I officially went down a spiritual rabbit hole these last few months and once I read The Surrender Experiment I had to read Michael Singer's other book The Untethered Soul.
This book does a deep dive into making the leap from being a self absorbed person living in the fog that most of us live in (making daily decisions based on our own preferences, getting angry over the minutia as we are oblivious to the fact that we live in a world for a tiny amount of time when you look at the big picture), to becoming enlightened and taking the brain and the self to a higher state of living.
I must admit, I'm glad I started with Michael Singer's other book (which he wrote after this one), because otherwise I probably would've judged Singer as a little too out there for me. But if you stick with this book, I think it's a great book for anyone looking to do some serious personal growth.
Singer starts by explaining that voice that we all hear in our heads. That voice narrating the world for us, judging what we see. The untrained eye (most of us) think that's us. But it's not. We can observe this chatter like a subject-object relationship, and the first step to a higher level of consciousness and true personal growth is to recognize this voice.
So what's so wrong with this voice? Well, it's ruining us and we don't even know it. What typically happens is this constant narration makes us feel more comfortable and in control of the world around us. But what really is happening is these thoughts influence the experience of the world around us so what we end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to us, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there.
Basically, we are buffering reality as it comes in so that we can control the experience so it all fits inside our own minds. We re-create the world within our minds because we can control our mind and we can't control the world. Some people may think this is fine, but what you end up with are people who are limited very much so by their own preferences and controlled by fear.
So that's how Singer sets up the book, leaving us with the idea that true personal growth is about getting past that part of you that is not okay and needs protection. He then walks through how to connect with a higher power and truly live in a state of happiness.
I read The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer in 4 days after hearing Singer on James Altucher's podcast. I guess Oprah loved this book too.
In his book, Singer walks readers through his 40 year experiment of surrendering - letting life happen according to its natural flow.
He starts by saying that as humans, we believe that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation. So we say things like, "I better get that raise because I really need the money," or "It better not rain on my wedding day." These claims are based solely on our personal preferences we've made up in our own minds.
So without realizing it, we do this with everything, believing the world around us is supposed to manifest itself in accordance to what we prefer. We make strong attempts to control the world around us. When we win that battle, we are happy and relaxed. When we don't we are stressed. Therefore we constantly attempt to control every thing in our lives.
The reality is, life will continue with or without us. Energy moves around the world to create beings and all matter, the Earth and the planets orbit in space and don't combust.
The basis for Singer's experiment is this: is he better off making up an alternate reality in his mind then fighting with reality to make it be his way, or is he better off letting go of what he wants and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around him? The experiment would not be about dropping out of life, it would be about leaping into life to live in a place where he is no longer controlled by his personal fears and desires.
The journey Singer takes is pretty cool, and if nothing else, a fun read to follow him every step of the way. This book gave me interest in learning more about Eastern traditions such as Yoga, Buddhism, meditation, etc.
Jesus: A Biography from a Believer by Paul Johnson was a quick read and I thought a perfect written record of Jesus's life (as we know it from historical documents), from beginning to end.
This was a nice refresher of the history of Jesus's life and his teachings without diving into the complexity of the Bible. This book could be used as a precursor to reading the Bible (or the Gospels) to give you more context going in.
I thought the author did a good job trying his best to keep things historically accurate, but it's clear that this book comes from a Christian perspective.
Christian or not, there's no doubt that the history and teachings of Jesus stand the test of time, and are important to learn from a historical perspective. As Johnson points out, as you read about Palestine in the first century AD, you notice a world that in many ways is familiar to ours today.
I’m going to use this post to combine several books under one Category: Parenting. I haven’t read all these books in 2018 but I always go back and re-read sections of them so I thought I’d list them all out as I've been referring to these a lot this year.
Elevating Child Care by Janet Lansbury
I wish Janet could live with me full time and help me parent. She introduced me to the Respectful Parenting Method. If you’re interested in a respectful parenting approach, you have to learn from Janet. I think many people misunderstand and misuse this approach and sometimes it gets a bad rap. Janet’s mentor was the late Magda Gerber, you can also read anything she’s written for an accurate and timeless portrayal of a parenting approach that works. This book pretty much summarizes how to approach parenting from the day a child is born.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
This was actually the first book of Janet’s I read. It’s super helpful in figuring out the difficult toddler years. I got the language and support I needed from this book.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber & Mazlish
This book is full of actionable takeaways to communicate and listen to kids of any age. I really like the approach of the authors, very much in line with the Respectful Approach, but this is not teaching that method. Rather, the authors work to give parents the tools to survive and thrive at home by teaching the best ways to help children deal with their feelings, give praise, find alternatives to punishment, encourage autonomy and more.
Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber & Mazlish
I will read and re-read this so I can ensure I provide the right environment in which my two kids can grow to respect each other and maybe, (hopefully) like each other and be friends. The same authors of the How To Talk Kids book above give some good insight and tools to help children live together under the same roof.
This book was recommended reading suggested by the company I work with, Cheshire Impact. I read it in just a few sittings. It's a quick read and I really enjoyed it.
Fish: A Proven Way To Boost Morale And Improve Results is a fictional tale about transforming your work into something you enjoy. Through an easy to read parable, you learn how to bring energy and fulfillment back to your work.
Here's the thing - many of us cannot simply change our jobs or our line of work to something we truly love. Other commitments, home life and current financial obligations sometimes mean you're stuck where you are, making the money you need to make. Other times a true calling hasn't yet made itself available.
People spend about 75% of their adult waking time doing work related activities. The book argues, if this is the case, we ought to enjoy and be energized by it. And instead of looking for a new job, it's possible to change your attitude and enjoy the work you are already doing.
If your department and/or office does the same, we can begin to get rid of that "thank God it's Friday" attitude about work. We can choose to have fun and make people's day. We can make small changes and be fulfilled by what we do every day. This creates stronger businesses, happier customers, happier people all around.
Although a bit idealistic and "hokey" this book is now on my "favorites" list of Business books, as it's an inspirational, quick read, and I love that it can also apply to your life outside the workplace.
I love book recommendations from Ryan Holiday. This was a quick read by Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest For The American Dream and overall I enjoyed it.
Cowen is an economist, and I like reading books by economists because they show you truths and make predictions based on numbers and patterns.
Here's the problem posed by Cowen: There are a growing number of people in our society who accept, welcome or enforce a resistance to anything new, different or challenging. And this is going to eventually destroy the country. I know, sounds depressing but I summarize some of what Cowen points out about our country below...
There is a lack of a sense of urgency among Americans. People are too comfortable. More and more Americans are entering the higher segment of income. 15-20% of the American population is doing very well, based on income and social indicators.
There has been a collapse of the middle class, an argument we are all familiar with, but what's not being reported is the fact that a big reason for that is actually the upward mobility of lower income class to higher income class.
So more Americans today are happy and comfortable. The bad part of that is the structures we have can't sustain the majority of the population.
In spite of people doing great, our economy is growing at a slower rate, which started to hold steady right after the 1980's.
It is much more expensive now to move into a dynamic city, one that would allow for upward mobility. This slows economic progress. It causes people to move less and stay in the same jobs. This means less innovation and movement of the economy.
Now, if it were cheaper to, say, move into a high productivity city like NYC, researchers indicate there would be a GDP increase of 9.5%, which is pretty freakin' significant.
Income mixing is not happening for groups who might benefit from it the most. This is a result of societal forces like high rent due to gentrification rather than explicit racism or prejudice. So some of the low income populations and minorities are stuck where they are, without much of a chance for upward mobility.
There is also a lot of matching going on. Technology allows us to find people like us so we can date and marry them, we can find music we like and other music that matches that and so on. In one respect this is causing increased happiness in some areas, but it's also causing unintentional segregation. People are sticking around people that are like them.
Americans don't riot anymore. The 60's and 70's were much more violent. Society is now more bureaucratized and safety obsessed and less tolerant of any kind of disruption at all, which makes civil right movements of the past impossible today.
Less violence sounds like a good thing, and of course, it is, but Cowen points out that there are negative consequences to this and you're seeing more and more a resistance to uprise which is what eventually causes positive change.
At some points the book felt all over the place. And then it ended sort of dismally. I was hoping for a clear conclusion about what we can do to change or avoid too much damage. It was mixed into the content but not clear at the end. Cowen pretty much says - Watch out! The world is going to shit again!
I suppose this is fair considering Cowen is writing this from an economist point of view. And the trends and pictures he paints are truly eye opening.
I am glad I read this book and would recommend it. It provides a great view into some of the trends and actions that have led us to where we are today, and the fascinating part is that most of it has been unintentional. Therefore this will become an important read for many.
Every once and I while I really enjoy reading a Children's Lit or YA book. I picked up Wonder, which was already on my bookshelf (and unread) in our house, once I saw they were turing it into a movie.
I found this to be a really nice story. Simple, heartwarming and a quick read. I'm glad I read it before I saw the movie.
I'm curious to see how they produce the film. The book was written from several character's perspectives.
This was a nice break from all the non-fiction I've been reading lately.
If you are a woman are are looking to actually increase your strength, this is a must read. It's called The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Someone I trust online recommended this book and now I can't remember who it is, but I'm glad I bought this one.
This book contains a 6 month workout program and diet plans. But don't just buy this book so you can just start following the plans. It's written to be read like a book, beginning to end.
I actually didn't love it at first because I wanted to just learn about how the strength program worked. But I'm glad I sat down and read through it. Schuler provides great information. This isn't a quick 30 day fix to a beach bod, rather you'll learn about how to actually gain strength.
Here's Schuler's key insights:
I didn't buy this book for the nutrition section however it gave me some great meal ideas and ways to increase my protein and good fats intake. The content and the strength training workouts were well worth the money.
Final note on this book - if you want to use this book so you can follow the workout programs, you will either need a gym membership or good home gym equipment. That includes a bench with a benchpress barbell, weights for the barbell, free weights, and an exercise ball. A lat pull-down machine is a plus.
The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-age-Crisis--and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance was a surprisingly good, and refreshing book. It's written by politician Ben Sasse, and it's completely bipartisan. This book steps above politics and takes a look at what it means to be an adult, a citizen and a contributing member of society.
I almost didn't read this book because I didn't feel like being lectured to about how 'terrible kids are these days' and how we are failing as a country. But I'm glad I picked up this book because Sasse didn't just knock on parenting and America, he was actually constructive and posed some good arguments.
Sasse explains the problem in the first part of the book - kids don't know what an adult is anymore, or how to become one, and older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them.
The second part of the book talks about how to tackle the problem. He says that we must help the children of America transition from dependence to adulthood, and explores how to do this by diving into several themes:
Overcome Peer Culture: As generations pass, we become more age segregated. Before people commuted to a specialized job, families worked together, households were intergenerational and kids saw adult's gainful employment up close. Kids were apprentices to adults. As the world changed and work became more specialized, kids lacked exposure to different kids of work. Young people now spend the majority of their time in school and with people of their own age. The progression makes sense, but it has also led to an unawareness of adulthood among children and a loss of a sense of mortality.
Work Hard: Each generation gains more luxuries with the advancement of our world, technology, etc. This generally is a good thing, but there are consequences. Sasse says our culture now tries to protect kids from hard work and experiences, when we should be figuring out how to give them hard tasks so they can view suffering as something to be conquered, not avoided.
Resist Consumption: Meaningful work is the key to happiness, not consumption. It's harder and harder to stop consuming media and everything on a screen. It leads to passiveness and a loss of motivation to make positive change by doing meaningful things like helping a neighbor and contributing to the world through action.
Meaningful Travel - Meaningful travel means absorbing and learning about a new culture, not just following the tourist book. If people focus just on travel as a tourist and for luxury it doesn't allow them to put themselves in another's shoes and reap the true benefits travel can provide.
Becoming Truly Literate - There's a difference between reading and reading well and critically. Reading on a phone usually doesn't allow us to retain and be fully engaged - we skim. Students in this country continue to struggle with basic reading comprehension. Being truly literate means absorbing books and creating an extensive book list to wrestle with for life. Sasse gives ideas of books that could be on everyone's Canon, and I love his idea of creating a bookshelf in the home with this Canon of books to read, share, go back to and wrestle with.
Sasse did go into some of the history of education in our country, which was interesting and has made me want to read more books on this topic. You can see how the progression of education in America happened, but it's interesting to take a step back and look at the history and think about how education can be revamped in order to solve some of the problems we are running into.