Temple in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, which his friend, Kien, who owns a hairdressing salon, believes is dedicated to a god who is especially benevolent to hairdressers. Whenever he returns from a visit to it, business in the salon always picks up!
Between the soft chanting of ghosts, the mischievousness of fairies and a hysterical account of a night of karaoke with a group of fishermen this book is a gem.
A personal and spiritual guide to whole-earth thinking
REVIEW BY MARGARET EVANS
Perhaps it's a sign of how highly attuned a thinker can be to the energies of the world around them that explains the serendipitous arrival of some books just when you need them. Deepak Chopra is a master, of course, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama seems a dab hand too. Attuned they certainly are and they have some savvy marketing skills at their disposal as well.
Stephanie Kaza is less well known but her simply designed paperback Mindfully Green drew me immediately - and I think the reason is I, like so many of us, have been seeking solace and guidance after our world's so called leaders left us dangling at Copenhagen.
Climate change is here for us all to see - and, more to the point, feel. However we try to tax carbon use or trade it off in some convoluted way, deep down I think we all sense the cyclical weather patterns we have known since childhood are changing in ways we can't predict or understand. Our politicians are just tinkering at the edges and we have no choice but to accommodate the changing world in which we find ourselves. To accommodate it and to work in harmony with it.
Our greatest hope, suggests Kaza, is in forging a stronger connection with the Earth and in becoming more mindful of the impact on the natural world of how we choose to live our lives. She calls it the "green practice path" and outlines the challenges we face with such clarity and compassion for our human condition it seems the only path we could possibly choose. It is very comforting to "meet" a wise and serious teacher so aware of one's own misgivings. Her advice to us is both heartfelt and eminently practical.
As a Buddhist and a Zen Buddhist at that, Stephanie Kaza has an innate grasp of the interconnectedness of the natural world and all the creatures within it, from us mighty humans down to the humblest amoeba. She gives a vivid description of Indra's Net, the classic metaphor of the interconnected universe where an endless number of fishnets crisscross every plane of space and, at every junction, a multifaceted jewel reflects every other jewel in the infinite net. What a razzledazzle of light and energy where the slightest tremor in the finest filament is flashed from jewel to jewel! The more one dimensional "butterfly effect" is much the same idea.
Kaza, who is a professor of environmental studies in Vermont, subscribes to the "deep time" view of ecology which urges us to sense the systems behind the superficial changes we see about us. It's when we begin to understand those all-embracing systems that we can make more conscious choices and become, as Kaza suggests, "active agents in Indra's Net". Simply by suggesting that we each can make a difference both in the actions we take in our transport, food choices and energy usage and, equally, in practising an ethic of restraint - how many consumables do we actually need in our daily lives? - she restores that sense of empowerment that has taken a beating of late. At least, I found it so.
Kaza is a woman who herself finds solace in nature and shares with us her long walks among the redwood and oak forests of California and Vermont. It makes for some beautiful passages: "Sometimes I would find myself climbing an oak on the mesa for the big view of ocean and sky. Sometimes I would crawl close to a small spring nestled in moss, feeding the creek drop by drop."
Throughout, she shares with us her sincere admiration for the "deep view" so ingrained in Eastern philosophies and Zen Buddhism itself. I was delighted to find her own home is dotted with statues of Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, a quality so necessary for those who find the green path an obstacle course at times. I share with her a love of this great, serenely peaceful, goddess.
While Mindfully Green contains much that is thought provoking with many references to the author's Buddhist teachers and their works, I think it is Kaza's empathy with the consternation so many of us are feeling at this time that makes this book a little special.
I notice on the end pages reference to another Finch title, Spiritual Compass by Satish Kumar. If you are looking for a way forward that resonates with your deepest being, "a green practice path", I'd recommend both of these books.