Even though Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers (and narrators), after reading some negative reviews, I was hesitant to give this book a listen. (Not being a parent myself, I was also concerned that I might not be able to relate to much of the book's subject matter.) As it turned out, I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. I think it's just as good as "Plan B" and "Grace (Eventually)", though a bit more narrowly focused. Lamott's signature off-beat observations and self-deprecating humor are both in top form, and there's an underlying warmth and poignancy that seems to be deepening with each book she writes. (Also, I really enjoyed the written/narrative contributions of Anne's son, Sam...he's articulate, funny, and has a "handsome" voice.) If you're sitting on the fence with this one, I say go for it...I'm so glad I did!
I completely agree with the review titled "Beyond words" as well as the other 5 star reviews of this book. I've read/listened to literally hundreds of spirituality titles over the last 20 years, and Gangaji's luminous "The Diamond in Your Pocket" is easily near or at the very top of the list in terms of depth, wisdom, substance, clarity, and just plain truth. It's nothing less than a modern spiritual classic, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if people were still reading/discussing it a couple of hundred years from now.
Gangaji's narration feels like she's speaking directly to you, perhaps even imparting a transmission of some kind. (Not that she's some kind of supernatural guru or anything...a good teacher reading their own work with deep understanding and utter sincerity just has that sort of effect on the listener.) It's extremely rare that I sit still and listen to a book with my eyes closed, but that's what "Diamond" required of me. It's also rare for me to own a book in all formats (hard copy for study/practice, audio, digital) but with this one, it was a no-brainer.
In terms of the teacher himself, I concur wholeheartedly with the other positive reviews of "Spontaneous Awakening", as Adyashanti is unquestionably one of the clearest and most insightful spiritual teachers of our time and one of only a few in the so-called neo-Advaita or satsang movement that's actually offering a path of rigor and substance. (Gangaji is another standout in this field who's teachings are very compatible with Adya's.)
That said, I get a little concerned when I read reviews (here and elsewhere) that characterize Adyashanti's self-described "pathless path" as being easy...I'm not sure if people aren't listening all the way through or aren't understanding what's being said or what, but this ain't enlightenment-on-a-stick, folks. Even in this series, which seems very casual and conversational on the surface (especially the first hour or so), a lot is being asked of the student, both in terms of practice (i.e. meditation and self-inquiry) and vigilance regarding shadow tendencies like self-deception, conceptualizing, and spiritual bypassing.
Simple isn't the same as easy, and when you get into the real meat of what Adya is offering here (especially in terms of stabilizing and embodying one's spiritual experiences, or what some teachers call integration), it's not really even all that simple...
This is the quintessential example of how unskillful narration can ruin an otherwise really good book. Gary Dikeos has a fine enough voice in terms of clarity and tone, but his mind-numbing, soulless, robotic, unrelenting reading style made me feel like I was going to explode! Sadly, I had to give up in the middle of the second chapter, despite really enjoying the book's content. Thank God I was able to pick up a hard copy. (Needless to say, I won't be purchasing the other David Richo title read by Mr. Dikeos.)
"Let Your Life Speak" has a wonderful introduction/opening chapter (see the audio sample above), and I also enjoyed the third chapter on "way closing", a Quaker concept about discerning guidance from one's failures, losses, and limitations...very wise and encouraging advice. However, the rest of the book, particularly the chapter on leadership (which seemed premature for a book about listening for the voice of vocation and quite out of place) left me feeling a bit cold.
As with his other books/audios, Palmer spends a lot of time talking about his life's journey -- his education, his failures, his career choices, his depressions, etc. For the purposes of this book, I wish that he'd let his own life speak a bit less, as his privileged academic background and high-power career history isn't all that easy to relate to for a lot of listeners. Also, just once, I wish he would have made it clear that vocation is not the same thing as occupation or career...a vocation is a calling (literally) which may or may not be how one earns a living. (Or, as another author once said, "Your life's purpose is NOT a job!")
Bottom line, this book is worth the $$/credit for the beginning and third chapter, otherwise it's not quite as helpful as I'd hoped. I also think many people (particularly younger folks and economically "challenged" listeners) will find Palmer's background, problems, and life experiences a bit elite and difficult to relate to at times.
Best quote: "Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."
This is an excellent series of lectures given by the late Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, a man widely (though not universally) regarded as the most advanced and knowledgeable teacher of ACIM, variously introduced and summarized at intervals by someone from the program's publisher who does not appear to have the depth of knowledge necessary for the task at hand.
Personally, I don't believe a student of ACIM can do better than Dr. Wapnick in terms of learning what the Course really says and how to practice it in the everyday world. One of the crucial areas that Dr. Wapnick excelled in was pointing out the many pitfalls and errors students make in applying the Course's teachings in daily life, most of which are due to "level confusion", i.e. trying to apply the Course's many macro-level pronouncements about the ultimate nature of reality (and our place in it) to micro-level, "within the Illusion" everyday life situations. Another important area Wapnick lectured about frequently was the way students misuse Course teachings to avoid looking at their personal darkness and difficult emotions (a.k.a. shadow), an endemic problem among contemporary spiritual seekers of all stripes that some teachers refer to as "spiritual bypassing".
Ironically, even though this lecture series opens with a prolonged discussion of the above pitfalls to studying and living A Course in Miracles, the series narrator (who another reviewer jokingly referred to as Barney the Dinosaur) makes these very same errors in summarizing the some of the sections. For example, in the section in which Dr. Wapnick discusses the origins and functions of our shared sense of victimization (as per Course teaching), the narrator's summary reduces this macro-level, ontological/metaphysical explanation down into a rather superficial, new age, personal development context, i.e. "don't be a victim". (Anyone who studies and understands what ACIM is really saying knows it's about as NON-new age a spiritual teaching as you can get.)
Bottom line, this is an excellent program with some very well-selected lectures from Dr. Wapnick's extensive body of work, but do yourself a favor and skip the narration...overall, it will confuse you more than it will help you. (If you want further instruction, Wapnick's Foundation for A Course in Miracles has many wonderful programs available for download.)
This is one of Anne's best. As she gets older, her insights into the human condition (along with her empathy and compassion) gain depth and become more illuminated, though her trademark dry humor is no less present. The unifying theme/metaphor of stitching together that which has been torn apart weaves its way through this short collection of essays and gains power as the book unfolds...by the end, I was ready to start listening all over again.
Karen Casey's work has been steadily growing on me, and I'm finding this book very helpful. That said, it's probably best to purchase a physical copy of this particular title (as I have done), as it's actually a collection of daily meditations which lends itself better to reading than listening.
Since Audible doesn't allow listeners to edit or delete reviews (get with it, guys!), I'd like to add that my earlier review of one of Casey's other books, "Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow", was in hindsight far too critical. Upon second listen (and especially after reading the physical copy), it's revealed itself to be a much wiser and more insightful book than I initially believed.
Karen Casey is obviously a wise and compassionate woman who has grown tremendously through her life experience with alcoholism, codependency, and 12 step recovery. In this book, Casey is great at describing what recovery from codependence looks like but not so good at actually conveying how to set the boundaries required to get there (as the subtitle promises), except to repeatedly tell people to "detach" (again, without giving much guidance on how to do this) and go to 12 step meetings. As such, the book often reads more like an advertisement for Al Anon or CoDA -- and maybe that's the whole point -- than a true self-help manual, much as her last book often felt like a trailer for A Course in Miracles.
Bottom line is that while I enjoyed listening to the many stories of people's lives (lots to reflect on here), and even gleaned something of value from many of them, I wish Casey offered more explicit guidance for recovering codependents than simply telling people to go to 12 step meetings. (She begins to touch on this a bit toward the end in her discussion of the twelve steps themselves, but it's not much to work with.) On the plus side, I did find this book more helpful than her previous title ("Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow") and Joyce Bean's narration vastly improved, so I'd still recommend giving it a listen.
With all the glowing 5 star reviews on Amazon, I was really hoping to get more out of this book than I did. While I didn't necessarily disagree with anything the author said (at least not strongly enough to elaborate on here), I found the writing itself to be quite repetitive and at times overly-theoretical/simplistic and preachy. (The narrator didn't help in this latter regard, as she sounded like a didactic boarding school matron rather than warm and inviting as the author herself sounds...an unfortunate choice.)
I did find some of Casey's stances contradictory and in one case troubling, i.e. warning people about the dangers of co-dependency (the tendency to over-focus on the real or perceived needs of others) while repeatedly suggesting that we have a spiritual duty to offer acknowledgment, kindness, comfort, and validation to every single person we encounter. While this is an admirable and perhaps even spiritually "correct" way to live, it can be problematic if not downright toxic for co-dependents until we/they learn to recognize the patterns of our co-dependent behaviors and establish healthy energetic boundaries.
Potential listeners should also be aware that much of the underlying philosophy of this book is rooted in "A Course in Miracles" more than the 12 Step program, an important point given the author's strong association with the recovery movement. As a former student of the Course, I have great respect for it as a spiritual teaching, but also find it to be extremely mental/cognitive in its approach (i.e. bypassing intuitive, emotional, and somatic forms of wisdom) and therefore not ideal for people who already live too much in their heads.
Neil Douglas-Klotz is such an underrated teacher. His style is very gentle and accessible, but the spiritual wisdom he unlocks through his translations of the Aramaic words of Jesus is nothing short of revolutionary. I would strongly recommend this audio program as a excellent introduction to Neil's other work (Original Prayer, Healing Breath, I Am).
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