Category Archives: Book Review

Of Chicks & Robots-

Becoming

The Intention Experiment

I’m reading a book called Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza. In chapter three, he recounts research from an article in Wired (“Mind Over Matter,” Apr. 1995). Now from my perspective, this is not anything out of my understanding of things because this is the world I’ve been reading about and living in for the last couple of decades, but I know some of you are going to drop your jaws over this. Good! We want that kind of response. Your world is about to crack open. Here goes.

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photo:CSIRO

Rene Peoc’h is a French researcher who wanted to study the possibility that intention might operate in our world. He started with a computerized robot set up as a random event generator. Set lose in an area, the robot turned right half the time and left half the time, thereby covering the area equally over time. This is perfectly in keeping with the idea of a random generator. Then he allowed some chicks to imprint on the computerized robot as if it were their mother. So the chicks bonded with the robot creating an energetic bond on their part (at least). Once the chicks had imprinted, Peoc’h put them in a cage where they could see the robot but not go to it. What do you think happened?

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photo: Thomas Quine (not the robot from the experiment)

If you hold a materialistic view of the world, you would say nothing. The random event generator can’t be affected by the minds of the chicks. It’s ridiculous! But- the pattern of movement of the robot clustered near the chicks’ cage. No longer was the robot moving randomly, but now it had gravitated near the babies. Cool experiment, right? And easily replicated. The larger question becomes if baby chicks can influence objects around them, how much influence do we have? And how do we develop and control it??? That’s what Becoming Supernatural is all about. Interested? Grab the book but be warned, the work is hard and all-consuming. Advanced yogic practices are made accessible to everyone.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to share later but I wanted to share some personal happenings here, too. I am about four months out from returning to the US (YAY! I CANNOT WAIT!!!). My third book is about to be released (FINALLY!!!). The downside is that things are about to get very busy. This blog will probably be interrupted by these major life upheavals.

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Zealot by Reza Aslan

Zealot

This book has been around for a while and got a lot of attention because the author was a Muslim writing about Jesus. The furor took off when Lauren Green of Fox News hosted Aslan in what has been called the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done” (and that’s saying something). Reza Aslan defended himself citing his four degrees as a scholar of religions having studied Christianity for twenty years.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading a book about Jesus then. It seemed ridiculous that the Christian right was so incensed with a religious studies professor writing a book about a subject in his career field. A few years went by and my son suggested that I read this because my view of Jesus the peacemaker was all wrong. He had just finished Aslan’s book.

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Zealot is a fascinating read searching for the historical truth of a man called Jesus. It’s an in-depth examination of the political and social times in which he lived. Jesus lived in a time ripe with Messianic hope and the God Jesus knew was bloody. He had a Jewish mission, telling his disciples to avoid gentiles as much as possible. In its time, “Love thy neighbor” was restricted in meaning to include only Jews. The historical Jesus is not the one of the Gospels. He was a zealot but not a member of the Zealot Party which emerges later. And Aslan talks about the Gospels being a theological argument and not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus brings the promise of a new world order challenging Roman authority. Aslan believes he probably gave himself the title, Son of Man. This title tied him to the Book of Daniel and restoration of Israel, but he fell short of calling himself a messiah and its ensuing obvious danger.

The book often discusses Gospel accounts and how they differ from each other, as well as from historical sources. I won’t go through the vast amount of information presented but will say, it makes very interesting reading especially when you start to get a feel for what’s behind the intention of certain parts of the Gospels.

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The resurrection is central to Christianity but a difficult topic for a historian to cover. The author admits that something must have happened to push Jesus’s followers to continue the movement. Indeed, the resurrection narrative was part of early Christian teaching predating the virgin birth or passion narratives. Evangelicals wrote those narratives later to flesh out the story.

Jesus as a zealot and crucified Jew left behind a movement headed by his brother James (the Just). James was a follower of the law in Jerusalem. But Aslan makes the case that a crucified Messiah was not possible for the Jews and the new message that emerges under Paul finds ground only with more open-minded Diaspora Jews who are Greek speaking and urban. It’s Paul who triumphs bringing in a Jesus who is the end of the Torah. He takes this message to gentiles and succeeds. It is through Paul that the Jesus of the Gospel becomes the Christ- a divine being, the literal son of God.

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The is a well written, easy to read book on a fascinating subject for many of us. It is perfect for the curious and open-minded. It’s one of those books, I’d say will stay with you long after you’ve put it down because of its thought-provoking nature. If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list!

 

 

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Synchronicity (yes! again)

Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet by Gary E. Schwartz

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As soon as this book came out, I knew I had to read it and I’m glad I did. I’ve written about synchronicities before and they are sometimes very active in my life, and at other times- not so much. But always, there is this curiosity. After years of shaking my head (wondering if I was crazy), all the time my close family members laughing and rolling with it far easier than I did, I’ve come to accept them. I value the experiences, I laugh with the Universe (and the Universe has a glorious sense of humor), and I miss those coincidences when they lapse (do they lapse, or am I not observant enough?).

Along comes Harvard educated scientist Gary E. Schwartz, author and professor at the University of Arizona and the Director of its Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health to write a book on his personal experience with synchronicity and start to ask the tough scientific questions.

A huge proportion of the book is devoted to examples of what Schwartz calls supersynchronicities. So, while a rather mundane synchronicity involves the occurrence of two or more events happening close together that don’t seem to have a causal connection but are meaningful to the individual, these super events must be linked six or more times. Most of us have had instances of the lower order and some of us (if we’re observant and lucky?) might have experienced a supersynchronity. Schwartz has had many and has become a sort of expert at spotting them. Chapter upon chapter of delightful tales involving dogs, ravens, movies, bears, and emeralds have us explore the wonderful and wacky ways these synchronicities unfold. Many are captivating, a few pull at the heartstrings, all test our notion of reality and all cry out for an understanding of deeper meaning.

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from: Moscow Art

While being immersed in this world, I realized I view synchronicities as personal experiences. So much so, that when people in my life report MY synchronicities showing up in THEIR lives, I get irritated and dismiss it. From a supersynchronicity point of view, these instances have to be counted and seen in the bigger perspective of our reality. This was my biggest lesson drawn from reading this book. The Universe is not just talking to me (well, maybe sometimes).

Schwarz spends a chapter on the scientific process of running synchronicities through a hierarchical list of explanations. Everything from self-deception to the collective consciousness is briefly examined. He uses a fascinating analogy of a jazz super orchestra to hint at how the universe might operate with billions of people. How would the universe create a meta-score uniting everyone and still allowing individual expression? How, indeed! How do these synchronicities point at our underlying interconnectedness? Again, what does it mean…?

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photo: yumikrum

The book ends in an unsatisfying way for those looking for a better understanding of meaning. Perhaps, Schwartz’s next book will grapple with the new science (quantum synchronicity theory) he proposes. In the meantime, he encourages us to become active in becoming more aware of these instances in our own lives and start chronicling them. Remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the process.

 

 

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OWL KILLERS by Karen Maitland

Owl Killers

During the Middle Ages, a lay group of women dedicated to a life of prayer, hard work, and community service thrived in the Low Countries. Known as the Beguines, Karen Maitland imagines what it might have been like for a group of these women to have struck out on their own to settle in an unwelcoming English town. The atmosphere is tense as the women are seen as outsiders, not part of Mother Church and not part of the resident pagan tradition either. The women bring their ideas of Christian charity to the townsfolk who regard them with suspicion and sometimes open hostility. As the village suffers through a series of disasters, the power of the Church is threatened, dark forces from earlier times reawaken, and the beguines must decide to make a stand or return to the safety of their continental shores.

Karen Maitland novel is well-researched and executed. The story is told from the various viewpoints of the characters in the town of Ulewic. In this way, we learn each of the beguine’s has her own history and her own reasons for joining the group. We understand the struggles of the local priest as he fits into a system that leaves him little room for personal choice. A nobleman’s daughter helps us feel the restrictions of living as a young woman in Medieval society. An array of townsfolk completes the cast. The Owl Killers are a group of masked men who harken back to a day before law and order. They are definitely flesh and blood and do their share of evil, but Maitland has, at times, blurred the line. Although most of the story feels firmly planted in third dimensional reality, there are a few places where things take on an otherworldly creepiness. Man’s ability for cruelty can be disturbing and this book certainly has those moments. The ending may leave you wanting more or maybe something else entirely.

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THE DIVINE FEMININE FIRE:

Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Yourself by Teri Degler

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“Love, begin the song, and let me hear how well you sing.” Mechthild of Magdeburg

In The Divine Feminine Fire, Teri Degler explores the similarities and differences of the divine feminine expressed in Shakti (Hinduism), Sophia (Christianity), and Shekinah (Kabbalah). She examines ancient and suppressed texts leading to some fascinating insights. The reason to explore these traditions is made plain by the need for understanding in our own time of the awakening going on in us and around us. Degler asserts that it is the divine feminine that is waking up, being ignited and transforming consciousness. The divine feminine is a creative force (not limited to the female gender, in any way) experienced in the human body as a birthright. This experience is one that exists along a continuum.

divine fem

photo: Kinjal bose 78

To get a feel for the extreme of the continuum, Degler examines the lives of a 12th Century Christian Saint (Mechthild of Magdeburg) and a 12th Century Hindu Saint (Mahadevi Akka). She draws some appropriate parallels and calls our attention to the whole of the transformation being rooted in the body. The stories of five modern women are also given to show the other end of the continuum. There was a compelling discussion about Gopi Krishna and how we have no reason to think we have a good handle on understanding what the far extreme of this transformation would look like. Things like where do Christ or Buddha fall on the continuum come to mind.

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Throughout the book, there are examples of what transformative experiences happen when the divine feminine is awakened. Again, these are on the continuum. The principle signs of transformation include mystical experience, paranormal abilities, and divine inspiration (inspired creativity).

The final chapter of the book is a call to live a balanced life. Whether we know it or like it, all of us are in the body going through transformation somewhere along the continuum. Creativity is the way the divine feminine is expressed and how consciousness is transformed. Many of us feel this call of transformation through our creative work and the whole of life can be viewed as creative expression.

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The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

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This is a special book about healing and what it means to heal. At its core are two sisters who’ve had a falling out. The separation is painful for both of them. With the backdrop of a Kentucky flower farm, Rose is raising a severely disabled child alone. Ten-year-old Antoinette appears to have a form of autism that requires constant care but along with this disability comes a gift. Antoinette can connect to the vibrations of life and heal. A dead bird is raised. Flowers bloom before their time. Neighbors heal. When Rose becomes ill herself, she reaches out to her sister to come and help with Antoinette and the farm. But Lily has her own secrets and going back means she’ll have to confront them. Why does one little girl frighten her so much?

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I enjoyed the backdrop of the book reading it in a time when Belgium was dark, rainy, and in its pre-spring gray. The promise of a new cycle of life and healing is powerful. Can old relationships be healed? What does healing look like? What sacrifices will love allow? The descriptions of Antoinette’s abilities were intriguing as were the insights into the world of autism. Although I didn’t like the ending because the author took the easy way out, I’m sure many will find comfort in it.

 

 

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Visionary Fiction Writer Margaret Duarte

Duarte’s new book is based on her research in “… paganism, holistic theory, quantum mechanics, and transpersonal psychology, which takes readers deep into the depths of consciousness to the unified field underlying physical existence, where separateness is an illusion.” Definitely my kind of thing and maybe yours too.

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RATIONAL MYSTICISM by John Horgan

rational-mysticism

This is a book I thought long and hard about highlighting. I expected great things and was overall disappointed. Unfortunately John Horgan is a reductionist materialist and despite the access he had to various spokespeople on mysticism, he remains thoroughly unconvinced. He is a science writer who holds the dogmatic party line through the entirety of the book. That said, I think some valuable perspective can be gleaned from the people Horgan talks to. It’s worth the read to get an overall feel for the modern history of the topic and hear from some of the players.

Horgan begins with a definition of mysticism within the historical context. He interviews Huston Smith who discusses mysticism as a cross-cultural, cross-religious experience. Smith represents the notion of the perennial philosophy. The author’s search next takes him to a two day conference in Chicago where mysticism is treated as a literary phenomenon. These scholars know in great detail the texts left behind by Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, Shankara, etc. But sadly, none of them has any personal experience with anything remotely mystical. The journey continues with an interview of Ken Wilber dubbed ‘the weightlifting Bodhisattva’ by Horgan. Wilbur stands behind Smith adhering to the perennial philosophy but also embraces science as a way to explore and define mystical experience.

meditating

Photo: Thanabadhi

Important information is raised in the chapter called Can Neurotheology Save Us?. Horgan visits with Andrew Newberg, the doctor featured back in 2001 in Newsweek’s article, “God and the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality.” Wouldn’t it be nice if brain scans could prove mystical states and help us to understand them? Unfortunately, a review of data collected on all sorts of meditation doesn’t support any nice clean conclusions according to Jensine Andreson, a theology professor at Boston University. And that in turn brings into question all the benefits touted for meditation. A review of the studies looking at meditation and its benefits Andreson believes, are poorly designed and won’t hold up to scrutiny. Of course, as it relates to mystical practice, mystics don’t meditate to lower their blood pressure but I would concede that a whole lot of Americans do increasingly view meditation as a health practice. Should they?

Continuing the scientific pursuit of mystical states, Horgan interviewed Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, Canada. Starting in the 1980s, Persinger began studying the brain’s response to electro-magnetic pulses to certain areas of the brain. 40% of Persinger’s test subjects experience a presence. The Canadian magazine Mclean’s called this device, “the God machine.” Persinger maintains that he has not addressed the God question with his work, rather his interest is in understanding the electrical pattern of the brain that leads to religious belief. But does the machine produce mystical experiences? No. Apparently, no one tested has reported the typical sensations of bliss, unity, or ineffability commonly reported by mystics. Scientific attempts to link temporal lobe excitation or epilepsy to mystical experience do not hold up either.

brain-scan

Horgan next turns to practitioner of Zen and neurologist, James Austin who penned the book, Zen and the Brain. Austin calls his approach perennial psychophysiology. Instead of gaining metaphysical insight, Austin thinks the mystic undergoes deep changes in personality. Someone who has had these experiences becomes more stable, more compassionate, and more selfless. As a specialist in brain disorders, Austin attempts to separate healthy mysticism from other illnesses. His approach relies on the idea that mystical experience releases excitotoxins which cause the loss of neurons. This in turn, allows us to get rid of those things that distort our view of reality. This is as scary as it is fascinating. For me, it makes mystical experience similar to brain damage. Can that really be?

No book on mysticism would be complete without a foray into drug induced mystical experience. Horgan looks at the history of LSD, DMT, and ayahuasca. He visits Stanislov Grof, who is involved in the transpersonal psychology movement. Grof believes that we must move into a new paradigm where mind has primacy over matter (the book was published in 2003, not a unique idea now). There’s an interesting discussion of Rick Strassman’s work as outlined in DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The colorful Terrence McKenna makes an appearance in a later chapter where he advocates the use of psychedelics.

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Photo by: vishwagna.com

The book is a nice romp through lots of questions with little in the way of conclusions. I often had the feeling that the author was totally out of his depth. Why did this topic appeal to him? He remained a science writer who attempted to fill pages. Most of them are interesting. I wonder what the book would have looked like with another author or even what the book would look like if updated.

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The Science of Reincarnation

 

Physics of the Soul: The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation, and Immortality by Amit Goswami, PhD

physics

 

So judging from the title you know this is going to be a tough book. Intriguing- yes, but not a walk in the park. Amit Goswami is a theoretical quantum physicist and in the book he attempts to reconcile the science and metaphysics of reincarnation and immortality. Essentially he outlines a science for reincarnation and some kinds of paranormal phenomena. The structure of the book follows the ponderings of a scientist as he develops his theory. Although this is personal, I often lost track of the details as he set forth on one track only to reverse himself later. As a reader (without a PhD in physics), I’d rather have the bare bones of the theory without the intricacies of why he went one direction or another. No one should attempt this book as a first foray into the quantum world, but for those with familiarity with nonlocality and the double slit experiment, go for it. This adventure will include proving that The Tibetan Book of the Dead is correct. There is no way I can cover the entire book, but I’m going to outline some of our quantum scientist’s ideas.

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Photo:Philipp Roeli

The underlying paradigm shift that is required for us to understand this new science of reincarnation involves dropping the notion that matter creates consciousness. That is an outdated, old Newtonian idea. Consciousness is the basis of everything. It is consciousness that creates matter. The brain does not make us conscious. The brain is a receiver for consciousness. For most of you reading this blog, you long ago accepted that idea (so what else is new, you’re asking. Well, keep reading).

 

Goswami borrows from Indian medicine the idea that we have five bodies of consciousness. The first one (and the only one for materialists) is the physical body. Then comes the vital body made of vital energy followed by the mental body. The fourth body is the supramental intellect and the fifth is unlimited bliss (Brahma). Eastern traditions rely on the idea of chi or prana. Goswami thinks that acupuncture and chakra work, similarly and yet using different energy points or centers can both be effective because they are quantum in nature. They exist in possibility until the quantum wave collapses. (A fascinating idea that will drive a materialist scientist mad trying to figure out which modality is correct.) It is in the interaction of these subtle bodies outlined above which allows for the soul to survive and reincarnate.

subtle-bodies

At death, the physical body dies along with classical memory. However, quantum memory (acquired through repetition and stored in the vital and mental bodies) and the subtle bodies continue to exist. According to Goswami, souls cannot grow spiritually once they shed the physical body because they lack subject/object awareness. Although this may upset some notions of heaven, it does give weight to the idea that a physical body has a purpose and that purpose is spiritual growth.

In this theory, people who have had near-death-experiences or out-of-body experiences have shifted their center of identity to the vital/mental bodies which could be a Samadhi experience (without ego) but haven’t actually died.

Drawing on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, after physical death we have opportunities to transcend (and return to the Quantum Monad), but most of us will miss those chances and return. In the in-between states, we have the ability to correlate and communicate with the child you will be. In Goswami’s theory, karma is not reward or punishment but rather contexts or themes we develop in one life which continue. Failure to learn the theme results in more opportunities in later lives to obtain that knowledge. Learning creatively with closure “burns” karma. Other people (quantum monads) can become entangled with us as either supporters or enemies to help us learn our themes. At the end of each life, we have the opportunity to transcend again.

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Art: by Kwakin1

There is a whole section devoted to ways to live spiritually. Goswami believes that our inner and outer expressions of creativity are key to developing a unique spiritual path. The book culminates with further musings on the evolution of the supermind, UFOs, and alien intelligences. Overall, this is a fascinating book! Find someone to talk to as you’re reading it. It provides great opportunity for discussion.

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POWER & THE FEMALE BODY

A Woman’s Space: The Power of the Female Body by Kimberly Harding, PhD

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Harding, PhD, a while ago. Then she joined us to talk about her art and poetry. Now she’s back to discuss a new project. Kim has used her talents to explore the power of the female body in her new book. In a beautifully illustrated, gentle book, Kim guides the reader on a journey of discovery examining our perceptions and beliefs about our bodies.

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I know as a teacher of anatomy at the college level, you have pointed out that language used to describe the female body often involves a sense of lack. Can you give us some examples? Was this realization the starting point of your thinking about creating this book for women?

 You are correct.  I think one of the reasons I wrote the book is that I am so disturbed by the mixed messages women receive in regards to their body.  As I write in the book, we want the miracle of childbirth, but not the “messy” uterine lining each month that makes this possible.  Or, we do not mind seeing breasts displayed in advertisements, but some are bothered by breast feeding in public areas.  What do all of these messages mean for a woman and her sense of self and her sense of power in the world?  For in my mind, a woman’s body is a source of innate power and if she is disconnected from her body, she is disconnected from her power in life.

My thoughts on this are definitely tied to my career as an anatomy and physiology college professor.  A book by Emily Martin showed me that even textbooks are not immune to the mixed messages given about women’s bodies.  Martin did a study comparing the terminology used in the standard reproduction chapter common to most college anatomy and physiology texts.  Terms used in the section on  male reproduction included “sheer magnitude, amazing, abundant” (as I have said elsewhere, you almost want to build a monument to it ), while terminology associated with female reproduction included “degeneration, lack, leaking, deteriorate”.

Students see the textbook as the “gold standard” of information, so the use of this terminology is particularly disturbing.

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Growth

 

Why is a women’s body seen as threatening or untrustworthy? Is this a cultural perception we can change and if so, how?

I think it is the power contained within a woman that causes some to perceive women as threatening.  I realize women, normally, have a smaller physical stature, but this does not in any way detract from the innate power in women to create, produce, destroy, manifest, and maintain the world.  Women not only manifest the world, but we sustain it as well.

As for being “untrustworthy”, I feel for centuries, women and their bodies have been viewed with a sense of distrust. Often, this likely resulted from women’s projected place in society and culture as the “Other”- something foreign and unknowable.  For ages, women were not even included in clinical medical trials as their menstrual cycle apparently made them “too confusing” to serve as subjects.

I think the change of this perception does not happen on the cultural level first, but rather within each and every woman.  Within our power, we, as women, have the ability to heal ourselves.  When we heal ourselves, we have the ability to heal the world.

In my mind, I believe if you heal a woman, you heal the world. When a woman heals herself, she heals the generations to come.

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Pregnant Pauses

 

In this age of information, do women have adequate knowledge of their physical bodies? 

 I think this depends on the woman. Those of us who are blessed enough to have access to items such as books, the internet, and supportive medical care, likely have adequate knowledge of our physical bodies.  Many women in the world do not have these resources.

I will also say, though, and this is the point of my book, knowledge of the physical body is not enough.  We must learn about and embrace the power contained within the body’s tissues.  It is one thing to speak to a young woman about the mechanics of her menstrual cycle.  How much more powerful does it become, though, when we speak about what the menstrual lining represents- “the potential of the world”?  What would it do for a young woman to understand she literally forms the potential of the world within her being every month?

That is the type of message I feel is lacking.

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Emergence

 

How does a modern woman reclaim her body and her power?

 It is the work of each woman to do so.  Women can not kid themselves about this important work.  There is no other way for a woman to come in to her true power except through understanding the power of her own Being.  Certainly, we can assist one another on this journey and we should do so, individually and collectively.

At the end of the day, though, it comes down to each woman confronting what she has been told about her self and what she believes in her self.  When one woman raises her self up, she sets the path for all others.

Is there a need for rituals or rites of passage to help women claim their power? I’m wondering about the roles of maiden, mother, crone (borrowing from pagan tradition).

Oh certainly!  Rituals and rites of passage can provide a physicality to the internal psychical changes a woman undergoes.  These can serve as a source of grounding and a reference point that enable a woman, alone, or within the collective to mark her awakening.

 

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Angel/Sun

 

How do the images and text of your book work together to help women explore and reclaim their bodies?  

For me, and this is difficult to say from an unbiased perspective as the artist, the images complete the text.  I find myself, when I read the book, that the words are engaging, but then I will look at the image and the message is understood on a completely different level.

I purposely put images and text on each page, as for myself, the image, more so than the words, is the trigger to return to the idea.  I see the image and immediately associate it with the concept.

I really hope others resonate in a similar manner.

Thank you so much for this opportunity.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and work concerning this important topic! For more about Kim’s work, please visit her website and check out her books on Amazon.

http://soulhealingart.com

Amazon link: https://goo.gl/TVmsaI

Watch Kim’s fascinating lecture on Female Embodiment- A Woman’s Place (22 min)     https://goo.gl/nPLMC2

 

 

 

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