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The Heart of the Hereafter: Love Stories from the End of Life
The Heart of the Hereafter: Love Stories from the End of Life
by Marcia Brennan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 16 Nov 2014
REVIEW OF THE ‘HEART OF HEREAFTER’ by MARCIA BRENNAN, PH.D.

I give this book five very large stars! Having for many years had a great interest in the subject of death and dying, I did at one time have a hunch that I would myself at some point be working with people who were facing death. But it in due course turned out that my particular calling in that area was not to work with people who were dying, but rather with those who were already dead but stuck in between realms. I was therefore delighted to come across a book written by someone who is actually doing this vitally important work in a hospice situation, and I sincerely hope that her fascinating experiences will inspire many others to follow in her footsteps. For one of my many complaints about present-day Western society is the tendency not only to endeavour to prolong life unnecessarily, but also to shut the reality of death away – as though one could escape from this reality by not thinking about it until absolutely forced to. This is bad both for the people who are coming to the end of their lives and for their families and all those around them.
The author is a Professor of Art History at Rice University, Houston, who has also for the last five years been ‘Artist in Residence’ at the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation in the Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas, and it is her work at this Center that is the focus of this wonderful book. However, although her subject is Art and although Art is renowned as a valuable form of therapy (I have a professional artist friend who painted her way through cancer), the medium that Professor Brennan uses with the patients is actually that of writing. One of the most important things for a dying person is to make sense of the physical life that is just coming to an end, and the therapy that the author has developed so effectively is to get the people with whom she is working to put down on paper the key points of their own life history. Following her lengthy but interesting Acknowledgements and a beautiful Introduction, and before a compelling Conclusion, the middle part of the book consists of ten true, and varied, stories selected from over a thousand cases that the author has dealt with so sensitively. She explains that we have long since lost the early modern European tradition of circulating ‘ars moriendo’ (guides to the art of dying, which included commentaries and prayers to be said either by the dying person him or herself or by those around them), but that her idea is to replace these by an ‘ars vivendi’, and that to achieve this one needs to be completely open to whatever might arise at the bedside. She explains that “the artworks [i.e. the pieces that the patients write] can help to facilitate communication and promote a sense of mutual understanding between the person and the world around them.” Another important point that Marcia makes (quoting Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement) is that the whole person must be treated since it is the whole person who is suffering, and I was particularly struck by the quotation from a senior physician of her acquaintance who commented that he could write a prescription to alleviate someone’s pain but not one to alleviate their suffering.
Though clearly written by an academic, those who are less academically inclined should not be put off by this. For one thing, the book is well worth buying for Lyn Smallwood’s illustrations alone! And for each of these Marcia has provided a very detailed and illuminating analysis. The author’s awareness of the fact that someone whose life is coming to an end may well be drifting in and out between this world and the next reminds me of a very dear friend who died in the nursing home to which she had been admitted on account of suffering from dementia among several other things. Although Susie never really understood where she was, and although when one visited one would never know whether or not one would be recognised, the dementia did nothing to diminish her innate generosity of spirit and the warm welcome that everyone would always receive from her. She had been a great dog lover for all of her 85 years, and when we were mourning the death of a pet dog and thinking of looking for another one, my husband and I knew that Susie recognised us when said “I’ve got fourteen dogs. You must go and have a look and see if there’s one that you’d like to have.” Then, on our next visit, she asked “Did you go and have a look at those dogs?” Well, many people would dismiss this as the “nonsensical ramblings of a demented old woman”, but my explanation was different. It is well known that people who are dying often communicate with loved ones who have already passed over, but Susie, who had been single all her life and never close to her C- and conservative, unspiritual, family, had owned numerous dogs in the past and it seems to me to be highly likely that it was they who were waiting to greet her on the other side. And Professor Brennan herself says “Sometimes when I visit people at the end of life, I get the sense that they are inhabiting multiple worlds at once. It is as if they are simultaneously experiencing multiple states of being.”

Just as I promised myself quite a while ago that I would re-read Sogyal Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at least once every five years, my advice (N.B. to people of all ages!) is to buy this book, to read it right through slowly, as the author recommends, and then to put it onto a shelf – preferably a shelf that you look at regularly – ready to be picked up again at any moment. For we never know when death might strike someone close to us, and Marcia’s moving stories are at that moment sure to be of use and comfort. Then, when we sense that our own turn might be around the corner, we can read it yet again – or get someone else to read it to us if we ourselves are no longer capable of doing so.

Ann Merivale (author of ‘DISCOVERING THE LIFE PLAN – Eleven Steps to Your Destiny’, 6th BOOKS, 2012, ‘DELAYED DEPARTURE – A Beginner’s Guide to Soul Rescue’, 6th BOOKS, 2013, and ‘LIFE WITHOUT ELGAR – A Tale of a Journeying Soul’, 6th BOOKS, October 2014).


Rising in Love: My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now, with Amma, the Hugging Saint
Rising in Love: My Wild and Crazy Ride to Here and Now, with Amma, the Hugging Saint
by Ram Das Batchelder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great book!, 26 Oct 2014
Once this book is in print I shall be buying copies not only for myself, but also for various friends. As soon as I saw that it was to be sold at profit to an orphanage in India, I thought to myself “This author is my type of person.” And, on top of that, firstly his individualistic, racy style of writing makes the whole thing very readable (it was only eye ache that forced me to take regular breaks from the screen!), and secondly his knowledge of Indian spirituality is not only profound but also very clearly expressed. This will make the book an invaluable introduction for beginners; I hope it will reach many younger people who are wrestling with the difficulties of finding meaning to life in our present conflict-stricken, materialistic world, as well as those who are already familiar with certain aspects of Hindu philosophy and wanting to deepen their knowledge.
An aspect of Ram Das’ story that interested me particularly was his initial struggles with celibacy, working on the apparent assumption that this was an essential pre-requisite to Enlightenment. The fact that his chosen ‘guru’, the avatar Amma, eventually led him to ‘the right woman’ for this (probably his final!) incarnation, and blessed their union, is a clear indication that marriage is not necessarily an impediment on the path to self-realisation (particularly when both partners are in total spiritual harmony). He comments that the marriage is far from being an easy one, but we all know full well that overcoming obstacles is always a stimulus to spiritual growth.
As a writer and therapist who specialises in Deep Memory Process (past life regression), I have a particular interest in karmic relationships, and this is a theme that pervades all my own books. And as someone who has been a follower of Sathya Sai Baba ever since being led to him in 1996, I am also conscious that an individual’s choice of ‘guru’ (I put that word in single quotes since I believe both Amma and Baba to be considerably more than a guru) will also be guided by karmic connections.
I therefore naturally liked very much reading this sentence in Ram Das’ book: “At times during my travels I received the strong impression that the Masters are all connected, like lights on a Christmas tree strung on the same wire, and that one energy and one divine mind are flowing through all of them.” I do know that, when Sai Baba was still on Earth, He frequently sent people to Amma and vice versa. Reading this book was also extremely interesting to me because, despite having been once to see her, it is the first book that I have read about Amma, and I was struck very forcibly by the similarities with the many accounts written by people who were close to Sai Baba. The numerous quotations from Amma’s words reveal their teachings to be identical, but I also have to confess to some lamentable ignorance. I was very much aware that both these avatars were tireless in charitable work of all sorts, having founded schools, universities, hospitals and so on, but I did not know that Amma also went in for astounding materialisations. I just loved the story early on in the book when the author was completely stuck in a snowdrift and was rescued by the sudden appearance of an extra jack in his car boot, together with a piece of ‘Amma’s candy’ to indicate that it was a gift from her. Scientifically minded skeptics (of whom I know many, not least the members of my own family!) will always offer alternative explanations for such ‘miracles’, but those of us who have firsthand experience of the wondrous ways of the Almighty will never cease to be grateful for them. So thank you, Ram Das, for reinforcing my faith in the impossible.
~ Ann Merivale, author of “Delayed Departure” and other books


Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love
Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love
by David Sturt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for spiritual seekers, 11 Oct 2014
Once this book is in print I shall be buying copies not only for myself, but also for various friends. As soon as I saw that it was to be sold at profit to an orphanage in India, I thought to myself “This author is my type of person.” And, on top of that, firstly his individualistic, racy style of writing makes the whole thing very readable (it was only eye ache that forced me to take regular breaks from the screen!), and secondly his knowledge of Indian spirituality is not only profound but also very clearly expressed. This will make the book an invaluable introduction for beginners; I hope it will reach many younger people who are wrestling with the difficulties of finding meaning to life in our present conflict-stricken, materialistic world, as well as those who are already familiar with certain aspects of Hindu philosophy and wanting to deepen their knowledge.
An aspect of Ram Das’ story that interested me particularly was his initial struggles with celibacy, working on the apparent assumption that this was an essential pre-requisite to Enlightenment. The fact that his chosen ‘guru’, the avatar Amma, eventually led him to ‘the right woman’ for this (probably his final!) incarnation, and blessed their union, is a clear indication that marriage is not necessarily an impediment on the path to self-realisation (particularly when both partners are in total spiritual harmony). He comments that the marriage is far from being an easy one, but we all know full well that overcoming obstacles is always a stimulus to spiritual growth.
As a writer and therapist who specialises in Deep Memory Process (past life regression), I have a particular interest in karmic relationships, and this is a theme that pervades all my own books. And as someone who has been a follower of Sathya Sai Baba ever since being led to him in 1996, I am also conscious that an individual’s choice of ‘guru’ (I put that word in single quotes since I believe both Amma and Baba to be considerably more than a guru) will also be guided by karmic connections. I therefore naturally liked very much reading this sentence in Ram Das’ book: “At times during my travels I received the strong impression that the Masters are all connected, like lights on a Christmas tree strung on the same wire, and that one energy and one divine mind are flowing through all of them.” I do know that, when Sai Baba was still on Earth, He frequently sent people to Amma and vice versa. Reading this book was also extremely interesting to me because, despite having been once to see her, it is the first book that I have read about Amma, and I was struck very forcibly by the similarities with the many accounts written by people who were close to Sai Baba. The numerous quotations from Amma’s words reveal their teachings to be identical, but I also have to confess to some lamentable ignorance. I was very much aware that both these avatars were tireless in charitable work of all sorts, having founded schools, universities, hospitals and so on, but I did not know that Amma also went in for astounding materialisations. I just loved the story early on in the book when the author was completely stuck in a snowdrift and was rescued by the sudden appearance of an extra jack in his car boot, together with a piece of ‘Amma’s candy’ to indicate that it was a gift from her. Scientifically minded skeptics (of whom I know many, not least the members of my own family!) will always offer alternative explanations for such ‘miracles’, but those of us who have firsthand experience of the wondrous ways of the Almighty will never cease to be grateful for them. So thank you, Ram Das, for reinforcing my faith in the impossible.


Discovering the Life Plan
Discovering the Life Plan
by Ann Merivale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Review from Journal of the Medical and Scientific Network, 20 Aug 2014
Many readers will be familiar with the idea of a life plan devised within the concept of reincarnation – the idea makes its first appearance in Plato's Myth of Er where we witness souls choosing their next life in accordance with their predispositions. Ann Merivale is a Deep Memory Process therapist, trained by Roger Woolger, but who also has a rich spiritual background including an affiliation with Sai Baba. The book is structured around 7 year cycles up to age 56. Then, we are told, we are on the last lap even though we don't know how long this lap is going to be. Each chapter conveys the author's understanding of the phase in question, with a number of case histories and accompanying spiritual insights. The last two chapters consider death and a dramatic scenario of the afterlife, which to me demonstrated Ann's profound understanding of spiritual processes. Each chapter contains notes as well as exercise suggestions to help the reader work with the material. Anyone sympathetic to this perspective will gain considerably from the insights in this wise book.


Pets Are Forever: Amazing True Stories of Angelic Animals
Pets Are Forever: Amazing True Stories of Angelic Animals
by Jenny Smedley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Strongly recommended - particularly for animal lovers of course, but educational for all, 24 July 2014
Isn't it amazing to think that, being born into a Catholic family, I was brought up with the belief that animals didn't have souls?! Later on in my life I met one or two 'enlightened' priests who were willing to admit - if grudgingly - that there was some possibility that they did have souls after all. I was in my 50s when I finally came round to believing in reincarnation, and now of course I know for sure that all animals will become human eventually. That is, unless they're so special that they can bypass that stage of spiritual evolution. And who are we to say that we are "more evolved" than, say, our beloved dog, cat or dolphin (does anyone have dolphins as pets?). Anyway Jenny Smedley takes all this for granted and her well written book is full of very interesting and moving stories. It is also comforting for anyone who has lost an animal that was very dear to them. If you are sceptical, this book should convince you that it is not in fact loss at all, merely a temporary parting.


Cords That Cannot be Broken: A Study of Twin Souls
Cords That Cannot be Broken: A Study of Twin Souls
by Judith Merville
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars DON'T BUY IT!!!!!!!, 17 July 2014
I urge you not to buy this book. You would be wasting your money completely because it has since been rewritten and GREATLY improved. The new version (written under the author's real name of Ann Merivale) is called 'SOULS UNITED - The Power of Divine Connection', was published by Llewellyn in 2009 and is readily available from Amazon. It has been very well received by numerous people, though one Amazon reviewer criticises it on the grounds that "the author has no personal experience" in the matter. What a cheek! How does she know? Why would anyone want to write about the painful experience of meeting their twin soul if they didn't have personal experience???? This person says she might write a book on the subject herself one day, which is obviously her reason for not liking 'Souls United'. Someone recently recommended it on Facebook as "A wonderful book"!


Delayed Departure: A Beginner's Guide to Soul Rescue
Delayed Departure: A Beginner's Guide to Soul Rescue
Price: £6.58

5.0 out of 5 stars STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!, 1 July 2014
I have just finished reading "Delayed Departure" and really enjoyed it. This author's talents are amazing.
I shall try myself to dip into the Soul Rescue realm again. I used to do it with a Soul group ages ago, but this book is the tops!

Reverend Leonora van Gils
Inter-Faith Minister & Spiritual Counsellor
Allergy Specialist


Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter
Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter
by Betty Jean Lifton
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous book!, 27 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Betty Jean Lifton is a truly wonderful writer and my admiration for her work for adoptees and all those involved in the adoption process is unbounded. I'm only sorry that she died too soon to write me an endorsement for my own book on the subject.
Ann Merivale


Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Search for Wholeness
Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Search for Wholeness
by Betty Jean Lifton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 4 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have a huge admiration for this writer and, since I am just finishing a book on adoption myself, I found this one (like her previous one) extremely useful. I recommend it to all those involved in an 'adoption triad'.


Bach: Magnificat | Missa Brevis [Helmuth Rilling, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart] [Hanssler Classic: 98.024]
Bach: Magnificat | Missa Brevis [Helmuth Rilling, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart] [Hanssler Classic: 98.024]
Price: £10.59

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, 4 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wasn't very familiar with C.P.E., but our Choral Society were doing this work so I needed to familiarise myself with it. Of course his music isn't quite of the calibre of his dad's, but it is very good, and the performance is excellent too.


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