Resonant testimonies and practical techniques on gaining profound spiritual insight.

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Cave and Cosmos

SHAMANIC ENCOUNTERS WITH ANOTHER REALITY

A leading authority in shamanism shares collected accounts of modern-day journeying plus guiding techniques in this sequel to his 1980 seminal classic.

In 1980, anthropologist/shaman Harner published The Way of the Shaman, raising awareness of shamanic practice in the West. In this sequel, Harner, now in his 80s, notes that he has chosen to spend his limited time to share information that he feels is “really important, even urgent, to pass on to a fractious and perilous world willing to quarrel interminably about spiritual matters on the basis of belief in old stories.” In demonstrating the value of shamanic journeying, Harner draws on almost 5,000 reports of such journeys by present-day Westerners (Americans, Canadians, and some Europeans) collected over the last quarter-century through a project sponsored by his Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The narratives largely focus on ascents to the Upper World, in which animal guides and mystical and/or historical spiritual teachers figure, as does a sense of “cosmic union,” after which one can choose “to undertake the classic healing work of the shaman to help those who are suffering or in pain.” Descriptions of descents to the Lower World are also included, with visitors reporting positive experiences of meeting guides and crossing beautiful terrains. (In shamanism cosmology, the Lower World is not a punishing hell but simply another spiritual dimension.) “Possibly the closest thing to hell,” says Harner, “is in our own world, the Middle World.” In the appendices, the book outlines how to navigate one’s own journeys, including tapping into ascent/descent portals (including rainbows and caves, respectively) and training resources. Harner’s rich compendium gives many ways to consider and explore a powerful and inspiring view of the cosmos. His recommendation to develop one’s own spiritual authority rather than depend on “the cosmological dogmas of organized religion” may resonate with readers, and the diversity of accounts allows for inclusion of traditional religious figures (St. Francis, the Virgin Mary, etc.). While the amount of detail is at times overwhelming, this work offers a welcome message of universal healing.

Resonant testimonies and practical techniques on gaining profound spiritual insight.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58394-546-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: North Atlantic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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