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M. J. Robinson "Candle Flame" (UK)

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Jesus before Christianity
Jesus before Christianity
by Albert Nolan
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gentle revolutionary, 24 July 2010
Albert Nolan provides a very honest portrait of Jesus before Jesus became the central figure of Christianity surrounded by dogma and ritual. Here is Jesus in the flesh - a gentle revolutionary inciting his followers to a METANOIA or change of heart - in other words living life through love and compassion. He was in touch with the truth and reality of life and had a 'spontaneous faith in the power of goodness and truth' because he felt he was in harmony with the divine will. As a result he felt no need to refer to or rely on any earthly authority. Jesus was a man who was very aware of the issues that faced the people in his own age.

In the final chapter - 'Faith in Jesus' - the author states 'We do not need to theorize about Jesus, we need to 're-produce' him in our time and our circumstances. He himself did not regard the truth as something we simply 'uphold' and 'maintain' but as something we choose to live and experience. So that our search, like his search, is primarily a search for 'orthopraxis' (true practice) rather than 'orthodoxy' (true doctrine)'.

The important emphasis in this book is that Jesus never intended to form an ORGANISATION but he did initiate a MOVEMENT. When he died he had no successor because he was considered the 'breakthrough in the history of humanity. He transcended everything ...' He is relevant to all men.

This is a well-researched historical view of Jesus the MAN of his time before the resurrection. Considering his earthLy life alone with all its trials, twists and turns and the choices he made is enough to excite a following without considering the doctrine, dogma and ritual that grew up around his memory afterwards. His was not an easy life. He was severely tested in his life and tempted to take up earthly power. Yet he resisted and maintained his path of service to the people of his age. The human Jesus resonates on many levels.

If you are looking for a single human being to inspire you in one package then here is the man. Here is a man who dared to live fully integrated with his inner self and serve despite the dangers it would put him in. No wonder many groups want to claim him as their own yet he is of relevance to all.

Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life
Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars taming the 'I', 'Me', 'Mine', 23 July 2010
One of the simplest books on meditation I have ever read with lots of tips on how to bring mindfulness into every day life and thus learn to live life to the full in the present moment.

The present moment is all the reality we have and we have the power to make that moment heaven or hell by our thoughts and reactions to what is happening to us in that moment.

The author outlines the importance of learning to just 'be' and how if you should do this every morning for even 10 minutes your experience of the day will take on a different aura.

Meditation can take place at any moment in your life not just when you sit on your cushion. You can meditate whilst walking round the supermarket with a trolley or standing in queue. The issue is what is going on in your mind. Are you aware of what is happening within and around you in the moment you are in or are your thoughts focused on the past or future thus missing the fullness of life?

This is not a recipe for becoming a hermit or a recluse but a set of practical techniques for becoming aware of the interconnectedness of all life and the beauty of what is all around you at any moment. Even in the darkest moment there can be a bright spot of beauty if you but look and listen to what is there.

Even when cleaning a stove if you do it with mindfulness you can merge into the activity and get rid of the 'I', 'Me' and 'Mine' that dog us all our lives.

The Chapter on 'Selfing' shows that we are continually producing thoughts of 'I', 'Me' and 'Mine' but this self is impermanent and gets in the way of who you really are. As Kabat-Zinn says: 'By recognizing and letting go of selfing impulses, we accord the universe a little more room to make things happen.' Clearing out the self and its many impulses such as anger opens up huge potentiality and opportunity.

Zabat-Zinn ends the book by asking whether mindfulness is 'spiritual'. He states that he prefers not to use the word 'spiritual' because it means many things to many people and can impede progress. However, often the mindfulness practice has evoked 'spiritual feelings' in people. Ultimately it is for all human beings to become aware of the depth of their own inner experience and to explore it with all its storytelling (he mentions the archetypes in fairy tales). Meditation practice is a mirror of the archetypal hero's journey to growth and development taking us through the ups and downs of life where we need to accept both the darkness and the light in life meeting the demons, dragons, fairy godmothers and so on in the psyche and becoming fully human as we embrace our individual path.

Highly recommended. An easy read. Plenty of good advice for everyday living.

Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation
Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.59

68 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stress relief advice - and it works, 23 July 2010
Highly recommended for anyone going through periods of stress, pain or illness. The basic technique is mindfulness meditation which means being aware of what is happening in the moment aided by focusing on the breath. There are a range of very practical exercises that can be used. All it takes is discipline. By sitting, lying or standing you can become aware of your inner life and listen to what is going on over time - not judging but observing. By doing this on a regular basis without expectations you can begin to change your life and your reactions to stress, pain, anxiety or illness or indeed any circumstance. The author - Jon Kabat-Zinn - uses the techniques detailed in this book in his Stress Reduction Programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre. (There are CDs available).

The key words are 'breath awareness', 'body-scan', 'yoga', 'mindfulness in the present moment', 'listening within'.

What is 'mindfulness'? - It is being totally aware of everything in the present moment without energy being wasted on thoughts of the past or future or any habitual conditioning from authority figures.

The whole programme helps an individual to face the inevitable changes in life with a more open accepting attitude and so lessens habitual reactivity. Once you become mindful of how you approach life and how you react to circumstances then you can begin to change conditioned responses and by doing so realise that you can become the master of your own life whatever life throws at you.

Worth a read. Worth practising mindfulness whatever activity you are involved in. Worth sharing.

Walking on Water: Reaching God in Our Time
Walking on Water: Reaching God in Our Time
by Anthony De Mello
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exercises on becoming aware, 10 July 2010
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Excellent book for giving people easily practised exercises to perform in every day life to bring awareness on how the quality of our lives are affected by how we react to circumstances. The practice of these simple exercises on a regular basis would surely bring more peace to our lives. There are some very insightful thoughts in this book on how our supposed feelings of love for another person can in fact be something from our own selfishness and be of the nature of passion rather than pure love and that when such love is thwarted if resentment appears then we can test whether the love was true or not. De Mello gives quite a lot of space to this difference between pure love and needy love and some useful exercises to help people grow out of the habit.

Very useful guide to living a peaceful, tranquil life and how to really live life beyond our conditioning from the past and from authority figures and learning to listen to the guide and Kingdom within. Highly recommended and an easy read despite the depth of the subject matter.

Part 2 Chapters 13 and 14 contain particularly practical exercises in clearing out emotional baggage and clearing the path and purifying the heart to allow God into the Kingdom.

Neti-Pots for Better Health
Neti-Pots for Better Health
by Warren Jefferson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.35

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No more colds!, 9 July 2010
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I have been practising nasal cleansing or 'jala neti' as it is called in yoga for several years now and haven't had a single head cold. Wonderful practice once you get used to it and you certainly miss it if you don't practice it as you soon notice the difference.

So what is a neti pot and what do you do with it? Well, it is a little pot (ceramic, plastic or metal) with a long spout that fits into the nostril (see illustration on the book cover of a ceramic pot). You fill the neti pot up with lukewarm water and add a pinch of salt, then you pour the salty water in one nostril and it pours out the other thus cleaning the nostril cavities very effectively. You need to dry the nostrils thoroughly afterwards though. That's the basics. The book obviously goes into more detail of how to perform this practice effectively and safely. I recommend the technique highly.

What are the benefits? There are many and only by trying the technique can you confirm whether it does work: - removes dirt(especially if you have spent a day in a big city!), germs and pollen from the nose; relieves the symptoms of hay fever; reduces swollen mucous membranes in the nose; helps the sinuses drain and function properly; improves the sense of smell; can be helpful in treating certain ear infections reducing the need for antibiotics; cools and soothes the brain and can give relief from headaches, depression and general mental tension.

The best book I have found on the subject. Gives you an outline of the anatomy of the nose (chapter 1); discusses various nasal problems that people suffer (chapter 2); gives a lot of detail on how to use the neti pot (chapter 3); mentions the spiritual benefits of neti from a yoga perspective (chapter 4).

The book ends with a list of resources e.g. where to get a neti pot, medical resources and other useful sources such as details of nasal/sinus irrigation system available.

Good reference section of source texts.

Highly recommended for yoga practitioners and those who have suffered with nasal problems and want some blessed relief.

Flow: Psychology of Happiness
Flow: Psychology of Happiness
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deep classic - no quick fixes here, 9 July 2010
I read 'Flow' in 1993 and it had a great impact on the way I approached life. But this is not a self-help book nor is it a quick fix to Happiness. Nor is it an easy read. It is a scientific investigation by a well-known, respected psychologist.

What this book reveals is a fascinating two decades worth of dedicated investigation into what in human experience seems to bring happiness - i.e. a state of deep concentration and absorption, creativity and total involvement in life which takes us out of ourselves. The author provides some fascinating examples of moments of flow.

These moments of flow are when one feels joy, feels totally in control, transcending the mundane. This can happen at any moment e.g. listening to music, doing something one loves, seeing something beautiful in nature or communing with a person you love and many many more situations where you are totally in the present moment - a total state of flow. All of us have at one time or another experienced moments of flow in our lives but can we sustain it? The question is, how can we stay in that state more often?

We can train ourselves to be in the state of flow more regularly by training the mind/consciousness. All you need is the mind and a willingness to learn to concentrate.

Read the book and you will understand a little more about what makes people happy. Then experiment ...

Finding Sanctuary: Monastic steps for Everyday Life
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic steps for Everyday Life
by Father Christopher Jamison OSB
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars setting oneself free, 9 July 2010
On page 146 the author writes: ' Classic religion is about being set free from the idolatry of people, objects and techniques. It is about being set free from the constantly shifting sands of human desire. In classic religion you do not pick and choose; you learn a whole way of life.' The way of St Benedict is gradually revealed throughout the book in manageable chunks.

Silence seems to be the most important step and the foundation of a monk's way of life - a way of listening deeply to themselves and to beyond themselves and all the other steps follow.

This little book very clearly outlines the steps to finding sanctuary within ourselves and learning to cultivate a new way of life even within the busyness of a life in the 21st Century. It asks us to move away from the consumer lifestyle and reflect on our own busyness. There are 7 steps: Silence, Contemplation, Obedience, Humility, Community, Spirituality and Hope.

At the end of each chapter there are website addresses and further readings which are very useful. For example there is a link to a website that focuses on centering prayer and also one on the contemplative Thomas Merton (Trappist monk and prolific writer on spiritual matters, deceased 1960s).

A short book with some very profound wisdom and a useful stepping stone to further reading and exploration. Recommended. The final conclusion is that it is better to commit oneself to one religion than to pick and choose as we do in much of our consumerist society between the many brands of 'spirituality' available. An interesting thought to reflect upon.

Yoga for Chickens
Yoga for Chickens
by Lynn Brunelle
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars light relief for serious yoga buffs, 8 July 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Yoga for Chickens (Paperback)
It's all about 'Relaxing your inner chick' state the authors. How delightful. I am hooked on the 'drumstick stretch' - it has a tenderizing effect on the leg muscles and clears the juices. And just getting into the 'Rooster's Sunrise Salutation' especially ending the sequence with a 'loud song of salutation and joy' - Cock-a-doodle-doo!' Then I do the 'Wings like Bellows Breath' to set me up for the day!

When the yoga mat gets too hot and sticky and your mind is crowing with ego or you're scratching around trying to find some meaning in life then take a break and dip into this amusing little book that just brings it all down to earth. There's serious yoga advice behind the silly cartoons and I have to say it just brings the whole yoga business into a sense of balance. Get a life, have some fun and of course bear in mind the real reason why yoga is practised. A light-hearted view of quite a serious activity helping yoga practitioners walk the middle way. Remember what Patanjali says about extremes! Seeing things from the light side of life sometimes deepens the practice. Hurrah for cartoonists!

The Virago Book of Spirituality: Of Women and Angels
The Virago Book of Spirituality: Of Women and Angels
by Sarah Anderson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars immanence and transcendence of the divine longing, 6 July 2010
For those who are longing for something beyond the mundane, for the taste of the divine to lift one out of life's suffering then in this far-ranging selection of women spiritual writers you will find succour. However, there is also the anguish of great love within these pages as women from a range of religious traditions and centuries (Christian saints and mystics, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, etc) and from artistic backgrounds (writers, poets. politicians and philosophers)seek the divine within and without. The sentiment they express is timeless and relevant to the yearning heart today.

It is one of those books that you can open at any page and a word or a line either consoles or captures how one feels. I open the book at several pages now to write this review and select the following lines that speak to me at this moment in time (a theme emerges!):

'O soaring eagle, darling lamb! O glowing spark! Set me on fire!'(Mechtild of Magdeburg - Christian)

'The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the soul of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka (God) and that this center is really everywhere; it is within each of us.' (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross from the teachings of Black Elk - native American);

'When the Silence is Absolute, it has Sound. It must be the same with Light. For it is said that Absolute Light represents Absolute Darkness. So the Rishis call God 'The Dark Light'. I call it the Roar of Silence, Nada, the first and last sound of Creation.' (Irina Tweedie - Hindu)

'Alas I am but a poor little unfledged bird. I am not an eagle, I have but the eagle's eyes and heart! Yet notwithstanding my exceeding littleness, I dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun of Love, and I burn to dart upwards unto Him.' (St Teresa of Liseux - Christian)

'You are a golden eagle, Do not be attached to me, I am just a small rocky hill, I might get blown up by lightning ... You, a beautiful golden bee, Do not be attached to me, I am an ordinary flower. There are big lotuses nearby. I could be destroyed by hail' (Nangsa Obum 11th Century Tibetan Buddhist woman)

Every page speaks to you - one word or a complete sentence or the whole passage from writers such as Aung San Suu Kyi, Sri Sarada Devi, George Sand, Simone de Beauvoir, Emily Bronte, Rachel Carson, St Teresa of Avila, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Wordsworth, Mahadeviyakka (12th century), Hatshepsut, Aphra Behn, Catherine of Siena, Simone Weil, Evelyn Underhill and the anonymous author of the Golden Fountain and so many more worthy names.

Well researched. An extensive list of further sources and readings. A comprehensive set of biographical notes of over 120 women who shared their idea of spirituality through their writings. Excellent anthology of spiritual writings and a stepping stone to reading more. The book does have a Christian bias as the author comes from a Western background but she has made a fine effort to capture the divine longing from a range of religious and spiritual traditions showing the interconnectedness and similarity of this human search for truth and love.

Yoga For Cats
Yoga For Cats
by Walter Reiner
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fun look at yoga, 2 July 2010
This review is from: Yoga For Cats (Paperback)
Humans are far too serious about their yoga practice. Well cats are too but they just seem more natural stretching into their yoga postures than us humans! This little book brings a sense of humour to the art of yoga through well-executed illustrations of cats doing asanas in order to gain self-realisation. Beautifully illustrated - each cat has a personality of its own (and an ego no doubt!). Highly amusing and makes me chuckle every time I look through the book at each of the characters. Some of those cats are trying far too hard (Patanjali would have a fit!) and others are totally in the zone and at one with themselves (om shanti!). So funny seeing their feline expressions - some with their tongues hanging out as they try so hard to be in the present moment.

Feline fun for cat lovers and a way of 'letting go' of vanity for yoga enthusiasts. Also a good way of learning the Sanskrit names for the main postures in yoga with their English translations. Enjoy the facial stretch! And chuckle to your heart's delight.

As the opening page says: 'The regular practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation will lead you to become a sleek, fulfilled and wise cat.' Swami Pussananda

Would love to reach that stage of purring bliss.

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