Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July's Reading List

"Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil."
-A.S. Neill, educator, author of Summerhill

“Where Will you be in Five Years” by Dan Zadra is a lovely inspirational book that brings awareness to the potential in all of us. Cheryl Richardson’s advice in “The Extreme Art of Self Care” to be aware of your personal feelings, needs and and wants is practical and highly relatable. In essence, Richardson advocates becoming a bit selfish. I can recommend both as quick, easy reads that leave you with immediate steps to live a more intentional, fulfilled life.
Trying to sum up the last two books I’ve read on the topic of awareness is not as simple. Neville Goddard’s “The Power of Awareness” was only 88 pages, but it was a lengthy struggle to comprehend. Goddard was at the forefront of the New Thought movement, first becoming interested in metaphysics in the 1920’s. He was a sought after writer and speaker from the 1940's to the 1970's. He had two basic philosophies. “The Law” meant that our reality is a product of our imagination. Like an alchemist who can turn rocks into gold, Goddard believed everyone’s mind had the ability to change their circumstances through imagination or visualization. “The Promise” meant that unless you use your imagination to serve your God-given purpose on Earth, any reality you create for yourself (riches, fame, etc) will be fleeting. If you don’t fulfill your “promise”, you will die and keep returning to life here until you get it right. 
The power of visualization explanation was pretty easy to follow. He included testimonies proving “if you believe, you can achieve.” What seems so mainstream now must have been very controversial in Goddard’s day. But his detailed explanations of scripture with the deeper hidden meanings really lost me. Goddard’s brand of Christianity is called esoteric. It is a belief that there are mysterious messages in the Bible only to be interpreted by an enlightened few. For example; in Luke 11:5-9, “my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise.” Goddard interprets that line to mean children in bed = ideas that are dormant. I can not rise = desired state of consciousness can not rise to you, you must rise to it. Heavy stuff, huh? It didn’t help that the reprint is full of typos. Very distracting.
So with Goddard fresh on the brain, I dove into Amazon’s next more popular book on the subject, Anthony DeMello’s “Awareness. The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.”  In my July 22nd post, So Lucky, I mentioned a bit about DeMello’s East/West influences and his perspective as both a Jesuit priest and a psychoanalyst.  He outlined a four step process for becoming more aware or “awake”. DeMello believed that only children are naturally awake and almost all adults function in a state of consciousness similar to sleepwalking. His four steps are: 
  1. Identify the negative feelings in you
  2. Understand that the feeling is in you, not because of anything going on in the outside world.
  3. Do not identify yourself with the negative feeling
  4. Understand when you change, everything changes because your perception of everything will change.
In other words, observe yourself and your external experiences with impersonal detachment. You are always you and you can always control your reaction to the other people and experiences. 
I particularly liked what he kept saying about children in this book, because it goes to the heart of what I am trying to do with this blog. The central question I am spending the next year trying to answer is: "Will being more childlike make me a better adult?” DeMello seems to think so.

When talking about the need to drop labels or expectations and stop comparing, contrasting and defining every experience, he says:

"Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop intelligence. We're invited not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an "I" and "me" through these concepts. But than we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the conditioned self, and return to the state of the child without being the child. When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn't the intelligent wonder of the mystics, its the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we're lucky, we'll return to wonder again."

My next book is J.M. Barrie's original "Peter & Wendy". Barrie's creation of the boy who never grew up came from a keen awareness about the differences in how children and adults see the world. Looking forward to a mental escape to Neverland where I can flitter about with Tiger Lilly, Tink and the Lost Boys for a bit.

What is on your reading list? Have you learned anything that has been helpful or reaffirming to your beliefs?

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