Saturday, June 20, 2009

Read Along With Satia (RAWS)

I haven't done one of these in a while but since I am concluding my exploration of A Course in Miracles, it is time for me to redirect my focus. I would love to have someone with whom to discuss what I'm reading. The first choice is a very thick book by Osho called The Book of Secrets: Keys to Love and Meditation. Obviously, there are meditation exercises. To quote Osho's words, "These techniques will not mention any religious ritual. No temple is needed, you are quite enough of a temple yourself. You are the lab; the whole experiment is to go on within you. This is not religion, this is science. No belief is needed. Only a daringness to experiment is enough; courage to experiment is enough." There are a lot chapters and although it can appear to be a daunting text, when I started reading it once before I found the reading of the text easy and very interesting. Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope has been on my bookshelf for entirely too long. I'm eager to read it but then I'm eager to read all of the books in this RAWS. Cope has a background in psychotherapy and brings this knowledge to his experience with yoga. On another level, this book is also a memoir about Cope's personal relationship with himself and yoga, merging western and eastern beliefs into something different, if not unique. I am intrigued by the idea of how yoga can help with working on and healing the self and this book is pretty high on my priority list at this point in time. I have a cd on which the author leads a very gentle and easy yoga practice which, if indicative of this book's content, promises that this book will be a pleasure to read. Mysticism: The Preeminent Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness by Evelyn Underhill is a classic in literature on mystics and mysticism, although it focuses predominantly on Christian mystics. This book will likely be the most scholarly and, perhaps, a more challenging choice but one that promises to be provocative and inspiring. The first half of the book explores the history of mysticism while the second half invites the reader to apply the experiential ideals behind mysticism. I've always been attracted to the mystics because my own spirituality tends to be more intellectually based.

Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh will be the most gentle of the books, the easiest to read. I love Thay's teachings and do not doubt that I will adore this book, whether I read it with another person or I read it on my own. He has written so many wonderful books and I've never been disappointed by a one. Although after a while his lessons become redundant there are some truths that need to be repeated. I have no doubt that the teachings contained within this book will be so full of compassion and the deepest, most pure kind of love, that it would be a shame for me to have this book and not read it before I die.

The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen is one of the few books available about pranayama yoga, a part of the yoga practice that focuses on breath. This a beginner's guide to pranayama so even for those who are completely unfamiliar with how to incorporate breathing into your yoga practice, this book is an excellent starting place. I've been wanting to spend time with breath work and am curious to read this book to see what insight it will offer. To appreciate the benefit of breathing, stop now and breathe deeply three times and then see how you feel. It is amazing the power we have in our own breath and a shame how often we forget this power in our own lives.

So these are the choices for this round and since I want to start one of these by 1 July I guess there is a time limit on voicing an interesting in reading along with me. I hope someone will join me. I love reading these deeply spiritual books but I love discussing them as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray is another of those memoirs that works on more than one level. Ray describes her childhood growing up in rural Georgia, in the kind of poverty that leaves little doubt that the family struggled but cloaked in a deep familial love where you never once feel sorry for the author no matter how devastating the details may threaten to become. Ray’s story telling abilities sparkle in these chapters as she shares herself with the sort of intimacy one would expect curled at the feet of a family elder sharing her memories. Alternating with the chapters of her life, Ray describes the changing environment of her home, the species of plants and animals that are struggling to survive in a world that has been ravaged by development. Weaving history and imagination throughout these chapters, she gives the reader a taste of her own loss as she seeks to rediscover the extinct or threatened species of her childhood. Given that she writes this memoir with an agenda, to draw attention to the changing ecology of southern Georgia, Ray never stumbles into being preachy or pedantic. Instead, she shares first herself and then her world, giving the reader a reason to care. A brilliant move on the author’s part because once the reader cares about Ray there really is no choice but to care about what she cares about. This is a gentle memoir, honest without being emotionally messy, that also serves as a call to action, complete with lists of extinct and endangered species as well as some resources for the reader who has enough compassion to care about the pines and lands of Georgia. Only the hardest hearted reader could close this book and not have some concern and I commend Ray for having the passion and talent to write a wonderful memoir.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Decent People, Decent Company by Robert L Turknett and Carolyn N Turknett

Decent People, Decent Company: How to Lead with Character at Work and in Life by Robert L Turknett and Carolyn N Turknett is one of those rare business books that works on more than one level, as the title implies. Although most of the examples offered by the authors are drawn from the business world, it doesn’t take much of a stretch for the reader to think of ways to draw these lessons into life beyond the office. Using Integrity as the foundation, the Turknetts suggest that there are certain qualities that all great leaders must exhibit: respect (which includes empathy, emotional mastery, lack of blame, and humility) and responsibility (accountability, courage, self-confidence, and focus on the whole). While there are a few direct suggestions on how to apply the lessons the authors are trying to convey, for the most part the book focuses more on what a good leader should do and be and not so much on these qualities are achieved. Careful to not espouse a particular value system, the authors leave the reader a lot of space to figure it out for him or her self. Unfortunately, most of the people the Turknetts use as examples have taken an evaluation which is presumably available through the Turknett Leadership Group. This leaves most readers at a distinct disadvantage. Without the objective assessment that this evaluation tool supplies, the reader is left to determine whether or not he is empathetic or she is courageous. Given that most of the examples given show how rarely people are capable of objectively evaluating themselves, it would have been wonderful if the authors had found a way for the reader to at least take a self-survey of sorts to help fill in this obvious gap. Since the authors do not give clear “this is how you can develop humility” or offer a checklist of ways to ensure accountability (which I realize is likely an impossible suggestion), it might make some readers wonder how to get there from here and also wonder where they are even beginning. A self-aware reader will likely find it easy to determine where there is room for improvement. The obvious way to go might be to simply focus on all of the areas over a period of time. For those most deeply committed to leadership growth there is the obvious decision to hire the Turknett Leadership Group for help. Happily, the book does not read like one long advertisement for their group. Over all, a well written and interesting book.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You Are How You Move by Ged Sumner

You Are How You Move: Experiential Chi Gung by Ged Sumner is a practical guide that serves well as a basic introduction to qigong. It does not go deeply into the history of the practice, nor does it delve too far into the philosophy of qigong overall. What the book lacks in depth, it makes up for in practicality. Full of photographs and suggested exercises, the beginner can easily try qigong without feeling overwhelmed with too much information. For the most part, I found the descriptions of the exercises easy to follow, well complimented for the most part by the photographs. For one practice I found confusing I was able to find a video on youtube that explained the exercise visually. The Sea Form exercise was a bit confusing because the description and photograph did not agree but I think the photograph is more accurate because, based on the image one would get of a wave being made with the hands, the photo simply makes more sense. All in all, there was only one form/exercise I could not find on youtube and/or figure out using the description and photographs. In other words, for once I am not whining about how nice it would be if the author and/or publisher would provide a dvd to help the reader to do the exercises. Even the meditation practices are short enough to be read, the book set aside, and then the meditation done without referring again to the text. I’m going to hold onto this book for a little while. I want to play with the exercises a bit, see how the practices can complement what I am already doing with my qigong and Reiki. Who knows? Maybe I’ll decide to keep it permanently.