October 2014 Book of the Month
So, in essence, the world that your reason wants to sustain is the world created by a description and its dogmatic and inviolable rules, which the reason learns to accept and defend.”
Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power
A few years ago, a good friend of mine shared an old copy of Tales of Power with me. On the title page he listed several page numbers with the expression “HA HA” next to them. He also wrote “allow for a week between parts”. Good advice. Reading Carlos Castaneda requires patience. The experience is a bit like being suspended in time. As a reviewer for Time Magazine stated in 1974, Tales of Power is “hypnotic reading”. The brilliance of Castaneda’s excursion into the unknown is the unique framing of his story. By suggesting that his books belong in the annals of anthropology, Castaneda creates an “otherness” that allows the reader to relax his judgment of the story as it unfolds.
Tales of Power is the fourth book in the Carlos Castaneda/ Don Juan series. Inspired by Native American mysticism, Castaneda blends philosophy and narrative to tell the story of his training in Shamanism. Written in the first person, Castaneda takes the reader on an excursion into the unknown. In order to be trained in the art of sorcery, Castaneda must struggle to overcome his own immaturity, fears, mental laziness and assumption about the world around him. Fortunately, for Castaneda, Don Juan is a patient teacher and don Genaro a benefactor with a sense of humor.
Myths regarding our personal identity do not die easily, especially when our personal commitment to them is so strong. For most of us it is difficult to even entertain explanations that run counter to the basic premises we hold dear. Most of us “see” ourselves as we have been taught. When someone seriously questions our accepted belief system, it often triggers anxiety. The beauty of the Castaneda series is that it transcends conventional storytelling, illuminating new frontiers for understanding. Whether you believe in the literalness of Castaneda’s research or simply the power of his insight, Tales of Power is bound to introduce readers to the warrior that lives within us all.
Septmeber 2014 Book of the Month
We often speak of love without much hesitation or thought. “Oh, I love these shoes! Don’t you just love Jimmy Fallon?” And, while all our loose assertions of love hold some grain of truth, it is nice to sometimes contemplate the deeper meaning of the word love. For this reason, this month we chose a big fat coffee table photography book simply entitled, “Love”.
Relish in these thought provoking images from around the world produced by such masters as Henri Cartier-Bresson, August Sander and Mary Ellen Mark. These photos are sure to leave you breathless as you reflect on the many ways love finds expression in countries across the globe.
August 2014 Book of the Month
While in Block Island, Chelsea and I enjoyed a mini-book club together. Our book of choice: Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Admittedly, Wild is more of a Chelsea kind of book. Not only am I not much of an outdoors woman myself, the idea of “finding oneself” while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail struck me as a bold and somewhat outlandish goal. Finding “truth” via physical suffering has always struck me as a misguided effort. And while I am a lover of nature, I don’t need to get super up close and personal with bears, snakes and snowy ice caps to appreciate their existence. Despite my initial misgivings, Cheryl’s story proved to be completely captivating. Not only was I riveted by her physical bravery, I found her emotional honesty to be profoundly compelling.
The strength of Strayed’s story lies in her natural curiosity to understand the meaning of her life. From her first steps on the trail, it is clear Cheryl is on a mission. A mission to beat back her personal demons, come to terms with her grief and eventually restart her life on more solid ground. The PCT quickly becomes a metaphorical backdrop as Cheryl recounts the details of her first 25 years of living. And while it is clear she has been touched by love and kindness, there is no doubt she has suffered much along the way. The humbling experience of walking the trail – mostly in isolation – provides Cheryl the solace she craved along with a deepening appreciate for her own internal strength and knowingness.
While I am still pretty sure I don’t want to hike the PCT, the vicarious joy of suffering through it with Cheryl will remain an inspiring memory. Chelsea and I shared a box a tissues while muscling our way through this one. Gave us lots to discuss, share and reflect on while enjoying our own mini-adventure together.
July 2014 Book of the Month
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding.
Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
We won’t make any promises that Jonathan Livingston Seagull will change your life. The simple novella has undoubtedly been oversold for years as a new-age miracle worker. However, despite its outsized reputation, this 1970 international bestseller still offers some lovely insights and timeless inspiration to readers of all ages. Besides, it’s a perfect beach book! (You won’t even have time to get burned – only takes an hour to read from cover to cover.)
There is a particular sweetness to Richard Bach’s writing. His book chronicles the adventures of a restless seagull intent on perfecting his flying abilities. Despite being cast out of his tribe of gulls as a result of his ambition, Livingston persists in following his dreams. His sometimes lonely journey ultimately leads him to learn many important lessons. Using flight as the ultimate metaphor, this is certainly a story about finding a higher purpose in life.
Often cited as a “spiritual primer” or “hippie self help book”, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an American classic.
June 2014 Book of the Month
Given to me as a gift from my transcendental meditation teachers, The Illuminated Rumi is my favorite book to pick up and flip to any page for inspiration and insight. In fact, I just opened it to this beautiful poem;
Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere, cloudcover thick.
I try to stay just above the surface,
yet I’m already under and living within the ocean.
April 2014 Book of the Month
“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.” ~Author Unknown
This book is an old friend. Molly and Chelsea have decided to read it together this month. Please join!!
Written in 1922 by Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, is a gem of a book. The story recounts the spiritual journey of self awakening that a man named Siddhartha undergoes during the time of Buddha. This classic novel grabs the readers heart and opens it to the infinite potential of who a man can become.
March 2014 Book of the Month
As a child, I was a big fan of fairy tales. My grandparents bought me two hard backed collections for Christmas one year. Both books had raised colored illustration plates. I remember tracing the outline of the images while I read. I savored those books. It seemed they melted more than finished. I would only allow myself one story a night. Of course, I read and reread them with child-like zeal. They transported me to a different time and space where magic thrived and evil lurked and love eventually conquered all.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, is a contemporary novel with strong underpinnings of fairy tale romanticism. Set in Burma, it tells the poignant story of a young couple doomed to spend their life apart yet connected by the strength of their love. Filled with mystical metaphors and lessons from Eastern spirituality, this book tugs at the readers heartstrings from page one.
In the end, like all good fairy tales, we are left with simple lessons. Most importantly, a strong reminder that truth lies beneath the surface of the everyday narratives we build in our waking life. And, despite separation, hardship, tragedy and any number of impediments, perfect love always retains the ability to shape every moment of our waking life.
February 2014 Book of the Month
“You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love … the love that speaks the Language of the World.”
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
If you read the online reviews of Coelho’s The Alchemist, you will find a few dismissive comments. People find it “simplistic”, “repetitive” and occasionally even “trite”. Personally, I think this is a sign of the enormity of its impact. Written in 1988 after a personal breakthrough moment, Coelho’s book holds a Guinness Book World Record for being translated into the most languages of any book by a living author. At its core, The Alchemist is a tender love story with a profound message. In addition, I would argue it is the forbearer to all the uplifting, motivational Instagram memes /tweets/FB posts you have ever seen. “Live in the moment.” “Follow your dreams.” “The treasure lies within.” In other words, Coelho’s book impacted popular culture in a staggering manner.
The Alchemist is essentially a fable. Its infectious charm captivates the reader on the first page and carries on through to the end. You can’t help but fall in love with the cast of characters: especially sweet Santiago whose character is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our heart.
Chelsea first read the The Alchemist freshman year as an assigned reading in my sociology class. Years later it remains a reference point for our Tuning the Student Mind efforts. Every time we feel frustrated, set back or at a standstill in our journey to bring meditation programs to college students, we gently remind each other that if we let it the whole of the universe will conspire to make our dreams come true.
January 2014 Book of the Month
More of a go-to rather than a read cover to cover (although I’ve totally read it cover to cover), Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills is one of my favorite informational books on using natural products for health and cleaning.
We think the back cover says it best; “Raleigh Briggs teaches us how to craft a sustainable domestic life outside of consumer consciousness. And it’s not as hard as we may think! This hand drawn book of charming tutorials is both fun and accessible. It’s full of simple skills that anyone can and should learn. From creating tinctures and salves, to concocting all-natural cleaners, to gardening basics, this book is great for anyone looking to live more simply and truly do it themselves.”