Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review [SZEN ZONE: REACHING A STATE OF POSITIVE CHANGE by Gary Szenderski]

There’s a lot that Gary Szenderski got right in his book Szen Zone: Reaching a State of Positive Change. It is a very straight forward word to the wise for the young business professional who needs a positive pick me up in their career and life. This book is a win for the new corporate work force and is very Millennials friendly. The author is also on point in his instructions for how to use this book, where he suggests, “Open it anywhere and find a short story that may make your day or make you think.” However, me being sequential I attempted to read it straight through and got a little bored with the randomness of the stories. I kept wanting to connect the dots, but there were none to connect. I was also amused by some of the play on words, everything is Szen..., and the editor’s notes which are like a review of the book in the book. Unique.

I don’t have a lot to say about the book. The Holiday Math story was just the cutest and I did a little underlining of notes to remember, however, there was not much else that moved me. Most of the morals, advise and encouragement in Szen Zone is common knowledge. I was able to equate most of the Szenippets, which are the closing words to remember and internalize from the reading with other popular sayings, and I picked up on a couple of adages from Gates and Zuckerman. However, I do know that this kind of advice is new to the new generation of workers.

I can see Szen Zone being very useful for Gary’s intended audience, however as one of those Generation X wise old souls who was set for retirement before 40, it was apparent that the corporate game hadn’t changed much and the young ones are still needing some spiritual, mental and emotional help to get them through the maze of life. Good job Gary.


By the way I received a free copy of this book from the author for an honest review. 3 ankhs is what I can give on this book with the hope that all the young people who read it will work hard to make the new retirement age 45 because life is so much more than the “work” you do or the job you have, which is the very point a got from Szen Zone.

K. Akua Gray
November 14, 2017
Central Region, Ghana

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book Review [Be Your Self and Be Well: Connecting with Your Soul’s Power to Heal, by Dr. Steven Hiebert]

In Be Your Self and Be Well: Connecting with Your Soul’s Power to Heal, by Dr. Steven Hiebert, the author describes himself like this, “I am simply today’s messenger for a timeless and universal truth.” Such an opening statement is a clear indication of a humble spirit that has learned the art of sharing gifts of light unconditionally. It is also rare, as the author reveals in the introduction to receive a word from the divine masculine who is directly aware of his family line of ancestral fathers who were also healers, and revealing this lets you know there will be some cellular memory at work.


“Spirituality is the best medicine there is.”

You all know I love quotable writings and I could go on and on quoting from Be Your Self and Be Well because the book is an endless affirmation that empowers, redirects, and satisfies the spirit. Each of the eighteen chapters is an open invitation to change, and the change not only happens in the reading, but each chapter also has a Healing Exercise that almost instantly mentally challenges you to be better. A very clever emphasis that I liked too was the ending words of every chapter is the provocative reminder to, “Be Your Self and Be Well.”


“Without the strength of your spirit, your body cannot be healthy.”

I can usually pick a favorite chapter, but there are so many good ones. How to choose? 😊 Be Your Self and Be Well are the highlights of the metaphysical world all wrapped up in one. There are some unique parts of the book that I’m sure will add to the metaphysical novice as well as the veteran when it comes to changing their thoughts about healing. The one that stands out in chapter 5 is getting over the physical and training the mind to understand that all, especially the human experience is spiritual. The author resounds the mantra, “you are spirit” throughout the book in an effort to help the reader internalize this if nothing else. Specifically, on the subject of healing Dr. Hiebert talks about healing in a tough love kind of way. He teaches that, “You can heal, be spiritually present, and not cure your pain and sickness. It’s best to pursue healing because it helps you feel alive and connected to the divine. If you pursue healing only because it might cure your disease, there’s a good chance you will end up disappointed.” Right. Be Your Self and Be Well is plain good holistic advise, even if you’ve heard it before it will rekindle your own cellular memory to active that which you already know but may have let fall by the wayside. He reminds us that pain is a messenger and to deal with it, one must relax, breathe into it and listen for the message. The body mind has power too. I also like the way he maneuvers healing into eliminating the fear of death. Clever, if you’re scared of dying, you have to read that part.


“When you try to force the world to change without changing your Self, it never works.”

Like most books, the end tapers off into a low hum of quick points of encouragement, but nothing profound in the last couple of chapters. I did find myself longing for more of the author’s personal stories because the ones that he did share enlivened the reading. Lastly, we need these kinds of books to touch every community in the world. I give Be Your Self and Be Well the first of its kind rating on my blog, 4.5 ankhs. It was excellent in encouraging me but didn’t wow me, I was most happy to see the compilation of information in one place which is the innovation that I’m sure anyone who picks up this book will benefit from. I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review and I liked the follow up to the initial send of the hard copy. 


K. Akua Gray
November 7, 2017
Central Region, Ghana

Friday, October 27, 2017

From the Archives [Mad at Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth by Pearl Cleage]

It is still true that great things can come in small packages, and Mad At Miles: A Black Woman's Guide to Truth by Pearl Cleage is a 64 page package of powerful insight and grave reality that generations of women have not been able to escape. Although I have known about this book for decades, it has always been on my radar to read because I wanted to know why Ms. Cleage was "mad at Miles." I knew there could only be one Miles that could be mentioned by his first name and people would know who Ms. Cleage was talking about.

My heart immediately dropped in the introduction as the author described a horribly visual scene of a female friend being beaten and driven from her home by her husband. I knew then why the author was mad at Miles, and I was mad at him too,but only for 3 seconds. If you are familiar with my emotional release formula, you know that is all of my precious time that anger gets.

Ms. Cleage then brings the reality of domestic violence into clear view in each of the graphic and action packed examples of this torturous existence to too many women and girls. The vibration of these series of unfortunate events must be in the wind because I could not resist the draw of this book during my most recent visit to The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore in Detroit, MI, and this month being the month I chose to read it which is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As I quite often say, all things in divine time.

Mad At Miles is also a workbook for empowerment for women, families and anyone who is concerned about helping stop this vicious cycle. Ms. Cleage starts the healing process with a "Basic Training" that teaches 10 key warning signals that could help women know they may be in danger of potential domestic violence. As a naturopath, I am 100% in support of prevention and these 10 signs are paramount for every woman to know. The author goes on to also talk about the 10 ways to protect yourself from rape by a stranger and 10 ways to protect yourself from rape by someone you know. All these tips are real ways to empowerment.

Fortunately, I have never experience domestic violence but I have been scarred by its very existence and my life force is affected by knowing that many women and families have to suffer through this unfortunate plague in every corner of this world.

Mad At Miles is a solution oriented book that I highly recommend. Dialog like this need to be continuous and wide spread. I would normally write all over books that I'm reading as personal notes to myself, but didn't make one mark this time, because I knew I would be sharing this 3 ankh book with someone who needs it. Thank you Pearl Cleage for having the courage to bring to light this valuable guide of awareness and action. Unfortunately, society stills need this reminder 27 years later.


K. Akua Gray
October 27, 2017
Houston, TX

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review [The Authentic Lover: Reclaiming Love's Beauty and Power by Chris Hakim]

"We are in a real mess, yet we believe in love, and hold it to be so valuable as to accept the risk of failure..."

The Authentic Lover: Reclaiming love's beauty and power by Chris Hakim is a book of hope and an asset to those who have a particular interest in renewing their personal commitment to achieving a higher level of consciousness in their quest for a spiritual connection beyond the norm. I was quite intrigued by the ideas in this work on love because the author touched on so many of the things that can help to change the low level vibration of dysfunctional love that so many people dwell in relationships they claim to hold so dear. 

I reached out to Chris for an author interview and enjoyed a moment of talking with him about some of my inquires from my readings. 
_______________________

1. Who is your audience for the Authentic Lover?
I tried to address everyone who wonders why sexual and marital relationships, on the main, don’t work. A psychologist pointed to me that this book would most appeal to middle-aged people, who have already been a bit beaten up by life. She felt that young people were too “hormone driven” to even care. Perhaps “spiritual” people would resonate more with the idea of obstacles and what lies behind them.

2. Are you suggesting that a whole new religion be developed based on conquering the 4 Great enemies? If so, what would be the framework for that possibility? If not, why not?
There are so many cults, movements, and religions already. It would be much preferable if people could rediscover and appreciate their own spiritual or religious background, or if they don’t have one, join something which they find to be authentic. What I present as four enemies is a roadmap that can help people take stock of their situation, and simple practices to try and loosen the grip of the enemies. The use of quotes from multiple traditions serves to show that love is not the exclusive province of any.

3. In the Pettiness and Grace chapter you end the chapter with many quotes from the European courts of love, how would you suggest readers view this information other than just a history lesson?
The ethics of courtly love, as discussed (exclusivity, but not quite monogamy; sincerity; respect; etc.) seem to map almost one for one as remedies to the obstacles described just before. But there is a caveat, which is that such ethics are not just pat rules to follow. On the contrary, they require effort as well as accepting that love entails some amount of discomfort. This seems to also connect with the Buddhist practice of tonglen, also described in Part Two of the book.

4. In the Vanity and Charm chapter, I found myself more intrigued by the numerous quotes that you included, and I noticed that you offered very little of your own thoughts in between the quotes, was this intentional? If so, why? If not, what is the major point you want your readers to take from this chapter?
Some of the topics touched upon are sensitive and controversial. The idea of sexual attractiveness is rarely treated in an upfront way, let alone the idea that both men and women face the exact same problem, but with different criteria. For this reason, I tried to remain as rooted as I could in fact and in accepted wisdom, and presented as little as possible as personal opinion. Once we see that sexual competition is nothing but toxic, the rest of the argument follows logically. I also wanted to clarify what tantrism is and isn’t, because there is so much misinformation on the topic.

5. In the final chapter of Mystery, you offer some profound solutions to the problems of love and again there are numerous quotes from Rumi in particular, would you suggest that the reader also take up a study of Rumi if they are going to try applying The Authentic Lover to their lives? Why or why not?
The first three qualities (gentleness, etc.) require work, but mystery happens by not doing. Few have been as eloquent as Rumi about the mystery of love. While he is known in America for his “poems,” he wasn’t a poet at all, but an extraordinary mystic and lover. He didn’t write books. His sayings were written by his disciples as he spoke. Rumi would probably say to leave books alone and let life be your teacher. I would say that readers should feel free to expand in any direction they see fit, including taking up the study and practice of Sufism, if they wish.

6. I was looking for the way of life mentioned in the introduction, but I didn’t find it. If you were to give the reader a vision of living as an Authentic Lover, what would it look like?

One really can’t be too specific, because each person has different aspirations, faces different challenges, and may resonate with a different approach. This being said, I would like to see people gather in small groups of friends, much like the ahal described in Part Three, as an alternative to conventional dating. If romance weren’t so divorced from friendship and community, a lot of problems would go away. Another promising avenue is Tamera, an intentional community in Portugal with a worldwide following, whose stated purpose is the healing of love. Good for them.
________________________________

I can't say that I agree with all of the insights brought forth in The Authentic Lover, however, most of what the author brings forth will have you thinking on a deeper level about how you are operating in your personal relationships. I must also admit I stopped reading some of the elongated quotes because there were quite a few of them throughout the book, but this does not overshadow any of the nurturing points that will intensify your true desire to change your relationships and become an "Authentic Lover". I received a free copy of this book via my book review site for a honest review. Not many books fall into my 5 ankhs category but the innovation of the compilation of The Authentic Lover is masterful. 
K. Akua Gray
October 11, 2017
Houston, TX



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review [The Answers Are Within: Developing Awareness by Dorena Rode]

First I must say that I love the choice of quotes that opens each chapter. They are from some of the most profoundly spiritual minds of our time. Although The Answers Are Within: A Collection of Personal Stories Volume 1 - Developing Awareness by Dorena Rode is no Chicken Soup for the Soul, I am sure it will have its relevancy for some reader. The author labeled herself several times throughout her writings as being "melancholy" and this is precisely the way most of her stories come across. Nothing exciting, always a challenge, but the good part out of it all was the patterns of growth that she shares. I can't really say that the stories were inspiring, but I can say they were real, which might just be what someone needs whose looking to develop awareness.

The cover has a strange design that reminds me of an old lady learning to paint, so I can only imagine that book sales are going to be word of mouth and not because of an eye catching cover. I think that healers sharing their stories is very nice, but sometimes it can be a hard sale unless you already have an audience and this book being a memoir doesn't have enough substance to make me want to talk about it. The author comes across as a random thinker and writer, and I found it a little confusing tying ideas together in some of the more lengthy stories like, "On Believing", where she takes you on a plane ride with an imaginary story about San Francisco disappearing.

One of my favorite saying is, meet people where they are, which is also the title of one of the chapters. This chapter held my attention most because Ms. Rode gave some good suggestions related to the Law of Allowing, but I experienced confusion once again on the really good information about calcium. It's like a scientist popped up out of nowhere with a lecture on how calcium works in the body.

The "Fostering Peace Within" story is the best in the book because it is a good personal example of the courage it takes to find peace. In fact the one quote that I can give you that made the book worth my time comes from this chapter. "It is almost natural for me to choose thoughts and attitudes that bring me peace." Also, in the "How My Money Reality Changed" story, she brings forth a thought provoking question that will make you say, hmmm. "What do I love about not having money?" Cute.

The Answers Are Within: A Collection of Personal Stories Volume 1 - Developing Awareness is not a bad book, however, its presentation and writing could stand some improvement. With that, my rating for this copy that received in the mail for an honest review is 3 ankhs. I hope this helps Ms. Rode with the writing of Volume 2. 

K. Akua Gray
September 20, 2017
Houston, TX

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Review from the Archives [koyal dark, mango sweet by Kashmira Sheth]

I plan to visit India one day and walk the mall of the Taj Mahal to see this beautiful monument dedicated to what must have been a dynamic woman of her time. I also like to get to know the culture of a people in the far away places that I intend to visit and my favorite way of doing that is through reading the writing of those who are natives of the land. So, since my trip to India is coming up soon I started my readings with a beautiful book I have had in my library for at least seven years. koyal dark, mango sweet by Kashmira Sheth was a very nice place to start.

It was a good look into some of the traditions and ways that some families live in the urban areas of India.  Jeeta the main character is my kind of girl, strong willed, genuine and sharp.

Sheth writes for the young reader so the language is simple and straight to the point. The story carries you along with a little mystery, pleasant surprises and hints to let you know what you're thinking about that's going to happen next is what happens next. I like this type of simplicity in reading fiction. Sheth takes you into the inner world of a modern Indian family who is neither rich or very poor. In fact, it was news to me to have a servant to care for a one bedroom apartment that six people share. 

I also like the kind bigheartedness that was shone in the story especially among the educated men in the families. However, it was disheartening to know that the disdaining behavior of some mothers towards their daughters are prevalent all over the world. It goes to show that people are people, no matter where they are.

I don't want to give away the plot because if you have some leisure time and want to read a nice story about budding love, arraigned marriages, Indian weddings, and family life in Mumbai then this is a good start. Enjoy!

K. Akua Gray
September 12, 2017
Houston, TX

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review [Holding Space by Amanda Dobra Hope]

Holding Space: A Guide to Supporting Others While Remembering to Take Care of Yourself First by Amanda Dobra Hope is an excellent book by all my review standards. This unique realm of existence is a part of the innate nature of every true healer and an awesome reminder to maintain balance for both the higher good and the highest good of everyone. If you are not familiar with the term 'holding space", Amanda Hope gives this wonderful definition:

     "A spaceholder is a person who holds an energetic container for themselves, others, or a situation, while allowing organically whatever needs to arise out of the situation for the highest good of the person or situation. It is a state of allowing."

The author also writes a lovely Preface that nurtures the understanding of how space holding is a feminine energy and how it must be present to create balance in all endeavors.

"The feminine art of spaceholding is entered before any masculine action is taken, projects, relationships, and situations can be entered into consciously and with presence, providing a space for the highest outcome." She also goes on later to include that, "Know that the world is trying to get back to homeostasis, to balance, and to a center-point. To go back to the indigenous ways of honoring the feminine and going to those energies first, before bringing in the masculine, is the only way to right how far we've gotten out of balance."

For any healer, this strategy of love and support would be very beneficial to internalize and perfect. The book has an easy to follow format and takes the reader through the journey of space holding in an order that is in alignment with the true way of any healing process. Being a guide for others always begins with self-healing.

The author offers unique concrete suggestions on how to achieve success in clearing yourself to become an effective space holder with excellent processes for change such as, "Fear Sitting and Get Some Energy or Body Work." She also makes a very good point that all healers, therapists and any one who must remember to maintain balance. She says:

"Those people and activities that you need to pull away from may not initially understand your reasons and could very well feel hurt, but for the sake of everyone's highest good, it is best to do what is highest and best for you and not recoil out of guilt or shame. When we are able to honor ourselves and our needs without shame or guilt, we are better able to hold space for others and provide the same to them."

The space holding journey to perfection then goes into your personal relationships and I must agree with the author once again in the step by step process. After you take care of your own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self, the next best step is to learn to hold space for those closest to you. This is a true test of your skills because your folks know you and you know them, the good, the bad and the ugly. Can you make it through the letting go and allowing with your parents, children, spouse, siblings, close friends and lovers? If that's a tough one, Amanda shows you how.

Those who seek to become professional space holders will find great advice in these pages also. The author provides a tactical guide for individual clients, groups, and emergency space holding.

I did hit a snag in the Manifesting Your Destiny section where after all of the good advice and well laid out plans for holding space, there were a couple of self-defeating comments that let's you know there is always room for improvement even for the seasoned healer. However, the author gets back on track quickly with "The Wisdom Keepers" section that helps define what genuine space holders look like. 

I love it when an author finishes strong! Holding Space has by far one of the strongest endings I have read in a while. In the section, If You Become a Parent, the mother bear comes out to protect here cubs! This advice should be read by every parent, it's short, truthful, to the point and has a no nonsense approach in nurturing these beautiful souls that come through for life's journey. This is hands down the best section in the book for me. 

I highly recommend this book to all those who are interested in balancing personal health. I know I will be reading Holding Space again and again, as well as spreading the good news to other potential "space holders". Holding Space by Amanda Dobra Hope is a real 5 ankh book that is sure to become a timeless classic in health and wellness. I was giving a copy of this book for an honest review.

K. Akua Gray
August 7, 2017
Houston, TX