I have decided to write short reviews on books that I am reading.
22 April 2019
DMT: The Spirit Molecule
This one was recommended by a friend. DMT is the active ingredient in Ayahuasca which causes the psychedelic and introspective experience. It is also found in our brain and is only released when we are born and when we die. Some people say that it is released during sleep but this isn’t mentioned in the book, so I’m not sure if this is true. This book depicts Rick Strassman’s journey into doing research with volunteers taking DMT in the ‘90s. The pure DMT experience lasts about 20 minutes (with Ayahuasca it is much longer from 5-9 hours).
At first, when he describes the volunteer's experiences, they start off quite calm and then later he goes into details about how many volunteers experience extra-terrestrial beings as if they were travelling to another dimension and having all sorts of experiences. Strassman is rather surprised by this because he wasn’t expecting it to be such a common theme among volunteers. He was doing the research, first of all, to see the if it could be helpful for health and wasn’t so many people to see aliens. There is one line that I really like with one volunteer, he says that he meets extra-terrestrial beings and they say to him, “we’re so happy that you’ve figured out how to use this technology.”
This book really got me thinking that while we are out here trying to physically get to the moon and looking outside to see where other life exists, the real magic exists within and we can travel to other realms but it is through the magic of our minds. Other beings and life do exist but it is not as we would think it to be, by physically travelling somewhere. We can travel when we close our eyes and this is just the same thing. It is all very real. We don’t have to travel with our bodies. This part about the book really resonated with me because when I took Ayahuasca for the 2nd time, I also met some other beings and went to another dimension. For weeks after this image was very strong in my mind. I like this perspective on DMT and extra-terrestrial beings, which I think can very easily be overlooked.
I also like that they call DMT the spirit molecule, as if it is the essence of all. There are some theories and Strassman says himself that he thought that the production of DMT in our bodies is related to the pineal gland and our third eye but none of this has been proven and he even says later that he realised it’s probably not so accurate.
At the end of the book, Strassman gets involved in a Buddhist community and it’s very interesting because when he tells them that he is doing this research they freak out big time. Hehe. I read this book before I embark on another Ayahuasca adventure. This week, I am going to be in a documentary called, “What the F are we Looking For?” which follows 6 of us taking the medicine in Ibiza. I’m really looking forward to it and meeting Mama once again.
This book is also a documentary.
23 March 2019
Waking the Tiger
This book was the first in a series that I started reading on trauma last year. I definitely got locked into it and seems that I didn’t take any notes with this one! Along with Gabor Maté and some others too, there seems to be a lot of research and analysis of how trauma affects us. I find it all very exciting because it’s all early stages at the moment. What I learnt from my readings is that we are all going through trauma. As human beings, even if we don’t realise it, we are all very sensitive to the experiences that we go through. This book starts with a great practical definition of how we get trapped in trauma. As animals, when in a potentially traumatic experience, our reaction is either fight or flight and there is also another one called freeze. Apparently, animals are very good at dispelling the energy but as humans, it is still something we are to fully grasp; this ability to discharge the energy. Levine says that it is all about energy. If we have an accident, at the time, our body’s way of protecting itself may be to freeze, not move, not shout, not run. By doing this, the energy gets stuck and causes problems later on in life. I guess, some people don’t ever realise that this is what is going on. So our job is to find ways to discharge this energy, even if it is many years after the event.
Another interesting thing he mentions is that trauma isn’t about going through a big dramatic experience, it could be the smallest thing such as falling on your head when you were a child. The trauma is actually the way that our body responds to whatever experience that we are going through. He explains it on a physiological level and we are animals after all, so it’s about becoming conscious of how our body and system is interpreting the world around us.
He has a lot of case studies, which is always great and he also explains different ways to deal and go through trauma, I was particularly interested in somatic therapy. It’s a very good read and I won’t go into too much detail here because we should all read it. Trauma is very real and it is something that we all experience even if at the smallest degree.
18 February 2019
Maps to Ecstacy
This book kept me up until 5 am, I couldn’t put it down - it was one of those books and I read it in under a week. OK, it’s not that long, but still. Gabrielle Roth is the creator of the 5rhythms, which I would describe as a ‘conscious dancing meditation practice’. I first stumbled into the practice last March when I went to Afrika Burn and I knew it was something I had to explore. Someone plays music and guides you through the session...and my body just started moving without my consent. Haha you know it was a moment where I was watching where my body wanted to take me, rather than directing it. So I have been doing it since last July now.
Maps to Ecstacy is so great. I don't even know where to begin. The basic concept of the 5 rhythms is that there are these rhythms that exist throughout life and we are constantly in motion within them. It starts with flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. So it goes through this cycle, I'm sure you can get the gist, climaxing at chaos and then falling down to stillness. Roth mentions that we all have a more dominant rhythm naturally and it's good to recognise this in ourselves and others, so not to cause friction but to understand. It is also reflected in the cycle of life and death, of having sex, of accidents, of pregnancy and giving birth. There are always moments to reflect on what cycle you are in.
The practice is very healing and obviously focused on being more present within your body. To move and dispel blockages and energy in your body, to dance it out, get in touch with the wisdom of your own voice and ultimately to liberate yourself. There are no teachings in the class other than presence and awareness. There is no choreography other than what is intuitively guided by you in the session. It's pretty cool and necessary seeing how we are so disconnected from our bodies these days. These kinds of things aren't taught to us and I guess the 5rhythms are also used to integrate our mind, body and soul. I think that the theory behind it is solid, which I only discovered through reading this book. Thank you for the inspiration and the rhythms!
I really connected with this book, it’s been a while since I’ve read a soul fulfilling spiritual read. I have loved dance ever since I was a child and I always felt that it gave me this sense of freedom that I just could not get elsewhere. I've always allowed the music to move me no matter where I am. It seems to be this uncontrollable thing that happens to me but I also believe that dance is something that is so intrinsic to all of us. I also connect to how she describes herself as a child and I know that dance is one of my callings in this life. I would say it is a read for overall life guidance, reflections on the awakening path through dance and it has a lot of practical wisdom. There are some great stories about people she has taught as well as her own teachers in her life too.
Here are the snippets:
"In many Shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask you one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?"
"And those five powers are grounded in five creative archetypes. When we embody all of them, we become the fascinating, mysterious, mystically inclined, poetic, free-form selves we were born to be."
"Movement isn’t only meditation; it’s also medicine that heals the split between our minds and hearts, bodies and soul."
"Healing is a journey. It involves stepping out of our habitual roles, our conventional scripts, and improvising a dancing path."
"You need to catch the rhythms of people, places, times of the year, the week, the day, and learn to dance with them."
"As you free your body to receive the power of being, all kinds of feelings start to flow — old feelings, new feelings, dark and light. Being alive is dangerous. It means feeling, feeling things you might not want to feel or thought you never would. Being alive means having a heart and expressing it. In freeing the body, we free the heart to experience the power of love — the task of the next chapter."
"Why would anyone want to transcend being real, being alive? Why would we not want to experience our heart? The basic emotions are vital to our survival and total well-being. The challenge is not to transcend them, but to transform our relationship to them. We need to befriend and express our feelings with purity and directness in the moment."
"Life itself, through its stages of development, is the path to enlightenment. All we have to do is to live it, not fight it, control it, or resist it. Life is a mysterious game: the only way to win is to surrender."
"Disease is inertia. Healing is movement. If you put the body in movement, you will change. "
10 February 2019
When the Body Says No
This book is on fire. Gabor Maté is an absolute G. There are quite a few podcast interviews with him around at the moment. There’s one with Tim Ferris and another with Russell Brand, def check those out if you have the chance. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading into trauma recently, this is probably my fourth book now and I will review the other ones soon too!
So personally I feel like this book is ahead of its time and is at the forefront of research into the connection between stress and disease but not just on a physiological level. On a whole, complete level that incorporates all parts of who we are. Obviously, Gabor Maté comes from a background in Western medicine practice. He is a physician and uses his personal practice to explain a lot throughout the book. I am sure that there will be some people who don’t agree with what he says but I’m not one of them. This book touched me as it’s so close to what I have personally experienced. I was actually gifted it by my friend Alex, so thanks, Alex!
Gabor Maté talks about a lot of different diseases and conditions that he has seen with his patients and how he has noticed a lot of them have a similarity in their childhoods. This is usually; not being able to stand up for themselves, varying types of abuse and the number one thing is not being able to express their feelings, so repressing them instead. I think it’s so easy to overlook these environmental aspects and to think that they don’t correlate with our health but the thing is, everything is connected within our body and everything without affects us so intricately. It is only because we see things as separate that we don’t see the interconnectedness between us and all things, our environment, the way that we deal with situations and stress. Mad how our vision can restrict what can’t be seen, that little trickery!
Stress is a very commonly used word and when Matè says that stress is related to disease, he’s not talking about external events that occur in our lives but actually about how our body internally reacts to the external stressor. Thus, stress is actually the physiological make-up of our internal system. Which is also different for all of us, it’s not what happens to us but how our body process it that is key. It could be a very simple thing that happens externally to one person, which is internally very stressful.
Personally I think that Western medicine is great but it is not complete. Far from it actually, I think we have a long way to go. One thing that struck me, which I guess doesn’t really surprise me that much is that Maté asks many of his patients about their life situations, which opens up an emotionally expressive conversation. Many of his patients say that their doctors have never asked them about themselves. Unsurprising as it is the way that they have been educated. First of all, I think this is very sad but I also think that we’re missing the point and missing out on something very crucial here.
This book is great and reminds me of my understanding of Buddhism with the all-encompassing aspect of interconnectedness, being able to look at the dark parts of ourselves and the fact that our past experiences translated as emotions can get locked and stored in our bodies as ‘trauma’ and it is our job to do what we can to release the stagnant energy (which is what I understand from vipassana meditation). He also gives a great ‘how to’ explanation at the end on what we can all do to help ourselves.
I think that we are all in need of healing, I mean, look at the state of the world. I don’t know about you but if we think that this isn’t affecting us and also, why we are destroying our planet as well as ourselves and each other. There’s definitely a lot of good going on too!! But we can only be what was passed down to us, taught to us and through us. Another thing that this book got me thinking about; our connection to our ancestors and this cycle that keeps spinning around, ways of being that we have inherited, what he cites Dr Lipton calling the ‘biology of belief’ and how to break from these unconscious unhealthy aspects in order to become healthy and pass that on to future generations. This is the work of the spiritual path. It is a path to healing. I think that overall Maté describes a way of being and an idea of what it means to be healthy that encompasses all parts of who we are, not just one (see final quote).
Read this book it’s necessary.
It was hard to pick quotes as there are so many gems in here but here we go:
“This is the reason why the cure of so many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas; they are ignorant of the whole. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the mind from the body.” - Socrates. ❤
“Artistic expression by itself is only a form of acting out emotions, not a way of working them through.”
“Interactions with other human beings — in particular, emotional interactions — affect our biological functioning in myriad and subtle ways almost every moment of our lives. They are important determinants of health, as we will see throughout this book. Understanding the intricate balance of relationships among our psychological dynamics, our emotional environment and our physiology is crucial to well-being.”
“Many people may have the illusion that they are in control, only to find later that forces unknown to them were driving their decisions and behaviours for many, many years. I have found that in my life. For some people, it is a disease that finally shatters the illusion of control.”
“Emotional competence is what we need to develop if we are to protect ourselves from the hidden stresses that create a risk to health, and it is what we need to regain if we are to heal.”
“The nature of stress is not always the usual stuff that people think of. It’s not the external stress of war or money loss or somebody dying, it is actually the internal stress of having to adjust oneself to somebody else. Cancer and ALS and MS and rheumatoid arthritis and all these other conditions, it seems to me, happen to people who have a poor sense of themselves as independent persons...They live in reaction to others without ever really sensing who they themselves are.” ❤
“Emotions — fear, anger, love — are as necessary for the organism’s survival as nerve impulses, immune cells or hormonal activity.”
“Emotional intimacy is a psychological and biological necessity. Those who build walls against intimacy are not self-regulated, just emotionally frozen. Their stress from having unmet needs will be high.”
“It is intuitively easy to understand why abuse, trauma or extreme neglect in childhood would have negative consequences. But why do many people develop stress-related illness without having been abused or traumatised? These persons suffer not because something negative was inflicted on them but because something positive was withheld.”
“Those perceptions are programmed in our cells on the molecular level. Early experiences condition the body’s stance toward the world and determine the person’s unconscious beliefs about herself in relationship to the world. Dr Lipton calls that process the biology of belief. Fortunately, human experience and the ever-unfolding potential of human beings ensure that the biology of belief, though deeply physiologically ingrained, is not irreversible.” ❤
“The potential for wholeness, for health, resides in all of us, as does the potential for illness and disharmony. Disease is disharmony. More accurately, it is an expression of an internal disharmony. If illness is seen as foreign and external, we may end up waging war against ourselves.”
“Illness not only has a history but also tells a history. It is a culmination of a lifelong history of struggle for self.“ ❤
“The more I listened, the louder the message became: I needed to write, to express myself through written language not only so that others might hear me but so that I could hear myself.”
“Physically it is easy to see that our sense of separateness from the universe is false: we do not go “from dust to dust,” we are dust enlivened. We are a part of the universe with temporary consciousness, but never apart from it. Not by coincidence is the word seeking frequently employed in relation to spiritual work. Faced with illness, many people seek their spiritual selves almost instinctively, often in surprising ways.” ❤
“Many people have done psychological work without ever opening to their own spiritual needs. Others have looked for healing only in the spiritual ways — in the search of God or universal Self — without ever realising the importance of finding and developing the personal self. Health rests on three pillars: the body, the psyche and the spiritual connection. To ignore any one of them is to invite imbalance and dis-ease.” ❤
16 January 2019
How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics
This book, I guess it started a little thing of adventuring with psychedelics for me last July. Well, I actually read it 8 months after taking Ayahuasca for the first time (and having never taken any plant medicines or any drugs whatsoever before that). What I found most interesting; if you haven’t gathered already, I have been going through a hectic awakening over the past 4 years and that’s a WHOLE OTHER STORY trust me...but what I found interesting is that I have had some of what Michael Pollan calls mystic experiences before, without the use of psychedelics and well, I didn’t really know that psychedelics are a ‘route’ so to say to these mystic experiences. And didn’t even know what ‘mystic experiences’ were as described by him. Again it’s another book about getting in touch with what exists beyond our senses and how to expand your default level of consciousness.
Ultimately, it’s not really about finding the light or source in such a temporary way but rather, finding a way to integrate what you feel and experience through a psychedelic journey and taking that into your life. Because for me, I have felt this sensation before psychedelics, with and after them and I know that it exists right here, right now. I think that this is one route, one path and it is a very sacred one and when it comes down to it, it’s very important to have a continuous practice. Staying in touch with spirit continuously, if that’s what you want.
So Michael Pollan is in his 60’s and has never taken psychedelics before, he describes his journey taking numerous plant medicines and psychedelics toward the end of the book. The beginning is a big fat history of LCD and others until present. It’s all very interesting. I think there is a lot around at the moment about the healing power of these medicines. In the past there was a lot of unmonitored research in America in the ‘60s, particularly with LSD and it lasted for ten years if I remember correctly, and recently they have started the research again and it has been ongoing for the longest period of 20 years. He also talks a lot about psilocybin mushrooms, his experience with them too and different ways to view and expand ‘consciousness’ throughout our lives.
Here are some quotes from the book:
“ The journeys have shown me that what the Buddhists try to tell us but I have never really understood: that there is much more to consciousness than the ego, as we would see if it would just shut up. And that its dissolution (or transcendence) is nothing to fear; in fact, it is a prerequisite for making any spiritual progress.” ❤
“Robin Carhart-Harris’s paper got me wondering if, at least for the mind, ageing is really a process of declining entropy, the fading over time of what we should regard as a positive attribute of mental life.”
“Getting older might render the world more predictable (in every sense), yet it also lightens the burden of responsibility, creating a new space for experiment. Mine had been to see if it wasn’t too late to skip out of some of the deeper grooves of habit that the been there's and done that's of long experience had inscribed on my mind.”
“If you want to understand what an expanded consciousness looks like, all you have to do is have tea with a four-year-old.” — Gopnik
“A spiritual experience does not by itself make a spiritual life.” — Huston Smith ❤
4 January 2019
Autobiography of a Yogi:
This book is full of so much magic. I think that I am very open-minded when it comes to what I can’t conceive and this book really just reinforced that sense of wonder within me. The main story I would say is actually about Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru, who is just a magician and has a depth of knowledge that is out of this world. It definitely has opened up my mind to the magic that exists in this world and to always stay open to it. There are infinite layers of awareness in which to experience life, the question is whether you are willing to go there, to be open enough to believe.
There are a few quotes that I will include below. I especially like the one where Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru goes into detail about the reality of astrology. There is also another section of the book toward the end where there is an in-depth explanation of reincarnation and the other realms that we are constantly re-born into.
“Ordinary love is selfish darkly rooted in desires and satisfaction. Divine love is without condition, without boundary, without change. The flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing touch of pure love.”
“The hardcore of egotism is difficult to dislodge, except rudely. With its departure, the Divine finds, at last, an unobstructed channel. In vain it seeks to percolate through the flinty heart of selfishness.”
“ ‘I don’t believe in astrology’. It is not a question of belief, the scientific attitude one should take on any subject is whether it is true. The law of gravitation worked as efficiently before Newton as after him. The cosmos will be fairly chaotic if its laws could not operate without the sanction of human belief. Charlatans have brought the ancient stellar science to its present disrepute. Astrology is too vast, both mathematically and philosophically to be rightly grasped except by men of profound understanding. If ignoramus’ misread the heavens and see there a scrawl instead of a script that is to be expected in this imperfect world. One should not dismiss the wisdom with the wise.
All parts of creation are linked together and interchange their influences. The balanced rhythm of the universe is rooted in reciprocity my guru continued. Man in his human aspect has to combat two sets of forces. First, the tumult’s within his being caused by the admixture of earth, water, fire, air and ethereal elements. Second the outer disintegrating powers of nature. So long as man struggles with his mortality he is affected by the myriad mutations of heaven and earth. Astrology is the study of man's response to planetary stimuli. The stars have no conscious benevolence or animosity they merely send forth positive and negative radiations. Of themselves, these do not help or harm humanity but offer a lawful channel for the outward operation for cause-effect equilibriums that each man has set into motion in the past. A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma. His horoscope is a challenging portrait revealing his unalterable past with his probable future results but the natal chart can only be operated by men of intuitive wisdom, these are few.
The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasise fate, the result of past good or evil but to arouse mans will to escape from his universal thraldom; what he has done, he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation because he created it by his own actions in the first place because he possesses spiritual resources that are not subject to planetary pressure. Superstitious awe of astrology makes one an automaton, slavishly dependent on mechanical guidance. The wise man defeats his planets, which is to say his past, by transferring his allegiance from the creation to the creator. The more he realises his unity with spirit, the less he can be dominated by matter. The soul is ever free, it is deathless because birth-less it cannot be regimented by stars. Man is a soul and has a body. When he properly places his sense of identity he leaves behind all compulsive patterns. So long as he remains confused in his ordinary state of spiritual amnesia he will know the subtle fetters of environmental law. God is harmony, the devotee who attuned himself will never perform any activity amiss. His activities will be correctly and naturally timed to accord with astrological law. After deep prayer and meditation, he’s in touch with divine consciousness. There is no greater power than that inward protection.
‘Then dear master, why do you want me to wear an astrological bangle?’
It is only when a traveller has reached his goal that he is justified in discarding his maps. During the journey, he takes advantage of any convenient shortcut the ancient rishi’s discovered many ways to curtail the period of man's exile in delusion. There are certain mechanical features in the law of karma that can be skillfully adjusted by the fingers of wisdom. All human ills arise from some transgression of universal law. The scriptures point out that man must satisfy the laws of nature while not discrediting omnipotence. He should say, Lord I trust in thee and know thou canst help me but I too will do my best to undo any wrong I have done.”
And there is a great gem here from Gandhi,
“It is curious how we delude ourselves fancying that the body can be improved but that it is impossible to evoke the hidden powers of the soul. I am engaged in trying to show that if I have any of those powers I am as frail a mortal as any of us and that I never had anything extraordinary about me nor have I now. I am a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own however that I have enough humility to confess my errors and to retrace my steps. I own that I have an immovable faith in God and his goodness and an un-consumable passion for truth and love but is that not what every person has latent in him? If we may make new discoveries and inventions in the phenomenal world must we declare our bankruptcy in the spiritual domain? Is it impossible to multiply the exceptions so as to make them the rule? Must man always be brute first and man after, if at all?” — Gandhi