Jun 072012
 

While all of Regina’s books have been first-rate, this latest one, “The 8 Minute Organizer”, may be the most useful one yet. Because I’m so naturally disorganized myself, I’m something of a junkie for books and systems to bring some kind of order to my world. Regina’s other books have been very helpful for that – giving me organizational tasks that I can schedule throughout the year on my way to perfect neatness. But I’ve never seemed to accomplish them all. Some projects are just a bit large and intimidating.

The genius of this book is that it has broken down organizational tasks into 8 minute sprints – units of work short enough that they don’t scare me and that I have no excuse not to incorporate into my day. Unlike previous books that grouped organizational tasks by time of year – this one is organized by the area of your home. Pick the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or your files – and there’s a chapter full of eight-minute mini-tasks focused around that area. You can pick the room most in need of attention. Or, as Regina suggests, you can pick one that’s not quite as intimidating and build up your skills.

the eight minute organizer

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There are several things I especially like about Regina’s approach. First of all, she’s called the “Zen Organizer” for a reason. There’s a definite undercurrent of calm, meditative philosophy in her books. You aren’t just organizing so that you can cram more stuff into your life. You are trying to achieve a healthy balance and a strong and calm mental and physical foundation for peace and tranquility. She even has advice on diet, exercise and meditation. You’re not just bringing order to your stuff. You’re bringing order to your life.

Another thing that’s a personal preference of mine is that I don’t like to be given TOO many choices in how to approach something. Or if there are choices, I want to be pointed at a “preferred” option. If I’m given the opportunity, I can tend to get lost in choosing the perfect organizational tools and systems instead of actually organizing. Regina tends to just tell you what to do, and I like that. Sure there are choices, but she’ll often indicate her personal preference, so I can just follow the clear instructions and get right down to business.

If you’ve had trouble getting started in organizing because your life is just too chaotic, this may be a perfect book for you.

 

May 242011
 

Robert_Indiana_love Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. I bought this book on Audible (Amazon’s audio book company) for several reasons. First of all, it was very high on the best-seller list in spirituality and secondly because the subject has always appealed to me. In fact I was in the middle of writing a piece on much the same subjects. I’m extremely glad I picked it up.

While I would approach the subject slightly differently than pastor Bell, this book will be appreciated by someone who wants to take a fairly conservative and orthodox view of the Bible and yet is troubled by the exclusivist teaching of some fundamentalist and evangelical branches of Christianity.

Using a good assortment of scriptures, historical notes, stories and excellent prose, Bell makes a Christian case for being at least OPEN to the ideas of a limited hell from which people can be redeemed, for eventual universal salvation, and the real presence of the kingdom of God in the here-and-now.

Love Wins

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I’ll give a brief example of his prose. After quoting a ream of scriptures to the effect that God desires the salvation of everyone, and that God’s purpose cannot be ultimately resisted, Bell summarizes like this:

Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it. Jesus tells a series of parables in Luke 15 about a woman who loses a coin, a shepherd who loses a sheep, and a father who loses a son. The stories aren’t ultimately about things and people being lost; the stories are about things and people being found. The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever.

It’s true that Bell qualifies his points quite a bit, needing to walk a bit of a fine line to stay within the conservative biblical view. Still, his questions alone have been enough to make his book extremely popular, and extremely controversial. People who find exclusivist Christianity limiting but who still love Christianity feel quite liberated that someone has finally spoken to them. And plenty of people in the exclusivist branches of Christianity seem very threatened. And that’s probably a very good sign.

I’d highly recommend the book to Christians who’d like support for a more enlightened version of the Christian tradition, and for non-believers who could use an example of Christianity that isn’t all about sending other people to hell.

 

The picture below links to a short video intro on the book

Mar 022011
 

religions Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom. I had seen this book by Mitch Albom on various best seller lists, as I had his previous book Tuesdays with Morrie, but I’d never gotten around to reading them. When the audiobook showed up in my library I figured it was time.

For some reason, I had the impression that Mitch was some sort of evangelical feel-goodauthor, possibly because I vaguely realized that he wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I enjoyed. As it happens, Mitch is Jewish and got his start as a sports writer.

Have a Little Faith

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This book started when he was asked by his childhood rabbi to give the rabbi’s eulogy (an event that didn’t end up happening for another eight years.) In the course of getting to know the rabbi better, Mitch found his own previously casual faith reawakened. He also became involved, during the course of these years, with an ex-drug addict Christian pastor ministering to the homeless in his native Detroit.

Over the course of getting to know both of these men better, Mitch becomes more cognizant of the role of faith and it’s ability to make the world a better place.

The book if full of witty stories (most of them courtesy of the rabbi) and compassionate moments. It frankly admits (as does the rabbi) that we simply don’t have answers to all life’s questions. The rabbi gives the best answer I’ve ever heard to the question of “why do bad things happen to good people.” To quote the rabbi, “No one knows”.

While gaining a new appreciation for his Jewish faith and the value of tradition, Mitch is also given an appreciation for the value of ALL religions and traditions. Embarrassingly, the local Catholic priest, during Mitch’s childhood, once accosted members of the synagogue for taking up too many parking spaces in front of his church with “They didn’t exterminate enough of you!” As his penance, his archbishop assigned him to walk around the church school grounds during recess arm in arm with the rabbi. They later became fast friends.

Then there was the Episcopal priest who was invited by the rabbi to speak to his synagogue to foster mutual respect and ended up trying to publicly bring the rabbi to Jesus. But in spite of such rough spots, the book in infused with a warm and tolerant respect for Christianity and other religions – particularly as it explores the life and ministry of pastor Henry in Detroit and becomes involved in helping his ministry.

Very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.

Feb 282011
 

FuturePower

The Secret: The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I had previously reviewed wildly popular book “The Secret” by this author. I gave a mixed review of that book, in which I noted that a book on how to get anything you want can send an entirely wrong message to someone in the grip of powerful ego drives.

The newer book hit me wrong right out of the gate. It was only as I continued to read (in this case, listen) that I started to appreciate what the author was actually saying.

I’ll give away the “secret” of the book by saying that the “power” mentioned is Love. A wonderful message. However, in proving that everything in the world is created and obtained through love, Rhonda equates a fervent desire for a pair of designer shoes with “love” for those shoes. Unfortunately, spiritual teachers such as the Buddha identify desire as the root of all suffering.

The Power

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As the book went along, however, I realized that Rhonda means something different by “desire” than the Buddha means. What she’s actually suggesting is not a desperate longing for material things, but an awe, appreciation and gratitude for material things. This puts her program on an entirely different (and spiritually helpful) footing. For example, she shares a remarkable point of view for dealing with envy. Rather than having negative feelings about good things coming to other people, we are to consider this as a sign that we are on the same “frequency” as these good things, and that the universe is presenting them to us to enjoy, love, and HAVE if we wish. By this rationale, we should be as happy and grateful for someone else having good things as we would if he had them ourselves.

I found this a unique approach. While perhaps not as pure as being grateful for other’s good fortune because we are spiritually one with them, it’s a good start. And there is much to praise in the book. It’s well written, easy to follow, full of helpful quotations and excellent summaries. It encourages us to practice love, gratitude and positivity in every situation – and that can’t be bad. I found that simply listening to the book on audio while commuting improved my entire day.

The audio version, by the way, has lots of interesting music, sound effects, and Rhonda’s own unique voice. I found these helpful and engaging, but it’s easy to see how some people might find them distracting. Such people might prefer the book instead of the audio.

The original point I made in my review of The Secret still applies here I think. You have to begin with a good perspective on who you are and what your purpose is to avoid being sucked into an ego trap. As Jesus put it:

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matt 6:31-33, NET)

In a sense, however, the Power is much better on this point. An approach of cultivating love and gratitude is already a long way along the road of seeking the Kingdom than simply trying to practice the “law of attraction”. I think this book rounds out and corrects some of the potential problems with the first, and I’d recommend it over the Secret.

Sep 142010
 

grass Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying by David Bach. Since my schedule has been very busy, I grabbed this little book from the library hoping I could read it in the time I had available. I was pleasantly surprised by the ideas and the quality of the presentation.

The premise of the book is to present ideas for changing various aspects of your life that will not only benefit the planet, but will also save (or make) money in the process. Bach is apparently best known as a financial expert – Start Late, Finish Rich being the title I’m most familiar with. It’s nice to see him put his expertise into the “green” arena, and his ideas are excellent.

After an initial section on assessing your impact on the planet, he’s grouped his ideas into such categories as transportation, energy use, water use, real estate, shopping, recycling, changes as a family, changes at work, and even making money in green investments and businesses. Every idea includes careful calculations on the exact amount of saving involved. For example, for $20 in basic non-toxic ingredients, you can replace the $600 a year that Americans typically spend on toxic cleaning products. Bring your lunch to work and save $2,250 a year, in addition to not creating a mountain of garbage from your discarded packaging from take-out.

If you want to sell green products, David has a list of companies ready for you. And, since you’re already online if your reading this, be sure and check out options for online bill paying and telecommuting – both saving money as well as helping the environment. David even shows you how to “green” your pets and children.

This is a nicely illustrated, short book of practical ideas that are well researched and easy to adopt. Why wouldn’t you try them out?

Aug 242010
 

batgirl I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the title. The name Alicia Silverstone rang a bell, but I really didn’t remember who she was. One of my kids reminded me. “Batgirl” (in the “Batman and Robin” movie). Suddenly I was impressed. While Silverstone was pretty enough in that role, the girl on the cover of “The Kind Diet” was thinner and more radiantly pretty – so much so that I hadn’t recognized her. A good endorsement for any diet.

The diet is “Kind” because it’s vegan – kind to animals and kind to the earth. Actually, it’s three diets in one. She includes instructions and recipes for “flirting” (adding vegetarian and vegan alternatives to your diet), “vegan” when you eliminate animal products entirely, and “super-hero”, where you add more macrobiotic ideas and ingredients, such as more whole grains and sea vegetables. Obviously she hopes to entice you into eventually trying out “super-hero”, but has a lot of help for people who just want to make small improvements.

The book is beautifully done, and includes her personal story, and her well-written arguments against meat, dairy, processed foods, etc. There are also mini-bios of vegan “super-heroes” – athletes and activists who embrace vegan principles. Alicia herself is apparently quite well known as a vegan activist. I suppose I’m not well informed on vegan politics.

blog-alicia-silverstone The photography is very good, and the recipes look great. Some folks commented on Amazon that the ingredients were too exotic for them to find. This applies primarily to the “super-hero” recipes, where the macrobiotic principles call for a lot of Asian (especially Japanese) ingredients. People living anywhere near a metropolitan center or anywhere with a good Asian market should do fine. For all the aspiring trendy vegans in the Midwest, a number of the ingredients are available online. And the vegan and “flirting” sections use an ingredient list that is more familiar.

If you want an attractive introduction to vegetarian/veganism with explanations, recipes, and photos of  celebrities, this is the book you want to pick up. It performs the service of making a radically healthy diet seem normal and mainstream instead of fringe and quirky. Give it a try.

Jul 272010
 

All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream – Edgar Allan Poe

inception-poster-2010 So I went to see Inception last night with most of the family. First a general review. It was an excellent and entertaining movie. It combined espionage, science fiction  and action with mind-bending psychological and metaphysical elements. I don’t generally go out of my way to see a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, but he seems to be getting better.

But my reason for commenting here is because of the use of the dream metaphor. Just as a warning, my commentary below may be considered a spoiler by some, so you may want to see the movie first.

The movie involves shared dreaming, dreams-within-dreams, and the strange phenomena that in dreams, we are often unaware that we are dreaming, and confuse dreaming with real life. As the characters struggle to avoid becoming lost in their multi-layered dreams and strive to wake up, a natural question arises – what if the waking world is actually yet another layer of dream, from which we need to awaken? In the film, this speculation is immediately and forcefully dismissed as pathological. But the director knows that he has planted a seed of doubt in our minds, and he subtly toys with that doubt right up to the end of the movie. Seeds of doubt are another theme that runs throughout the movie.

In fact, dreaming and waking have been used in various spiritual traditions for thousands of years as a metaphor for ordinary consciousness and enlightenment. In fact, the name “Buddha” translates as “the awakened one”.  In the Gnostic “Hymn of the Pearl” from the Acts of Thomas, the son of a King is sent on a mission to retrieve a treasure, but falls asleep and forgets who he is. His father sends a letter to remind him:

Awake and arise from your sleep,
and hear the words of our letter.
Remember that you are a son of kings,
consider the slavery you are serving.

Unenlightened consciousness is indeed very much like dreaming. We become entranced with the little details of our lives and the stories unfolding around us. We forget and become unconscious to a larger context around us. We forget our connection to our highest self and become attached to the particulars. Many enlightened teachers have confirmed that the process of enlightenment is like waking up from a deep and not very nice dream.

It’s interesting that several spiritual and psychological schools and techniques use dream work, dream journaling and lucid dreaming as tools for self-development. Ken Wilber suggests that dream work is one of the few resources we have for accessing our shadow aspects – which are normally invisible to the conscious mind.

Like the dream engineers in Inception, we need to become better architects of the dream world in order to become more conscious in the waking world – and ultimately – awake to the larger world of spirit.

Jul 092010
 

spiritual Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World – by Ken Wilber. I’ve read this book several times now, and need to return to it periodically to incorporate more of it’s insights into my thinking. I’ve previously explained that Ken Wilber is probably the most comprehensive thinker around. His writings lay out a system (a continually evolving system) that integrates science, psychology, spirituality and all the major streams of thought from all disciplines. If you think you have some great new insight or philosophical system you want to unleash on the world, read some Ken Wilber first, because he probably got there before you.

While many of the chapters in the book review material that Wilber has already written about, there are some important additions to his system. One of these is the post-modern insight that ALL of our truths are dependent on our cultural context and perspective. There is also new material on the lost “spiritual” line of development in our culture, and why it was lost. And don’t skip the appendixes to this book, because they contain critical material on “post-metaphysical spirituality”, which is a shocking but liberating concept.

All this comes together in a chapter on the “conveyer belt”. Wilber explains that only the major religions are equipped to become the vehicles that move the world into a higher level of consciousness, because religions own the great mythologies that speak to 70% of the world’s consciousness. Because of this, they can become the conveyors that usher humanity through difficult passages of transition.

Many people would find this book a bit complex, but for me, it’s going to become one of the most essential books in my library.

Jul 082010
 

3627-4145 024

There Is Nothing Wrong With You for Teens – I picked this one up at the library thinking it looked like interesting reading for my teenagers. Apparently it is a teen version of an earlier adult book Cheri wrote. I immediately loved the book, and so did my kids.

Cheri comes from a Zen perspective. She’s the founder and primary teacher at several Zen centers, and her many books are full of Zen techniques and teachings. This, to my mind, is all to the good, as Zen is full of excellent practical psychology.

The book is typeset in a friendly, informal typeface that makes it look like someone’s personal journal. I found this immediately engaging. Using her experience with hundreds of teens in workshops and retreats, Cheri dives right into their problems with penetrating insight.

In particular, this book is about teens liberating themselves from the self-hatred that all of us struggle with at times, but with which teens have particular difficulty. Cheri’s writing radiates total compassion and acceptance. I wish every troubled teen could have Cheri right by their side helping them see their true nature. With this book, they can.

I would highly recommend this book as a gift for any teen, particularly one with self-worth issues (which includes many of them). I intend to look into some of Cheri’s other books based on the wonderful job she did on this one.

Feb 222010
 

astral Exploring the Fifth Dimension – Parallel Universes, Teleportation and Out-of-Body Travel,  by Dr. Bruce Goldberg . Today’s review is for a much more esoteric book than I usually include on the site, but I’m sure that there are quite a few readers who, like me, will be interested in it. I first heard Dr. Goldberg during a radio interview on the famous Coast-to-Coast program (formerly hosted by Art Bell, currently by George Noory). Goldberg spent hours telling stories of past-life regressions, teleportation, invisibility, parallel universes and the like. He seemed completely at home with all of this, and claimed to be able to teach this to anyone. My enthusiasm made sure that the book ended up under the tree at Christmas.

So how is it? Well, the stories are fascinating and reasonably well researched. Dr. Goldberg’s metaphysical view is well developed and corresponds closely with my own. His views on reincarnation, for example, are nuanced and sophisticated. He manages to squeeze a lot of explanation of higher planes and spiritual concepts into a relatively small book.

The heart of the book, however, are dialogues meant to assist you in exploring these phenomena for yourself. The dialogues are meant to be recorded, with music, and listened to in order to induce teleportaiton, out-of-body travel, visitation of parallel dimensions, etc. Dr. Goldberg is primarily a hypnotherapist, and uses hypnosis as a vehicle for this kind of metaphysical exploration. Reassuringly, he has used it on thousands of subjects with no danger or ill effects.

The catch is that preparing these kinds of dialogue tapes to listen to yourself is a bit of work. Dr. Goldberg probably hopes that this will induce you to buy his CD’s – available on his site: www.drbrucegoldberg.com, which have already done the work for you. But you have to give him credit – he does give you the dialogues so that you at least have the OPTION of doing it yourself, if you have more time than money and need to do your metaphysical exploration on the cheap.

Do these techniques work? Well to tell the truth, I haven’t had the chance to either order the CD’s or record the dialogues. But I see no reason why they wouldn’t. The method and theory is sound. It’s certainly worth a try. The metaphysical information contained in the book is easily worth the price.

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