Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams by J.M. DeBord

Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams by J.M. DeBord

dreamsDeBord starts his book about dreams with the idea that dream interpretation used to be the job of a wise man or woman in the community. Dreams were an integral part of living a fully conscious and realized life.

Now, dream interpretation experts charge for their services and not everyone has access to their skills.

This clever little book opens the doors of dream interpretation so that average people can again know the meaning of their dreams. It doesn’t stop there- J.M. DeBord also provides suggestions for integrating the dreams into your daily life.

Finally, in Dreams 1-2-3, DeBord empowers readers by reminding us that no matter how expert the dream interpreter, the final meaning for any dream really rests in the hands of the dreamer herself. Only she can feel the “ringing of truth” in the interpretation.

This is by far the best book that I have ever read on dream symbolism. DeBord doesn’t provide lists of animals/colors/scenarios and their most common meanings. He ties whatever shows up in the dream to the rest of its contents and the dreamer’s own internal and external world.

In this way, each dream can be understood and applied in as unique a way as the dream itself.

My one critique of Dreams 1-2-3 is that DeBord made the process seem so simple. I’d read the dream example and think, I have absolutely no clue what that one means, and then DeBord would go on to provide a crystal clear interpretation.

See how simple it is?… he seems to say. Perhaps not.

DeBord may have a gift for it, honed by practice, and he doesn’t realize that what he is doing is rather amazing. I suppose he gives me a goal to strive towards.

I have had a few dreams since completing this book and, with DeBord’s method, have been able to wring some meaning from what I otherwise would have assumed to be nonsense. Dreams 1-2-3 has already changed my life. Read it if you want to change yours too.

Thanks for reading!

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

linchpinSeth Godin draws on his experiences in business and life to convince the reader to be a linchpin rather than a cog in the machine of work.

He says it better than I did: “This book is about love and art and change and fear. It’s about overcoming a multigenerational conspiracy designed to sap your creativity and restlessness. It’s about leading and making a difference and it’s about succeeding.” pg 2

You have our attention, Godin. What do we do?

Through a series of blog-like sections, Godin explains that there is no road map or simple answer. “Our world no longer fairly compensates people who are cogs in a giant machine. … Leaders don’t get a map or a set of rules. Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin.” pg 19

Essentially, you have to embrace the uniqueness and drive that is inside of you. You have to create a platform of work rather than a resume. You have to decide to discard mediocrity. “The very system that produced standardized tests and the command-and-control model that chokes us also invented the resume. The system, the industrialists, the factory… they want us to be cogs in their machine-easily replaceable, hopeless, cheap cogs. … if you don’t have more than a resume, you’ve been brainwashed into compliance. Great jobs, world-class jobs, jobs people kill for- these jobs don’t get filled by people e-mailing in resumes.” pg 72

That’s so outside the usual paradigm of work, for most of us, that it can sound scary. “Often, when people hear about my radical ideas for how you should train for a career, as well as the best way to present yourself, they object. They point out that not fitting in is certainly going to be an ineffective way of getting one of these average jobs. They remind me that not having a resume is all fine and good, but how will that help them get a job at a place that requires a resume? … If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job. … The linchpin says, “I don’t want a job that a non-linchpin could get.” pgs 78-79

It seems like he’s asking a lot, but the alternative is to give up and conform. Godin says that this mindset isn’t impossible: “My fundamental argument here is simple: In everything you do, it’s possible to be an artist, at least a little bit.” pg 94. We can do that, right?

I didn’t agree with everything in Linchpin. I thought that Godin was far too hard on journalists… it is easy to look at an industry, or any situation really, from the outside and criticize the people in the thick of it.

News agencies know that they have to embrace the future or die. Just how to do that is up for grabs and adding Godin’s toolbox of how to excel at work couldn’t hurt. I don’t think that reinvention or evolution is an impossible task. It’s just tricky because, as Godin noted, “there is no roadmap.”

Recommended for people who may be bored with where they are and can see a glimmer of where they want to be- but aren’t sure how to get there. Also recommended for those who work in the newspaper business because we clearly need more linchpins.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdorf

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms  by Ethan Gilsdorf

fantasyfreaksEthan Gilsdorf carried angst about his gaming habits for various reasons for years. This book could have been a healing for him, but he doesn’t seem to take that leap.

It made me sad. Yes, perhaps the start of his DnD experience coincided with his mother’s illness, but I think that was not the only reason why he entered the world of fantasy.

Some people are born wanting to see worlds beyond this one. Why that is, I don’t know. I just know that it is so. Ethan suggests, in Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, that it takes trauma to send a person in that direction, I disagree. I think some of us were born that way. 🙂

The content of the book is excellent. He travels from the UK to New Zealand and everywhere inbetween to find people who are engaging in LARPS, SCA, Tolkien, gamer conventions, WoW, EverQuest, and more.

I loved his interviews with the man/woman on the street. He’d ask why they were doing whatever it was they were doing and they’d answer with conviction. There’s something very satisfying in reading personal statements by passionate people.

The enthusiasm nearly drips from the pages. I loved that.

I was hoping that Ethan would learn from all of these people who absolutely loved what they were doing with no regrets. But, he seemed to go to his default mode of judging and self-pity rather than expansion.

Ethan made some steps towards self realization at the end of the book, but I wish he had gone further.

If you enjoy this book or topic, may I suggest Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. It’s a non-fiction read about Dungeons and Dragons. It lacks the comprehensive nature of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, but David Ewalt carries none of the emotional baggage of Ethan Gilsdorf so it feels more light-hearted.

Thanks for reading!

Journeys Out of the Body: The Classic Work on Out-of-Body Experience by Robert A. Monroe

Journeys Out of the Body: The Classic Work on Out-of-Body Experience by Robert A. Monroe

journeys out of the bodyA ground breaking work into the mystery that is the out-of-body experience by a leading researcher in the field. Ultimately, Journeys Out of the Body left me with more questions than answers, but, for the most part, I enjoyed the ride.

Charles Tart’s introduction is excellent: “… OOBE’s are a universal human experience, not in the sense that they happen to large numbers of people, but in that they have happened all through recorded history, and there are marked similarities in the experience among people who are otherwise extremely different in terms of cultural background. One can find reports of OOBEs by housewives in Kansas which closely resemble accounts of OOBEs from ancient Egyptian or oriental sources.” pg 8.

That statement reminded me of the near death experiences described in Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully by Penny Sartori. OOBEs like NDEs are a human experience rather than a cultural one.

Munroe points out a curious habit of society that I’ve noticed:“Many (in spiritual and occult circles) have deep professional jealousy for each other, and often are inclined to be suspicious of techniques and theories propounded outside their particular activity. They may even subtly deride or look with tolerant, superior amusement at results unrelated to their specialty. pg 37.

Why can’t we all just get along? I bet we’d learn more that way.

Munroe’s thoughts on the “natural” home for what he calls the “second body”, astral body, or body of light: “The Second Body is basically not of this physical world. To apply it to visits to George’s house or other physical destinations is like asking a diver to swim down to the ocean bed without scuba gear or pressure suit. He can do it, but not for long, and not too many times.” pg 75-76.

That was why Munroe believes that out of body experiences are so hard to substantiate. When explorers are looking for evidence from the physical world, it isn’t the natural place for that consciousness to be.

Munroe talks about going to an alternate dimension in his explorations. He quotes a college professor about the possibility of this: “Dr. Leon M. Lederman, professor of physics at Columbia University, has stated: “Basic physics is completely consistent with the cosmological conception of a literal antiworld of stars and planets composed of atoms of antimatter, which is to say negative nuclei surrounded by positive electrons. We can now entertain the intriguing idea that these antiworlds are populated by antipeople, who antiscientists are perhaps even now excited by the discovery of matter.” pg 100

I think that would make a great science fiction novel. Has anybody written anything like that?

I had imagined that learning about out of body experiences would be empowering and uplifting but parts of Munroe’s account didn’t really leave me feeling that way.

Take this journal entry in which he describes aliens and the loss of his belief system: “Then they seemed to soar up into the sky, while I called after them, pleading… By this time, it was getting light, and I sat down and cried, great deep sobs as I have never cried before, because then I knew without any qualification or future hope of change that the God of my childhood, of the churches, of religion throughout the world was not as we worshiped him to be- that for the rest of my life, I would “suffer” the loss of this illusion. Are we, then, just leftover laboratory animals? Or perhaps the experiment is still “in process.” pg 262.

Very, very bleak and, it just didn’t feel right to me. However, Munroe believes this is true and I felt very sad for him.

If you are interested in more information about OBEs, you may want to read Soul Traveler: A Guide to Out-of-Body Experiences and the Wonders Beyond by Albert Taylor or Multidimensional Man by Jurgen Ziewe.

If you want more one-on-one experiences with aliens, try The Key: A True Encounter by Whitley Shrieber.

Thanks for reading!

Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully by Penny Sartori

Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully by Penny Sartori

An extraordinary book by Penny Sartori who wwisdomofneardeathas a nurse, now doctor, and worked for years in the NHS.

She realized that with end life issues, there are many categories of experiences that are not discussed in medical educations but that happen often enough to be tacitly understood by practicing medical staff. Dr. Sartori compiled this book with the aim of helping other medical professionals understand near-death experiences and their potential effects on recovering patients.

Refreshingly, Dr. Sartori writes simply enough for a lay-person (like me) to completely understand the text and I found first-hand account after account fascinating, uplifting, and educational.

I’ve read about many near-death experiences and I’ve always gotten the feeling that there was something more there. As if, in reading the account, I was viewing a light behind a veil. Dr. Sartori calls this, “Ineffability.” “Ineffability: When people try to make sense of the (near-death) experience or try to verbalize it they find that words fail them. They have experienced something with which they have nothing to compare, and to try to find words to describe it is impossible.” pg 9

It’s nice to be able to put a word to that feeling.

At the end of the chapter about international near-death experiences, she has this to say: “It is evident that NDEs are worldwide phenomena and it has therefore been suggested that they are merely the effects of a dying brain. However, some cultures report components that are not present in other cultures, which would rule out materialist explanations. As some components are interpreted according to culture then it is reasonable to construe that the components may be interpreted symbolically through each individual’s cultural filter. This could suggest an underlying collective consciousness, as discussed by Carl Jung.” pg 83.

Most of the books I’ve read on this topic have had little to say about the commonality of NDEs among the world’s population. This is a good introduction to it.

About the power of love: “Hospice and palliative-care consultant Dr. John Lerma has reported that 70 to 80 percent of his patients waited for loved ones to leave the room before dying. He also remarked that he had witnessed patients who had been certified dead return to life as the pain of their loved ones had pulled them back from a place of peace and love.” pg 103 Mind blown.

Love literally brought people back from the dead.

About the science of spirituality and how that relates to religious texts: “Texts such as the Books of the Dead have many similarities to NDEs. For many thousands of years these have been reduced to myths but now they appear to be ‘maps of the inner territories of the psyche encountered in profound non-ordinary states of consciousness’. Maybe this is what is needed to reintegrate our spiritual roots with our huge advances in technology.“pg 191 I think that this may be true too.

And finally: “One thing I’ve come to realize over the past few years is that heaven is not a location – it is a state of mind and is within us all. We just have to go within and find it.” pg 191 Absolutely, Dr. Sartori.

If you enjoyed The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences, I would suggest reading, The Map of Heaven by Eben Alexander. You may also enjoy Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives by Michael Newton- a hypnotherapist explores between life/past life consciousness with his patients to heal current issues.

Also, if you want to explore the idea that heaven is inside of us, you may want to check out What if This is Heaven by Anita Moorjani.

Thanks for reading!

Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman by Mary Mann Hamilton

Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman by Mary Mann Hamilton

trials of the earthTrials of the Earth is Mary Mann Hamilton’s memoir about her hardscrabble life in America during the late 1800’s.

She uses period speech to illuminate a life of struggle and hard work. If certain anachronistic and racially insensitive terms bother you, especially the casual use of the N-word, you may want to chose another memoir. It was shocking but I kept reminding myself that Mary was a product of her times.

On top of the constant struggle of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over her head, it seems like she was perpetually pregnant and her husband was an alcoholic.

But Mary lived up to the challenges, raised and buried children, nursed her husband through his hangovers and illnesses- she was a survivor. That is mainly what Trials of the Earth was to me- a survival story.

“Nevertheless, this is not a book of repining; it is a tale simply told of what one woman has lived through in the Mississippi Delta. I say ‘lived through’ because at times this history reads like a record of the extreme limits of human endurance.” loc 75, introduction

So many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted didn’t exist. Mary moved around a lot and notes with relief every time her husband manages to install a pump in her new house so that she didn’t have to haul water from the river.

Mary’s relationship with her husband, Frank, isn’t a fair deal. She is a very young woman when she gets married and from the start he’s controlling- telling her what they will eat and what friends they will have. He even tells her what books she can read.

That would have been the last straw for me. But again, she was a woman of her times.

“To me he seemed like a man that had taken a silly child to raise rather than a wife. … As time went on I found there were plenty other things I didn’t know, too. The first thing I found out was that he drank.” loc 226, ebook.

In addition to the inequality in their relationship, Frank is from England and has a secret past. He won’t tell Mary, his own wife, his real name or talk about his circumstances or the family he left behind. But, Mary doesn’t let it bother her too much. I suppose she was too busy with everything else they had going on. That lack of trust would have driven me bonkers.

Not that she felt like anything was wrong with their relationship. “Women can stand more work, more trouble, and more religion than men.” loc 528, ebook. She accepted the hardships because she knew that she could. I admire her gumption but I also felt sad for her too. I felt sad because she didn’t have the option to live any other sort of life.

Frank is always talking about the sin of Eve and all the baggage that comes with it to Mary. There is a lot of mansplaining that goes on too. Parts of this book were infuriating to me.

Recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs that read like historical fiction. Ability to tolerate the bleak role that women occupied in society in the late 1800’s is a must.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for a free advance reader’s copy of this book. Reminder: some of the quotations in this review may change in the final printed copy.

Thanks for reading!

Amish Confidential by “Lebanon” Levi Stoltzfus and Ellis Henican

Amish Confidential by “Lebanon” Levi Stoltzfus and Ellis Henican

amishconfidentialI wasn’t expecting much from Amish Confidential, a tell-all memoir, by Amish mafia reality television star, Lebanon Levi Stoltzfus. Despite my expectations, it was quite good.

I picked it up because watching The Amish Mafia is one of my guilty pleasures. It is a reality, cultural, crime-syndicate show with horses.

The Amish, like other insular communities, have plenty to teach the outside world about they live their lives. Levi definitely has the inside scoop, having been raised Old Order Amish, a more conservative branch of the culture.

I loved learning about how the Amish were formed and the historical background of his people. I ate up the bits about Amish marriage ceremonies and the social customs surrounding the party afterwards. Celery, apparently, is huge. Who knew, right?

I wish he had talked more how he fell into the world of “Amish mafia” itself. It’s clear from his narrative that he feels the Amish are taken advantage of because of their religious pacifism. He believes that they desire to deal with potentially criminal matters among themselves rather than going to the authorities. That is the basis of the mafia. For legal reasons, he probably couldn’t be that transparent. But it would have been excellent if he had.

If you enjoy the television show, you may not like this as much because it lacks some of the moment to moment tension and drama that one gets from watching the show. But, if you go into it with an open mind to learn more about the Amish in general, it certainly accomplishes that.

If you enjoyed Amish Confidential, I’d recommend The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice (a Muslim boy is raised one way but chooses to live another) or License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and My Life at the Gold & Silver (a memoir by a pawn shop owner who has his own reality television show).

Thanks for reading!