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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Book Review [Residue: Surviving and Overcoming the Stains of Generational Curses and Soul Ties]

I realize that the world is a dysfunctional place on many levels. People experience horrible things sometimes in their lives and when they overcome them they want to share their triumphs with others, however, Residue: Surviving and Overcoming the Stains of Generational Curses and Soul Ties by Debbie L. London has made me also realize that it's not always meant to be shared in a book.  I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review. At first glance the book cover is eye catching but upon reading the contents, it is clear that a large audience will pass by the white collar button down. 

I had a hard time getting through this book because from the very beginning I had hopes that something in the writing would emerge besides the recaps of hurt, pain and the misery of growing up in a dysfunctional family. The author goes off on several tangents about family members, personal attacks, episodes with "demons" and spiritually immature lines about "pissing God off." 

As an indie publication the layout and flow were poorly done, for example chapters 1 and 2 would have been better as just the introduction. The headlines of the book, generational curses and soul ties were also poorly defined and vaguely used throughout the book. The author stated several times that she was not religious but started the book and ended the book with prayers to a "Heavenly Father". Huh?

The book was also filled with rhetorical "solutions" with no substance and a lot of cliches which does no one in need of healing any good. Chapter 9 Types of Soul Ties was particularly disturbing. The author instructs readers to "not reproduce with someone you know has issues." In the world of reality everybody got something, but I'm thinking how do these instructions translate over to a young women who is pregnant already. If she took the authors advise she would terminate her pregnancy. Huh? I would think that with all of the human dysfunction that is revealed about the author's family, friends and acquaintances, that some concrete solutions would emerge. Again the author gives no instruction that supports the mental, emotional, spiritual or physical health of people who may be going through the same situations, just rhetoric and cliches. "...unforgiveness does not hurt the person who hurt you; it only hurts you." Yes, we have heard that before but what else. I would recommended that the author lives a little longer, learn a lot more about writing and try again.

I would say that if you are rock bottom, so beaten down, and your life has been overwhelmingly dysfunctional on all levels, then you might benefit something from this book. Otherwise, don't waste your time. 1 ankh, The one good thing I can say about this book is the use of the slug on the cover was a clever idea, that is all.

K. Akua Gray
July 9, 2017
Houston, TX

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review [When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict by Cyndee Ray Lutz]

When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict: A Healing Perspective by Cyndee Rae Lutz is an excellent 'get yourself together book'! The author writes from a solutions oriented point of view that is definitive and inspiring. You will find some truth about yourself in the stories she tells of her tragedies, changes and triumphs. The experiences she shares is very real and very human for the lives of people. As I stated in previous reviews, I love quotable books and Cyndee has written many to paste on your mirrors, doors, vision boards and to impress upon your heart to help you get a real look at yourself and the areas in life that would be beneficial to change. The one that did it for me in reading this book is found in chapter 5 on rethinking religion. She says:

 "As you will find along the way, your divinity is the most amazing thing about you."

The cover is very clever once you study it, however at first glance it didn't grab my attention at all. The title is what drew my interest when I received a free copy of this book in my p o box for an honest review. The author poured so much of herself into the pages of the book that by the end of the reading you feel like you know her or want to get to know her.

When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict is not just a book that talks about dealing with situations surrounding substance abuse, it is also a resource manual of check lists, A to Z steps of working through healing processes and it's filled with vital questions that penetrate and challenge your thinking and justifications. One example of a very thought provoking question that made me laugh out loud was, "Did you know you can fire your current God?" and Cyndee bellowed the answer with such confidence, "Yes, you can." Be ready for some excellent self reflection work in the pages of this book.
"True spirituality creates personal freedom instead of confinement."

The best part of the book by far is one section in chapter 6 called "DISCONNECT THE DRAINERS", "Are you putting your energy to good use?" This section is about all of the distractions that you allow to control your thoughts and take time away from manifesting the divinity and awesomeness in you. 

Ok, I haven't said much about the addict part because although that is what the book is titled, the subject does get lost in the great teachings offered in the book. However, that's ok because if you are able to get yourself together the way Cyndee suggests, you will have learned how to live in the light of change that fortifies you with enough self love to find peace with all those you love. I recommend  When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict to anyone who can relate to the words in the title and those that need to get yourself together so that you can move forward from negative mental conditioning and relationships.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I have to give it 4 ankhs. Cyndee's story was inspirational but not unique, the inspirational advice that she gave was encouraging but goes along with the common knowledge of today's inspirational motivators, and the book was rather lengthy with very small print. 

K. Akua Gray
June 8, 2017
Atlanta, GA

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review [Gastric Girl by Nicola Travis]

Gastric Girl: Seven Plus Years Beyond Bariatric Surgery by Nicola Travis was an informative and very human introduction to weight loss surgery. Although Nicola's battle with obesity was not unique, I appreciated the courage it took to share the painful journey in writing. Knowing almost nothing about this type of surgery, my mouth flew open a few times with the illustration of what is actually done to the body and the permanent changes this type of body alteration makes in a person's ability to have a normal eating lifestyle ever again.

 I like indie writers because they bring such "character" shall we say to the writing process. The book has a very unusual beginning, the preface amounts to about a paragraph and then goes into bullet points that summarizes most of what she talks about in the rest of the book. There is no table of contents although there are many chapters, which is a clear indication that this book is indie published and really not meant to go very far. I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.

I know a pity party was not the intention in any of Nicola's writing, but I often shook my head with pity as I read through the pages because of the side effects and suffering that so many people go through regarding obesity, dysfunctional relationships and poor eating habits. Nicola's stories would be helpful to anyone going through weight issues, food addictions, post surgery issues, depression and those who are still eating the standard American diet (SAD).

It was refreshing in some parts of the book where the author shared her successes and new revelations about the gastric surgery journey. She did lose a good amount of weight, kept most of it off and started to become comfortable with her body. The author also made some good points of how the medical industry can improve the treatment for obese patients by increasing their knowledge, "about the challenges of bariatric patients".

The best chapter or section is titled "Anger", this is where the author's wisdom emerges about choosing a lifestyle of eating healthier and who should be held accountable for the epidemic of obesity. The later chapters in the book are a bit out of order and the repetition that new writers often get caught in begins to happen, which makes the ending of the book just she titles it, "Random Thoughts".

I would recommend this book to obese Caucasian women who can relate to Nicola's journey from a cultural point of view and who could benefit from knowing someone of a similar background has taken the journey of the gastric path and has made the best of it.  Gastric Girl gets 3 ankhs and I truly send light out to the world that others don't have to take this route in finding self-acceptance and self-love.

K. Akua Gray
May 18, 2017
San Ignacio, Belize