Book review: The Art of Purring

  Dalai Lama’s cat takes up the quest to define happiness

Dalai-lamas-cat-art-of-purring-michieRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

In “The Art of Purring,” David Michie once again takes us on a delightful journey to reveal what only His Holiness’s Cat can discover in a Buddhist temple in this charming sequel to “The Dalai Lama’s Cat.” This time, the goal is no less than the pursuit of happiness.

Story: “What makes you purr? Of all the questions in the world, this is the most important. It is also the great leveler. Because no matter whether you are a playful kitten or a sedentary senior, a scrawny alley Tom or a sleek-coated uptown girl, whatever your circumstances, you just want to be happy. Not the kind of happy that comes and goes like a can of flaked tuna but an enduring happiness. The deep-down happiness that makes you purr from the heart.”

Before leaving for a teaching tour to America, the Dalai Lama poses a challenge to his beloved feline, HHC (His Holiness’s Cat): to discover the true cause of happiness. Little does she know what adventures this task will bring! (from Amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. HHC ventures into new territory to discover the answer to the Dalai Lama’s challenge. While exploring yoga, an encounter with the mystical Yogi Tarchen leads to a discovery about her past with far-reaching implications. However, she learns that happiness doesn’t dwell in the past but only in the here and now.

The book explores both Eastern philosophy and Western science to describe a “happiness formula” and much more. It makes the point that everything is possible, even beyond events like clairvoyance, telepathy, and animal sentience.

My take: Michie takes his second Dalai Lama’s Cat novel into the realms of the magical with his lush and detailed descriptions of life among the Namgyal monks,particularly the inner workings of the temple and of Buddhist funeral rites. However, he keeps his philosophy firmly planted on all four paws. Although lyrical, The Art of Purring is a practical book written from the pragmatic perspective of this special cat who simply wants to know, what makes us purr? What makes us happy?

By hanging out at the Himalaya Book Café, HHC benefits from overheard conversations with famous writers, high-ranking lamas, and eminent psychologists discussing the relationship between happiness and success and the many facts of happiness, including its paradoxical nature. In many ways, this metaphysical novel is the perfect complement to the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness.

What is the true cause of purring? The answer unfolds for both the cat and her reading companions with HHC’s trademark charm and a hint of mischeviousness that delights and entertains in equal doses.

Details:
The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring, by David Michie
Hay House, 2013
Paperback, 208 pages
Buy at Amazon

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Understanding Your World, Your Brain, and Zen Philosophy

Here are nine books that can help you understand the modern world, make better decisions, be more creative, and control your emotions.

1. Don’t Bite the Hook – Pema Chodron

Pema, a Buddhist nun who converted later in life from American roots, is a great teacher. She is able to simply and clearly connect with listeners and readers about a few powerful insights. In this book she talks about shenpa, the cycle of anxiety we buy into whenever confronted with a stressful situation.

2. Awakening the Buddha Within – Lama Surya Das

There are countless books for Westerners in search of the simple insights of Buddhism. This book is quite detailed and serious.

3. Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity – Hugh MacLeod

There are a million books about creativity. There are very few books that challenge the resistance so directly and effectively. This book eliminates the excuses that have been holding you back from being creative.

4. Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds

A collection of effective tactics that are available to anyone who has made the choice to be more productive using a Zen approach.

5. The Lonely Crowd – David Riesman

This is a great sociology book; the key argument is that fitting into a large group is a relatively new phenomenon and it has changed the way human beings interact.

6. The Managed Heart – Arlie Russell Hochschild

Hochschild was given significant access to stewardesses working at Delta Airlines in the 1960s. She chronicles the deadening pain they felt as they were forced to bring cheerfulness and emotion to work each day. This was a breakthrough on the study of human emotions.

7. Stone Age Economics – Marshall Sahlins

Despite the clever title, this book is actually about how primitive cultures worked. One key takeaway is that hunter-gatherers were the idle rich. They worked about three hours a day and spent the rest of the day resting.

8. Honest Signals – Alex Pentland

Pentland is a professor at MIT, and this is ostensibly a book about some amazing technology he’s putting together that measures the interactions people have all day. This is about the incredible power of nonverbal communication and tribal hierarchies in the way we interact.

9. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless.

Hat tip to Love My Life Right Now

Wondrous Words: Only 3 Things Matter . . .

In-the-end-only-three

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.  -Buddha

Book review: The Broken Rules of Ten

‘Rule of Ten’ prequel explores mysticism, mystery at monastery

Broken Rules of Ten Hendricks Lindsay Buddhist novel metaphysical fiction

Jean Bakula, guest reviewer

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tenzing Norbu is one of the most unique fictional characters to grace a book’s pages in quite some time. The authors have collaborated on two other books about Ten, as he prefers to be called. “The First Rule of Ten” and “The Second Rule of Ten” describe his life as a private detective in Los Angeles, California, his dream job. But as a youth, Ten was groomed to be a Buddhist monk. What on Earth happened in the intervening years to change the trajectory of his life this much? We discover the truth as Ten navigates his first brush with mysticism, mystery, and perhaps even murder.

Ten’s mother Valerie, a hippie who backpacked across Europe and Asia after college, met Ten’s father, Tsewing Norbu,  in India. They had a brief fling, but soon it became obvious that she and this cold, disciplined man would not be able to share a compatible life together. Young Ten spent part of the year with Valerie in Paris and part at the Dorje Yidam Monastery in Dharamshala, India, where his father served as the senior Abbot and Monastic Disciplinarian.

The Broken Rules of Ten is a prequel to the first two books, and takes place when Ten is thirteen years old and going through the confusing indignities of puberty. Poor Ten has vivid dreams of Pema, a girl his age who delivers pastries to the monastery. He often roams around outside, hoping he does not get caught. Even at this young age, we see Ten is a nonconformist and an adventurous person.

Ten’s life is unusual, to say the least. It is very confusing to spend part of the year with a drunk and stoned mother, and the other part with his Buddhist monk father. One year Valerie started sending Ten to catechism, overtaken by Catholic guilt. But Ten has trouble with any belief system that sets up rules and regulations, only to find that the rule makers do not like those who ask too many questions.

Ten feels like a misfit wherever he is, although later into his adult life, he not only comes to terms with it, but decides to embrace it while observing the Buddhist precepts. This is an aspect of the book I enjoyed as I am interested in Buddhism; it helped to see how a person incorporates the precepts into everyday life.

At Dharamshala, Ten tangles with another student, Lama Nawang Gephel, a prized scholar rumored to be heading for the highest academic honor the monastery has. It hurts Ten that his father always sings the praises of Nawang and lectures Ten about his own faults, which are really not serious. Both boys discover each other breaking the rules–Nawang smokes ganga, and Ten reads forbidden Sherlock Holmes novels.

Nawang asks Ten to be friends and Ten agrees, happy because he is usually the outsider and is shunned by many of the boys.  But Nawang makes a request that causes Ten to wonder if his friendship is sincere or if he is trying to persuade Ten to do something that would get him in trouble.

During an important ceremony Nawang behaves disrespectfully and then commits a terrible act in town. Ten did nothing wrong, but his strict, unyielding father sends Ten back to Paris, not allowing Ten to take his vows. Having read the first two books, I know that Ten does not return to the monastery again; although it has a special place in his heart, he goes on to live his life outside of it.

The First Rule of Ten and The Second Rule of Ten were interesting and well plotted, and it was very enjoyable to see how Ten manages to live a full life made fuller by following the precepts of Buddhism. He has a curious and serious attitude about life, and it is a treat to see the world through the eyes of such a thoughtful person, who places so much trust in his intuition. He has some cultural gaps because of the years he lived at the monastery, but those are kind of fun.

I highly recommend all three of these books, and sincerely hope the authors continue the series! Even if you do not particularly like metaphysical topics, the books are worth reading if you like a good mystery. The authors got it right; I believe it is better to get to know Ten in his adult life and then go back to see how his childhood shaped the person he becomes.

Details:
The Broken Rules of Ten: Tenzing Norbu’s First Mystery, by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Hay House, Inc., 2013
Kindle, 121 printed pages
Buy at Amazon

If you are interested in metaphysical topics, I have a blog at http://www.Spiritualitypathways.com and would love to see you there! I cast and interpret Astrology Horoscopes that are not computer generated, and give Tarot Readings. I also write about some metaphysical books, Astrology, the Tarot, Meditation, Chakras, Auras, Ghosts, a few of my own visions, and many other subjects. I can also be found at http://jeanbakula.hubpages.com where I have written extensively about Astrology, among other subjects.

Book review: Transforming Pandora

  Charming novel blends romance with spirituality

transforming_pandora_spiritual_fiction_metaphysical_romanceRating: 4 out of 5 stars

Carolyn Mathews’ story of love, loss, and spiritual transformation is a moving romance novel that balances both themes to create a delightful, insightful read.

Story: You don’t have to be a New Age flower-child to enjoy Pandora’s visits from a spectral guru who unexpectedly comes to call. She’s a newly single lady of a certain age, who’s torn between what’s best for her body and what’s best for her soul. Can her spiritual coach help her satisfy both her spiritual and romantic desires? (from Amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. Pandora gets involved in metaphysics via her free-spirited mother, exposed at an early age to the world of Transcendental Meditation, chakras, crystals, and the like. Later she returns to her spiritual roots, using meditation to help cope with her husband’s death.

She discovers Enoch, a channeled spirit whom Pandora evokes through automatic writing,  who guides her toward her spiritual goal. The novel explores Pandora’s spiritual awakening as she evolves into an enlightened soul. Mathews does a good job of identifying basic Buddhist precepts and other spiritual traditions and then weaving them into her story.

Circumstances and Enoch conspire to direct Pandora toward becoming a soul who can transform heavy energies such as grief and despair into hope and anticipation.  Her divine mission is to listen to others and give them hope at an energetic level through her heart chakra; indeed, the source of her name means “hope.

My takeTransforming Pandora is first and foremost is a love story, detailing all the pain and drama that goes with it, but Pandora has a very unique guide to help her make sense of her life in her later years. Pandora’s memoir jumps forward and back in time, chronicling her emotional highs and lows as she loses, then finds, and again loses the love of her life. At the same time, Pandora’s complicated story details how she finds, then loses, and again finds her life partner.

She learns through her own unhealthy entanglements how to build good relationships based on truth and keeping promises. With her angels’ help, she heals herself and her relationships  so that she may go on to help heal others.

Mathews is a talented writer, adroitly balancing the emotional and spiritual themes that drive this multi-layered metaphysical romance.  A rich cast of characters supplement the basic love story and keep the plot moving. In addition, Mathews does an excellent job keeping the reader on track as we time travel between Pandora’s loves and losses. Whether you’re looking for romance or spiritual guidance, this well-written novel of love and rebirth satisfies both.

Details:
Transforming Pandora, by Carolyn Mathews
Roundfire Books, 2012
Paperback, 345 pages
Buy at Amazon

Book review: The Dalai Lama’s Cat

  Quirky spiritual novel is short on tale, long on charm

The Dalai Lama's Cat metaphysical novel Buddhist fictionRating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Charming and life affirming, “The Dalai Lama’s Cat” is perfect for a sunny afternoon when you want a quick read that reminds you of what’s truly important.  Written from the cat’s perspective, this spiritual/metaphysical novel explores how the simplest of actions–even a cat’s–can lead to spiritual growth.

Story: Starving and pitiful, a mud-smeared kitten is rescued from the slums of New Delhi and transported to a life she could have never imagined. In a beautiful sanctuary overlooking the snow-capped Himalayas, she begins her new life as the Dalai Lama’s cat.

Warmhearted, irreverent, and wise, this cat of many names opens a window to the inner sanctum of life in Dharamsala. A tiny spy observing the constant flow of private meetings between His Holiness and everyone from Hollywood celebrities to philanthropists to self-help authors, the Dalai Lama’s cat provides us with insights on how to find happiness and meaning in a busy, materialistic world. Her story will put a smile on the face of anyone who has been blessed by the kneading paws and bountiful purring of a cat. (from Amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. Because she belongs to the Dalai Lama, this cat of many names decides she should reflect the spiritual nature of the Jokhang Buddhist temple. The novel revolves around the teachings from the Dalai Lama and other household members, which apply to both visitors and the observant cat. We learn along with “His Holiness’s Cat” the value in very life (even cockroaches), compassion for mice, mindfulness in all things, how self-development can lead to self-absorption (and hairballs), the perils of attachment (gluttony, in her case), how karma works, how to meditate and more on her way to becoming a “bodhicatva.”

The cat comes to understand that ” . . . it is not so much the circumstances of our lives that make us happy or unhappy but the way we see them,” and the wonderful paradox that “. . . the best way to achieve happiness for oneself is to give happiness to others.”

The lessons are simple, typically taught to a visitor which the cat then applies to her own life; it is an effective way to learn the basic precepts of Buddhism. Michie incorporates a bit of neuroscience research that validates the benefits of mindfulness and meditation and the science behind Buddhism to make the principles more palatable to the western reader.

My take: Michie’s approach to this novel was clever. Many readers are entranced by the day-to-day experiences of famous people and their pets, even though the experiences themselves are quite mundane. But you won’t need bombs and car chases to keep turning the pages; the combination of cute cat, a world-renowned holy man, and a liberal dose of spiritual wisdom is quite enjoyable.

The theme-driven plot is thin; events happen mostly to illustrate a spiritual lesson. However, several characters in town are developed to show their growth over time, which makes for a satisfying ending. The conflicts are minor, and the triumphs are small steps for both the human characters and the cat. But isn’t life like that? We experience one small hurt at a time and grow–or retreat–depending on the story we create about that event. The sometimes-quirky story reminds us that every thought and action matters. Michie’s Buddhist novel will not keep you on the edge of your seat, but you will close the book with a satisfied smile.

Details:
The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie
Hay House Visions, 2012
Paperback, 240 pages
Buy at Amazon

Book review: God Is an Atheist

 If God doesn’t believe in Himself, what about us?

God Is an Athiest metaphysical fiction novellaRating: 4 out of 5 stars

Would you like to have a real conversation with God? Not the reasonable, polished, Neale Donald Walsch kind, but a no-holds-barred, “What the hell?” kind of conversation. If so, “God Is an Atheist” by N. Nosirrah (really) may be the story for you.

Story: A profoundly funny romp through religion, spirituality, and the contemporary clash of cultures of belief, with special attention to the human obsession with knowing what can’t be known. Nosirrah provokes just about everyone as he describes a world where God is on the run from Islamic extremists, the Pope announces he shares a bed with Richard Dawkins, and Buddha’s son disappoints by getting enlightened instead of becoming a doctor. To say this novella is strange might give the reader a way to relate to it, but in fact, nothing will shift the burden away from the reader. In its pages, the world is bent around the reader’s mind until either the mind itself begins to bend, or indeed, breaks. A book without plot, characters, structure, or obvious purpose, this is an endless descent into the netherworlds of a dystopian mind. (from Amazon.com)

Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. There is so much spiritual wisdom in this novella, spilling out of every page and paragraph. There’s no way to do justice to either the author’s depth of insight or the mind-confounding presentation, so here’s a random sampling of Nosirrah’s and God’s thoughts.

God is I AM–everything, all inclusive. Men try to parse the whole of God into smaller, more manageable chunks, which is why religions can seem schizophrenic. Most people can’t listen–just listen–to each other, the birds, the creek, our own bodies. We hear only the parts we like, and we form God’s voice and our beliefs based on that part instead of on the whole.

Having faith requires an anchor or foundation, something upon which to construct our beliefs. But relying on anchors (for example, religious dogma) doesn’t teach us about the actual world; we just know a great deal about what we already know. Letting go of our answers, accepting that we cannot know, is much harder. But that’s where God is.

God doesn’t believe in Himself, or even believe in belief. All of our believing has caused humanity nothing but problems, God says. He’d like to see a human culture beyond belief. As Nosirrah puts it, “A believer will destroy God and himself before he’ll let go of his beliefs.” In one scene, no one can see God when He approaches them because “each of us is captured by what we know and we organize reality to fit it.”

My take:  This novella, a series of vignettes and soliloquies, attempts to have no plot, no protagonist, no conflict to resolve. But we as readers can’t help ourselves–we must weave stories together to make sense of our world.  Nosirrah’s thesis explores this potent theme of story. “Do not under any circumstances believe the story of your life . . . Everything is story, everything is constructed.” Original sin, says Nosirrah, is feeling safe by making up a nice story. We are addicted to the narrative of our lives. We will tell any tale to make the world make sense.

As an author, Nosirrah is a bit heavy handed, prone to digression, hubris, and self-aggrandizement, but his style is nicely leavened by a generous helping of humor. As a metaphysical novel, God is an Atheist packs a strangely powerful punch. The lack of story forces us to engage more, to make up our own stories to explain what is happening–and that just proves Nosirrah’s point.

Details:
God Is an Atheist: A Novella for Those Who Have Run Out of Time, by N. Nosirrah
Sentient Publications, 2008
Paperback, 119 pages
Buy at Amazon