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A Course In Miracles

Reviews by Michou Landon

Review Policy

Mt. Shasta Magazine does not do reviews in-house. If you have a book, CD, DVD or product you would like us to review, you should send two copies. The first is to our editor, who has final approval on all reviews, at Mt Shasta Magazine, POB 1289, Mt. Shasta, CA 96067. The second goes to our reviewer, Michou Landon, 3080 Walnut Grove #506, Memphis, TN 38111. With reviews only, preference is given to advertisers.

Those wanting to reprint a review in another publication should contact our editor for approval. There is a small fee involved.

 

Books | Audio | Video

 

Books

Title: Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy
Author:
Eric G. Wilson
Sarah Crichton Books, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-24066-0

Common wisdom recognizes that depression is at some level suppressed or inverted anger. Eric Wilson does little to disguise his. To a degree not sanctioned by conventional society, this is probably healthy. That is his point. However, Against Happiness's praise of the melancholy leans immoderately into the indulgent at times.

In that way, it is good therapy, for author and reader alike. Breathing through the bumps as Wilson's analyses turn to tirade is good exercise in meeting any of life's gales of insult with courage and compassion.

Moreover, it's hardly news that when we suppress natural emotion — even for minutes, hours or years, not to mention generations — the intensity when it is, at last, met and expressed, does tend to the dramatic. Afterward though, life and vision are cleansed and revitalized. And we move on, feeling more restful and whole.

Melancholia is in us all personally and instinctively. Whether conscious or unconscious, it's a prime motivator. Wilson's poetically athletic swim into the depths dolor and despond is an enjoinder for us to wake up, own up, and get honest. Again and again, he returns to the conclusion facing and embracing fear of death and anger at life's uncertainty is what yields the most pure and genuine courage, life, love and ease. It's simple but it ain't easy. It's painful and beautiful — kinda like life.

The book takes rather derisive aim at the dominant proponents of false contentment and complacent narcotizing of natural, vital undulations in mood. He considers this living death. And it seems to mortify him more than the ache and lashes of a life authentically experienced.

In many people it is this very indignance, about the original fall from innocence and then the desperate denial of it, that engenders the rampant and underground rage-induced moribundity quietly suffered by so many people.

That his accusing tone toward those he calls "happy types," can be so off-putting actually illuminates how entrenched we all are in the conditioning to censor or sublimate our true feelings. When someone else does, less than politely, we cringe, as if we fear being too close to one about to be struck by the lightning of God's wrath!

Strong ferment though Wilson's little book can be, it is a valuable read, offering a balancing catharsis to all of us. (It's an especially rude jolt to the new age trance!)

Whether we are guiltily or unabashedly melancholics (part time, full time, conscious or closeted) or whether we are more happy types (of the conventional or new age variety), it's important to remember how to wallow, which is the only way to genuinely experience the grounded, genuine elevation that is its complement. The key is, then, to move on. Wilson simply admonishes us not to do so prematurely.

Wilson's philosophy seems anchored in an inevitably human, body-identified perspective. This is not a problem; it's where most human's live.

In his examination of many important visionaries in our history propelled by melancholia, he observes their uneasy reconciliation with death as part of life and as fuel for creation.

He doesn't however attempt to proffer equal attention to the immortal nothingness in the everything-and-nothingness of it all. Many others have done that magnificently before and since. What Wilson offers here is an invitation on a wordy walk through the valley of the shadow of death... to catharsis and deeper integrity.



Title: Alchemy of the Heart: Transforming Turmoil into Peace through Emotional Integration
Author:
Michael Brown
ISBN: 978 1 897238 37 0
Namaste Publishing

Since publication of The Presence Process, Michael Brown has inevitable continued to refine and deepen his understanding and presentation, as evinced in his subsequent CD program A Walk Through the Presence Process and the periodic essays posted to his email subscribers and on his website, thepresenceportal.com.

Alchemy of the Heart consolidates these refinements and embellishments in book form, reorganizing the arc and emphasis of his insights somewhat, and presenting it in an incrementally digestible format. It sounds neither complimentary nor accurate enough to say it is "Michael Brown in sound-bites." However, something of its structure definitely harkens to the daily meditation books that have proliferated in recent years, and perhaps more favorably, to the ACIM (A Course in Miracles) Workbook. Each essay picks up and advances the trail of the last. This encourages readers to pause and digest. It also cultivates a tendency for repetition, for better or worse.

Even while his argument asserts the necessity for experiential exploration and application to finding one's way out of the dead-end of cogitative paths to "enlightenment," Alchemy of the Heart emphasizes Being over Doing. (It actually prescribes "Non-doing," which is, admittedly, a paradoxical concept to serve to a mind, which is by nature oriented to doing!) Thus it de-emphasizes the centerpiece 10-week "process" and practices for which his first book was named.

That said, The Presence Process itself, is likely a very valuable step for many. Without it, the evolutionary support offered in both books can risk becoming just another mental exercise.

I believe that Brown himself has said that folks will find this work when they are ready to undertake it. Hopefully, the capacity of awareness and will required to adequately appreciate and apply Brown's insights and devices would be accompanied in the reader by the inclination and integrity to do so — responsibly, honestly and compassionately. Certainly, as one advances, processes and practices can swiftly become crutches, distractions and hindrances.

Moreover, be assured that the key principles have not been abandoned. We are concisely reacquainted with the Seven Year Cycle, the Pathway to Awareness so eloquently introduced in The Presence Process, as well as with Consciously Connected Breathing. In addition, the author increases his use of his device for unlocking hidden meanings by dissecting key familiar phrases and words phonetically. This will appeal to some more than others, but it is a helpful, sometimes uncanny, tool for alchemizing the patina on our "trance-fixed" perceptions.

Having read and valued both books, The Presence Process impressed me as a more graceful read. However, there is plenty to be appreciated in Alchemy of the Heart, both in its differences and its reprises from its antecedent. We have all evolved since the first book. Reading the second provides worthy testament to that, as well as to an elasticity it shares with the first; that is, the promise that the insights it reveals will deepen as we do, with each read. In this respect, its incremental format of shorter, distinct chapters may make Alchemy of the Heart a more accessible candidate for re-visitation.



Title: The Alchemical Woman: A Handbook for Everyday Soul Work
Authors:
Catherine W. Davidson and Ramona P. Rubio
ISBN: 978 0 9802128-0-8
Publisher: Cultural Tapestries

The Alchemical Woman: A Handbook for Everyday Soul Work is just that, a handbook almost a work book, for harvesting the gifts of the perpetual process underway, that, when we tune into it, reveals every day to be hardly "every-day." It isn't meant to be a comprehensive exposition on the tools and topics of Alchemy or Jungian Therapy. It's more of a lab manual for self-directed students! That said, it's effective and informative and manages much richness in its brevity.

The slim paperback serves as an impressionistic slideshow of each of six stages of Alchemy (Nigredo, Lapiz, Albedo, Citrinitas, Rubedo, Cuniuncto), which invite each reader to bring her personal chemistry into relationship with the images, in order to draw out the truth and story essential to her. Key impressions and archetypes are invoked through a rhythmic combination of poetry, anecdotal sketches and dream-like visions, and a little background on Alchemy and Jung's application of it to the human psyche; and they evoke and support a process unique to each reader.

Alchemical Woman... carries the raw power of the mystical and subconscious realms not ordered by, or accessible to, the intellect. It takes strands from that mysterious thicket and weaves them into a conceptual and thematic flow, and from these fashions tools for translating wild and murky intelligence into human illumination, self-awareness and evolution.

Especially at first read, some of the ideas expressed do not always feel fully clear or complete. In a way, that is a suitable reflection of the life and processes it purports to facilitate. This lures the reader into a deeper participation and intuition.

Anyone (male or female) identified with the path of evolution or professions related to healing or psyche will likely value this little book, revisit it, and share it with others.



Title: A New Earth: Awakening to your Life's Purpose
Author:
Eckhardt Tolle
ISBN: 0-525-94802-3
Publishers: Namaste and Dutton, 2005

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
Revelation

A New Earth is Eckhardt Tolle's first full-length book since 1999's landmark, The Power of Now. That isn‚t surprising since The Power of Now pretty much said it all; and it has continued to reach and sustain people through repeated readings and through follow-up releases that refine and embellish its themes (e.g. Even the Sun Must Die, Practicing the Power of Now, and Stillness Speaks).

In truth, the same themes are again examined in A New Earth, the first two thirds of which serve as a cumulative compendium of the wisdom Tolle has so eloquently offered to date. These lay the foundation for the final third of the book, which deepens the discussion into practical and cosmological relevance for these quickening times and the evolutionary shifts he affirms are inevitably underway.

"You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are," states Tolle in The Power of Now. The focus of A New Earth is to clarify that purpose and how it plays out in the universal as well as individual realms — all inextricably intertwined.

"Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary," Tolle states in one of the final chapters. "Your inner purpose is to awaken. You share that with every other person on the planet. Your outer purpose can change over time [and] varies greatly from person to person. Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose."

The purpose of A New Earth is to support the universal purpose by supporting each individual in realizing his purpose (which thus supports every other individual in his own realization). It is about aligning consciously with the common interest of all. There are numerous beautiful, eloquent passages and metaphors in the unfolding of A New Earth. The expanded discussion of the gifts, traps and manifestations of the Pain Body is particularly astute. Along the way, Tolle reminds us how just recognizing who we are not is key to realizing who we are.

He illustrates how even tangible, solid things are perceived through thought filters, so that everything is actually thought and how thought itself is of world of form. He explains how who we are arises from, and is, the "nothingness" around this and including it.

He infuses familiar contemplative tools with grounding insight for instance, "This too shall pass" must be applied not only to negative experience but equally to all that can be perceived.

Although much may be a review for some readers, and even though the mind may throw up "I know's" and push to skip ahead. Drink deep. The sections within the chapters are relatively brief, deliberately designed for digestive pauses in between. This itself demonstrates keen understanding of the human mind and how to compassionately employ it to best advantage in the game of Awakening in which it plays double agent.

Every paragraph holds great gifts and prepares us for the final chapters in which this readers found the greatest rewards.

The familiarity (for some readers) of the book's themes and assertions makes it no less valuable. The clarity, assurance, precision and sagacity with which Tolle communicates awakens the same spacious lucidity and knowing within the reader. Listening to this illumined voice, we recognize the flame of this Truth dancing in every cell and space of our being. As we read, these flames merge and feed each other. It's rather like the inspiring and replenishing effect of passing an evening by the fire in the quiet, safe company of a wise friend. Such is the steady companionship of the true Self.



Title: Being In Balance
Author:
Wayne W. Dyer
ISBN: 1-4019-1038-6
Publisher: Hay House

While the author doesn't appear to say anything in this release that hasn't been said elsewhere, New York Times best-selling author Wayne Dyer has the potential to reach a lot of people with this little book of priceless wisdom. His established reputation is just one selling point among many; these include the book's light, non-denominational presentation, its portable size, feel, appearance and readability.

This exposition of "Nine Principles for Creating Habits to Match your Desires" is basically variations on a theme: The Law of Attraction, which is also spotlighted in the splashy DVD The Secret currently making the rounds of self-help and new age circles. Dyer's presentation differs enough that the two offerings complement one another. Morever, human beings struggling to transcend and transmute the pervasive and ubiquitous conditioning to the contrary can benefit from as much reinforcement as possible here.

The Law of Attraction states that energy follows attention; you get what you think about, positive or negative, like it or not. That puts the responsibility for manifesting what aligns with our truest aspirations and nature squarely in our individual laps. Once understood and employed consciously, the law of attraction offers new choices and liberation from the bondage of habitual patterns of self-sabotage, thus empowering us to be what we wish to see in the world.

Dyer reaches out to the average American (and most Westerners), using familiar examples to illuminate the key obstacles or choice points where our challenges, wounds and cultural conditioning most often lead us out of balance, out of alignment with our dream.

While offering much valuable insight here, this book bogs down in the paradox to which most oracles of this wisdom are susceptible. If the assertion is that we attract what we think about, whether in positive or negative terms, then resisting or focusing on what we don't want (in order to avoid it) strengthens or proliferates it in our lives. Therefore, any thought or declaration referring to what we don't want would seem counter productive. Yet a number of his suggested affirmations still include terms of negation or aversion. The energy of opposition is there.

The paradox is that the purity of the message feels somehow sullied to the degree it has to describe negative example in contrast to positive. Still, don't kill the messenger. Recognition of elements incongruent with Love, Peace, Truth, Abundance, etc., is an important step. As soon as possible, however, we must drop from mental into energetic; we must move beyond "just say No" to living in Yes.



Title: Buddhism Day by Day: Wisdom for Modern Life
Author:
Daisaku Ikeda
2007, Middleway Press, www.middlewaypress.com
ISBN: 978-0-9723267-5-9

There seems a fashion resurging in spiritual publishing right now: the daily contemplation book. Many appeared in time for the holiday season. Although it is set up to start on (any) January 1, Buddhism Day by Day is due out in February 2007. As with most of offerings of this genre, however, the wisdom and value offered are hardly touched by time.

This collection is compiled by Daisaku Ikeda, the president of Soka Gakkai Int'l, which "promotes world peace and individual happiness based on the teachings of the Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism" (according to its website, www.sgi.org). Nichiren is probably best known for its central mantra "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," which is a Japanese translation of the title of the Lotus Sutra.

In addition to quoting from the Lotus Sutra, Dr. Ikeda draws passages from many other sources, including his own wisdom. The book, a satisfying size and weight and five-inch square shape, is as simple, elegant, and solid as the wisdom it contains; the daily passages rarely exceed two to three quietly eloquent sentences.

The effect is sane and grounding, promising one who undertakes a rhythmic practice of sitting with each day's remembrance a rejuvenating, encouraging oasis. One need not be Buddhist to benefit. One need only be human.



Title: Entangled Minds
Author:
Dean Radin
ISBN: 1-4165-1677-4
Paraview Pocket Books

Maintaining an open mind is essential when exploring the unknown, but allowing one's brains to fall out in the process is inadvisable.
— Dean Radin, Entangled Minds

Author of Conscious Universe, scientific scholar and researcher Dean Radin's name will be familiar to followers of What the Bleep and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. In his latest book he methodically presents the body of research on PSI and an argument for the quantum ramifications thereof on more macro matters: human and universal realms.

It makes the popular and uproariously successful What the Bleep look like Donald in Mathmagicland. I mean that with the richest respect for all three works.

Radin has tackled a boggling subject, and the thesis has broad and profound implications. As a scientist he takes great pains to lay a foundation of scientific credibility for the recognition of PSI phenomena and his extrapolations from our growing understanding and the persistent mysteries. The term PSI was coined in 1942 (from the Greek letter and the word psyche, meaning soul or mind) to refer to all psychic phenomena, including telekinesis, psychokinesis, precognition, telepathy, clairvoyance, intentional and distant healing, intuition, etc.

His use of clear, colloquial and often humorous language and illustration makes it about accessible as it might be, as is demonstrated in the opening quote of this review. At times, alas, the wade through his review of the research can get tedious. These first 200 pages are not without reward, however. Along the way we are offered a very lucid, concise and handy synopsis of the recorded history of PSI phenomena and shift from Newtonian/Cartesian to Quantum world views.

This dense summary does seem necessary to ground the final, juicier third of the book which ventures out of the laboratory and quantum theoretical realms into the world of human function and beyond. Other people have made the leap less deliberately and left many more skeptics behind.



Title: God's Little Handbook for Humans: Learning to Master the Emotional Self
Author:
Bob Bloom
ISBN: 1-59196-369-9
2003, R. Scott Bloom

"I've found that most of the problems we face in life, and in the world..., aren't logistical problems. They're emotional," says Bob Bloom in his introduction. "The problem is not that ...things happen. The problem ...is how we respond to these events; and our responses are directly linked to our emotional attitude."

At a slim and succinct 71 pages, this unimposing little book is so simply and personally written and offers such valuable insight and application tools, that the reader may be tempted to order a case as Christmas gifts for friends and incorrigible relatives.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. It does, however, demonstrate exactly what the author wishes to illuminate: the near-undying tendency for the human ego to deflect and project, to focus on faulting and fixing externals (in ever more subtle and sophisticated ways), in order to avoid the truest and deepest aspects of spiritual maturity: to take responsibility and to forgive — genuinely, authentically and absolutely; and that is an inside job.

With lighthearted Jiminy Cricket delivery, Bloom blends autobiographical examples, cogent observations and gratefully credited tools developed by Colin Tipping (Radical Forgiveness) and Byron Katie (The Work) (as well as a few tricks of his own), to fashion a set of simple steps and practices to support us through this most humbling (and fruitful) of endeavors.

Obviously, much of the content is not new; but its concision both in size and delivery make it the sort of reminder and resource one could (and should!) carry around and whip out at just the time it's handiest. Not a bad idea to take a handful of copies home for the holidays; but make sure you've found your own stride walking the talk, first! To order a copy, or a case, contact the author at bob33scott {at} yahoo.com or www.GodsLittleHandbook.com.



Title: The Gospel according to Judas Iscariot
Author:
Peter Leighton
ISBN: 0-7414-3089-4
Infinity Publishing

In The Gospel According to Judas Iscariot, Jesus reminds us that people often become impatient with sermons and lecture, but that they will hear stories to the end, so he delivered the message of the Christ, of God's immanence, in parables. Following this wisdom, Peter Leighton has capitalized, with uneven success, on the trend to predigest and package perennial Truth in a plot of more modern intrigue and contemporary vernacular.

We are offered the sumptuous meat of these truths in a rather flimsy Wonder-bread account of a contemporary man who discovers himself to be the reincarnation of Judas Iscariot, and who must then prove this in court to serve God instead of time.

Strained plausibility alone might not defeat this story for the reader inclined to value its purpose and conceits. However, the inconsistencies and anachronisms of language and tone combine with rampant grammatical errors to distract and threaten the credulity of even the most indulgent reader. The enchantment and clarity of the book's successful passages makes this a real pity.

Certainly, Leighton has steeped himself in the historical accounts, re-infusing them with the powerful loving Heart of Christ that was interpreted, edited or constricted out of many traditional translations.

This is a work of fiction, however; and Leighton takes bold liberties in this speculation on the relationships among Yehudah (the Sicarri) and Jesus (the man and the Christ), Mary Magdalene, Apostle Paul and others. His is a candid, compassionate exploration of how Judas might have played out his role in the perfect unfolding of "God's Plan" to demonstrate man's immanent divinity and the soul's immortality.

Leighton also offers poignant insight into personal and political motivations for the many key players and events. A reader could be convinced to forget that this is simply one man's inspired speculation. That alone highlights a valuable teaching of this book, that every "historical account" can only be interpretation.

For all its contrivance, period-hopping language, and grammatical errors, the period of this tale in which Jesus lives and teaches is a scintillating transmission. The Christ pours shimmering through, pure and inspiring. It is truly like reading a freshly unearthed take on the old story, or seeing a decent film adaptation of a seminal book: there is inevitable disappointment, but the resonance that ignited one so memorably in the original read awakens that inspiration afresh — in this case, the very Christ waiting within.

Alas, the tale loses power and cohesiveness, and seems to succumb to more sloppy writing, after Jesus' apparition fades — as if the author might have been losing interest, too. This, itself, is another case in which the book's apparent flaws mirror life, itself, as humans lose direct inspiration and bog down it it's distractions, confusion and illusions and lose awareness or certainty of our timeless Truth.

This book chronicles a soul's journey of forgiveness and acceptance, and it walks a willing reader through the same course, at more than one level. Just as all humans harbor the Christ, we all contain Judas as well.

I'd venture that anyone willing to forgive the irksome flaws in the medium, would enjoy the redeeming value of Leighton's message. There is nobility in the effort.



Title: The Instruction Manual for Receiving God
Author:
Jason Shulman
ISBN: 1 59279 519 2
www.SoundsTrue.com

The jacket of Receiving God features praise from Carolyn Myss, Deepak Chopra and Bernie Siegel (among others), which sets rather a high expectation for the work, whose author's name may far less widely recognized.

Jason Shulman, however, founder of A Society of Souls, has gained his own following, using a blend of Buddhist and Kabbalist wisdom to illuminate personal and spiritual evolution.

His latest book features over 100 seed passages (distilled from Shulman's interaction with students), accompanied by elucidating text. At first, I confess, neither the aphorisms nor expanded text seemed so exceptional or revelatory as the jacket led me to anticipate. However, this is another guide book that quietly states the obvious — wisdom so pure, simple and intrinsic to our living nature that it is, more often than, not overlooked.

In his introduction, Shulman says: There are many books that tell us how to find God.... But God is not missing or elusive or invisible. It is we who need to make ourselves ready to receive God, who is always knocking at the door of our heart, whose Voice is always speaking, whose heart makes our hearts beat, and whose Breath is the world.... [This book] is an exploration of the trail of our resistance to seeing things as they are....

So, as I reviewed passages and rested into their poetry, with the intention not to gain or find, but instead to remember and receive, the gifts of the words began to open, richen and reverberate.

To the "spiritually seasoned", this book may say nothing new. There is really nothing new to say. This is another voice weaving its own poetry from one Truth. All and all, it's worth sitting still a while and listening, not just to Shulman's words, but to the voice within (and everywhere else, really) singing the very same song.

As Shulman says, right here on page 105, "God cannot be known secondhand."



Title: Invoking Angels, for Blessings, Protection and Healing
Author:
Rabbi David A. Cooper
ISBN: I-59179-518-4
www.SoundsTrue.com

This latest offering from author and Rabbi David Cooper echoes with the gentleness, depth and wisdom many have come to appreciate from him, both within and beyond the Talmudic tradition.

The number and attributes of angels are as inherently infinite as God and the universe, according to Cooper; and they are found in some form in nearly every spiritual tradition. In this rich yet relatively brief book (and its accompanying CD of meditative invocations), he focuses only on those he considers most important and powerful to humanity and our phenomenal universe, including Archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel, Metatron, Sandalphon, the Shekhina, and Dark Angels.

He illuminates the nature of these angels and the origins of their names using language that honors and inspires readers who choose to personify angels as well as those who prefer to tune into them as impersonal and essential attributes that arise from the continuum of totality and that reside in us all.



Title: Kuan Yin: Accessing the Power of the Divine Feminine
Author:
Daniela Schenker
ISBN: 978-1-59179-621-3
www.SoundsTrue.com

This one is a keeper. In aesthetic as well as content, this simple yet full survey of the history, essence and many faces of Kuan Yin has instant and enduring appeal. A uniquely feminine touch and fulsome understanding is palpable in the deliciously illustrations of Antonia Baginski and sympathetic and articulate writing of Daniela Schenker. The book is gentle balm for the eyes to behold and the hands to hold. The cover art on the jacket also appears on the hard cover beneath, illustrating the tender care that went into it and emanates from it. The little volume seems the perfect balance of weight and lightness, physically and visually, as well as in verbal tone.

There is clearly far more to the lore of this most beloved Bodhisattva of compassion than can be included in such a modest book (roughly 6x5" and 60 pages); yet it richly and gracefully transmits the spirit and vibration of its subject as effectively as I've seen. It concisely clarifies the origins and nature not only of Kuan Yin's many manifestations and permutations, but elucidates the phenomena of bodhisattvas and ascended masters along the way. The centerpiece of the book, the second chapter contains 33 beautiful portraits, each accompanied by a meditation and an excerpt from the original Lotus Sutra that originally detailed each aspect of Kuan Yin. Schenker also gives attention to the mantra most commonly associated with the deity.

Kuan Yin: Accessing the Power of the Divine Feminine may be modest in scope, but seems impeccable in execution. This one makes a particularly loving and lasting gift.



Title: The Language of Yoga: Complete A to Y Guide to Asana names, Sanskrit Terms and Chants
Author:
Nicholai Bachman
ISBN: 1-59179-281-9
Publisher: SoundsTrue

This book and its accompanying pair of CDs make a solid reference companion for the serious or curious yogi.

The Language of Yoga seems well thought out and accessible. It's even bound to lie flat, for use, one could imagine, during practice! It's an attractive little volume, which, for the amount of information it contains, is a remarkably manageable six by eight inches.

The CDs follow the printed word very closely. The author begins with some basics on the Sanskrit phonetics. After including some pertinent, initiatory chants, the author begins to list, pronounce and explain the terms, concepts, deity names one is mostly likely to encounter in study of asana and other limbs of Yoga. He does so by category, including scriptural terms, elements, directions, animals, etc.

The second half of the book concerns itself with the names of the classical asana (poses) themselves. The author even honors the name variations among the major traditions. Considerate of the Westerner, Bachman also provides a respectable cross-reference with common English names for the poses and with a picture of each.

The audio is clear and devoid of passion one might hear on devotional or musical programs of Sanskrit mantra, chant or sutras. While making for a potentially sterile experience, this actually encourages an appreciation for the beauty and subtlety of the Sanskrit language: sacred and simultaneously simple and complex.

"The (Sanskrit) alphabet," says Bachman in his introduction, "is perfectly designed for the human vocal apparatus, and the sound of each word represents the subtle energy of its meaning....Sanskrit is called Devanvani, or "language of the Gods."



Title: The Lens of Perception: A User's Guide to Higher Consciousness
Author:
Hal Zina Bennett
ISBN: (978) 1-58761-316-6
Publisher: Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press

Yes, you've seen the title before. Hal Zina Bennett originally published The Lens of Perception in 1987. The second edition emerged seven years later, and the third after another thirteen years. The topic, however, never ages, and, as we evolve as a species and mature as individuals, the thoughts and focusing practices offered in this book may be more relevant today, or relevant to more people, than ever before. The revised edition is enhanced by contemporary references, reflecting how the collective understanding of (and personal empowerment in) the invisible realms has grown, through research, writings (and maybe the morphogenic field) in the years since Bennett originally wrote the book. Not only has it grown in popularity, but in articulateness.

Drawing from his own shamanic and interpersonal experiences, as well as from everything from Aristotle and Carl Jung to What the Bleep, in an efficient 170 pages, Bennett offers us a very accessible, pragmatic and quietly empowering little overview and manual that will guide and inspire both novices and seasoned travelers, freshening and simplifying topics and realms that seem to almost get murkier, the more words are published about them. This, of course, may be due to the fact, as Bennett himself underscores, that these realms are entered and known differently by each unique individual.

Hence arises the title of the book, which refers to the unique bias each of us inevitably has in our perspective of the world, no matter how much meditation some may employ to quiet their minds and achieve neutrality and "objectivity". Bennett takes the Shaman's view, that the Lens through which each of us experiences the world cannot be eradicated, and shouldn't be, as it serves a unique and essential purpose as consciousness experiences and expresses itself infinitely through multiplicity. Therefore, the truest, most peaceful and creative path is to cultivate one's relationship with, understanding of and fluency in one's inner language and landscape, the gifts and biases inherent in the Lens, and how these influence our way in the outer world. The key is simply to recognize that everybody has one. For it is what we see in the lens, not what is beyond it, to which we actually react and relate. When that knowledge informs how we interpret and act with "other," the pressure is off, all is forgiven, and the game is fun again.



Title: One City: A Declaration of Interdependence
Author:
Ethan Nichtern
ISBN: (978) 0 86171-516-9
Publisher: Wisdom Publications

Ethan Nichtern lives and works in NYC, where he founded The Interdependence Project. He is a student and teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Buddhism, but more importantly, he is a student and teacher of life: Humanity 101 for the 21st century.

Fundamentally One City is a refreshing argument for the timeless and ever more urgent relevance of meditation, along with concise and unpretentious instruction about what that really means, how it is done, and why anyone can do it. What sets it apart is Nichtern's effective use of contemporary urban vernacular and analogies. Tithed lately? Pick up a case for your local high school!

Nichtern first summarizes the three main realms interwoven in the philosophy (and reality) of Interdependence, and then applies basic principles and tools of Buddhism, with humor and clarity, to the common and core conundrums we meet in modern life. Buddhism is intrinsic to Nichtern's presentation; but incidental to it's message.

He keeps it personal (using mostly the first person) and launches with a disarming candor that imposes an instant, accessible confidence; in fact, the introduction, and every observed glory and personal foible the author intimates, serves to implicate the reader, inescapably, in the commonality of the human experience. Once implicated, the reader, by equal parts curiosity and filial obligation, joins Ethan on a lighthearted and lucid tour through the funhouse, where the conclusion becomes that once we really see, accept and laugh at the whole miraculous tangle of embodied life, there really is no other course but to embrace and enjoy one's choices and responsibilities.

Wisdom, depth and humor are equalizing, unifying qualities. They cut across more superficial aspects of the human experience, like chronological age, culture, race and gender. To hear it in the deft (if occasionally verbose) voice of relative youth (Nichtern is about 30) always brings a welcome injection of hope, not only for the potential of younger generations, but for the potential of any human to wake up and exercise the timeless wisdom that awaits us within.



Title: The Presence Process
Author:
Michael Brown
ISBN: 0-82533-0537-3
www.namastepublishing.com

This is a brilliantly lucid work and a very important book. The publisher of The Power of Now, this year bring us The Presence Process. Although, in truth, both works stand alone impeccably, Michael Brown's book seems to pick up where the Eckhardt Tolle work left off. The Presence Process elaborates on a similar theoretical foundation by engaging us in a simple and concrete process designed to solidify our abidance in the Now.

Tolle, Brown and others have defined our true identity as Pure Presence and might assert that pain and dysfunction don't really exist, are merely illusions born of time and mind. Acknowledging the convincing (if illusory) tyranny of mind and time, however, Brown's work promotes conscious integration of the unconscious phenomena that distract attention from our true nature.

For readers new to these ideas, certain of Brown's assertions may be radical and challenging. However, those who celebrated the eloquence and irrefutable wisdom of Eckhardt Tolle's classic, or most anyone on the path of integrated consciousness, will find this book an exceptionally incisive reminder and synthesis of realizations poignantly familiar or inevitably forthcoming on this journey. It thus offers valuable and practical support.

In The Presence Process, Brown has assembled, from his own experience, a blend of wisdom and tools reminiscent of psycho-spiritual and self-help disciplines we may recognize from elsewhere. Anticipating this, he carefully explains the distinctions in practice and intent — of his own.

This workbook, of sorts, guides us through stages of insight and integration using the steady rhythm of a three-fold practice. We are offered a foundational breathing practice, which promotes focus and presence and illuminates hidden emotional material; a weekly activating statement; and accompanying readings.

A particular virtue of this Process would seem to be its simplicity, which makes it a "do-able" means of delving deeply and gently into, and reconciling, the modes of human existence that can seem to work at cross purposes. His insight is refreshing; and his understanding of mechanisms that stand in our way gives the author credibility and the reader comfort and courage.

Given the cumulative nature of this journey, I did wonder how much the degree of transformation cultivated in this Process is contingent upon a reader's existing level of self-awareness and previous experience with meditation and self-inquiry. This should discourage no one, however — novice or veteran. The journey is, after all, infinite and inevitable; moreover, the tools and support we need at each step tend to present themselves when we are ripe to employ them.

The length and repetitiveness of the book's exposition may put off some readers. Brown acknowledges this early on. In a way these very challenges serve to measure the focus and motivation of the practitioner. Each one must tap his own wisdom, patience and willingness to persevere. This self-responsibility is a fundamental factor in the success of the endeavor. The planet can only benefit from this book's success in reaching and inspiring each soul ready and willing to humbly and courageously embrace wholeness!



Title: Quantum Prodigal Son
Authors:
Lee and Steven Hager
ISBN: 0-9785261-0-4
Oroborus Books

Lee and Steven Hager provide us with a refreshing and meaty journey in their examination of Jesus' familiar parable through the lens of the Quantum paradigm, and what it may be revealing to us about "God" and human life. The parable's teachings come alive in this reading, sharing far more with Gnostic Christianity, A Course in Miracles and ancient perennial wisdom of other traditions than with the conventional Christian authorities who claim it.

In 300 pages, the Hagers carefully examine elements of the story often neglected in its telling centuries later. Most noteworthy for me was the significance of the older ("good") son. They do so interpreting it not only against Quantum phenomena, but what Jesus' imagery would have meant to its original audience of mostly Jewish enculturation. This proves quite illuminating.

The book is well written, and the arguments are sturdier and better documented than those of many contemporary metaphysical treatises. There are a few points where the thread of an argument lapses momentarily and little flags may spring up in the minds of discerning academics. However, the sense is that it may be the language that is failing rather than the logic. It is a tricky and layered topic to articulate. The authors seem uncharacteristically remiss, however, when documenting their claims about cultural contexts that would influence the understanding of Jesus' details by his contemporaries.

The purpose and efficacy of the Truths revealed, however, seem scarcely impaired by this oversight.

The language poses the same problems encountered in A.C.I.M., where pronouns must play triple duty, referring to players at different levels of reality; and also in the choice here to refer to "God" in personal pronouns. This is challenging for some readers, including myself. Even so, I found certain arguments in the book even more compelling, at times, than in the dense and verbose A.C.I.M. perhaps due to the reassuring presence of more neutral, quantum language as well.

Not everyone will be ready for this book; full participation demands naked honesty about what each of us wants: to play the game or wake up. However, it makes for compelling companionship while we are, inevitably, in the process of doing both.



Title: The Reiki Magic Guide to Self-Attunement
Author:
Brett Bevell
ISBN: 978-1-58091-184-9
2007, Crossing Press; >www.tenspeed.com

There have been a fair number of books published on the healing art Reiki since its emergence. Author and Reiki Master Brett Bevell, himself recommends at least one in particular in the pages of his own book. I have not read these other volumes; so, I base my comments on my experience as a healer, as a writer and as a reader who experimented with the ideas, practices, and energies addressed in Bevell's thoughtful and unrutted elucidation, The Reiki Magic Guide to Self-Attunement.

His years of exploration give Bevell's voice a balance of authority, humility and authenticity, and his presentation seems consistently pragmatic, grounded and sensitive.

He offers the basics: Beginning with his understanding of the history, energies and cosmology or Reiki; then introducing a familiar and fundemental full body self-treatment; then first and second degree attunements and their activating symbols; then some more advanced matters involving work beyond oneself and the beginnings of third degree principles. It is all lucidly and respectfully presented, even when the content might seem quite tenuous and esoteric to a reader uninitiated to these rarified realms.

He defies traditional restrictions in revealing and instructing on key symbols and rituals. He does so, perhaps, in good faith about humans, but probably more from time-tested faith in the intelligent force(s) of Reiki's incorruptible origins and essence. He knows Reiki can take care of itself. His intention here is to speak to the wise, noble healer in all, to empower the wisdom and responsibility in each of us, and offer tools for harnessing, cultivating and ever refining that power for the collective good.

This is his offering to a world waking up.

It is indeed a gift, and one endowed to serve the reader for all time — and beyond.



Title: The Secret Life of Water
Author:
Masaru Emoto (translated by David Thayne)
ISBN: 0-7432-8992-X
ATRIA Books, Beyond Words Publishing

<The Secret Life of Water is the latest in Masaru Emoto's contemplations on the increasingly precious treasure and teachings held for us in water. This friendly little volume follows Emoto's original and still influential bestseller The Hidden Messages of Water and its sequels Messages in Water (I-III) and The Power of Water. Its focus is the wisdom accrued by water in its own evolutionary and cyclical travels as a component of life itself, from its origins and journey through space to Earth and its myriad forms and functions on the planet./p>

The theses of all these books extrapolate from photography of ice crystals infused with various sentiments (love, gratitude, derision), essences (Hinduism, spring water, chamomile) and concepts (war, peace). These beautiful images continue to have poignant and inspiring impact that, effortlessly as ever, transcends the text in which they are nestled.

These pictures reinforce quantum arguments about the subtle inter-connectedness and communicativity among all seemingly separate things in the universe. Demonstrating how water remembers and carries vibratory signatures imparted by nature or focused human intention yields the suggestion: If living beings are composed mostly of water, imagine what power thoughts, prayer and intention have to influence life and perception throughout the cosmos! Water is not only a sacred medium of life but of intelligence.

As in What the Bleep..., (which cites Emoto's work) the evidence and implications presented gently return responsibility, power and hope squarely to our individual laps, exhorting us to take another look, take courage and dive in: To clear our hearts, minds and bodies of the clutter and oppression of negative, limiting thoughts, beliefs and habits, and see the transformation inevitably engendered within reflected in the "outer" world.

The Secret Life of Water is not hard science; and one who intuits the truth asserted in Emoto's writings, which meander like a long, leisurely river, might wish he included more documentation of his claims. Perhaps, though, that is like asking a bird to prove the existence of air or the sea anemone, water.

These books remind me of the sermons of an admired and ingenuous pastor, whose homilies one attends weekly for a dose of reassurance and remembrance of that which one already hopes, believes, or knows to be true. Whether his poetry would convince someone uninitiated to this faith is uncertain. Like so many intimate with the mystery and miracle of the Tao, he will live in celebration, ever sharing his gratitude and conviction, regardless of whether the sounds of the revelry and witness of his growing "congregation" awakes the "gospel" in the non-observant and late sleepers.

While he does acknowledge the importance of his message and its relevance to humankind's present ecological and spiritual "predicament," Emoto's message carries the simple and irrepressibly appreciative innocence of a child, who cannot help but giggle in the face of a dour face and pessimistic outlook. The child knows a secret; and he knows you know the secret, too; and he wonders when you will remember; and he will meanwhile splash around in Life's vibrant miracle, sprinkling you with reminders, inviting, maybe hoping, but never insisting, that you join him in play, as he bathes in the nourishing, wise womb of water.



Title: The Translucent Revolution: How People Like You Are Waking Up And Changing the World
Author:
Arjuna Ardagh
ISBN: 1-5731-468-9 (2005)
www.newworldlibrary.com; www.translucents.org

It has many names. Arjuna Ardagh calls it Translucence; it is a poetic and apt term. The increasing incidence and apparent momentum of this illuminated state in the human population is the Translucent Revolution.

Many have likened the completely enlightened state to transparency. "Translucent" refers to those of us who have experienced transparency, yet still walk the world in relationship with denser realities and the frailties and challenges associated with mundane, mortal life.

Ardagh and his wife have conducted workshops over some years. In this time, he has interviewed hundreds of Translucents, some unknown to the greater readership, others with recognizable names like Eckhardt Tolle, Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Saniel Bonder, Jean Houston, to name only a handful.

He quotes these voices generously and poignantly, demonstrating that the translucent journey features reassuring commonalities as well as circumstances, vocabularies, and character unique to each individual. His own prose is poetic and precise, rich with humor, perspicacity, and compassion. I repeatedly found his use of metaphor very effective, amusing and inspiring.

Ardagh knows that of which he speaks; and he draws upon the eloquence of others to add depth, shading, and credibility to his comprehensive examination of the distinct blessings, experiences and challenges — the enchanted ordinariness — of Translucence in every aspect of contemporary life.

It is a long book (400+ pages), from which I took breaks, to recharge its poignancy. Repetition seems unavoidable, as Ardagh and company visit various aspects of life, including relationship, sex, parenting, art, self-refinement, education, business, health care, and religion.

Translucent Revolution is graced with a forward by Ken Wilber, which alone speaks superlatively for it. I can only add my vote of unreserved and grateful approval.



Title: What the Bleep do We Know?! Discovering the Endless Possibilities for Altering your Everyday Reality
Authors:
William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente (with Jack Forem and Elen Erwin)
ISBN: 0-7573-0334 -X
2006, Health Communications, Inc.

What a flirtation Life is. We all seem to know it's worth it, but "Why?" is the Big Secret. This book dances closer to answers.

Although in their final words they disclaimed it being the final word, at last the creators of the film What the Bleep!?! have published the book version. One could spend paragraphs discussing the pros and cons of the written versus filmic medim for this information. Ultimately each has its advantages and limitations.

For those who have yet to see the film, the best advice would be to tuck away this magazine and go do so, and then to revisit this review (or skip directly to the book). Second best would be to read book first. However, compelling as the book can be, both book and film are finally about applying the information presented in your own life; and for that, the kinetic impact of the film, and one‚s engagement with it, are invaluable.

Both book and film explore where the frontiers of science and spirit merge in the realm of quantum phenomena. One advantage of the book is a more leisurely and in-depth examination of background information: the historic factors, forces and concepts on which its arguments are based. For this alone, I would recommend reading it very highly.

The ideas in What the Bleep!?! are meant to apply as tools in our evolutionary toolkit, to help us examine, transfigure or transcend the societal paradigms and biochemical phenomena that help binds us in our boxes and stifle our potential as limitlessly creative forces of nature. In this way, it is, in a sense, a workbook, a launch pad.

It is a challenging read, in multiple ways. The concepts themselves are quintessentially mind-bending. When honestly and deeply reflected upon, this material is at once empowering and terrifying: inspiring of great hope and excitement, and demanding great courage, conviction and responsibility.

The authors intentionally employ very familiar metaphors and (informal and interactive) language in presenting these ideas, so as to make them as simple, accessible and playful as possible, and to ease the necessarily unsettling affect of their implications. Alas, they don‚t always succeed. Even so, What the Bleep??! serves as a grand primer and bibliography for exploring the many topics and questions it raises and can only begin to address.

Sometimes it seemed to be more the writing than the concept that required me to reread passages several times to lock into the meaning intended. Some passages seemed to lack a coherency I intuited was possible. I came to recognize that this, along with most of my complaints with the book, were wonderful demonstrations of the very phenomena the material sought to illuminate.

Just as classical physicists found Quantum Physics unsettling to their established laws and assumptions, I met my own irritation and rigidity in what I considered the authors‚ indulgences and sloppiness with language and idiom (and occasionally "fact"). I chose to recognize and embrace the greater message, for which language is a woefully inadequate medium to begin with!

If the reader will indulge the following metaphor, the overall experience of this book was, for me, like reading a book about what's above the roof while pressed against the ceiling. Reading was challenged in the dim of being above the conventional light source. As my eyes tracked the lines on the page, I derived as much understanding from the intuitive knowledge illuminated within by focusing on the truth and energy behind or beyond the words and concepts.

Leaning into the invincible, compassionate force of these new ideas relentlessly crushed the skull against the ceiling of all previously held understandings, in hope that something would give: the ceiling (societal paradigms, perhaps?) or my skull (read: mind, limited perception).

To better understand this review, you may have to read the book! To best understand the book, you may have to give up an addiction to understanding. To understand how, I suggest you read the book. I can tell you it's worth it. It's your choice to find out why.



Title: The World is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved
Author:
Trebbe Johnson
ISBN: 1-57731-479-4
www.newworldlibrary.com

This book at once embodies and details the quintessential Labor of Love, as delivered by Trebbe Johnson, a leader of vision quests and workshops on desire and purpose internationally.

Johnson's poetic writing plucks the strings of the heart, not with sentimental, cascading strokes on a harp, but with the deep, resonant, penetrating tones of a universal human Truth: Longing for the Beloved. The author deftly weaves together revelatory episodes from her own narrative and those of others, as well as mystical wisdom and practice and archetype and myth from across the globe. The effect, at times, is an entraining of the reader's heart with the One heart throbbing in all of creation.

Johnson leads us as close as words might to the fire of passion and tenderness of love. We approach this bonfire and dance around the periphery, feel the gravity, the heat, and our own longing and resistance. We feel our own memory and appetite awake as we stand at that edge where the conceptual must give way to the empirical, as if waiting our turn to dive in. Each chapter refreshes the inspiration to reflect on our own objects of "allurement."

In this way, the book is an inevitable and potent promotion for the vision quest process! Reading in the dead of winter, this writer felt like a captive animal sensing ghosts outside with whom I had divine appointment.

Johnson recounts her discovery, and eloquently illustrates, that the Beloved, ultimately, is within each of us, if as a necessarily cagey presence. The people, gifts, endeavors and challenges that provoke in us compelling passion (whether appreciated or not) Johnson calls "escorts to the Beloved." She seeks to illuminate our own capacity to consciously recognize and healthily engage with these decoys, if you will, these catalyzing agents for a Love which transcends conventional categories.

Like the Beloved itself, the book teases us along to revisit our own passions and potential. It cannot deliver the Beloved to us whole. It invites us into that sacred clearing to join the chorus ever intoning the call and response song that perpetuates Life.



Title: Your Daily Walk with the Great Minds of the Past and Present
Author:
Richard A Singer, Jr.
ISBN: 1-4196-2532-2
2006, Book Surge, LLC; www.booksurge.com

Your Daily Walk is a facilitated journal, offering a structured daily satsang with one's deepest truth. It's a tool for cultivating and maintaining self-awareness and integrity.

The book begins with a succinct introduction, including suggestions for its most effective use; then it just gets down to business in the quietly compassionate tone of a mentor who has been there, has nothing to prove and no one to convince.

In the original edition, there is a page for each day of the year. Each day's theme is supported by a quotation, a focusing meditation, and an inquiry on which the reader writes a journal entry. One day's theme seems to build upon the previous. In this way, the program purports to steadily lay a foundation for true and abiding empowerment or change.

Further supporting the process are monthly suggested books, by luminaries like Deepak Chopra, Mitch Albon, Victor Frankl, and other names familiar to the Self-help saavy. While both the quotations and the book list contain familiar, even classic, sources, neither list is a tired who's who or compendium of over-exposed platitudes. Many less predictable voices make it refreshing.

Ultimately, as with any such offering, its success depends on the willingness and staying power of the reader. There seems to be a certain clarity and concision about the book — as it leans into universal and perennial human challenges — that encourages commitment and collaboration by anyone on the evolutionary spectrum.

Two revised editions of this 2006 book — a pocketbook and a workbook — are expected in February 2007, from Love Healing Press. The pocket edition, condensing two days per page face, is a more portable size, but requires a separate notebook for journaling. The workbook will include more space for notes. Both will feature daily affirmations, a foreword by Dr. David Powell, an expanded reading list and a cross-referenced subject/author index.

 

Books | Audio | Video

 

Audio

Title: All One World
Artist:
Anne Trenning
ShadeTree Productions

Anne Trenning's All One World was quietly named one of the top five annual acoustic piano recordings by New Age Reporter, falling into step with her debut, Suite Tea, which did quite well in North America, Europe and Asia.

Her compositions and style are propelled by melodies alternately predictable and whimsical. The piano sound seems to stray little from that made standard by the pervasive influence of George Winston's work. The arrangements are fleshed out with accompaniment by horn, flute, strings, harp, percussion, which blend so naturally one scarcely notices their embellishments.

There is a friendly, familiar feeling to Trenning's playing style and melodies that had me more than once consulting the liner notes to ascertain whether this was one of hers or one of the traditionals she includes. Some quality to the selections informs the listener, surely and subtly, that a female head, heart and hands are reaching out through the compositions and performances. The cover photography of scenes rural, rustic and antique further promotes a winsome theme of home and hearth.

Trenning admirably weaves in a variety of diverse influences. The finished soundscape seems more about companionship than viruosity. One is inspired to throw open the windows, catch up on the dusting, and hum along!



Title: Angels and Earth Songs
Artist:
Carolyn Nayana Hedger
www.musicalpathways.com

Mount Shasta's Carolyn Hedger has at last released her new CD, another collection of songs exploring life's kaleidoscope of moods and wonders. These selections celebrate the innocent in us all, most often with the recurring imagery of angels and the Mother.

Joining Hedger on this disc are a number of accomplished musical friends, including Paul Armitage, whose piano perfectly and sensitively supports the bittersweet tenderness of the human experience evoked in the words.

The general beauty and simplicity of the melodies and lyrics, and the accessible structure of the songs, make them easy to learn and sing, infectious (in the best possible way) and inspiring. To sing them invokes the company of angels. The gentle smile in Hedger's voice seems to carry assurance and gratitude of a child and a survivor, and it speaks to the same in the listener. This mutual inspiration is indeed something to embrace and sing about. It's especially uplifting to sing these songs with others, so catch Carolyn live if you can!



Title: Chakra Dhyana: A Musical Path to Meditation
Artist:
Sri Krishnaraj Bhagavaddasa (with G. Sathyaprasad)
2007, Kosmic Music U.S./Allegro

This approximately 50-minute program is a guided meditation through the main bodily Chakras. It enhances a meditative state in such a way that can both awaken Kundalini and induce a more balanced and relaxed state. The title, Chakra Dhyana, refers to the practices used to access and activate latent life-force and consciousness in this way.

The program combines music (scored by G. Sathyaprasad) and constant chanting of precise, sacred chants in the background with a gently instructional voice-over (foreground) by Sri Krishnaraj Bhagavaddasa, who lends insight, support, focus to the experience with his beatific delivery.

Of course, the impact of this meditation tool will depend on the user's degree of experience and openness with meditation, suggestion and yogic practices. It is potent enough, though, that I might suggest the package include a caution that participants make use of the Savasana portion of the program to integrate, and not leap up immediately and enter conversation or operate complicated appliances! Respect yourself; respect the gifts offered here, and they promise to keep on giving.



CD Title: Chakra Healing
Artist:
Dean Evenson (and Soundings Ensemble)
Soundings of the Planet

The familiar affirmation Peace Through Music tucked cozily on the back cover of this CD pretty much says all that needs to be said. A handful of musicians combine a range of strings, flutes and percussion with an unobtrusive dose of keyboards to create restful, organic rise through the charkas in an ambience promoting a drift through various states of consciousness. Soundings ensemble features a number of regionally recognized artists, including Mount Shasta favorite, Scott Huckabay on "trance guitar".

Beginning with the root chakra, which evokes Native American images, each subsequent track moves toward less predominantly rhythmic, more meandering and ethereal arrangement. Commendably, all the tracks keep a certain grounding. Other Chakra "healing" discs out there can promote a less integrated lift off with their buzzy, high frequency vibratory assertions. Not so, here. Furthermore, there is an eighth track for integrating all the frequencies and chakras.

The liner notes instruct or attune the listener to the themes, vibrations, tones and seed sounds associated with each chakra, to facilitate participation with the recording at whatever level — psychic, vocal, vibrational — the listener might choose, in order to balance their being. Active participation promises to be profoundly meditative; and passive listening, whether as ambient music or as accompaniment to healing work, is similarly comforting.

It's not a startlingly impressive piece of work. I don't think it is meant to be. It is a great addition to the collection of anyone who engages in regular healing work, personally or professionally.



Title: Coming Home
Artist:
Temple
www.hebrewchanting.com | www.SoundsTrue.com
ISBN: 978 1 59179 584 1

"Oh, how sweet the taste of Love," rises the mellifluous voice of Danya Uriel, like vapors of incense, from a heart that resonates and smiles with the knowing behind the words.

The youthful duo Temple has issued a CD of ethereal Hebrew prayers, a pastel pallet of sacred lullabies. With the loving and leisurely repetition of a handful of Hebrew syllables (and sometimes a line of English translation or amplification) each of the seven songs intentionally expresses a simple flavor or theme of Divine Remembrance: Wholeness, Invocation, Gratitude, Surrender, Purification, Harmony, Healing, etc. Inter-twining with these vocals, within a fluid foundation of acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard, earthy, sometimes ancient instrumental voices — including cello, oud, esraj, saxophone, harmonium, tabla, and human chorus —echo, richen and ground the spare melodic contemplations.

With this CD, Temple fills a Judaic vacancy in the constellation of nationally visible recording artists (most notably Deval Premal, Snatam Kaur, Jai Uttal, Rasa, etc.) currently popularizing (and somewhat anglicizing) music in the sacred languages of Middle Eastern and other traditions. Late of Boulder, Colorado, Temple's core duo of Danya Uriel and Eyal Rivlin are supported here by Benjy Werthheimer and other heartful musicians to create a smooth, lush production whose instrumentation is varied and soulful and whose spirit is sweet and true.

I must confess, though, for my part, the tempo seems conspicuously unvaried and unspirited as the collection of largos floats along. Each of these song prayers is meant to stand alone; and there is much to appreciate in every one. Yet, as the sequence progressed, I found myself yearning for momentum and passion — a good Hava Nagila! — a celebration of the more kinetic, boisterous aspects of Divine Expression. The final cut, "Shalom," seems to hint that perhaps Temple were beginning to embrace that idea, too!

So, while I commend the tender offerings of Coming Home, now that Temple has so ably and melodically brought the house to sacred stillness, I can't help but hope that the sequel will invite the ethers through form again and bring the house robustly to its feet. What are they for, these bodies, if not to dance the delight of the awakened heart?!



Title: Earth Magic: Sacred Rituals for Connecting to Nature's Power
Author:
Starhawk
2006, Sounds True

Author, activist, and teacher Starhawk has collaborated with Sounds True to present this four-disc overview of the goddess tradition and nature-based spirituality. It serves as a solid primer for the curious or uninitiated and as a clear, affirming treatise for those well read and grounded in this path.

Starhawk's delivery is conversational and engaging, conveying her wisdom and humor, experience and knowledge. It's like hanging out with your priestess aunt in her garden on her day off.

Although the word "magic" in the title and "Goddess" in the liner notes might hint at occult and pagan emphasis, this isn't a basic new-age ball-breaker spell-book! It is an articulate and balanced overview of more fundamental, practical themes.

Beginning with a review of historical facts and influences, elucidating the major shifts in mankind's affinity from the feminine to the masculine, Starhawk then moves into a discussion of the historic and contemporary meanings and aspects of "Goddess." This yields naturally to the close associations with Earth, nature and our phenomenal reality, and an overview of the roles and influences of the four elements. Upon these foundations, Starhawk builds an argument for the imperatives of acceptance, balance and groundedness in life and spiritual practice.

She emphasizes the centrality of relationship and the celebration of Life and diversity essential to this path. With this established she presents a few basic rituals to cultivate, maintain and richen one's relationships with the Earth, the self, others, and all of Life. Benign "spells" of divination and inspiration are offered.

Starhawk demystifies magic; the definition she prefers is "the art of changing consciousness at will," which makes it the fruit of spiritual maturity, responsibility and conscious creativity.

With each listening, Earth Magic supports a deepening of this journey: perpetual and unique to every individual, regardless of gender, race, tradition, and age.



Title: Prayers by Women
Artist:
Karnamrita Dasi
2003 Blue Monsoon Records; www.karnamrita.com

Although her CD has been out a good while, Karnamrita Dasi's live presence is what is giving the recording momentum. I quote an associate of mine whose almost uncharacteristically enthusiastic and poetic report recently speaks volumes:

"This CD is a true labor of love from a musician classically trained in India whose heart is as open as the clear blue sky and as passionate and loving as a true mystic. Her voice rings like a bell and conveys every emotion in its simplicity. Without stylizing the Eastern music to make it sound more American, or more sexual, she lays bare the intent of each chant so anyone with the slightest devotion in his or her heart can feel its meaning and is taken to new heights of spiritual bliss. I mean, sitting in the audience while she sang—with unassuming delight – was as much an experience of bakti (sacred devotion) as entering any temple. I hope you can hear that in these songs!"

There isn't a whole lot more to say. However, perhaps some background would serve. Karnamrita Dasi is a beautiful, young, American woman raised in a California community devoted to Krishna. She was inspired by her mother to pursue her studies in classical Hindu song, and, also inspired by her mother, she has dedicated her focus here to the transporting and powerful prayers of women in Hindu scripture and epic stories. The liner notes translate the scripture (sung in Sanskrit) and briefly summarize the circumstances originally inspiring each prayer. The wisdom, devotion, or emotion in each however, is universal. All are powerful; I found Draupadi (from the Mahabharata) profoundly stirring. The simple Truth discovered and expressed in this story and these few lines may be all any of us really needs to know.

Needless to say, style, mood and instrumentation of each track varies distinctly. This illustrates not only the young artist's versatility, but the stillness and wisdom of a much older soul. There is a clarion innocence in this voice — still young and full of suppleness and liveliness of heart — which melts together her anglo origins with the bath of Hindu influence derived from her upbringing and formal musical studies. The fusion creates a truly original sound.

Although this recording may not evoke quite the transcendent experience of her live appearances for every listener, anyone can savor a sincerity and purity here and share in the joy inhabiting the current of song in body and body in song; they become one and the same, mutually absorbed in the Great Love.



Title: Return to Love
Artist:
Kathy Zavada
Precious Music; www.kathyzavada.com

Zavada sings the blues! The song cycle in Return to Love seems to build a graceful arch from the palate flavors with which a heart can meet and express the sacred ache of life.

The CD begins with an almost melancholy tone, with Kathy's voice as dewy as it gets, as if freshly cleansed with tears. The contemplations lighten in tempo and perspective, as more playful instrumentation and arrangements assert themselves; these propel us through the concluding odes, which, while they continue to describe universal human challenges — potentially discouraging themes — are more buoyant with the contagion of building faith and trust in pervasive Divine Love. The listener can feel the conviction of an early lyric echoing through: "Love will prevail in the end."

True to the title's promise, the word and theme of Love dominates and unifies this collection of songs, many of which will be familiar to those who have heard Kathy play live in recent years. Kathy's trademark piano anchors each song, along with the lush embrace of her voice, which flows here again like a heart pouring forth and even laughing. Her voice, her piano and her rhythm section frolick often with harmonica and fiddle, giving many tracks, as mentioned, a breezy, bluesy feel.

The lyrics and melodies are customarily simple and earnest. And while a couple of tracks don't seem to hold the energy of their companions in this collection, the overall message of the album is infectious in a welcome, inspiring way. For most, Return to Love will prevail in the end.



Title: State of Grace III
Artist:
Paul Schwartz (et al)
Zakatak Music; www.state-of-grace.net

Modern-classical composer/producer Paul Schwartz is releasing a third in his State of Grace series. Listeners familiar with Schwartz's earlier work (which include his compelling Aria trilogy and his collaborations with Andre Previn, Carlos Santana, and others) will recognize his trademark instrumental and tonal preference. If you enjoyed his previous offerings, this is more of a good thing — not really breaking new ground, just freshening the garden.

For those not familiar, Schwartz combines classical influences and instrumentation with contemporary and electronic ones. In his Aria series he reworked some of opera's most stirring Arias with contemporary rhythms and instrumentation, to refreshing and poignant effect (for all but the purist looking for offense).

The versatile Lisbeth Scott, his most often featured vocalist, contributes all but one of the vocal performances on this collection of songs, which contain both original lyrics and words drawn from classical texts. Where Aria's congruency derives from the operatic sources, State of Grace combines more varied styles that share a more subtle thread of wistful, soul searching themes. This one makes a good gift for someone with wide-ranging taste — a sense of musical humor, beauty and adventure.



Title: SunCatcher
Artist:
Faith Rivera
'Lil Girl Creations; www.faithrivera.com

p>Award-winning singer/songwriter Faith Rivera also has a new one out. SunCatcher is a sweet smorgasbord of songs and styles that showcase her vocal versatility and range of influences. The disc starts with a sweet, almost folksy ditty harkening to her Hawaiian roots, runs through a variety of pop arrangements, and ends with a dub remix of a haunting, rhythmic dirge of chanting in various sacred tongues. The piece sticks with you.

While the songs may sound in style and instrumentation like a trip along the pop radio dial, the lyrics are a refreshing departure: Verses of celebration, inspiration and empowerment, both personal and universal. There is here something for everyone.



Title: The Ultimate Brain
Artist:
Tom Kenyon
ISBN: 1-59179-448-X
Sounds True

This nine-CD box set is an investment, for sure. Yet for those sonically sensitive and inspired by the frontier where music, science and healing merge, it is, if you'll indulge the pun, a sound investment indeed. Be sure to also budget for a good set of headphones and comfy chair.

Each disc in the set targets a different category of brain function, with the intent of enhancing performance (creative problem solving, activate the holographic mind, opening the heart) or addressing some neurologically implicated condition, like sleep disorders, addictions, etc.

Depending on one's individual needs, desires, or level of awareness, different programs will seem more obviously potent or effective. Another important factor is the degree of the listener's willingness to trust the programs — their efficacy and benignness — and to surrender, to open the ears, mind and heart to whatever sounds, imagery and demands the selections present.

Most selections lay carefully produced music and vocal tracks over scientifically tuned "Bio-Pulses," and other content to be registered subliminally. The delivery of some of the vocal tracks and guided imagery may repel more intellectual listeners prone to resist "new-agey" sounds and affirmations. The delivery can at times seem obviously manipulative and contrived. And, of course, they are, quite deliberately and scientifically, according to the explicatory information provided. (There is actually an entire disc in the set dedicated to explanation and application.)

All seems to be carefully tailored to evoke a particular effect on the open heart and mind, on the ears of the innocent within us that may be laboring under the burden of some limiting pattern of wounding, conditioning or sabotage. Be assured there is something for the whole dysfunctional family!

In fact, two of the programs — Deep Rest and Ambient Support — have been available individually since July; others in the set are expected to emerge separately in 2007, promising to keep you stocked for a couple of years in very thoughtful gifts to the depressed, sleep deprived or existentially stymied loved ones on your Christmas list.



Title: True Meditation
Author:
Adyashanti
ISBN: 1-59179-461-7
Sounds True

Adyashanti may be best known in California, where has been based and quietly teaching for ten years. With the 2006 release of his three disc program True Meditation and the second edition of his book Emptiness Dancing, he seems likely to attract a wider audience.

Those unfamiliar with Adyashanti will find his delivery on True Meditation accessible and conversational, so much the latter in fact, that the lectures can seem somewhat repetitive at times. This may actually prove advantageous, however, since, as he himself states, the wisdom presented is often so obvious and easily resisted, that it might take a few strokes to sink in. Why else would anyone else have to tell us what we actually already are and know?

He makes a number of good, inspiring points on the first disc to better equip us to "experience the freedom of meditation without techniques." Thus read the liner notes summarizing his thesis, which contrasts true meditation with many practices and techniques — often labeled meditation — which, while valuable, are more accurately called concentration techniques, means of controlling (rather than observing or accepting) the expressions of the ego or mind.

The insights and instruction on the second seem to build in specificity and poignancy. The final disc contains three guided meditations focusing on the three progressive pillars of his approach to meditation: Allowing things to be as they are; Letting go of control and letting the Heart's will be done; and self-inquiry.

The message Adyashanti conveys is not new; but, again, while it is simple and readily apparent to the still mind, it is not necessarily easy to accept and rest in. This insight is shared in many traditions: Early Zen, Advaita Vedanta, etc. As in those, it must be discovered from within, by every individual, often more than once.

It is helpful to hear another voice reassuring us of these truths, however, supporting us to relax and live them with the clarity, courage and effortless effort required, and fortifying us in the face of the chaotic currents of contemporary life.



Title: When Angels Dream 2
Artist:
Anton Mizerak and Friends
www.shastasong.com

It is always a pleasure to listen to these musicians and friends performing and collaborating, because the sense of natural fluidity and familiarity they seem to have with their instruments and one another brings a gift of ease and welcome to the listener.

Ease is indeed what was intended for the listener of this CD, a sequel to the first When Angels Dream CD, designed to accompany and promote healing in both professional and personal settings.

Anton and friends create a nourishing, evocative soundscape in which esraj (a soulful, Mid-eastern, stringed instrument), bamboo flute, operatic voice and even harmonica feature as what feel like the rich, comforting voices of mentoring angels, reassuring us as we rest cradled upon clouds that glide and churn gently through the realms and elements created by the backdrop of keyboard and guitar.

The friends with whom Anton gratefully collaborates on this project include: Manose, whose sublime flute play seems to carry the sensuous smile of Krisna himself; Benjy Wertheimer, whose skill and sensibility on the esraj transmit pure and otherworldly longing; and Virenia Lind, whose soprano manages to blend here and appease this listener who rarely associates operatic vocals with relaxation!

The musical themes on this collection are based on classical Indian ragas for healing, but one hardly need know this to enjoy the effect! Most of them come from the raga Sindhi Bhairavi. Bhairavi is the name of a most wrathful expression of Kali, consort of Shiva — the aspect of the Hindu trinity who governs healing and transformation. The music here, though, is anything but wrathful, reminding us that while true healing and evolution may not be comfortable, resistance is futile, and the compassionate and ever-present breath of Grace carries us through it all. These sounds offered by Anton and friends encourage us to surrender into the eye of the storm. Enjoy the ride.

 

Books | Audio | Video

 

Video

Title: Alchemical Healing: Experiences, Insights and Empowerments
Artist:
Nikki Skully
www.sacredmysteries.com

The Alchemical Healing DVD is a sort of personal salon lecture with Nikki Skully, a shamanic healer in the tradition of Thoth. Skully holds forth, with grounded and bright-eyed enthusiasm, from an inviting, altar-like set of rich reds, earth tones and sacred objects, seated with the belonging of a spot on a leopard.

Her garb seems continuous with the set, and is a testimony to her passionate involvement in life and its dance of myriad textures. Speaking as if to a single person, she shares her personal perspective on healing in general, on her work and her own healing from cancer. Interspersed is footage of sacred sites where she has led trainings around the world.

She leads the viewer through two powerful healing visualizations, here called "empowerments." While the content and her delivery may seem far-out to viewers who have not walked a way down their own shamanic path, and while to those who have, it may offer little new insight, it is a personal, genuine, inspiring and articulate affirmation of life's mystery and potential.



Title: ARTmind: The Healing Power of Sacred Art
Artist:
Alex Grey
www.sacredmysteries.com

All in all, this is a remarkable 79 minutes. Alex Grey's metaphysical art is some of the most striking and distinctly recognizable of our era. Most often his work depicts luminous human forms whose transparent skin reveals a dense world of organs, light and (somehow) spirit, both within them and connecting them with all that surrounds them, through radiant mandala of evocative patterns or colors.

Whether one appreciates his style from the gut or just from the intellect, one cannot help but recognize a certain genius. The New York Times is quoted on the cover of this DVD: "Grey's vision of a flawed but perfectible mankind stands as an antidote to the cynicism and spiritual malaise prevalent in much contemporary art."

In this presentation, Grey speaks to an unseen listener about his own work and history as well as about spiritual and psychedelic experiences which have opened his "doors of perception." As we view the details of his paintings and others', he also discusses the artists and philosophers who most notably influenced him. He draws interesting parallels between the traditional shaman and the transcendental artist, who undertakes a similar journey in translating the indescribable through art, and, in doing so sometimes facilitates awakening and healing of collective consciousness.

The piece is admirably and lovingly edited and quite absorbing, despite Grey's sometimes longwinded explanations. It succeeds in illuminating Grey's methods and motivations for portraying or revealing dimensions of life beyond the three normally employed in visual art; it kindles and inspires awareness of that which animates and connects all living beings; and it stokes the viewer's desire to see Grey's work up close and in at least three dimensions.



Title: Conversations with God
Director:
Steven Simon
2006, 20th Century Fox

Over 10 years after publication of the globally influential books on which it is based, 2006 saw the release of a film called Conversations With God, now available (and recommended) on DVD. The film does not attempt to simply transcribe the book's dialogues to film — a prospect both impossible far less palatable! Instead we see the themes unfold and clarify through narrative that touchingly recounts author Neale Donald Walsch's own journey to the revelations and publication of the book.

The film is mostly flash back; but we meet Walsch first as he speaks to an audience of fans and skeptics once the book's success is established. This introductory scene feels "new-agey" and a little self-congratulatory, despite the pains that have been taken to acknowledge the author's human-ness almost immediately. With this, film risks turning off anyone with suspicion of New Age lingo and platitudes or even just a lack of first hand knowledge of the humbling process the main character (and those of us on similar journeys) has gone through to get here.

However, if you can forgive that and stay open, it is a well worthwhile (if occasionally shaky) ride, driven with poignant and remarkable authenticity by Henry Czerny, who plays N.D. Walsch. All the performances are commendably genuine, but the film wouldn't work without Czerny.

The lessons and the content presented redeem the characters, the film and the viewer alike. Although the words quoted from the books themselves roll by almost too fast to fully comprehend in the film, the phenomena they describe are far more effectively illustrated in the actions and interactions, thus effectively demonstrating a prominent theme: the importance of walking the talk as best one is able.

In fact, in the scenes when the main character is merely speaking the book's content in promotional settings, its living wisdom seems desiccated to glib platitudes. Nonetheless, in one of those scenes, the Walsch character says that we are in conversation with God all the time, in every person, book, radio jingle or event we encounter. The viewer ends up gratefully aware that this film offers a rich moment in that conversation.



DVD Title: Soul Masters: Dr. Guo and Dr. Sha
Director:
Sandra Deir
soulmastersmovie.com, drsha.com

Dr. Zhi Gang Sha has been steadily gaining visibility in the past couple of years, attracting a devoted following of talented students and healers. Others, who have not resonated with his approach, vocabulary or public presentation, are encouraged to give a second look in the form of this refreshingly affecting documentary on Dr. Sha and his own Master, Dr. Zhi Chen Guo.

The program follows students of Master Sha to the clinic of his renowned teacher, Master Guo, who was recognized for his critical contribution to containing the SARS epidemic. After watching him and some of his grateful patients, anyone with chronic illness may be galvanized to find their way to his doors.

In addition to their commonalities, the film also demonstrates the distinctions of emphasis in the work of the two doctors, who are both Qi Gong masters and accomplished Medical Doctors.

While the film touches on what some might find quite esoteric stuff, it is presented to be accessible, even intriguing, to the relatively uninitiated, and it is a film made to be shared.



Title: Sound Yoga/Nada Yoga: The Healing Power of Sacred Sound
Artist:
Shanti Shivani
ISBN/UPC: 8-09573-96099-1

In this program, rare and respected Western and female authority Shanti Shivani presents some fundamentals of Nada Yoga, the Sound Yoga from the Hindu or Vedic tradition. Shivani reminds us that Greek musicology is suspected to have come from Indian music culture. This fact, and the experience of participating in the simple and powerful principles, toning, and ragas she presents, generate a powerful felt sense of the universality, profound creativity and transformational potential of sound, when generated and sculpted with mindfulness and pureness of heart.

Shivani, adorned in a yellow sari, sits with radiant grace and gentle authority amid a sumptuously dressed set and guides us through exercises of increasing complexity, doing so with pacing and repetition sufficient to promote quite a stirring personal experience. This is just a taste and yet it feels like a substantial immersion into a marvelous, mystical, nearly forgotten world. The presentation both whets the appetite for more and makes clear that even these few offerings warrant time, respect and surrender to fully explore and master.



Title: Yoga of Light: Meditations, Mudras and Expressions of the Divine Feminine
Artist:
Sharron Rose
UPC: 8-09573-96049-6

Teacher, performer and author Sharron Rose decorated the set for all four Sacred Mysteries Presentations reviewed here, using the same basic, rich red and yellow curtain, carpets and cushions, arrayed with objects evocative of each presentation's unique themes.

Rose herself is the presenter of Yoga of Light, a series of visualizations to activate and empower the Divine Feminine within us all. Her voiceover guides the viewer through a performance of movements while the camera records her demonstrating these with silent vivacity. Her narration is lavish poetic imagery, and her portrayal is an enticing dance of torso, hands, head and eyes (even as she remains seated in a wakeful, grounded posture reminiscent of Goddess Statuary from many cultures).

Visualizations have their limitation, and these are no exception. Their efficacy depends greatly on the participant's capacity and willingness to surrender body and mind into the experience. That said, some of the imagery and movements can be disarmingly effective.

Just watching Rose's performance — a priestess embodying the Goddess — is compelling and alone lights a fire within the viewer. However , in this way, the program divides the attention. The viewer is well advised to take in that performance by itself once before participating; for to fully own, embody and express as she directs often requires disregarding the visuals on the screen and harvesting that which is within.

When one can't connect personally to that which she describes, however, her example is effective and inspiring, and invokes the way women have learned these arts originally, through observation and participation with seasoned practitioners, in which the juicy light of the Feminine was freely flowing.

 

Books | Audio | Video

 


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