books

Books of 2015

I’m so excited to share my favourite books of 2015 with you! I’ve been hard at work on my new website (I hope you like it!), and have gotten behind on posts. Better later than never, as they say. 

As I compiled my list of favourite books for 2015, I realized that fiction has completely disappeared from my new line-up shelf. I was not expecting that! If you’re curious, check out the list of 2014

Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley

Every year I add one of David Frawley’s books to my reference shelf. In 2015, his work on the ten Mahavidyas swept me off my feet. I keep going back to it over and over. I love how detailed and concise his compilations are. Here, he covers the whole range, from mantras to yantras. Now, if he could fulfill his wish for a whole book on Tripura Sundari… 

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

You may have come across Amanda’s amazing TEDtalk, or you may know her from her punk rock music, or via her prolific husband, writer Neil Gaiman. Her talk rocked my world, and so did her book. It’s hard enough to ask, but it may be harder still to receive. If 2015 has given me one lesson, it’s this one: for some of us, giving is a lot easier than receiving. There is vulnerability in receiving, but there is also grace, trust, and connection. Amanda Palmer does a great job at putting all of it in perspective by sharing her own stories of discomfort, refusal, misunderstandings. It felt like she was talking to me, directly. A great read!

We make countless choices every day whether to ask or to turn away from one another. Wondering whether it’s too much to ask the neighbour to feed the cat. The decision to turn away from a partner, to turn off the light instead of asking what’s wrong.

Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.

Those who ask without fear learn to say two things: with or without words, to those they are facing:

I deserve to ask

And

You are welcome to say no.

Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.
— Amanda Palmer

Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton

This book is more about falling in love with meditation than about learning to meditate. Sally Kempton has a powerful yet understated way of appealing to the receptive part of us waiting to be embraced and loved. Meditation is not a linear process, and it certainly is not a one-size-fits-all approach. This book provides a wide range of experiential techniques, as well as guidelines to stay on track. This is a wonderful read if you’re experiencing a falling-out with your practice. 

Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief by Dr. Herbert Benson

If I write that Dr. Benson’s research is uncovering what we always knew, you’ll think it’s useless. But that’s exactly what he’s doing, and he’s helping the modern homo scientificus that we have become make peace with the fact that we are first and foremost feeling and believing beings. Dr. Benson was a pioneer in the research on the relaxation response in the 70s, and he has since made great strides in demonstrating that relaxation can be used as an actual healing method. In Timeless Healing, he explores the relationship between healing and beliefs. I needed to read this book to understand that my beliefs have a direct impact on my wellbeing and on my ability to recover. It was about time!

Yoga of the Nine Emotions by Peter Marchand

This book came recommended by Julia (find her at thetalsam.com). I really didn’t know what to expect. Within the first few pages, I knew I’d learn something and that it wasn’t all a waste of time and resources. By the 100th page, I knew I’d never deal with my emotions and those of others the same way. Rasas, or emotions, are powerful teachers. Learning to experience them without judgement can actually free us from our own limitations. The author even explores sadhana, practices, that can help us engage deeply with our feelings in a systematic exploratory manner. Although Joy and Love rasas may seem like the ideal emotions, I’m completely in awe of Wonder right now. I remember the child within.

The Reason We Pick the Books We Pick (and everything else for that matter)

So I walked into the Kelowna branch of the Okanagan Library and mused at the number of books to pick and choose from. I don’t know, but I had been thinking about Faulkner, and so I climbed the stairs straight to the fiction section, and found a Faulkner I had never read. Why him? Why now?

Turns out I had to read the whole thing before I could answer these questions, but I didn’t have to read very far to have an inkling of understanding. In Light in August, we follow characters as they travel on roads unseen with something of an open heart. They do not carry the weight of expectations, thus they are never disappointed. They travel, sometimes in borrowed shoes, to places they don’t know exist.

This freedom of movement clashes with the hard-rock immobility of some characters who refuse to unshackle their invisible chains even when the chains get tighter and the going gets rough, if not unbearable. Hightower, the retired minister, refuses to leave Jefferson even though the town despises him and there is nothing left for him there; the slave cook refuses to leave even when she is given her freedom without struggle.

What was I looking for in turning to Faulkner? I have found easy breezy migrations that, although physically hard and unthinkable (walking from Alabama to Jefferson, pregnant? really?), seem light and natural. How is that? Purpose and lack of expectations seem to be the recipe. Characters that have a purpose, a calling, - Krishna would call it a dharma, - yet manage to let go of expectations, meet every new turn without judgment. If you don’t see them expressing happiness or exhilaration, you never see them showing signs of despair or disappointment either. Lena travels alone and pregnant. She appears serene no matter what happens, because she knows that she is following her dharma and she can take comfort in that. At first, I thought her a fool, a poor little foolish sheep in need of a reality check, but by the end I understood that she was the happiest of them all, and perhaps the wisest as well. As such, Faulkner puts the last line in her mouth: “My, my. A body does get around.”

So I’m content to say that, even though I didn’t know why I wanted to read Faulkner, I have found in Light in August some answers to questions I didn’t know I needed answered. How is that for shedding expectations? Perhaps there is something to be said in favour of doing things that we can’t justify or have reason to do. Perhaps we can learn from doing things for no apparent reason. Perhaps we can all learn something from little fools.