A guide about how to weave spirituality into real-world experiences by following 12 basic, manageable laws.
The word “mystic” often brings to mind a person who lives outside society in order to maintain his rarified state. However, Olesky (Astrology and Consciousness, 1995, etc.) writes that a mystic way of being can enhance every aspect of normal human existence—from childbirth to creative expression to simple tasks such as tidying a workspace or watering plants in a garden. His manual lays out universal laws he has identified (and followed) as guideposts for spiritually connected living. The laws correlate with the 12 zodiac signs, which Olesky has eloquently expanded to embody the full range of flesh-and-blood experience. For example, the possession-focused earth sign Taurus embodies the Law of Survival, while the expansive sign of Sagittarius correlates with the Law of Abundance. (Other laws touch on Creativity, Love, Harmony, Transcendence and other principles.) However, this is no mere astrological guide: Olesky fleshes out the principle behind each law before touching on the astrological correlation and explains the consequences of “not aligning” with each law. The book never becomes dry or preachy; Olesky draws on his own experiences as well as those of his family, clients and teachers to breathe life into each law and highlight the laws’ relevance and achievability. The result is an eminently readable, heartfelt and soulful manual, graced by Olesky’s wisdom as well as quotations and ideas from spiritual teachers across the centuries.
A passionate testament about interconnectedness that appeals to both heart and mind.
The self-help market abounds with breezy advice about love connections. It’s a rare guide that has the power to flip perspectives and trigger epiphanies, not to mention provide simple techniques that might alter habitual reactions and behaviors. From the first pages, this treatise diverges from the surface-skating norm. Drawing on decades of client counseling, as well as their own experience as a couple, Belzunce and Gutierrez have created a road map for exploring eight areas of human existence and interaction, which they call pathways. While some are self-explanatory (Connection and Communication, for example), most compartmentalize life in more novel ways (such as Being and Balance, the challenge of harmonizing discordant aspects of the self and the other). They make utter sense, though, within the authors’ framework. Such idiosyncratic terminology—and the unapologetically heart-centered language, which belies an inherent, worldly wisdom—is easy to resist at first brush. Familiarity, however, breeds understanding and acceptance. Each discussion of pathways includes explanations, illustrative case histories, questionnaires and worksheets, some extensive enough to require flip charts. Pointers abound for defusing heated communication, with examples of navigating difficult conversations and a recurring emphasis on being present—slowing breathing and hearing or expressing only what is happening in that instant. The material skillfully helps develop new approaches and viewpoints. Exposure alone has value, even to the reader who foregoes completing the exercises (or who would balk at couples’ therapy). Any relationship, post-divorce included, stands to benefit from exploring all of the pathways, as do the individuals involved.
A valuable addition to the self-help genre, for skimmers and divers alike.
A business management expert explains that disagreements and conflicts are not the products of good versus evil but of differences in how individuals prioritize what he calls the Eight Great Goods.
After conducting thousands of interviews and surveys with people from more than 20 cultures, Beck (co-author: Japan’s Business Renaissance, 2005, etc.) determined that making decisions is, for most people, an attempt to do the right thing or to do good. The decisions people make, Beck says, can be sorted into one of the Eight Great Goods, each illustrated here with interview snippets: Life, Growth, Relationships, Joy, Individuality, Stability, Equality and Belief. Individuals prioritize these goods differently, with great variation; Beck notes that, according to his research, less than 10 percent of a representative sample of Americans shares a pattern of priority with another person. Regardless of this individual variation, Beck cogently and effectively proposes that by using these eight goods to categorize even the most contentious debates, opponents will discover commonalities. Perhaps more importantly, opponents will stop viewing debated issues in terms of good versus evil and instead understand conflicts as a matter of good versus good. Once an individual organizes the eight goods according to his or her own priorities, Beck says decision-making can be accomplished by applying a simple algorithm to the problem at hand. At the organizational and national levels, where individual lists would, he presumes, vary significantly, problems are analyzed based on which goods are most applicable. Using the debate over Arizona’s immigration law as an example, Beck illustrates this process by bringing a contentious group of debaters closer to agreement by identifying the goods of Relationships, Equality, Stability and Individuality—the goods most affected by the law’s passage, he says. Further evidence of how these eight goods factor into decision-making is described in Section III, which examines various nations and the policies that reflect how different countries have prioritized these goods. The book concludes with a section on how leaders can put the Eight Great Goods into practice and develop better, more focused and successful organizations. Due to Beck’s conversational writing style, the concepts are made easy to understand without becoming too simplistic. Rather than offering a tired analysis of the current trend toward deep polarization, he offers plausible, practicable steps toward a solution that require little more than a fresh perspective and a willingness to try something new.
An eye-opening, even-keeled theory offering hope to those who disagree.
Australian Neale writes her first book, a self-help guide to spiritual development.
Neale, a lifelong spiritual seeker, puts forth a distinct, detailed plan for attaining fulfillment. Borrowing from many wisdom traditions from across the world and her own personal experience, Neale writes a warm, engaging account that gives concrete steps for reaching spiritual maturity. Penned for those who are exploring different directions and who are not concerned with doctrinaire stands, this little book should perhaps have been titled, The Bridge to Spiritual Maturity, as a bridge metaphor continues throughout the book, offering an image that leads the reader through the spiritual growth process. “Each person’s relationship to God is in private and is for no other person to interfere with,” writes Neale, whose carefully considered system of guidelines and principles are meant to foster presence without alienating the reader. Neale provides examples of low-, middle- and high-level development. Understanding the effect of personality on awareness, cultivating mindfulness, and using different types of prayer are some of the specific techniques that Neale offers. “We labor under the illusion that external factors dictate the kind of life we have,” Neale says, but, ever the advocate of personal responsibility, she urges the spiritual seeker to exercise free will and to take responsibility for thoughts, words and actions. Anyone who is open-minded and curious will find in this volume a wealth of information that can be applied to his or her own growth and to the inevitable pitfalls and challenges.
A detailed, approachable handbook to mindfulness by a knowledgeable, experienced spiritual guide.
A self-styled “children’s book for adults” about finding contentment in the world.
Weill’s big, ornately produced debut opens with an elementary restatement of the core philosophical outlook of 18th-century Italian Jewish mystic Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) about the essential oneness of all creation and how existence is a constant journey to re-attain the oneness of creation’s beginning. In bright, simple watercolors (one image per page, with plenty of white space), Weill follows a central visual character—a man in a suit and hat whose face is a blur—through a series of vignettes, some purely conceptual (walking up a graph of life events partitioned like a piece of modern art), others very concrete (waiting at train stations, sitting at the seaside, etc.), while the narrative—generally one line per illustration—elaborates on Weill’s concept of how individuals find peace through introspection: “Well-being is generated not from the outside but from inside.” Each of the illustrations suggests a separate tale, and this fits neatly with Weill’s idea that each person’s life journey is essentially a collection of such tales. “We organize our circumstances into stories,” he writes, “stories we pick up along the way.” Through darker imagery (including one image of Auschwitz and another of the 9/11 attack), the author references life’s obstacles, and Weill contends that all such obstacles can be overcome with inner resources: “When we lose touch with well-being, joy seems to depend on circumstances, on what happens outside of us.” Introspection continues to be the key: “When we become aware of our own thinking,” he writes, “we awaken.” The book’s simplicity of insight is well-matched by its impressive production quality; the pages are thick and heavy, meant to convey the impression of timeless wisdom. As with most modern books on such weighty themes, Weill’s narration more often than not resorts to vague generalities to move its lessons forward. Readers may feel encouraged to read their own life experiences into these stark images, using Weill’s paintings like spiritual Rorschach blots. What wisdom or reassurance they draw from such an exercise will depend on what they put into it.
A beautifully crafted, uplifting meditation on the inner, personal dimensions of hope.
Walsh investigates the origins of Mahayana Buddhism in his careful, honest search for truth on the spiritual path.
Examining religious history can be a polarizing pursuit. The scarcity of tangible proof can lead to holes in the larger narrative, and faith can inspire both zealous belief and bitter skepticism. Walsh’s debut manages to avoid these pitfalls. His approach falls between scholarship and personal reflection; through investigating the many sources (but few facts) that surround the provenance of Mahayana texts—focusing mostly on the Lotus Sutra but also appealing to his own experience and the writings of his teachers within Nichiren Buddhism, the branch of Mahayana Buddhism he studies personally—Walsh triangulates a “middle way” between skepticism and faith. Where Walsh cannot be sure of a conclusion—for instance, whether Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism intermingled along the Silk Road in Persia and India—he calmly and rationally states his uncertainties. As such, the numerous fascinating details about the timeline of world religions and the historical figures within the development of various strains of Buddhism are allowed to speak for themselves. Although Walsh eventually concludes that it’s unlikely the Mahayana texts were issued directly from the Shakyamuni Buddha (usually recognized as the historical Buddha), he nonetheless resolves to open-mindedly examine the real-world effects of doctrines in Mahayana Buddhism; ultimately, Walsh decides that these effects fortify the tradition, despite the path’s debatable origin. Though calm and relaxed, Walsh’s scholarly approach can sometimes seem dense and tangential in comparison to other writers on Buddhism, such as Alan Watts or Thich Nhat Hanh. Walsh doesn’t write Zen koans; he researches and investigates. Therefore, his book will primarily appeal to Mahayana Buddhists who seek to resolve the religion’s apparent inconsistencies while learning more about the history of their tradition. Nonetheless, any student of religious history will benefit from a reading.
A sincere, penetrating history whose conclusions are both scholastically and spiritually sound.