Book review: How to Know God by Deepak Chopra

The Soul’s Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries

This is another book in that same first class in Spirituality & Resilience about which I had to lead a discussion. The book was rather intimidating at first because I questioned the existence of a God. Despite growing up catholic, I strayed from religion and sought something more intellectual. So, this book challenged me.

The author begins by going into telling us that our search to find God is narrowed down to a response of the brain which Chopra calls the “God response.” It falls into seven definite events taking place inside the brain and are much more basic than your beliefs, but they give rise to beliefs that bridge from our world to an invisible domain where matter dissolves and spirit emerges:

  1. Fight-or-flight response: we turn to God when we need to survive. You fulfill your life through family, a sense of belonging like to a community, and material comforts.
  2. Reactive response (this is the brain’s creation of a personal identity): we turn to God because we need to achieve, accomplish, and compete. You fulfill your life through success, status, and other ego satisfactions.
  3. Restfulness awareness response: we turn to God because we need to feel that the outer world isn’t going to swallow us up in its endless turmoil. You fulfill your response through peace, centeredness, self-acceptance, and inner silence.
  4. Intuitive response (the brain looks for information both inside and out): we turn to God for him to validate that our inner world is good. Outer knowledge is objective; but inner knowledge is intuitive. The God that matches this response is understanding and forgiving. You full your life though insight, empathy, tolerance, and forgiveness.
  5. Creative response (the human brain can invent new things and discover new facts): we turn to him out of our wonder at the beauty and formal complexity of nature. We call this inspiration, and its mirror is a Creator who made the whole world from nothing. You fulfill your life through inspiration, expanded creativity in art or science, and unlimited discovery.
  6. Visionary response (a form of pure awareness that feels joyful and blessed): we need such a God to explain why magic an exist side by side with ordinary mundane reality. This contact can be bewildering because it has no roots in the material world. You fulfill your life through reverence, compassion, devoted service, and universal love.
  7. Sacred response: we need him because without a source, our existence has no foundation at all. You fulfill your life through wholeness and unity with the divine.

These seven responses form the basis of religion whether the God is absent or non-existent or one of pure love and light. Each religion projects a different view of reality with a matching God. Only the brain can deliver the vast range of deities that exist in human experience. We select a deity based on interpretation of reality, and that interpretation is rooted in biology.

I enjoyed how the book went into the power of intention and what makes life spiritual. Also diverting was how the author explored the mysteries and complexities and wove them together to open new doors for us to ruminate. If you want to read it in its entirety, get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes

This book encourages you to detach from the causes of suffering, embrace your psychological pain, identify your values, and take action towards those values. It is all based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which focuses on mindfulness techniques, acceptance, and value-centric living. The author pretty much outlines the path out of suffering and towards full engagement of life.

When people believe their negative thoughts and incorporate them into their personal identity, their perspective becomes severely limited, and suffering becomes twofold. There is pain of the presence like anxiety and depression. When focusing on such negative states, a secondary type of agitation emerges: the pain of absence, which refers to the inability to move forward in life and the opportunities missed as a result.

Mindfulness techniques are very effective in catching negative thoughts before they become an ingrained part of one’s identity or self-concept. A daily practice of meditation and other contemplative practices can create a healthy distance between negative thoughts and one’s sense of self as external to those thoughts. Practicing acceptance, or the willingness to experience the situation and self exactly as they are in the present moment is the next step. The third step is to identify values, which are not life goals or specific outcomes but rather directions in life that people make the conscious decision to move toward. Once values are identified, incorporating practices of mindfulness and acceptance paves the way to values-driven living.

Key insights of this book are:

  1. There are two faces of human suffering: present pain, which refers to an undesirable condition, and the pain of absence which results from not living a full life.
  2. Human beings think relationally, creating temporal, causal, and comparative links between various subjects.
  3. Running away from pain only makes it more palpable.
  4. Avoidance can be counteracted by the belief that it’s possible to respond in a new way to old problems.
  5. Acceptance means letting go of trying to control thoughts and feelings.
  6. Creating distance between the self and negative thoughts is the first step in reducing emotional pain.
  7. Identifying with the consciousness that holds pain is preferable to identifying with the pain itself.
  8. Mindfulness practices heighten the ability to be flexible and access a wide range of reactions.
  9. Pain offers meaningful guidance to identify values.

I really enjoyed this methodically and thoughtfully written book which made the philosophical underpinnings of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) accessible. I strongly suggest reading it in its entirety. Get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I first read this book ten years ago for a Spirituality & Resilience class. It’s pretty straightforward in that whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. Now how are you going to handle it? Don’t lose touch with yourself and fall into a robot-like way of seeing and thinking and doing where you break contact with your deepest self because if not careful, those moments can stretch out and last a lifetime. Don’t be preoccupied with the past, with what has already happened, or with a future that hasn’t arrived yet because you may fall quite unawares into assuming is the truth about what is out there in the world and in here in our minds because much of the time, it just isn’t so.

The author goes on to say that we may pay a high price for this mistaken and unexamined assumption by willfully ignoring the richness of our present moments. The fallout accumulates silently, coloring our lives without our knowing it or being able to do something about it. Instead, we lock ourselves into a personal fiction that is enshrouded in thoughts, fantasies, and impulses mostly about the past and the future that veil our direction and the very ground we stand on. This book tells you how to wake up from such dreams and the nightmares they turn into. Go from ignorance—our mindlessness, to being in touch with the not knowing which is mindfulness, by using meditation, and wakefulness which is present moment awareness.

It is important to note that meditation is not some cryptic activity, and does not involve becoming a zombie, cultist, devotee, or mystic. It is simply about being yourself, coming to realize that you are on a path that is your life, see that this path has direction that is always unfolding moment by moment and that what happens in this moment influences what happens next.

Reading this book in its entirety helps get out of the fog-enshrouded, slippery slope that we get into and that we may follow right into our grave or that fog-dispelling clarity at the moment before death where we realize that all the thought we placed on past and future was based on ignorance and fear. Instead shed those life-limiting ideas that aren’t the truth or the way our life has to be at all. When I first read this book, it seemed too straightforward in saying that “it is what it is.” But considering I had to lead a discussion on it the following day, I reread it and really got into it and got the message. It was one of the books that started me on this journey of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, as well as spirituality and resilience seeking. Get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—And It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over your Life

This book is similar to the last book on Zen philosophy that I reviewed which was The Art of Simple Living. It consists of 100 suggestions to simplify your life and starts by noting things about our volatile world such as entertainment is more attractive than education, personal gain rates higher than personal growth, and being selfless is less attractive than taking selfies. We’re in an age where we are immobilized by little things that get in the way of what we want. So, when it seems to many of us that society has lost its way, this book is here to bring you back to your simplified higher self and core values of kindness.

Some of the 100 points touched on in this brief, honest, pure and simple little self-help book are:

  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—instead of focusing on little problems and concerns and blow them out of proportion, focus on the magic and beauty of life.
  • Make Peace with Imperfection—in the absence of judgment and seeking perfection, you’ll then discover the perfection in life itself.
  • Beware of the Snowball Effect of Your Thinking—notice how negative and insecure thinking spirals out of control and becomes a thought tornado.
  • Develop Your Compassion—nothing helps us build our perspective more than empathy of what others experience. It develops our sense of gratitude for the miracle of life.
  • Learn to Live in the Present Moment—don’t allow past problems and future concerns to make us anxious or depressed. Now is the only time we have and the only time that we have any control over.
  • Ask Yourself the Question, “Will This Matter a Year from Now?”—play time warp and ask if this “will be one more irrelevant detail in your life?” Don’t allow a mental fork in the road let you get uptight about mini crisis in life.
  • Practice Humility—humility and inner peace go hand-in-hand. The less compelled you are to prove yourself to others, the more peace inside yourself.
  • Practice Being in the Eye of the Storm—stay in the specific spot of the center of life’s metaphorical tornadoes or hurricanes that is calm and isolated from the frenzy of stressed or dramatized activity. Be serene in the midst of chaos.
  • Live This Day as if it Were Your Last. It Might Be—Spend time doing things that you can’t bear to let go unfinished should this moment be your last.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.

William James

This book definitely does give the reader the tools to choose not to sweat the small stuff and to live the big stuff with greater happiness, peace, and big joy. To read this wonderful book, get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno

100 Daily Practices form a Japanese Zen Monk for a Lifetime of Calm and Joy

This straightforward, unpretentious, quick read should be on everybody’s TBR stack because with just subtle shifts in your habits and perspective you’ll be able to live simply. The author is the head priest at a 450-year-old Zen Buddhist temple in Japan and separated his book into four parts:

  1. 30 ways to energize your “present self”—Try making a subtle shift in your habits.
  2. 30 ways to inspire confidence and courage for living—Try changing your perspective.
  3. 20 ways to eliminate confusion and worry—Try to change how you interact with others.
  4. 20 ways to make any day the best day—Try shifting your attention to the present moment.

It begins by reminding us of how we felt the first time we stood on a mountain top and looked out at the great expanse or staring out across the ocean at the horizon. It’s a sense of being refreshed where your heart feels lighter, worries vanish, and you feel more alive.

Our daily life is full of accumulating stress, worries, and feeling burdened. But how do we change our world? That is a monumental task. So, better yet, let’s change ourselves. It only requires slight changes in habits or a subtle shift in your perspective. The author shows us how to do this with the help of Zen which is about habits, ideas, and hints for living a happy life: deep, yet simple life wisdom. He begins by telling us that we shouldn’t be swayed by the values of others, troubled by unnecessary concerns, or place value on wasteful things.

Here are some of the book’s insights:

  • Make time for emptiness by first observing yourself. Be with yourself as you are, but without haste, without impatience.
  • Savor the morning air. The monk’s secret to life is found here. Each day is not the same.
  • Discard what you don’t need. It will refresh your mind. Part with old things before acquiring new ones.
  • Organize your desktop. Cleaning hones the mind. Your desk is a mirror that reflects you inner mind.
  • Exhale deeply. How to eliminate negative emotions. Improve your breathing and your mind will improve, too.
  • Sit Zazen. The effects of sitting and thinking. Human beings are not capable of deep reflection while we are moving.
  • Don’t waste time worrying about things you cannot control. What does it mean to be spiritually lighter? The moment when you suddenly leave yourself behind.
  • Don’t think of unpleasant things right before bed. A five-minute “bed zazen” before going to sleep. Time to reset your mind.
  • Don’t be troubled by things that have not yet happened. Anxiety is intangible. Where does it actually exist?
  • Simply immerse yourself. The tremendous power of being unfettered. Empty your mind, and do not let it settle anywhere or wander.
  • Do not fear change. Cast off your attachment to the past. There is beauty to be found in change.
  • Cast away the three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance to being a Zen mind-se into your life. Keep your desires and anger in check and strive to understand the nature of things.
  • Notice the changes of the season. It will inspire you to go on. Herin lies the only truth in the world.

This would make a nice bedside table read to page through occasionally to recall it’s insights. To read it in its entirety, go here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay

This bestseller contains uplifting and encouraging words to help you change your perception of the world around you. It is a personal action plan to improve your way of thinking. It focuses on specific areas of life that need attention, such as money and self-worth, and assures that with persistence you will achieve success in these areas. This book gives you the motivation to improve your life.

We live in a “yes” universe which always says yes to us no matter what we choose to think or believe. Our thoughts create our future. Whether we think prosperity or poverty, the universe says yes to it, which is why we need to reframe our thinking. We must make conscious efforts always to retain and affirm positivity as our lives end up playing out according to our thoughts.

We want to think and believe that we have the right to be healthy so that health becomes natural to us. There is magic in recognizing our bodies as good friends and knowing that every cell listens to our minds. Our beliefs become our reality. We can decide to be healthy and live extraordinary lives by ensuring our minds are rid of negativity and resentment by releasing all burden from our heart, and thereby ensuring all the organs in our body will function properly.

We can effect change in our lives by following these principles:

  • Nurturing the willingness to let go
  • Controlling the mind
  • Learning how forgiveness of self and others releases us

To break free from our negative mind, we need to substitute faith for fear and build our love for ourselves which contributes greatly to the quality of our lives. We must dissolve every bit of resentment to make way for change. It gives no room for any form of negativity. We must cease negativity and criticism except for our flaws and strengths and making sure to take rewards when necessary. When we practice self-love, life mirrors that love back to us—the gateway to true healing.

The only way to change others is to change ourselves first. Once we change our patterns, we’ll find that people are different, too.

Louise L. Hay

This is a colorful and beautifully designed book that would make the perfect gift for others or staple in your self-help library.

Book review: Rezoom by Susan Peirce Thompson

The Powerful Reframe to End the Crash-and-burn Cycle of Food Addiction

This book explores how food recovery involves a level of self-examination, grit, and vigilance unparalleled in the addiction-recovery landscape. The first element of addiction recovery as far as food recovery is concerned is the Rezoom Reframe. The second is a set of behavioral interventions known as the Rezoom System. Parts Work is the process of getting your whole psych aligned with your weight-loss journey.

The Internal Family Systems model of the psyche is based on the idea that we all have an authentic self, a calm, clear center underneath the storm of our parts. It has eight qualities: calm, confidence, curiosity, creativity, clarity, courage, compassion, and connectedness. Parts of us fall into two categories: wounded parts from childhood and protective parts that look after our wounded parts but also keep them out of view.

The Food Indulger is the part of us that is addicted to food to protect, soothe, and numb ourselves from uncomfortable emotions. Food is the hardest substance to overcome in the addiction-recovery landscape because we need it to survive. A strong Food Controller can get us into better shape, but we won’t have peace until we get our life into balance and get our Food Indulger to calm down.

The old way of thinking about food is all-or-nothing and this leads to perfectionism. The new way of thinking is more gradual and leads to more freedom. The crash-and-burn cycle of food addiction is too destructive, and we need to end it. We need a Rezoom Reframe. The book then goes into Bright Line eating which is a relatively new weight loss program that uses the latest neurological and psychological research to help people who struggle with food addiction to lose weight and keep it off for good. This is the bulk of this book. to get a copy to read in its entirety go here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

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