Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chakra Resources--Five Reviews in One Post

Chakra Meditation: Discover Energy, Creativity, Focus, Love, Communication, Wisdom, and Spirit by Swami Saradananda proved to be the most valuable resource, full of information. After introducing the theory behind chakras, each chapter is devoted to a single chakra. Swami Sradananda includes yoga practices, meditation, and more. The meditations are not so long that after reading them they cannot be practiced. A variety of modalities are included—flower essences, essential oils, affirmations, mudras, and even incense. Each chapter includes a yantra meditation, a meditation focusing on an image that is symbolic of the chakra. While not strictly traditional, they are not so removed that the symbolism is completely lost. There are other meditations throughout the book, breathing practices and mudras are used to complement the experience. There is truly nothing missing from this wonderful book and if I had to give away all but one resource, this is the one I would keep. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in working through the seven chakras. The Chakra Energy Plan: The Practical 7-Step Program to Balance and Revitalize by Anna Selby is the book I thought I would use most closely while doing the chakra work because it includes yoga and qi gong practices along with meditation and pranayama (breathing). However, it proved not to be as exciting to me as the previous book. There are some lovely meditations included but many of them are long, too long to be used without recording them yourself. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cd available to complement the book and if you don’t have access to a means of recording then you won’t be able to use some of the meditation practices. The qi gong recommendations are an added layer that none of the other resources I used offered. There are also some crystal and aromatherapy recommendations. If Chakra Meditation seems too overwhelming with content, you might prefer this book to the other. I would recommend going to the bookstore, finding copies of both books, and reading about one of the chakras in both resources to see which one feels more like the one you will find most useful. The Chakra Deck by Olivia H. Miller is more thorough than one would expect. If you are looking for a resource that puts more emphasis on yoga then this is the resource you will probably find most useful. There are also meditations included which, because each meditation can only fill a single card, can easily be used without recording the practice. Miller also includes suggestions for crystals, flower essences, essential oils, and more. If the two books above offer too much information then I would recommend giving this deck a try. It is just enough without being too much. Awakening Through the Chakras is a compilation cd that includes music by various New Age artists. Normally I hate New Age music but every now and again I some that doesn’t distract and/or annoy me. This cd is one of those exceptions. I didn’t use this cd often during my chakra work. I occasionally would repeat the one piece associated with the chakra on which I was working. However, I found it most useful when I was ready to conclude the weeks of chakra cleansing, playing the cd from beginning to end and allowing the music’s energy to help me focus during meditation. I have no doubt that in the future I will use this resource many times, especially when I feel a need to rededicate myself to chakra clearing. I was incredibly disappointed with the Chakra Meditation Kit by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber. It comes with a booklet, some lovely cards which can be used for meditation, unscented tea lights in different colors, and a cd. Unfortunately, I did not like the cards. Lovely though they may be, the images are not traditional enough for my taste. The cd is simply annoying with its cloying affirmations and distracting music. I found it impossible to sink into a meditative state with this cd in the background. My favorite element are the candles, one for each of the seven chakras. I am sure there are those who would prefer this kit to Swami Saradananda’s book and that is why there is a place for this kit in this review. I am clearly not that audience.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Everlasting by Iris Johansen

Everlasting by Iris Johansen is an adequate romance novel, rife with the usual clichés and easily anticipated outcomes. Given that the genre forces the writer to work within certain expected guidelines, Johansen does give the readers some depth to her cookie cutter characters in that the romantic leads do experience some personal growth along the way. Not too surprising, the book is very poorly edited with rather glaring omissions and parts of speech errors that a freshman in high school would easily recognize. The plot is ridiculously unbelievable and the sex scenes replete with muscles tensing and bosoms heaving. As with all genre fiction, most readers who appreciate the genre enjoy the books regardless of grammar errors or glaring clichés. I can see why Johansen is a best selling author. She doesn’t ask her readers to think. In fact, there are times I honestly believe she would prefer for them not to think. It took me longer to read than it should have mostly because I kept getting bored and putting the book down to try to take a nap. If I had not been reading to a deadline, I’d not have finished it as quickly as I did. I think I’ll stick with Jane Austen. At least her romance novels make me smile, chuckle, and even sigh once in a while instead of just making me roll my eyes in annoyance, exasperation, and frustration. With all the eye rolling I did, it's remarkable I was able to finish reading the book at all.

The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden

The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles and Beliefs by Gregg Braden is a book I should not have bothered to finish. I kept hoping that some miracle would occur, that the text would offer some wisdom or insight that was not predictable and unfounded. Unfortunately, neither occurred and, by the time I had reached the end of the book, my patience was beyond its limit.

For those who love The Secret or are Abraham-Hicks aficionados, this book is probably a marvel, fully of scientific evidence to prove beliefs. Unfortunately, many of the citations Braden offers are off internet websites, not the most reliable resource, to say the least. Furthermore, he references experiments as proof which he does not support with citations and for which I could find no support. Yes, not even on the highly unreliable internet. What frustrates me the most about reading a book like this is that I do not know enough about DNA or quantum physics to argue his presumed facts. I do, however, know enough about logic and arguments to recognize a poorly documented text that takes liberties with proofs and with an author who makes sweeping applications with insufficient evidence.

I found myself constantly thinking of this wonderful cartoon I read ages ago which amuses me to this day. I kept waiting for Braden to say, “And then a miracle occurs.”

A perfect example of his making unsupported statements is found on page 164: Scientific research has shown that as we change the way we feel about what’s happened to us in our past, we change the chemistry of our bodies in the present. Ironically, I have read books by researchers that support this statement. Unfortunately, Braden couldn’t be bothered to find a proper citation for these words. Instead, he cites Akashic records and Coptic and Gnostic texts as if they are empirical evidence of the theories he presents as hard truths.

I have no doubt that a scientist would rip gaping holes through each and every page of this book. I am confident a skeptic would not have the patience to suffer through the silliness of it all. I am neither a scientist nor a skeptic. I am just surprised that books like this are not only published but successful. But for those people who adore New Thought ideas, this is the sort of published nonsense that will reinforce their beliefs beyond any reason.

Unfortunately. I also have a cd, The Gift of the Blessing, that complements the book in which Braden leads the listener through the reason for blessing others and how blessings work in our own lives. I tried to listen to it with an open mind, allowing myself not to superimpose my disgust with his book over the content of his cd. So when he alludes to the scientific evidence that supports his claims, I didn’t need him to reference each one as if he were footnoting himself. If he had done so, the cd would quickly become a tedious lecture to which nobody would want to listen. When he finally leads the listener through a guided prayer of blessing I found myself thinking that what he was saying was not unlike the Metta meditation that is practiced by Buddhists. This is not a judgment on Braden. After all, he repeatedly reminds the listener that what he is describing is not something new but very ancient, a mystery lost along the way. Oddly, at the beginning of the meditation he asks the listener to repeat the prayer/blessing phrase by phrase but before he is finished he is stringing phrases together and not allowing time for the listener to repeat. That's not crucial either and I continued to listen and follow along. However, when he talked in vague allusions to what his book calls “the divine matrix” and then said, “This is what Western science calls ‘the mind of God’” I’d had enough. More than enough.

While there are certainly scientists both in the West and East who believe in God or some form of higher intelligence, for Braden to suggest that any of these scientists believe that there is proof of God is insulting to anyone’s intelligence. At least it is an insult to mine and I had to stop listening. Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to listen to the cd before I wasted time reading the book. Thankfully I had the intelligence to stop listening when Braden’s words became intolerable. I'm almost positive, had I listened to the cd before opening the book, I'd have saved myself a lot of frustration and time by not reading his book at all.

Apparently, I am not alone in finding Braden's pseudo-science insulting:
I don't think that Braden is a fraud, frankly. I think he honestly believes all of what he says, is self-deluded, and is deluding others as well. He comes with seemingly relevant and adequate credentials. It's unfortunate that he does not or cannot live up to them. Or maybe I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. After all, perhaps he sees through this nonsense but is willing to live a lie and promote himself through it all. Who knows?

(A side note. Normally when I read something like this that is purported to be "nonfiction" I label it as such. I cannot, in good conscience, label this book as nonfiction. I think that says more than even my review.)

EDIT:  I found this infographic and immediately thought of this book review.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seeking the Spirit of the Book of Change by Master Zhongxian Wu

Seeking the Spirit of the Book of Change: 8 Days to Mastering a Shamanic Yijing (I Ching) Prediction System by Master Zhongxian Wu is a wonderful book with an overly ambitious title. I don’t believe for a moment that Master Wu believes anyone can master the Yijing in merely eight days nor does the book say anything of the sort. Instead, Wu writes about the Yijing, devoting each chapter to a different hexagram, detailing the many nuances of interpretation, drawing in history, personal experience, and offering examples.
Wu also manages to elevate this book into something much more than a simple treatise full of information. Each chapter begins with a sort of meditative introduction, describing a tea house, the view from the different sides of the eight sided structure, the tea that Master Wu is brewing to be sipped while discussing the deeper relevance behind each hexagram. Overflowing with illustrations, the images perfectly compliment the text. Calligraphic representations on one page and a photograph on the next draw the reader further into the informal tone the author is trying to create. Each chapter is dense with information but never overwhelming. This book is clearly designed to be a resource to which the Yijing student would turn again and again, drawing increasingly on new levels of interpretation. As I read, I found myself looking forward to each chapter, even trying to abide by the affectation of the author’s suggestion about what time of day the meeting for the next lesson should occur. There is something ultimately charming about the book and I greatly enjoyed the allusions to history and legend, the stories of emperors and monks that are used to illustrate the meaning much as the actual illustrations do. Where it misses somewhat for me is in the qigong practice which would work much better as a dvd than it does as a text. I tried to follow along with the practice and gave up after a few days, spending more time reading the text rather than getting into the sort of meditative experience that qigong is supposed to stir within. Like everything else in the book, eight days is simply not enough to master the movements and flow from one day’s teachings to the next. This is not enough, however, to dampen my appreciation to the point of disappointment. Rather, I hope that Master Wu and the publisher will consider creating a dvd resource to be used with the text for those readers who are so inclined.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Funeral

Rob's grandmother died on Saturday. Although it did not come as a complete surprise, these things never come expectedly and the weekend was a sad one. Today he is in KY, surrounded by family and friends, saying goodbye to someone he loved dearly.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Less by Marc Lesser

Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less by Marc Lesser is a slender volume about how busyness can be an addiction and how to recognize the differences between productive and destructive activity. Drawing on his own experience with Buddhism, Lesser, former CEO of Brush Dance publishers, shares tools he has used himself and recommended to clients. Coping in a world that virtually assumes workaholism is a desirable trait can be a challenge and Lesser’s argument that doing less is the solution is compelling. His suggestions are, for the most part, unsurprising. Meditation? Check. Journaling? Check. But he takes the obvious a bit above and beyond. Don’t like to write? He has ideas that will afford you the same benefit that journaling might. Don’t know how to begin a meditation practice? He has simple guidelines to help. More comfortable with making lists? It’s here. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine someone who wouldn’t find something beneficial, some activity or idea to incorporate into their own lives, somewhere within this very short book. In spite of his corporate background, Lesser writes with a tone of familiarity and manages to balance his content for both the man on the street and the man in the corporate office. The woman too, for that matter. This is the type of book that invites the reader to return to again, to see what ideas may have been overlooked or what new habit might be adopted. Not necessarily brilliant, the book is a pleasant read with useful suggestions on how to make small changes to be more content.