Book Reviews

Reviews by timlarison

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The Fear Cure

Mar 02, 2015


Fear has been my constant companion.  I’ve written in the past about my fear of public speaking, for instance, which I overcame through the help of Toastmasters.  Yet when I conquer one fear there always seems to be another to take its place.  That’s why Lissa Rankin’s new book, The Fear Cure, caught my eye.  “What if fear isn’t something to avoid, resist, or feel shame about?” she writes in the book’s introduction.  “What if, instead, fear is here to help you?”  Intrigued by Rankin’s different approach to fear, I wanted to read on.

The author differentiates between true fear – those fears that keep you alive in an often dangerous world – and false fear – unreasonable thoughts that prevent you from reaching your full potential.  I’ve often been ashamed to admit my false fears, and generally have considered them “bad”.  Rankin believes false fears can actually be beneficial.  “Both true fear and false fear can help you, if you know how to interpret them in healthy ways.,” she says.

I like how Rankin shares from her own experience throughout the book, including a harrowing account of being held up at gunpoint in a Colorado mountain tunnel.  What fear was she feeling during this encounter?  How did she react?  The author tells all and turns it into a lesson for the reader.  These personal stories are balanced with Rankin’s own research.  Drawing from her medical background, Rankin quotes numerous experts on the fear topic.  In this way the book appeals to a wide audience.  Those who like facts from academia will appreciate Rankin’s detailed investigation into the subject, while others who prefer real life stories will find those accounts in The Fear Cure, too.

I also like how Rankin sprinkles “Courage-Cultivating Exercises” throughout the book.  In one of these exercises the author asks readers to examine fears they struggle with.  “Ask what message of healing your fear is trying to communicate,” she writes.  “What might this fear have to teach you about your personal and spiritual growth?  Where might you have blind spots in need of illuminating?  Where are you stuck?  How can this fear be a blessing?”  In this way The Fear Cure can be a valuable tool for personal introspection.

“True fear is a natural survival mechanism, here to protect you, and false fear is an important teaching tool, here to enlighten you,” Rankin writes.  Maybe, just maybe, all those fears I struggle with, past and present, aren’t so bad after all.  The Fear Cure helped me to realize the experiences of my most intense fears, and overcoming those, were also the times of my greatest growth.  The book gave me hope that the fears I am currently dealing with just might be leading me to a better life, if I listen to the messages they are trying to tell me.

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The Power of No

Oct 28, 2014


I was looking at my calendar the other day. I saw more black ink, a measure of all the appointments I had, than the calendar’s white background. “Am I over committing myself?” I wondered. Then James Altucher’s and Claudia Azula Altucher’s book came along – The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness. “This book is for me!” I thought.

I liked the Altuchers conversational style in The Power of No. Full of examples from their own lives, it’s an easy read. “The Power of No has helped us, the authors, literally survive,” they write in the first few pages. “With it, we have freed ourselves from the society, institutions, friends, loves, colleagues, bosses, and belief systems that have tried to build a cage around us. Those that have tried and still try to control us.” Through their stories we learn how the Altuchers evolved to use more “no’s” in their lives, and that encourages the reader to use this potent little word more, too.

Each chapter has an exercise where the reader can apply the principles the authors teach. One that I found effective was WHO IS YOUR INNER CIRCLE? “List all of the primary people in your life: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. Anyone you engage with more than five times a week,” the Altuchers write. “Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how you feel after your interactions with that person, 10 being the best. Anyone lower than an 8, begin to pull back from. Lower than a 5, stay a little farther away from … This doesn’t mean being selfish and avoiding people who need your help … This is a dimmer switch, not an on-and-off switch. It is a tool for being discriminating so you can bring your brightest creativity forward.”

This exercise led me to reevaluate my relationships, and, yes, I did pull back from some. I think it’ll do the same for you. Other exercises in the book are equally powerful.

“Being clear about which relationships and which people we let into our lives is the key to access our creative force,” the authors write. As a result of reading The Power of No I’m seeing more white space in my calendar these days, as I am saying “No” to requests more often. And feeling OK about each one.
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Beyond Past Lives

Sep 12, 2014


The concept that I may have lived past lives never really interested me. Though in recent years I’ve delved into metaphysical spirituality through reading and by attending a local “new thought” church, the idea that I had lives before this one always seemed a little too “woo woo” for me. Then I heard Brian Weiss, considered the foremost authority on past lives, speak at a Hay House I Can Do It conference this spring. Weiss himself was initially a past lives skeptic! His reasoned approach, full of real life examples, got me curious about the topic. When presented with the opportunity to read and review Mira Kelley’s “Beyond Past Lives: What Parallel Realities Can Teach Us About Relationships, Healing, and Transformation” I said, “why not?” I was soon to discover Kelley’s book is a fascinating study for anyone interested in past lives, even for a doubter like me.

“The most basic lesson is that it is possible to heal your present by working with your past,” Kelley writes in the book’s introduction. “I was a Roman slave!” “I was a British soldier in the American Revolution!” “I was a Russian Spy!” While stories of past lives like these may lead to interesting cocktail party conversations, that’s not the real purpose of exploring this phenomena. One theme stressed repeatedly in the book is that examining past lives can lead to healing and living a better life TODAY. “Reliving other incarnations helps us understand who we are and gives us guidance on our most pressing emotional and physical challenges,” Kelley says. I liked the present moment emphasis of Beyond Past Lives. Who doesn’t want to lead a richer, more fulfilling life? Revisiting past lives can help us do that.

Another key point of Beyond Past Lives is related to our concept of time. We humans think of our lives linearly, with a past, present, and future. Kelley says that’s an illusion, and that our multiple lives are really happening simultaneously. This is a difficult concept to grasp for a logical thinking ex-engineer like myself, yet the author explains it well and gives good examples, quoting no less of an authority than Albert Einstein to back up her assertions. “The understanding that time is simultaneous can assist all of us in our spiritual progression and expand our awareness of how we create our own realities,” she writes.

“Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing,” Wayne Dyer writes in the book’s introduction, relating how he benefited from Kelley’s work. Beyond Past Lives certainly piqued my interest in the topic that had previously seemed strange to me, and encouraged me to learn more. I recommend the book.
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Don't Die with Your Music Still in You

Aug 05, 2014


When I was first given the opportunity to read and review “Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You: My Experience Growing Up with Spiritual Parents” I resisted. “Serena Dyer probably just got to write and publish this book because of her famous father,” I thought. Yet being a fan of Wayne Dyer’s work I was intrigued enough to give the book a try. I am glad I did. I was to discover Serena Dyer has a vulnerability and grace uniquely her own. While Wayne Dyer adds his thoughts at the end of each chapter, this is primarily a Serena Dyer book, and a good one at that.

I enjoyed Serena’s behind the scenes stories of what it was like to grow up in the Dyer household. Rather than living on a perpetual spiritual high, I learned that the Dyers had their own challenges to work through. The separation of Wayne from Serena’s Mom Marcelene, for example, was a biggie. “It was a really difficult time for the whole family,” Serena writes, “yet I also think it was a pivotal time in my life.” The Dyers come across as very human through Serena’s family stories. “My dad was distraught and had a very difficult time just functioning on a day-to-day basis during that fateful summer,” Serena recalls, “He had always been so strong and positive that his pain was jarring. He was such a powerful figure in my mind, but that summer I realized he was also vulnerable and human.”

Serena’s insights on living and her admiration for her Mom and Dad come through in each chapter. “Spirituality isn’t about being positive and memorizing great quotes. Spirituality is honoring the truth that is within me so that I can grow and expand and improve,” she believes.

Like her father, Serena has the gift of relating life lessons through easy to read stories. I was entertained and inspired by Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You, and I think you will be, too.
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You Are the Placebo

Jul 13, 2014


You no doubt have heard stories of people being healed from illness by taking miracle drugs, only to find out later the drugs were “placebos” – or harmless sugar pills. How, then, were these people healed? Dr Joe Dispenza explores this phenomenon in his new book, “You Are the Placebo: making your mind matter”.

Dispenza knows what you tell yourself can heal physical maladies. He did it himself! Having experienced a horrific biking accident at age 23 while competing in a triathlon, Dispenza’s prognosis was not good. With six broken vertebrae it was doubtful he would ever walk again. “I decided against the medical model and the expert recommendations,” Dispenza recalls in the first pages of the book. “I believe that there’s an intelligence, an invisible consciousness, within each of us that’s the giver of life. It supports, maintains, protects, and heals us every moment.” The author goes on to explain how he tapped into that intelligence to heal his back, without surgery.

Similar to his first book I read, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Dispenza is vulnerable in telling his own story, sharing his doubts and struggles along the way. Dispenza gives accounts of others, too, who healed themselves with positive mental attitude shifts. Is his approach mere pie in the sky optimism? Not a chance, says Dispenza. “None of the methods you’ll read about here involve denying whatever health condition you may presently have,” he writes. “Instead of being about rejecting reality, You Are the Placebo is about projecting what’s possible when you step into a new reality.” Reading Dizpenza’s stories opened my eyes to the power of the mind in healing the body.

As in his first book, Dispenza emphasizes a daily meditation practice to get in touch with the healing intelligence within. He devotes several pages to a meditation technique. I found this part hard to follow. I think it’s difficult to learn how to meditate from a book. In person instruction is much better. But Dispenza’s words did remind me of the value of meditation and encouraged me to continue my practice.

“You Are the Placebo” is a good read if you are going through a health crisis of your own. Perhaps, through a change in attitude, your condition will improve, like the healing stories of those described in the book. Dispenza concludes with a noble goal. “Imagine a world inhabited by billions of people, just like a school of fish, living as one—where everyone is embracing similar uplifting thoughts connected to unlimited possibility,” he writes. You Are the Placebo inspired me to monitor my self talk more carefully, so I too can recognize the “unlimited possibilities” not only in health, but in all areas of my life.

I received a complementary copy of this book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Holy Shift!

May 27, 2014


I’ve come across many authors, teachers, and acquaintances in the past year who have had a positive experience studying A Course In Miracles (ACIM). “It’s my primary spiritual path,” said one. When I’ve tried to read ACIM myself, however, I found it hard to comprehend. Yet because it has had such a favorable impact on peoples’ lives I wanted to learn more about it. That’s why I welcomed the chance to read Robert Holden’s new book: Holy Shift: 365 Daily Meditations From A Course In Miracles.

In the 10 page introduction Holden gives the best overview of “The Course” that I have read. “A Course in Miracles is a big book. It’s more than 1,200 pages and 500,000 words long, and its size alone is too imposing for many,” Holden writes. It was a relief to know I was not the only one who was baffled by ACIM at first glance. Holden himself writes about The Course, “Initially, I found it difficult to understand.” Yet Holden says “The Course describes a miracle as something you experience when you are willing to shift your perception from a psychology of fear to a psychology of love.” Now that’s something I can relate to! My spirituality is based in the unconditional love of God, and not in the fear based messages taught in many churches. I wanted to read more.

Once I was past this excellent introduction, I discovered Holy Shift was not an original work. Rather Holden gives the reader 365 passages from The Course to read and meditate on – one for each day of the year. For someone intimidated by the size and language of the original Course, Holden’s work is much easier to digest. I found myself underlying key passages, such as:

“As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” (February 1st).

“Only the Love of God will protect you in all circumstances.” (March 1st)

“You who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness.” (May 2nd)

“God is our goal; forgiveness is the means by which our minds return to Him at last.” (Sept 13th)

“The Holy Spirit’s Voice is as loud as your willingness to listen.” (November 5th)

With ACIM’s primary message of love and forgiveness, emphasized throughout Holy Shift in these and other passages, I found the book uplifting. Holden has produced an abbreviated version of A Course In Miracles – good for people like me who find the original Course a bit overwhelming. Ardent students of ACIM will find Holy Shift a valuable refresher of The Course’s key concepts. For the purposes of this review I quickly read through the 365 daily lessons. I’m going to take a second look, this time reading the book as it was intended, with one passage to focus on each day.
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Miracles Now

Apr 30, 2014


When I attended Hay House’s recent I Can Do It conference in Denver I was browsing Gabrielle Bernstein’s “Miracles Now: Tools for Less Stress, More Flow, and Finding Your True Purpose” at the bookstore. “I was so hoping to hear Gabby speak today,” said a woman in her 20's next to me, disappointed that Bernstein’s appearance at the conference had been cancelled. “Gabby is reaching the younger generation with her message,” she said. Having listened to Bernstein’s Hay House radio program in the past I said, “I like her, too, and I’m old!” But I had never read any of Bernstein’s books. Until now.

Miracles Now does indeed appeal to the young and old with its practical, easy to understand spiritual lessons. Divided into 108 short chapters (most one or two pages), I liked reading a few pages after my morning meditation, and a few more in the evening before going to bed. Bernstein, very much in tune with social media, has a inspirational quote at the end of each chapter just perfect to summarize the topic and to share with your twitter followers. I sent out on my twitter feed the ones that had the most impact on me, such as:

“People who value themselves attract people who value them, too.” — Kate Northrup #MiraclesNow
The key to getting what you want is to ASK FOR IT. #MiraclesNow
I surrender my desires & I know the Universe has my back. #MiraclesNow
You don’t need to find your purpose.Your purpose will find you. #MiraclesNow

Is twitter not your thing? You can “pin it, post it to Facebook, or pass it along on Instagram” instead, says Gabby.

In the lessons she shares Bernstein draws from two primary sources: insights from A Course In Miracles and from her Kundalini yoga practice. In my experience A Course In Miracles can be difficult to understand on your own. Bernstein explains it in simpler terms. The Course “is a metaphysical self-taught curriculum based on the principle that when we choose love over fear we experience miraculous change,” she says. The Kundalini exercises were new to me and most were easy to follow (this old guy didn’t try the one where Gabby recommends standing on your head for one minute, however :-) )

Bernstein’s practical and straight forward spiritual exercises reminded me of the writing of Louise Hay – Gabby is that good. “When you are called to share the spiritual awareness you now have, don’t hesitate to speak up. Be the lighthouse. In your light, others will become illuminated,” Bernstein concludes in the final pages. Reading Miracles Now gave me encouragement to spread my own light, as well as a bevy of simple spiritual tools for me to use now and in the future.
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Quantum Creativity

Apr 14, 2014


Do you wish to live from your creativity, rather than from the survival instincts of your ego? Ph.D. physicist Amit Goswami gives suggestions on how to do that in his new book Quantum Creativity: Think Quantum Be Creative.

Goswami writes in the introduction that Quantum Creativity is based on an earlier book by the same title he wrote for a scholarly audience over a decade ago. Goswami says “this time I’ve written for the layperson interested in seeing creativity, which includes the way we shape our life experience, in an entirely new way.” I felt the author has mixed results in achieving this goal. I found the book difficult to understand in parts due to its academic language. Previous books I have read and reviewed on Quantum Theory for the every day person, such as Joe Dispenza’s Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself and Greg Kuhn’s “Why Quantum Physicists Do Not Fail” were easier for me to understand.

Nevertheless, Quantum Creativity did give me some new insights into how Quantum theory can enhance my creativity. “The quantum self is the experiencer of our intuitive insights into new meanings and new contexts, of the flashes of imagination that cannot be directly derived from prior learning,” writes Goswami. I have found this true in my life, where major shifts in my world view came seemingly out of nowhere, as a result of a series of synchronistic events, and not from anything I learned in school. And in those times I am trying too hard on a project, not making much progress, I can take solace in what Goswami relates about Albert Einstein. He writes, “Einstein once asked a psychologist at Princeton, ‘Why is it I get my best ideas in the morning while I’m shaving?’ The psychologist answered that consciousness needs to let go of its inner controls in order for new ideas to emerge.”

While the movie The Secret was an introduction to quantum principles for many, its lessons were not always applied in the best way, according to Goswami. “One obstacle is that we try to do it all at the ego level of the mind, and for personal advantage,” he writes. “According to a growing school of thought, your intention has a much better chance of being supported by nonlocal quantum consciousness if it serves the greater good.” When I have a creative project a good question to ask myself is “will this be of service to others, or is my motivation the accolades I’ll receive from it?”

“As physicist Niels Bohr once said, if you’re not puzzled by quantum physics, you couldn’t possibly have understood it,” Goswami says. Good. Parts of Quantum Creativity did have me confused. Perhaps when I reread it at a later date the book will have a bigger impact on me. Yet I do think Quantum Creativity has value, especially for those already familiar with quantum theory and looking for deeper insights into expanding their own creative natures.
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I Can See Clearly Now

Apr 07, 2014


On the first page of his new autobiography, I Can See Clearly Now, Wayne Dyer tells a story of when he was a toddler with his Mom and two brothers. The family is waiting for an early morning bus in a cold Detroit winter, when suddenly a truck drives by and showers the family with snow. Dyer’s Mom is exasperated – she was dressed for work. Dyer’s brothers are upset, too, with three year old David crying uncontrollably. The ever positive Dyer makes the best of the situation. “It’s OK, Mommy. Don’t cry. We can all just stay here and play in the snow.”

I found this story and many more a fascinating look at Wayne Dyer’s life in I Can See Clearly Now. Dyer holds back nothing in telling his story – the ups and the downs, the successes and the disappointments. In 58 chapters Dyer takes us from his childhood to his current success as a New York Times best selling author. Each chapter concludes with a “I Can See Clearly Now” section where from the benefit of hindsight Dyer makes sense of the incidents that happened in earlier his life.

One issue prominent in this book and from his past work is Dyer’s relationship to his father. Abandoned as an infant, Dyer was angry and bitter towards his Dad for many years until he came to a forgiveness moment. This was the focus of Hay House’s My Greatest Teacher movie that I reviewed back in 2012. In retelling the story this time, in the I Can See Clearly Now portion, Dyer writes, “my life without the benefit of a father was perfect in every way. From this vantage point I see that my books, lectures, films, and recordings came about because my father was absent from my life. My ego wanted him, but my spirit knew that I had a far greater purpose to fulfill.”

In telling his stories and the lessons he learned from each one, Dyer may cause his readers to ponder the incidents that have occurred in their lives, and what meaning they can get from those. I know the book had that effect on me. “There are so many benefits that can and will accrue for you if you are willing to examine your own personal story from the perspective of having an open mind,” he writes. “In relating all of the circumstances that were major turning points in my life throughout the pages of this book, I discovered some truths I would like to share with you so that you too might enjoy the benefits of looking at your life, then and now, through unclouded lenses.”

If you are a Wayne Dyer fan, I Can See Clearly Now is a must read for a behind the scenes look at the life of this inspirational author. Whether you are familiar with Dyer’s past work or not, I believe the book will cause you to take a look back at your own life, and come up with your own “I Can See Clearly Now” insights.
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The Turning Point

Mar 11, 2014


“Never in the modern world have we attempted to meet the growing needs of so many people through shrinking supplies of so few resources, with climate change supercharging the demand,” Gregg Braden writes early in his new book The Turning Point: Creating Resilience in a Time of Extremes. At first I thought this was a book just about global problems – those biggies that affect the whole human race. “I’m glad we have people like Gregg Braden addressing this stuff,” I thought to myself. “I have enough on my plate in running the family business, getting our kids through college, and attempting to lose a few pounds. These bigger issues are too much for me to think about right now.”

But in Turning Point Gregg Braden does an excellent job in explaining these huge planetary problems in language an average person, like me, can understand. I liked how Braden put into perspective the turbulent times we are living in. “For 11,500 years or so,” he writes, “there had been fewer than 500 million people on the planet. To put this into perspective, it means that during this time the number of people being sustained by the resources of our planet was less than half the number now living in India today.” Wow.

Far from painting a doomsday picture, though, Turning Point is a book of hope. Braden contends that our ancestors have faced equally challenging problems, and through resilience and innovation came out better on the other side. We can do that too. “We humans have a history of embracing change and an amazing track record for successfully turning the extremes of crisis into transformation,” the author says. “Our willingness to think differently about ourselves and the world will be the key to the success of our journey.”

While I found Braden’s expose on global issues enlightening, I was surprised as I read further that he applies these same transformational principles to common problems we all face. Not sure when to leave a job? A relationship? The author gives questions to ask yourself when facing a big change. In a chapter on personal resilience he identifies unhealthy coping strategies and healthier alternatives when stress gets to be too much. In this way The Turning Point is a very practical book, applicable to every day life, in addition to addressing those larger global issues.

“There’s a time when every crisis can be turned into transformation; when simply surviving can become thriving. That time is the turning point,” Braden writes. Reading The Turning Point gave me a better awareness of the planetary challenges we are facing as a human race, but also gave me tools for transforming problems in my own little world. It’s a book worth reading.
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You Can Heal Your Heart

Feb 20, 2014


Everyone experiences loss in this life, whether it be the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or something else. If you are like me who sometimes find loss hard to take, authors David Kessler and Louise Hay can help. They have created a wonderful new book on the subject – You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death.

On the cover of this month’s Unity Magazine Kessler is called “America’s Leading Grief Expert”. I love how the book mixes Kessler’s expertise with Hay’s affirmation techniques. “Grieving is challenging, but it is our thoughts that often add suffering to our pain,” the authors write in the first few pages. Kessler knows all about grief, Hay knows all about positive thoughts. It’s a powerful combination.

You Can Heal Your Heart is a book that gives readers hope, even in the most dire of circumstances. “Although it’s natural to forget your power after you lose a loved one, the truth is that after a breakup, divorce, or death, there remains an ability within you to create a new reality,” they say. The most common causes of grief are covered in different chapters: a broken romantic relationship, divorce, death of a loved one, even death of a pet. One chapter is devoted to other types of losses, such as losing a job. Regardless of the loss, there is light on the other side according to Kessler and Hay. “Our ultimate wish is for you to discover that no matter what you’re facing, you can heal your heart. You deserve a loving, peaceful life.”

Reading You Can Heal Your Heart caused me to take a fresh look at some of my past losses, and to appreciate the lessons learned through those events. “Life is always moving toward healing,” say the authors. One story that touched me was of Candy Lightner, who lost her first grade son Jesse in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Mrs. Lightner encourages us to “change an angry thought into a loving one, each and every day.” The book is full of other inspiring stories of people who have dealt with loss and have come out on the other side with a positive outlook on life.

“We deeply believe in the affirmation Life loves us, although you may wonder how that applies in loss,” the authors conclude. “It doesn’t mean that you won’t experience loss—but depending on how you hold, perceive, and think about that loss, life can be there for you, even cradling you through your toughest times.” This is a book to read if you are having difficulty with a loss of your own, or to give to a friend or family member going through a similar ordeal.
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Power Words

Feb 11, 2014


Have you ever considered the power your everyday word choices have on your emotions? I hadn’t until I read Sharon Anne Klingler’s Power Words. “Throughout this book,” she writes in the introduction, “we’ll be working with words that you can use for a multitude of reasons … you’ll be able to apply the energy of specific words for each task.”

I’m a big proponent of affirmations, and in Power Words Klingler gave me a different way to use this technique. Instead of lengthy affirmations, Klingler recommends shortening these powerful thoughts to one or two words. The affirmation “I live in a state of love and joy”, for example, turns into “Joy now!” with Klingler’s power word treatment. “Notice how (power words) call you to action the very moment you use them,” the author says. I tried shortening a couple of my favorite affirmations to one or two words and I felt the difference – the brief, to the point, power words really did work in my case.

What about those naughty words you may say under your breath, or more loudly when frustrated in traffic? Klingler has an answer for that, too. For example, she recommends uttering “darn” instead of “damn”. A simple softening of that expletive? No, it’s more than that, Klingler writes. “Darn means to mend or repair. By making the change from damn to darn, you’re actually voicing the intention to repair the frustrating element rather than condemn it,” she advises. If you are one to let loose an f-bomb, Klingler has a substitute for that big nasty, also. Read the book to find out what it is, and the reason behind using it.

While emphasizing the power of words, I liked how Klingler put the use of words in perspective. Yes it is a good idea to use more life enhancing words, she says, but at the same time “you can’t live your life as a word-Nazi, fearing or condemning yourself for voicing every negative word. Give yourself permission for your own self-expression,” she writes. There’s a gentle, caring energy behind the book. It will likely take some time to notice and transform the words you use. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you let loose an expletive now and then. By following Klingler’s advice, those occurrences should be less frequent.

I also liked a number of inspiring quotes Klingler includes in her book – like this one from Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.” If you are like me, reading power words will cause you to consider “what words am I most often playing on my keyboard?”
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Jan 18, 2014


As I get older I am realizing that forgiveness is not just a good practice, it’s essential for everyday peace of mind. Iyanla Vanzant feels that way, too, and she gives many wonderful forgiveness strategies in her new book Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything.

“What I have learned during my 30-year sojourn through the science of personal and spiritual growth and healing is that forgiveness will cure whatever ails you,” Vanzant writes early in her book. “The other thing I am totally convinced of is that while forgiveness ain’t easy, it’s the most important inner work you can do within your mind and heart.” I like how the author shares stories of her own pain and the forgiveness work that came out of it. “If you know anything about my life story, you know that I have been to some very dark places,” she admits.

Vanzant’s book is divided into 21 daily assignments, each focused on a different area of forgiveness. With chapters devoted to forgiving your parents, your body, your God, your partner, and more the author covers the gamut of anyone or anything you may be angry with. She emphasizes journaling and the Emotional Freedom Technique (“tapping”) to work through your pain in these different areas to bring you to the healing place of forgiveness. A CD is included in the hard cover copy of the book with meditations and music to help you through the process.

I did not take the time to work through all the assignments in the book. You may find, like me, that some areas in your psyche need more forgiveness work than others. I think the book is a valuable resource to aid in healing present and future grievances that may arise in your life.

“Forgiveness inevitably leads to acceptance,” Vanzant writes. “It is a demonstration of your willingness to move on. Acceptance does not mean you agree with, condone, appreciate, or even like what has happened … forgiveness restores our faith, rebuilds our trust, and opens our hearts to the presence and power of love.” If you are open to forgiving those who have hurt you in the past, I recommend this book as a tool to bring you to a place of healing.
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Entangled in Darkness

Dec 17, 2013


“Until we become aware of the lesser qualities within ourselves and make a conscious choice to change them, they will continue to run our behavior, causing us disease and distress,” Deborah King writes in the introduction of her new book Entangled in Darkness: Seeking the light. “Once we recognize that we have darkness, we can begin to bring it into our consciousness and transform it, which is the true meaning of healing.”

With the multitude of positive thinking books being published today, it is refreshing to read an author not afraid to look at the dark side of our personalities. In chapter after chapter the author reveals a number of dark forces that can trip us up, from excessive pride to evil spirits. Some I recognized in myself more than others, but no doubt King will touch on one of your weak areas. “Everyone is a work in progress,” she writes. “As long as you’re alive, there will be issues to work through and resolve.”

As in her other book I have read and reviewed (Be Your Own Shaman) I liked how King as a metaphysical type of author still sees value in traditional spiritual paths – even the practice of confessing sins. “We all need an avenue for expressing our wrong-doings and forgiveness,” she writes. “Every religious tradition knows the value of admitting our sins, and they all have some kind of practice for it. Catholics aren’t the only ones who have confession—other Christian churches have some form of it, too, as do other religions.” I think you will find value in King’s thoughts on the human condition, regardless of your spiritual orientation. Her conversational writing style will appeal to people of all faiths.

With this emphasis on darkness the book still has a hopeful message. “The basic energy of the universe is unconditional love, and it is the strongest force there is,” King writes. She emphasizes daily spiritual practice to stay connecting to the Light. I found Entangled in Darkness to be a very practical book, packed full of helpful insights sure to aid spiritual seekers everywhere.
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Assertiveness For Earth Angels

Nov 26, 2013


Throughout my life I have had people tell me that I’m generally a nice guy. Except once, an older co-worker, called me “too nice”. “Ewwww! what does that mean?” I wondered. If you’ve ever been labeled in this way, Doreen Virtue’s “Assertiveness for Earth Angels: How To Be Loving Instead Of ‘Too Nice’” is just the book for you.

“I discovered that there’s a vast difference between being ‘nice’ and being “loving’,” Virtue writes early in her book. She goes on to describe in detail “loving” behaviors which may not appear to be “nice” on the surface, with chapters on assertiveness, setting boundaries, recognizing toxic relationships, and more. I found Assertiveness for Earth Angels” loaded with practical advice for us nice guys and girls. There’s very little talk here of communicating with Angels, a prominent feature of other books I have read by the author. Instead Assertiveness for Earth Angels contains page after page of strategies for interacting with the everyday people in your life.

I liked how Virtue is vulnerable with her own struggles in the book. She categorizes herself as a former “too nice” person, and she is very open with how she transformed out of that mindset. She shares personal details on how she worked through a painful divorce and other challenges. “I’ve learned that when your back is pushed up against the wall (metaphorically), you find your inner strength,” she writes.

Another issue I have is being intimidated sometimes in the presence of authority figures. Virtue says that is a common trait of “too nice” people. “It’s fine to admire and appreciate people,” she says, “but don’t make them out to be separate from or better than you. Instead, let someone else’s admirable traits inspire you to reach for your own dreams!” I found the author’s wise words on this and other topics almost like she wrote the book just for me.

“If you have high self-esteem, you’ll choose relationships with nice people who won’t take advantage of you,” Virtue writes. “However, most Earth Angels are drawn to unhappy people who need ‘fixing.’ This gives them a sense of purpose.” The antidote to the condition of being “too nice”? “If you’re assertive,” Virtue says, “you know that relationships are built upon revealing your true self. Otherwise you’ll never feel loved, because the other person doesn’t even know the real you! The only way to genuinely feel loved is to take the risk of being your true self and then find that you’re accepted and cherished for who you really are.”

Assertiveness for Earth Angels encouraged me to be real in my personal relationships. It’s a valuable book for anyone who has a “too nice” streak in his or her personality.
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Love Your Enemies

Nov 05, 2013


Think of a person who really bugs you. Yes that one. Feel all the negative emotions as you imagine that person in the room with you right now. Did you know this supposed enemy could be one of your greatest teachers? That’s the premise put forth by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman in their new book “Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & be a Whole Lot Happier”

“If there weren’t people trying to harm us or keep us from getting what we want, how would we learn patience and tolerance and forgiveness?” writes Thurman in the book’s introduction. People who anger us are just one type of enemy discussed by Thurman and Salzberg. There are three more:

The inner enemy: anger, hatred, fear, and other destructive impulses
The secret enemy: self-obsession and self-preoccupation, which isolate us from other people, leaving us frustrated and alone
The super-secret enemy: deep-seated self-loathing that keeps us from finding inner freedom and true happiness

The focus of “Love Your Enemies” is on what is happening inside of you, and not on other people. “The teachings and meditations in this book help us to draw on our own innate wisdom and compassion in order to transform our relationship with our enemies, both inner and outer,” writes Salzberg. Can I really be at peace no matter what others may say or do? A tall order, but “Loving Your Enemies” will move you towards that perspective.

I was confused with the mix of writing styles in the book. Robert Thurman is brilliant in his grasp of the human condition, but I find him difficult to understand at times. Salzberg is more down to earth. When reading Love Your Enemies some of the concepts went over my head (“those must be Thurman’s words,” I thought) while other examples were easier to relate to. I think the book would have flowed better if each author wrote individual chapters, clearly marked with a by line, rather than mixing the two styles throughout.

Nevertheless, “Love Your Enemies” is a valuable book. “We should be grateful for our enemies, the Dalai Lama has said, for they teach us patience, courage, and determination, and help us develop a tranquil mind,” state Thurman and Salzberg. While I’m not at that point yet, the book did cause me to evaluate what areas I still need to work on. If you want to approach your feelings towards enemies as an inside job, you will like this book.
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Choices and Illusions

Oct 10, 2013


I remember a few years ago watching movies at a local drive in theater.  At the intermission an advertisement was shown featuring hot steaming popcorn dripping with butter.  Boy it looked good!  Suddenly I saw the words “Buy!” flash on the screen in a split second, and then the popcorn reappeared.  “Did I just see that, or was it my imagination?” I wondered.  What I didn’t know at the time was that we in the audience were being sent a subliminal message to change our behavior (in this case to spend our money at the snack bar).

Eldon Taylor in his book “Choices and Illusions: How Did I Get Where I Am, and How Do I Get Where I Want to Be” talks about the effect of subliminal messages on us.  Not just simple ones like the one I saw at the drive in, but messages we were raised with that could still be affecting our behavior to this day.  “What if you learned that you could repattern that subconscious programming,” Taylor writes, “actually changing the information in the subconscious so that it was more consistent with your genuine desires?  Would you want to do so?  Well, the truth is that you can.”  I was intrigued, and I wanted to read more.

The first part of Choices and Illusions features a variety of mind puzzles.  Taylor makes the point that what the mind perceives to be true is not necessarily the case.  I found these puzzles to be interesting exercises but wondered “is that all there is to this book?  I was hoping for something more motivational.”  Not to worry, the good stuff comes later on.  These exercises are there to show you can’t always trust your current perception of reality.

With chapters like “The Courage to Challenge Yourself”, “Breaking the Trance”, and “The Kingdom Within” Taylor encourages the reader to recognize unhealthy patterns in his or her own thinking and to change to more positive thoughts.  Also included is Taylor’s “Inner Talk” CD as another aid to transform a wounded psyche.  “Within you is an absolutely awesome potential.  You deserve, and you are worthy.  Your life begins anew each moment.  It is never too late, and it is always right to pursue your highest potential,” he writes.  I found Taylor’s words inspiring, causing me to reexamine my own ways of thinking.

“Life is a miracle and living a joy!” concludes Taylor on the last page of the book.  “You are a miracle and a gift, and you repay the gift by being all that you were created to be.”  Amen.

I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Tune In

Oct 03, 2013


When I was given the opportunity to read and review Sonia Choquette's new book "Tune In: Let Your Intuition Guide You to Fulfillment and Flow" I hesitated. After all, I had read and reviewed Choquette's excellent "The Power of Your Spirit" book in 2011 and "Tune In" according to the publisher was "a revised and expanded edition". Did I really want to read the same material again? I am glad I did! "Tune In" was like reading a new book, different than the original, and more importantly gave me valuable insights for listening to my intuition.

"The problem and pain of tuning out your intuition, the voice of your Spirit, isn't that unusual," Choquette writes early in Tune In. "In fact, it might be the most common problem from which people suffer today." What follows are pages of instructions and examples of following a Spirit led life, and distinguishing those often subtle messages of your intuition from the loud clamor of your ego.

I like how Choquette shares her own life lessons. As a college student in my home town of Denver and in a committed relationship, she suddenly feels the call to go on a trip to London with her boyfriend. Her significant other is not impressed - "why would we want to do that?" he replies. This eventually leads Choquette to realize she has different life goals than her boyfriend. She leaves the relationship and accepts a job as an airline stewardess. Her boyfriend his hurt but eventually accepts her decision. "Leaving is the right thing for you. I'm going nowhere but you're going places, and I know it. It would have happened sooner or later. I'm just sad it was sooner," he says remorsefully. "That's how a powerful wake-up call from Spirit works," Choquette relates, "It pulls, prods, and pushes you to be honest with yourself, to remember your soul intentions, to face your greatest fears, to let go of what isn't working or in alignment with your soul and reach for your fullest potential." Choquette makes her points throughout the book with easy to read stories like this from her own experiences and from her clients' lives. It's a softer, more human book than Choquette's Power of Your Spirit, but equally effective in getting her message across.

It seems lately I've been letting the rude behavior of others bother me more than usual. Due to my recent extensive travel schedule I've strayed from my daily spiritual practice. Choquette writes that when you are in tune with your Spirit "you become more compassionate, recognizing others' negative behavior as a symptom of having lost touch with their inner voice, their Spirit, so it's easier not to take their unpleasant or obnoxious behavior personally." OK, time for me to start meditating again! Choquette may remind you, too, of areas in your life where you are out of alignment with your intuition, with tips to get back in the flow of Spirit.

"Once you commit to honoring your intuition, get ready!" Choqutte writes. "You're about to embark on the most exciting, joyous ride of your life; and I promise that you'll love it." While I feel I've been taking a spiritual detour recently, I'm ready to once again follow an inspired, Spirit led path. "Tune In" is a great guide for those of you like me who wish to follow the call of their intuition.
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The Heart of the Matter

Sep 02, 2013


We are all born into this world with simple joy within, believes Dr. Darren Weissman and Cate Montana. How we lose that joy, and how we can get that connection back is the basis of their new book: “The Heart of the Matter: A Simple Guide to Discovering Gifts in Strange Wrapping Paper”.

As we experience life “the litany of heartaches and grievances add up, all too quickly,” say the authors. They reveal the “See Feel Hear Challenge” – a process that brings to our awareness the hurts of our past, buried in the subconscious, with the intent of healing these painful emotions. “When we begin to understand the mind, specifically the subconscious, we learn that these symptoms are not personal in any way, but rather spiritual in every way: they are wake-up calls to alert us to evolve to our fullest potential,” they believe.

After devoting several chapters to defining the “See Feel Hear Challenge”, I liked how the authors in the concluding chapters clarified the process through a series of questions from Montana (in the role of the lay person) to Weissman (the “m.d.” expert). In one of these exchanges Weissman writes, “I find that most people, when setting an intention, do so out of fear rather than love. They’ve focused on getting away from something or preventing something from happening, rather than genuinely focusing on where their hearts are leading them. Love always moves toward things; fear always moves away. A fear-based intention will keep a person anchored to the current situation he or she is in.” Wise words which I will remember the next time I am setting an intention.

While I found the See Feel Hear Challenge a helpful approach to healing with many valuable insights, I feel it would be difficult for a person to work through his or her painful emotions just by reading the book. Weissman’s and Montana’s work is a good guide for therapists in revealing a process that could be applied in sessions with clients. I think it is too much to expect the average person to work through these emotions by himself or herself without the aide of a skilled counselor.

In the final pages of the book the authors quote Marianne Williamson – “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that exists within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone!” The Heart of the Matter is a good book in raising the reader’s awareness of what may be blocking the Spirit within, with steps to heal those blockages.
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From My Hands and Heart

Aug 07, 2013


There are many different healing practices available to people today. Kate MacKinnon introduced me to a new method I was not familiar with in her book "From My Hands and Heart: Achieving Health and Balance with Craniosacral Therapy".

What I first noticed was the endorsement of Craniosacral Therapy (CST) by well known spiritual author Wayne Dyer. Dyer has featured MacKinnon on his Hay House radio show, and he wrote the introduction to her book. MacKinnon's CST practice worked on Dyer, helping him overcome the energy zapping effects of lymphocytic leukemia. "I encourage you to pay close attention to what this phenomenal teacher has to offer you concerning craniosacral therapy as an alternative to the far more extreme options that are generally offered through the medical model," Dyer writes. If CST is good enough for Wayne Dyer, it's good enough for me. I wanted to read more.

I liked MacKinnon's emphasis on natural healing. "With CST we recognize that, given proper support, the body will heal itself, creating a custom solution to any problem that is causing discomfort," MacKinnon believes. She gives a very thorough explanation of what CST is, backed by numerous case studies from her patients. The many tales of people getting better through CST encouraged me to try this type of therapy myself. The only problem is, would I be able to find a CST therapist as skilled as MacKinnon? MacKinnon offers resources in the book to find your own CST practitioner from The Upledger Institute ( - I was surprised to find a good number of CST therapists in my area. I also liked her suggestions on how to determine if a particular CST therapist is the right fit for you.

MacKinnon is not against traditional medicine - in fact she suggests CST can support other healing modalities out there. "I cannot imagine a life without dentists: their work is invaluable in preventing excruciating pain," she says. "At the same time I cannot imagine how we can tolerate dental work without CST!"

I think From My Hands and Heart is best read by someone in a healing profession. While I found the case studies interesting, it only took one or two to convince me that CST was worth a try. I did not need the depth of analysis that MacKinnon delves into to prove the worthiness of CST - a person in the medical field will likely appreciate these detailed case studies more than I. Nevertheless From My Hands and Heart is a worthwhile book to raise awareness of this innovative and natural healing practice. "The most succinct and complete definition of CST I have come across," MacKinnon writes, "is `the healing power of gentle touch'" In a world filled with more intrusive medical options, CST is a welcome practice for me to consider for my future health needs.
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