A Collective Gathering Place for Readers, Writers, and Seekers

Conform or Be Cast Out, by Logan Albright

Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists, by Logan Albright
Moon Books, 1789048427, 176 pages, December 2021

Conform or Be Cat Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists by Logan Albright was the dose of reality that I didn’t even realize I needed. In a time with conspiracy-theories abound and a ravenous cancel-culture, this book takes a unique approach of examining the phenomena of attributing individualism, nonconformity, and differences from spiritual to physical as rooted in demonic evil. Albright’s critical-thinking approach to the subject, along with his candidness takes the reader on a journey from biblical times through modernity to highlight how nonconformists have borne the brunt of society’s misinterpretation of them as devils and demons to uncover a  pattern in play.

Some might be surprised to hear it’s not only in religion that this demonization occurs. Albright’s has a wide lens when analyzing this phenomena. Initial chapters include Biblical origins, but they progress to demonization showing up in bright children who excel, saints and martyrs, witches and wizards, medicine and science, notions of individualism, art, movies, and eventually modern Satanic panic of recent times. While this might seem like a smorgasbord of information, in reality, it simply shows how prevalent this recurring pattern is within human culture.

And Albright’s approach is so well-researched that despite the many directions the book goes on, the central theme is easy to follow. There’s a ton of anecdotes from throughout history that keep the reader interested and engaged. I would say that Albright leaves no stone unturned in this quest to shine light on the demonization of nonconformists. He packs a ton of historical information to weave together a very clear picture of how time and time again those who choose to walk their own path, stand by their beliefs, or advocate for something outside the traditional norms often pay a steep price.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is how Albright explains how different notions of the devil, from the imagery of horns, hooves, wings to the concept of selling one’s soul, have been perpetuated by myth, folklore, stories, and songs. As Albright points out, a very small portion of people actually worship demons or the devil. Even Satanists do not have a theology centered upon demonic worship. Nevertheless, this imagery has persisted into modern day. Reading Albright’s research helps to break the grip of this collective archetype to start exploring what the energy is that’s actually being repressed through it.

Albright even draws parallel between the Inquisition and motives of Institutional Psychology, demonstrating many of the fear-based tactics are the same thing, just different covers. While we like to believe we’ve progressed as a society, many of the same patterns repeat. From assertions that the planets don’t revolve around to the Earth to choosing to play Dungeons and Dragons, being outside social bounds doesn’t mean the intention is evil – and it’s time we start to realize this and stop inflicting literal pain and torture on those who buck the norms.

While some revel with the accusations hurled at them, far too many people have paid a high cost for their nonconformity. Since reading this book, I’ve continually reflected on all the potential snuffed out and valuable ideas lost to the tides of time due to unwarranted fear. This book feels like a tribute to them, nodding at their accomplishments, even though the praise is much too late. Nevertheless, we can continue to learn from the scientists, saints, philosophers, writers, occultists, but most of all, free-thinking individuals that pioneered their own paths.

I think we often expect books to answer something for us or provide guidance. What was unique about Conform or Be Cast Out is that Albright doesn’t really do this for the reader. Rather, he lays it all out through his examination of history, mythology, folklore, occultism, philosophy, and even the arts and simply shows examples of this demonization, sometimes discussing where they arose from or what perpetuated, but otherwise just sharing his thoughts on the subject. There is no solution proposed; if anything Albright highlights how this is still occurring now in our culture, despite advancements that make it so we no longer have to be rooted in conformity in order to survive.

I gained a lot from reading the book, even if it’s hard to put my finger on. I can best describe it as a sense of liberation. Reading through all the different examples of how this happens when people break formation, whether it be for scientific advancement or spiritual callings, made me more comfortable doing my own thing, even at the cost of judgement. And as a rather avant-garde individualist, judgement and being labeled “bad” is something I’ve come up against rather often. I think that the past few years that I’ve been trying too hard to conform to escape this demonization, but to what avail, honestly? That is at the heart of what I’ve been questioning since reading this book.

And thanks to Albright, I have so much to research further! The browser tabs I currently have open are The Manufacture of Madness by Thomas Szasz, A History of White Magic by Gareth Knight, Envy by Helmut Schoeck, and Escape from Childhood by John Holt. All of these titles and more are part of the wide-ranging sources Albright draws upon in his exploration of this topic, truly demonstrating the depth and breadth of his accumulated wisdom and level of study in regard to this phenomena of demonization.

Conform or Be Cast Out is a book that I feel is going to stick with me for a while because it woke up something within me that needed attention. Albright’s keen insight brought the topic to life through time right into my present reality. And what’s most important about the way he’s done this is that it lacks fear and judgement. The facts, plain and simple, speak for themselves, and suddenly, the reader realizes just how ridiculous these notions of demonization truly are given the life story of the individualist.

Mediumship, by Kerrie Erwin

Mediumship: Your Guide to Connect, Communicate and Heal Through the Spirit World, by Kerrie Erwin
Rockpool Publishing, 978- 1925924985, 160 pages, June 2021

“Mediumship is the practice of mediating communication between living humans and the spirits of the dead. It has been documented from early human history, gaining its popularity during the nineteenth century when Ouija boards were used by the upper classes as a source of entertainment. Natural mediums are born with the gift, although they may not become aware of it until later in life. Every person who walks this path has their own individual gift to offer. Once you embrace mediumship as your life purpose it becomes an enormous responsibility, as you are helping people to cope with their grief. Despite the highs and lows it is very rewarding.”1

Author Kerrie Erwin is an Internationally recognized medium whose work includes spirit rescue and connecting loved ones to those who have passed. There is often a distinct difference in being able to impart the body of what gifts the individual may have in a live setting versus being able to translate that information and teaching into book form. In the case of this title, Mediumship: Your Guide to Connect, Communicate and Heal Through the Spirit World, I would say that Erwin has done a wonderful job of bridging that disparity.  

Although this may seem like an aside and irrelevant, I am going to comment on the visual appeal of the book. We, as humans, are very visually driven, storing memories and feelings from the catalogue of what we have seen and then experienced as a result. This book is a soft powder blue paperback with a lovely piece of cover art depicting a white outlined pseudo Ouija pointer centered between gold text for title and author.

Upon opening the book, the reader is greeted by blue line drawings of eyes in various states of gaze and opening and scattered throughout are assorted blue lined drawings representing certain aspects of the content included in a particular chapter or paragraph. The attention that went into the design of the book itself immediately engages the reader in a gentle “pulling in closer” manner to subject matter that may be frightening or fraught with skepticism.

Mediumship is separated into thirteen chapters, each providing the reader with multiple aspects of consideration when exploring the role of the medium and finding your own style of communication. The Introduction offers a look at Erwin’s life as a medium and how the work came to be. She describes being called by the spirits at a very young age and how a near-death experience in her twenties allowed her first hand experience of the spirit world. Her descriptions are comforting and are filled with hope and joy at reuniting with those within your “soul group” who have passed before you. 

As part of the Introduction, Erwin also speaks of love and its power to act as a point of connection between the living and the departed. This is the connection achieved, as the medium becomes the conduit of that eternal connection…

“Love is the most powerful emotion in the world as its energy in its higher form, can create healing, miracles and magic in our world. When a loved one dies there is no ending but rather a new beginning, a journey back to the spirit world as spirit lives on, connected to us eternally.”2

Chapters 1-3 provide the reader with the basics of what mediumship is and how it may be defined. It was very interesting to have a definition of the types of mediumship, ranging from channeling and transfiguration. Then there is a concluding section on working with the police. 

“Chapter 4: Suicide: A Difficult Subject” was a much needed inclusion in the book for understanding another aspect of the work of mediumship, albeit one that is shied away from publicly….

To lose someone from suicide is incredibly painful, as you never understand why they took their own life and wonder if there was anything you could have done to prevent it.3

Some very thought-filled questions Erwin poses and answers are:

  • If you kill yourself are you punished and sent to hell?
  • Is it harder to make contact with a spirit who has committed suicide?
  • Do people really mean to kill themselves?

Additionally, there is a checklist of signs others can look for in individuals who may be inclined towards suicide and a listing of Australian help lines and agencies that can be called upon for help. 

“Chapter 7: Protection From Negative Energy” provides a reminder of the need to learn protection techniques and the attention that should be given to exactly what and where the spirits you may encounter are coming from:

“One of the first things I learned when I was developing as a medium was the power of protection and how to utilize it, which is mandatory in my profession. There are many different spirits and energies or different vibrations out there that are not always from the light.”4. 

As Erwin states, not all spirits have the best interest of their living connections in mind. Some can be tricksters and others downright baneful in their intentions. Psychic attack is included as a topic and the author also provides exercises in awareness and protection that are useful for those living energetic predators as well as those from the spirit realms. 

“Chapters 9: Meditation” and “Chapter 10: The Chakra System of Mediumship: Your Guide to Connect, Communicate and Heal Through the Spirit World” provide techniques for opening psychic awareness and self reflection through contemplative practice as well as the energetic anatomy that works collaboratively within the individual as the skills of mediumship are developed. Erwin makes use of nine chakra centers, beginning with the Earth Chakra and moving through the Transpersonal Chakra above the crown chakra at the top of the head. Each chakra is defined by its purpose, color and etheric location and the chapter concludes with a visualization exercise for Empowering with the Middle Pillar (another name given to the line of chakras along the etheric central column):

“The nine chakras are the energy centres in your body through which energy flows; they ground and protect you. Blocked energy in your centres can often lead to illness or dis-ease and can be projected onto your clients, so it is important to understand what each chakra represents and what you can do to keep this energy flowing.”5

“Chapter 11: Psychic Links” explores the tools of mediumship used to hone the skills of inner sight and continually build upon your abilities. Topics include flower readings, jewelry readings, pendulums, and Ouija boards to name a few.  Specific exercises to try out these tools are included, as well and provide the reader with a variety of experiences. 

I really enjoyed “Chapter 12: My Spirit Team”. Erwin talks about those guides she has for her work and I found this to enable a point of resonance between the reader and the material presented in giving a very concrete example of how these guides out-picture and what aid they offer.

“Chapter 13: Ethics for the Professional Medium” offers a lengthy and very concise list of the ethical considerations in acting as a medium for another. There is also a listing of what the client can expect from the medium. Again, very useful to ensure that if you choose to work with a medium you are placing your vulnerability and emotions in their care and keeping.  

Erwin sees life as a contract of experiences to be learned from and resolved. And, the compelling reason to seek out the expertise of a medium or to develop your own skills in connecting with those who have been part of your contract is that of healing and being able to move on to the next lifetime. She sums it up nicely in “The Afterthought”:

“I have tried many types of healing, and the most powerful would have to be simple forgiveness on every level. You don’t have to actually like the person, but once you have forgiven them you release yourself from the contract, cutting the energy connection that is no longer needed, learning the lesson and mobbing on to a life of love without fear.”6

Mediumship is a very user-friendly read that demystifies what mediumship is and the healing that can occur from those gifts being used with integrity and loving intention. I also found it a timely read given how many souls have passed over from COVID-19 and other horrific events. As I stated previously, there is definitely a message of hope and the comfort of knowing that physical death is just another state of Being.

Exploring the Divine Library, by Richard Rowe

Exploring the Divine Library, by Richard Rowe
Ozark Mountain Publishing, 9781940265803, 240 pages, March 2021

Exploring the Divine Library by Richard Rowe is a continuation of the journey outlined in his first book, Imagining the Unimaginable: A System’s Engineer’s Journey into the Afterlife, detailing his personal spiritual journey after having a near-death experience as a result of a blood clot in 2004. This experience set Rowe on a quest to deeply analyze and question death, suffering, and how people’s lives often play out in unfair ways. Finding success in a very methodical and analytical style of questioning, the questions became bigger and deeper in their intention and Exploring the Divine Library was written.

Rowe uses a unique format based on personal experience, trial, and methodical reasoning, which sets it apart from the standard fare of books focused on this subject matter. This is not surprising given that his perspective comes from a strong scientific foundation as an inventor with degrees in Avionics Systems Technology and Computer Science, along with an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology. The result is a purpose-filled fusion of spirituality, research, and science that informs the contents of Exploring the Divine Library.

This book is separated into twenty chapters, six appendices, a robust six pages of references, as well as an additional listing of references by chapter. The Introduction provides the reader with clarity of reference as to how Rowe defines the term “Divine Library” and the alternate nomenclature used:

“From ancient times to the present day, many names have been used to refer to information existing somewhere beyond our three-dimensional universe. These names include Akashic Field, Heavenly Library, the Book of Life, Hall of Two Truths, Library of Light, Cosmic Mind, the Matrix, Universal Library, Collective Subconscious, Holographic Library, and others.”1

The entirety of the book is founded upon questioning, researching, experimenting, experiencing, and finally drawing your own conclusions. Exploring the Divine Library reads much like a technical manual and may feel less mystical in its offerings. It is complete with sketches that also bring to mind lab experiment journals. The intention however is clearly one of analysis and organization that leaves room for both skepticism and belief.

“The focus of my exploration continues to be driven by questions that deeply resonate with me. I research a variety of first hand experiences and my own experiences to search for insights. This process is very similar to the approach I have used throughout my career as an inventor to invent, describe, and document systems systematically.”2

“Chapter 2: The Divine Library” lays the groundwork for deepening the readers understanding of what its purpose and nature is. Rowe uses his own findings as well as those who have used hypnotherapy and past-life regression with clients who have reported similar settings and attributes of a storage center (“a multidimensional spiritual data cloud”3) that records all human experience, words, thoughts, actions and the workings of consciousness.

Chapters 3 – 7 take the reader on a journey through the mechanics of the Divine Library. Rowe gives attention to structure, access and the effects of patterns and life cycles on the information stored not only for the personal, but on a collective webbing as well.

Chapters 8 – 13 explore the underpinnings of exploring the purpose and interconnections between the individual and the information contained within the Divine Library. Rowe takes the reader through the processes of formulating the questions, intention, problem solving, and connecting through meditation and prayer.

“Chapter 12: Life Purpose” explores the quintessential question of all humans at some point of their existence: what is my purpose? Rowe explains the importance of asking that and other “big questions” as part of the life experience. The reader learns the value of this movement through life by questioning, and its value when applying this same approach to accessing and co-creating within the Divine Library.

“A significant life event can be the perfect opportunity to ask big questions and evaluate life… Whatever the scenario, asking what is my purpose usually comes along with waves of emotion, confusion, and an off-balance feeling…”.4

Chapters 14-19 provide the reader with practical application of what has been revealed through personal research and analysis of the function of the Divine Library. How to access the records and the interconnectedness of all energetic beings is discussed, as well as ways to exercise manifesting the energy needed and expand the boundaries of individual consciousness to reach into the Divine Library’s resources.

Finally, “Chapter 20: Lessons Learned” is a summary of what Rowe (and perhaps the reader) experienced in his explorations of the Divine Library. I think this was a necessary way to conclude the book and doing so left no loose ends for the reader to try to interpret.

This book is not, by any means, an intuitive or easy read. It is user-friendly only if you have a curious and methodical mind that enjoys the minutia of dissecting whatever your focus is applied towards. That being said, I think it is a necessary and well-founded approach since the goal for the reader is one to know more about his/her/their self and the ultimate purpose of this particular lifetime. If you are willing to put in the work and pay attention to the details, you will find that the gifts of outcome are well worth the time spent in dissecting and analyzing. Exploring the Divine Library provides the access card to enter into the universal data of the Divine Library.

The Ayurvedic Reset Diet, by Vatsala Sperling, Ph.D.

The Ayurvedic Reset Diet: Radiant Health through Fasting, Mono-Diet, and Smart Food Combining, by Vatsala Sperling, Ph.D.
Healing Arts Press, 1644111307, 150 pages, January 2021

Ayurvedic – the word kept appearing to me in books and magazines. Curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided to delve into exactly what this thousands-of-years old system of what originated as medicine had to tell me. I decided to read The Ayurvedic Reset Diet: Radiant Healing through Fasting, Mono-Diet, and Smart Food Combining by Vatsala Spelring, Ph.D. to delve into my new diet adventure. Before beginning my journey, I wrote down what I thought an Ayurvedic diet would be like, and admittedly, though I wrote out what I thought of its benefits, my list of what it would taste like or how easy it would be to maintain came up short.

My list of positives: being mindful of food combining, talking to plants, eating unprocessed foods, giving thanks to the things I was about to consume, eating seasonally, eating raw. My list of negatives: I wouldn’t enjoy the diet, it would set me apart from how my family ate, I would be eating “weird” (aka non-familiar) food, the food wouldn’t be at all pleasurable akin to eating seasoned cardboard.

I found that this approach to food and eating had the ability to enact positive changes in my mind, body, and spirit. On a deep level I had known for years that eating seasonally, eating non-processed foods, eating raw foods, eating only when hungry, eating slowly – were all beneficial. I was glad to read that what I had been feeling for years was my body speaking to me – and leading me to a form of Ayurvedic eating without me labeling it as such. 

Sperling begins the book with an Introduction asking whether we view food as a friend or a foe. Do we view food as the enemy that allows us to put on weight? Do we view food as nourishing? Are we too busy counting calories that we neglect to give thanks? Are we eating mindlessly, or do we slow down and enjoy the food? Sperling states that Ayurveda is an “ancient system for understanding disease and health that considers food that is grown, cooked, and eating with reverence as both nutrition and medicine.”1 She then continues with the Ayurvedic concept that “we are and we become what we eat.”2

Next, Sperling introduces the reader to the five known “interconnected koshas, or sheaths, in the body, which include the annamaya kosha (physical body), the pranamaya kosha (vital life force), the manomaya kosha (mind), the vojnanamaya kosha (intellect), and the anandamaya kosha (the inner blissful self). The koshas are interrelated and affect each other. It is important to be mindful if we are eating to live or living to eat. If we are more mindful of what we are eating, why we are eating, and our relationship with the food, we can create positive effects on the five koshsas.”3 

Sperling also shares with readers three “simple steps in the time-tested Ayurvedic technique: fasting on water or water and herb teas to help flush out the system and rebalance gut bacteria, isolating food by eating only one type of food at a time to simplify digestion and allow the body to fully absorb all of the nutrients in a particular food (also known as mono-diet), and mixing foods from various food groups in a sensible way.”4

The book is divided into seven chapters, each laying out concepts in an easy to understand manner that delve into the above-referenced three steps. The challenge, at least for me, was a dedication to actually incorporating what I was reading into my daily life. The first three chapters focus on problems facing Mother Earth in how we eat and the negative impact of industry, food transportation, and food modification. Sperling brings to light soil depletion, the cruel treatment of animals to mass produce food, and the use of hormones. 

Chapter 1, “A Season for Everything”, touched on the importance of eating seasonally as did our ancestors. I’ve been trying to eat seasonally for many years, so this concept resonated with me. I try to eat what is grown locally, not shipped in from another continent. Our body needs food differently throughout the year – heavier eating in the winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), lighter in the summer. Root vegetables in winter, berries in summer. Check – I could handle this part of the Ayurvedic diet.

In Chapter 2, “The New Normal”, Loss of Seasonality and Quality in Modern Eating, Sperling writes about issues contributing to our eating outside of the season and our location including transportation of food, mass production of food, availability of non-seasonal food and even our propensity or eating out that often exposes the eater to modified food. Chapter 3, “Industrial Food Production”, focuses on how technology is being used to tame and modify nature and how what we eat affects the earth including the negative impact that the beef industry has on nature. 

The final three chapters hone in on the Ayurvedic diet beginning with the “reset” diet to reboot well-being. It’s been ingrained in us that we need to eat three square meals a day. For some of us, snacking is also a part of our eating habits. Sperling reminds the reader that this constant eating does not give our digestive system a chance to rest. Not only that, the non-stop eating usually means that we are also overloading our bodies with the “wrong” kind of food. She writes at length on the importance of eating foods that are “compatible” for digestion.

Food combining is also touched upon – eating more than one food group in a meal. In the Ayurvedic diet, one eats one particular food at a time in moderation as one’s body digests different foods differently. Chapter 5, “Preparing for the Ayurvedic Diet”, outlines practical actions to take as a prelude to beginning the diet such as clearing out the kitchen cabinets and re-stocking with recommended foods such as nuts, grains, and local, seasonal produce. Sperling includes recommendations for caffeine withdraw and the importance of proper hygiene and physical activity.

Chapter 6, “Eight-, Six-, and One-Week Protocols”, provides a step-by-step plan for the reader to begin the diet with whatever time frame seems most comfortable and doable. Finally, Chapter 7, “Daily Living”, concludes with encouragement and ways to sustain this way of living and being. 

Admittedly, I have not yet ventured into even a one-week protocol at this point, but I am taking the steps to clear my cabinets, be mindful of what I eat, when I eat, and even why I am eating. I’ve been feeling “polluted” lately and want to cleanse my body, my mind, and my spirit. The concepts of an Ayuvedic diet/lifestyle resonate with me. While I am not ready to fully embrace it, I will incorporate the concepts into my day. 

Sperling’s knowledge of the Ayurvedic diet is amazing. She was raised in this tradition as she grew up in India. She has a doctorate in microbiology and has conducted research with the World Health Organization. Impressive credentials, for sure, but what I most liked about Sperling was her writing style and her passion to impart this ancient way of being to others. I highly recommend The Ayurvedic Reset Diet, even if you’re not sure this is the right diet path. It is an eye-opener and life-changer in regard to how, why, and when we choose to eat.

Practical Alchemy: A Guide to the Great Work, by Brian Cotnoir

Practical Alchemy: A Guide to the Great Work, by Brian Cotnoir
Weiser Books, 1578637473, 160 pages, July 2021

Alchemy has been beckoning to me for quite some time, yet it was hard to know where to get started exploring such a vast art with centuries of history. Where should I start? What essential things should I know about this work? How can I implement this into my daily life? These questions and more were all answered in Practical Alchemy: A Guide to the Great Work by Brian Cotnoir. In this extremely useful guidebook, Cotnoir does a wonderful job of contextualizing alchemy and providing a foundation one can start their journey from.

To begin, Cotnoir offers the motto of the Mutus Liber of 1677: “Ora, lege, lege, lege, release, labora et invenies. “Pray, read, read, read, reread, work, and you shall discover.””1 He reminds the reader that “alchemy is a living process and is always working with living substances.”2 It very much feels like this sentiment has been imbued into the book itself, which seems to have a potent energy to it, similar to that of a well-used grimoire.

This could be because the book is a compilation of so many different alchemist’s work along with pictures, tables, and illustrations of different cycles adding to the substance of the text. Practical Alchemy is definitely a good starting point for one’s own research for this reason. Cotnoir does a good job of showing how alchemy has evolved by looking at the different approaches to it over the centuries, and therefore, this range of various references does not feel generalized or superficial. If anything, it demonstrates an excellent weaving together of a huge body of knowledge to show it’s evolution through time.

What I most appreciate about Cotnoir’s writing is that it’s not cryptic, nor intended to conceal. As he describes, alchemy is filled with “ways[s] of concealing from fools the precious knowledge of transmutation.”3 While I certainly appreciate the lengths alchemists took to conceal this esoteric knowledge, it nevertheless makes it a daunting task to start putting together the different pieces of the puzzle. Cotnoir is such a kind mentor, describing how the information was obscured, such as in different texts or by switching the names of materials, and provides guidance on how to overcome these barriers when undertaking your own alchemical work.

Practical Alchemy is divided into two parts: “Theory” and “Practice”. The first section, “Theory,” covers topics such as the elements (and how their rotation is integral to alchemy), the Three Principles (Mercury, Sulphur, Salt), prima mater, alchemical cosmology (planetary spheres, fixed stars), alchemical timing (lunar months, planetary hours, ways to divide the year), interrelation of micro- and macrocosmic, and the inner work to achieve gnosis. The section concludes with the tabula smaragdina, or “The Emerald Tablet”, translated in both Latin and English.

I was happy to realize that being an astrologer already has prepared me for certain aspects of alchemy, such as planetary days and hours and lunar months, which I had never realized were components of an alchemical practice. I appreciated the historical information about how these aspects of alchemy blend together to be part of the greater cosmology. To be honest, it’s only recently I had the realization that I can break free from current cosmology, as in I can explore beyond the Big Bang theory.

With all the advances since medieval times, I sometimes think that former cosmologies are written off as primitive or no longer relevant, but I feel like shifting the paradigm to embrace an alchemical mindset about the world is an important part of getting started on this path. Cotnoir gently guides readers into expanding their perception by detailing how other alchemists came to understand the world in this way through time and provides a wonderful overview of alchemy’s foundation as a living body of knowledge.

The second part of the book, “Practice”, is where I started to feel simultaneously in over my head and astounded that there’s so much for me to learn. 

“Here we enter into the body of alchemy–the physical process. Nature must lead both in material and in method. Nature is your true book. Study it well.”4

In this section, Cotnoir delves into many ways to manipulate matter through rotating the elements, from calcination to dissolution and fermentation to sublimation. Up until now, I primarily have related to the spiritual dimensions of these techniques, but this section brought them to life in the material world for me. I began to notice the relationship between alchemy and chemistry and think about how I might go about doing some physical alchemical experimenting. Let’s just say, if you saw my holiday wish-list, you’d think I was setting up a small lab, which in many ways it seems like I will be in order to pursue alchemy on this level.

Cotnoir suggests starting with the basics: water, wine and vinegar, and Salt of Tartar. For each one, he provides detailed instructions about the process, including temperature needed and amount of time required for steps. From there, he describes how to distill water, wine (to make Spirit of Wine, followed by instructions on how to rectify this), and vinegar. For further work, Cotnoir describes the process of creating Archaeus of Water, Angel Water, and Spirit Wine of the Sages. He also includes directions to purify salts using calcification, crystallization, and sublimation.

One of my favorite chapters came next, “The Herbal Work”, in which Cotnoir details how the Three Principles can be obtained by plants through fermentation, distillation, and calcification. “The herbal work consists of separating the Principles, purifying them, and then recombing them.”5 The process of doing this is called spagyry. Cotnoir once again provides thorough instructions. This time he describes how to create spagyric tinctures, herbal Magistries, and spagyric Plant Stone. Furthermore, he provides background information on how to use these plant-based alchemical preparations as medicines and initiatory substances on one’s alchemical journey.

The rest of the book includes information on working alchemically with minerals, aurum potabile, the Opus Magnum, and a highly informative appendices. The appendices cover laboratory safety and equipment, more techniques (including information for making essential oils), and a long lists of plant correspondences for all seven planets. Cotnoir makes it very easy to find what one is looking for in the book, and the resources are so incredibly useful as reference. 

For those who do feel the tug to learn more about alchemy, I highly recommend following the calling to read this book. It’s a must-have for beginner alchemists, and I’m sure it would be enjoyed by someone who’s been alchemically experimenting for some too. The recipes alone make it worth adding to one’s book collection! I am eager to begin my journey into the physical side of alchemy, more assured than ever before from the information in this guidebook.

I believe Practical Alchemy will naturally draw readers ready for its information at the right time. And honestly, there’s no rush for the Great Work. It would be highly discouraged to start upon this work if one did not truly feel ready for what it may yield. Preparation is an important part of the alchemical process. Reading Practical Alchemy was a fantastic way to gain the preliminary information needed, as well as the confidence, to move forward on this path. Cotnoir has done a truly exemplary job of writing a useful, relevant guidebook packed with practical information.

Pagan Portals – Blodeuwedd, by Jhenah Telyndru

Pagan Portals – Blodeuwedd, by Jhenah Telyndru
Moon Books, 1785352126, 134 pages, August 2021

Most faith-based belief systems have similarities ranging from deities and methods of worship and ritual to their myths and legends. In Pagan Portals – Blodeuwedd, Jhenah Telyndru takes us on a deep dive into who the Welsh goddess is, where she came from, and what she symbolizes. 

An in-depth researcher who leaves no stone unturned, Telyndru has masterfully taken an enormous amount of data and compiled it into healthy bites that present an interesting tale. Like most of the Celtic Britons, the Welsh people opted to share their stories through oral tradition, resulting in limited resources from which to pull when putting together a book such as this. Telyndru has woven a magical tale of a goddess whose origin story sounds a lot like that of Eve.

One of the reasons why I love exploring religious cultures and their deities is the thread of consistency that connects most, if not all, of the religions we see today. We are all familiar with the Christian tale of Eve: a woman created from the rib of Adam, the first man, and what she has come to represent. A similar thread appears in the Welsh goddess’ story as well.

In Blodeuwedd’s story, she is created to be the wife of Lleu, a man who is forbidden to marry a human woman due to trickery. Lleu and his father create Blodeuwedd out of oak, broom, and meadowsweet flowers and the two are married. Once married, Lleu is gifted lands by his father and the two settle down.

One day, Lleu decides to visit his father and leaves the estate under Blodeuwedd’s care. He leaves, and Blodeuwedd is informed that a lord from a neighboring kingdom is on her lands. He and his party had been hunting a stag and had followed the animal onto her lands. She extends the hospitality of her hall to him, as is the custom, and sparks fly. They spend a few nights together and they come up with a plan to spend the rest of eternity together. These things never turn out the way they are supposed to, and both Blodeuwedd and her lover are found and punished.

What’s interesting to me is the fact that Blodeuwedd was not given a choice, much like the Christian Eve. They were both created to serve a function, and once they discovered that there was more to life than their specific function, they were punished. This theme carries through into real life as well, with women bearing the brunt of man’s anger and suspicion throughout the ages. You needn’t look far back in time to see glimpses of this: it’s everywhere.

The book details the circumstances around the creation of Blodeuwedd and explains why her creation story was a bit tricky to accept. Telyndru explains:

“It is notable that we don’t see Blodeuwedd give consent to her marriage…Even if we assume she has given consent “off stage”… as a literal newborn, would Blodeuwedd have even possessed the understanding or capacity required to make such a choice?…she has no family to negotiate the terms of the marriage on her behalf. She has been created specifically for the purpose of being Lleu’s wife, since her creator is Gwydion, Lleu’s uncle, it is clear that his priority is to see his nephew wed…”1

Telyndru continues:

“…Blodeuwedd is married the same day she steps into this world… it is this very lack of consent which may have stood out to the contemporary medieval audience, leading them to consider that the marriage…may not have been proper or legal.”2

This is important because Blodeuwedd’s apparent adultery was not considered to have been that; according to their customs, her union with Gronw, the lord from the other kingdom, fulfilled very specific requirements involving three nights of consecutive sleeping together as a sort of elopement. Since her ‘marriage’ to Lleu did not have her consent, and therefore did not seem legal or proper, she couldn’t have committed adultery. What a fascinating twist! Despite all that though, it should come as no surprise that this story was meant as a cautionary tale to the medieval audience: “nothing good comes of women seeking to change their circumstances, especially when it goes against the status quo.”3

This book, while fascinating and wonderfully written, had parts that really upset me. I see echoes of this story everywhere I look, where women regularly sacrifice their own dreams in order to look after the home and support her partner. Personally, I am tired of the expectation that I should shelve my own aspirations in order to support my partner in achieving their goals. I didn’t even get into the sexual repression and how women’s sexual agency is an apparent threat as the whole thing just infuriates me. Not Telyndru’s fault or anything they have done, it’s the topics that this particular legend covers that just irks me.

Having said that, I think it’s vital that we read things such as this in order to see where these ideas come form and hopefully create new ones that are in alignment with current equality expectations. And honestly, the legend of Blodeuwedd doesn’t stop with the whole adultery thing. Becoming the Goddess of Sovereignty isn’t just about agency, it’s also about creating opportunities for those who would rule to prove themselves worthy of the task. As her legend evolved, Blodeuwedd morphs into a benevolent Goddess who was instrumental in creating an opportunity for Lleu and Gronw to achieve their destinies.

If you have even an inkling of an interest in this type of legend, you should pick Pagan Portals – Blodeuwedd. It infuriated me in parts and made me happy in others, and that’s really what I want in a book. Telyndru did a remarkable job in putting together a ton of information in an easy-to-understand way. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a patriarchy I have to topple.

A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming, by Lee Adams

A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Methods for Working with the Deep Dream State, by Lee Adams
Destiny Books, 1644112373, 192 pages, 2021

In his practical guidebook, A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Methods for Working with the Deep Dream State, Lee Adams provides the reader with step-by-step information for lucid dreaming. A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming is a compilation of “articles, blog posts and studies”1 Adams has done over the past two decades. He explains in the beginning of the book: “I am a dreamer and have been all my life.”2

With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Lee Adams has practiced, researched and taught lucid dreaming for more than 20 years. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He hosts both the podcast Cosmic Echo and the dreamer community taileaters.com from his home base in Port Orchard, Washington.

My interest in this book can be traced to a six-week course that my husband took in lucid dreaming at a local yoga studio. Although he passed on his notes from the class, I was interested in more practical information. With Adams’ teachings, I began to understand more about lucid dreaming and what is possible with practice. In A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming, Adams covers everything for your lucid dreaming journey from “What to Expect” to “Various States of Consciousness” to “Preparing to Dream.” It’s as if he takes you by the hand and invites you to accompany him on his private journey to lucid dream land!

Adams calls the higher areas of the unconscious “The Self” and shares his goal for the book: “to provide an “easy-to-follow path to help you build your lucid dreaming skills.”3 He promises to share not only “science and techniques” but also his own dreams and dream journal excerpts.4 He defines lucid dreaming as “the most basic definition being the act of dreaming while being aware that one is dreaming.”5 He suggests that the reader get in touch with your personal motivations for lucid dreaming. Under your “Why?” lies your reason, your intention and your focus for this practice. “Understanding your reasons for embarking on this journey will focus your path. Having a clear intention for your journey is another key to success.”6

One of the first topics Adams discusses is the importance of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Next, he discusses the importance of “getting quality rest” and tips on how to do this. Adams follows up with his list of “Daily Habits to Promote Sleep”, which includes being exhausted, exercise, diet, and supplements.7 A bedtime routine is discussed in the next section and Adams shares lots of tips. My favorite technique was “The Talk” and how he discusses the importance of actively engaging with your unconscious mind. He suggests that you either write down or say out loud the things bothering you. In this way, you can release those bothersome things and get to sleep. He also says audibly, “It’s time for bed” to signal to his unconscious mind that he is ready for sleep.

Adams also shares how dreams occur in both REM sleep and Non-REM sleep. He talks about dream memory and how to foster better dream recall, including information from some scientific studies and how some supplements may help. In his lucid dreaming process, Adams shares 7 steps, including “good sleep hygiene and intention setting.”8 We all dream, says Adams, and we remember parts of dreams and may forget some other parts. He has a great list of techniques from “Easy” to “Intermediate” to “Expert” to help you remember your dreams.

The information Adams shares on symbols and dream interpretation was the most interesting portion of the book to me. He talks about Carl Jung and Jung’s use of symbols and archetypes for dream interpretation. Later in the book, he shares ideas from Jung’s mentor Sigmund Freud and two other men, Medard Boss and Martin Heidegger.

If you begin to notice the symbols in your dreams and bring them into your waking life, you can learn even more about the dream symbolism and the messages from your unconscious. He gives an example of when he dreamed about a panda. He created a clay panda and placed it on his nightstand. Then, he had more dreams and came to learn about a man (who looked like a panda!) and began to ask the man about dreams and reality in his lucid dreams.

The whole idea of interacting with the symbols in your dreams is new to me. I was intrigued to try this in my dream life. I took a dream I had a few weeks ago and used an interpretation technique that Adams shared. A symbol that figured prominently was a car, in which I was a passenger and no one was driving. Using Adam’s technique, I sat with this image and recalled the dream “as if for the first time.” Then I listened to any intuitive hits I received about the dream. Finally, I considered how the dream relates to me personally.

I began to see how this dream represented how I feel like “I am not in the driver’s seat” in my career. That I am just riding along, going wherever the job takes me. I also was able to see some ideas about regaining control, asking for what I need at the office and making the most of the upcoming annual review period to request more support.

To make the book even more helpful, Adams has included a great Table of Contents, a complete index of terms and an exhaustive bibliography. Throughout the book, Adams shares various online forums and resources for the lucid dreaming student. All of these elements add to the overall promise of the book: to share the journey and documentation of his personal dream work.

Adams’ writing style is very conversational and entertaining in A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming. He peppers his scientific data with personal examples and information from other authors, as well. He has definitely lived his material and it really shows in the pages of his book. I feel that this book is best for a serious lucid dreaming student. Someone who already has experience keeping a dream journal would really benefit from the techniques and tips Adams shares.

The Tree Horoscope, by Daniela Christine Huber

The Tree Horoscope: Discover Your Birth-Tree and Personality Destiny, by Daniela Christine Huber
Earthdancer, 9781644113226, 144 pages, October 2021

Did you know that everyone has a birth-tree based on the day they were born?  In The Tree Horoscope: Discover Your Birth-Tree and Personality Destiny, Daniela Christine Huber describes the 22 different archetypal trees that shape your personality and lifestyle. As someone who absolutely loves nature, especially trees, it has been a pleasure getting to know more about my signature tree horoscope. The best part is how Huber makes it easy to jump right in and get started!

The book starts out with an introduction to Celtic tree mythology and Daniela’s experience of working with these energies. Previously, I had learned the Celtic tree-months while reading A Spell in the Forest by Roselle Angwin, which covered the Ogham calendar and the 13-month wheel of the year in which tree-months were connected to lunar cycles. Huber has created horoscope profiles based on the archetypal Celtic tree energies. She reminds us that “Following the path of this connection with Nature with our hearts will lead us to the Source, the roots within us.”1

In Huber’s system, each Celtic tree appears twice in the cycle of the year, with the expectation of Oak, Birch, Olive, and Beech that have just one day assigned to them. Every birth-tree also is assigned an earth element (earth, water, fire, air, ether) and Huber offers a short description of the energy of each. She also discusses how connecting with the element of our birth-tree can help restore balance and fulfill emotional and psychological needs. She describes how “Our birth-tree is the guardian of our individual potential; it will always remind us of that fact and help us to become aware of our gifts and talents.”2

There’s an easy to follow chart in the front of the book that makes it easy to find one’s birth date and look up their birth-tree. Mine is Cedar of Lebanon, so I went right to that page first. Immediately I was struck by the beauty of the photograph featured. I think the pictures in this book are one of it’s best attributes. It’s one thing to read about the different trees, but to see photographs of them really helps with identification. I like having a visual when connecting with the energy of my birth-tree.

For every tree, there is information about the elemental family, gifts and talents of those with the tree energy, the tree’s mantra (called “Carpe arborem” by Huber), the tree’s symbolism, and the path of life for people born with this birth-tree. The path of life is the longest section of each horoscope. Then there is a general overview of the personality of people with the birth-tree, healing powers of the tree, birth-tree power, and inspiration for someone with the tree’s personality. It’s quite a bit of information packed into just a few pages!

I really resonated with my tree horoscope. It highlighted my personality pretty well. I especially liked learning more about the healing powers of my birth-tree, and I loved my carpe arborem:

“I am freedom of choice, the core from which the creative powers in my life can take effect. I free myself from the limitations of my understanding with humility and reinvent myself over and over again.”3

This was very affirming for me because I feel like I am constantly reinventing myself as I continue to learn and grow. Creativity is a big part of my life, and I felt the connection with the Cedar of Lebanon tree in this regard. To deepen this solidarity with my birth-tree, I decided to order Cedar incense that I can burn to remind myself of the special powers associated with this birth-tree: courage and self-confidence.

I have shared the tree horoscopes in this book with some friends and family. They too have all been delighted with the insight it’s given them. Another neat feature of the book is the birthday calendar in the back, where you can keep track of everyone’s birthday . It lists their birth-trees, as well as famous people also born with that particular birth-tree. I really like how easy it is to keep track of birthdays, while also learning more about the birth-trees and reflecting on how they reflect the energies of people in my life.

Earth energies, such as flower essences and herbal remedies have always been an important part of life. For years, I’ve focused on bridging heaven and earth by teaching how our energy is always reflected in both the natural world and celestial bodies. The Tree Horoscope does a beautiful job of demonstrating this idea by giving readers insight into who they are based on their corresponding birth tree. I absolutely love how the book fosters an ecocentric view of human’s relationship with trees, acknowledging how they influence our development.

All in all, this is a wonderful book for those hoping to learn more about their personality and discover how it is shaped by their birth-tree. I think The Tree Horoscope would make a great birthday gift, though it’s also useful to store birth dates of loved ones to make sure you never miss their special day. The beautiful photographs are a wonderful way to practice tree identification. While this is only a small snippet of the mythology of Celtic trees, the book is a good starting point for those who want to learn more about the different symbolisms and energies of these mighty connectors of heaven and earth. I’ve really loved reading this book and will definitely be referring back to it as the days of the year go by to see which tree energy is present.

A Healer’s Journey to Intuitive Knowing, by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D.

A Healer’s Journey to Intuitive Knowing: The Heart of Therapeutic Touch, by Dolores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N.
Bear & Company Books, 1591433934, 156 pages, July 2021

In this book, which was published posthumously by Dolores Krieger’s estate, the primary goal is to explore how the healing modality of Therapeutic Touch utilizes the healer’s intuition and compassion to move energy and bring about healing. A Healer’s Journey to Intuitive Knowing: The Heart of Therapeutic Touch chronicled experiences by Krieger during her 50+ years as a nurse, instructor, and champion of hands on healing. She wrote this book before her death at the age of 97.

Krieger published several books in her lifetime and was co-founder with Dora Kunz of Therapeutic Touch. She met Kunz when she was a nurse and had just received her Ph.D. degree. (I found a number of articles about both of these women, as well as a man who began his journey by healing horses and then other animals with his hands. Later, he began to channel healing to children, and when he moved to Canada, he became part of a study with Kunz  and Krieger regarding hands on healing.)

As a Reiki Master myself, I was interested in learning more about hands on healing and the roles that intuition, intention and compassion play in the healing process. I was particularly interested in Krieger’s chronicle of the connection between the healer and the person being healed. Her philosophy shared that the person who is laying on hands is simply supporting the person to get in touch with their own ability to heal themselves. 

Including both case histories and information from scientific studies, Krieger showed how Therapeutic Touch (TT) taps into what she calls the “Inner Self” of the healer. TT has been taught in over 80 universities and over 90 countries around the world. Krieger explained the process as: 

“Ancient healing practices that are incorporated into the TT process include the laying on of hands, deep visualization, touch with and without physical contact, sustained centering of the TT therapist’s consciousness, the therapist’s knowledgeable use of certain of her chakras, and the intentional therapeutic use of breath and touch. Prime is the centering of the healer’s consciousness; throughout the TT interaction she remains in the state of ‘sustained centering.’ This becomes the background of the process, as she includes other practices that are appropriate to the condition of each individual seeking healing.”1

Next, she discussed the role of “compassion as power.”2 She saw compassion as “the catalyst or tiny chemical reaction that lights the benevolent intention to help or heal.”3 I’ve read quite a few books on hands on healing and never have I read about the role of compassion. This book gave me a greater understanding of how healing energy works and how I can fine tune my own energy and my energy centers to allow more healing energy to flow through me. 

In discussing the role of the “Inner Self,” which Krieger named “Issie”, she explained that in her view, the Inner Self is “essentially the soul-the spiritual or innermost part of an individual’s being.”4 By doing the grounding, centering and tapping into the essence of oneself, the healer grows and transforms herself along with the healing journeys of her patients. As I read the book and engaged with the steps for healing sessions that she described, I began to use what I was learning to create a different style of healing session for my loved ones and friends.

As I did a healing session for my husband one evening, I was more aware than ever before of my ability to allow the healing energy to flow through me and also became aware of “seeing” the blockage of energy near his large intestine. As I continued to allow the energy to flow, I could see him visibly relax and later he would report a lessening of the pain he had felt and some sense of relief from his diverticulitis. 

Krieger’s writing style is a great combination of scientific paper and compassionate healer notes. I love how she shared 18 in-person healing sessions, complete with her initial thoughts as she approached the person through the assessment and then the “rebalance.”5 While the notes were clear and complete, there is an underlying sense of the compassion she felt for every patient. This came shining through each case study. Later in the book, Krieger also highlighted case notes from distance healing sessions. I especially enjoyed this section, since a lot of my own healing practice happens through long-distance healing requests.

This book is a true compendium on TT and she shared not only a bibliography, but also a glossary, a list of TT resources and an index.  The index is particularly helpful in referring to key ideas in the book. Toward the end of the book, Krieger shared a poem that she wrote “On the Possible Magic of Healing.”  I’ll share a portion of it here, because it is so beautiful and captured the heart of TT:

“Healing is a window into a natural magic.
There it is,
a lump of wounded flesh,
and then touch,
Therapeutic Touch . . .

ABRACADABRAH!

Unseen clouds
Of inert biochemical molecules
Are drawn
In an uncanny manner
To the site of the wound
Quietly
Sorting themselves out en route
To match
The needs of the damaged tissues.”6

As a final note from Krieger, here is a quote on energy:  

“The prime characteristics of energy are that it flows or is continuous as it moves through space, that its flow has a coherence or rhythm, and that it has the capacity to do work.  Its flow has been described on a continuum from slow to fast, strong to weak, unimpeded to congested, tenuous to thick, or quiet to tumultuous, depending upon the situation.  Its rhythm has been characterized as steady or irregular, in harmony or unharmonious, in sync or disorganized.”7 

A Healer’s Journey to Intuitive Knowing would be great for any student of hands on healing, from the new Reiki student to the master of cranial sacral healing to the experienced massage therapist.  Anyone who would like to take their healing practice to a new level will benefit from reading this book. This book will not only improve your abilities to channel healing energies, it will also contribute to your own spiritual growth and transformation.

Sit Down to Rise Up, by Shelly Tygielski

Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World, by Shelly Tygielski
New World Library, 1608687449, 256 pages, October 2021

Self-care is all the rage right now, but how often does it extend outwardly to encompass a community? Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World by Shelly Tygielski is a beautiful reminder of what can happen when honoring the need for mutual support and community as part of our self-care practice. This isn’t a “Ms. Independent” tale of how self-care is synonymous with “me-first”; it’s a potent story of struggling to make one’s way through life amid challenge and still choosing to show up each and every day for yourself and the people who count on you.

Through this book, Tygielski candidly recalls stories of her past, even some of her family’s tales too, as she guides readers to rediscover meaning in their life, overcome limiting mindsets, and build encompassing communities that redefine the structures of society. She starts off by reminding readers of their own agency, which she likens to free will. In the section “Forget the Guru, Find the Yuru” (which I loved!) she writes:

“We all spend a lifetime climbing the proverbial mountain with an expectation that we’ll find a wise person at the top who will tell us the meaning of life. This person doesn’t exist, I promise. The ability to thrive, love, be happy, and fulfill all comes from within. Every single bit of it. It comes from the realization that we have been bestowed with the gift of agency to choose how and when to cultivate it in ourselves.”1

Once the reader has been reminded of the importance of them actively participating in their journey, Tygielski moves through a whole range of heartfelt wisdom she’s cultivated in life, channeling through her relatable stories of how she built this practice for herself. I for one always love hearing someone else’s story; it gives me motivation and affirmation that if they can do it, I can do it. Chapters include “Good is Good Enough”, “Not Broken”, “Familiarization”, “Sustainable Self-Care”, and more.

I will delve into each a bit more, but I wanted to mention how much I like Tygielski’s style. Tygielski has a way of writing about her experience without making it feel like this book is a tout of her success. It’s almost as though a close friend is having a heart to heart with you about all they’ve gone through recently, revealing their own vulnerabilities, fears, and doubts, as well as how they mustered the strength to keep going.

For instance, Tygielski writes about “deconstructing” ourselves to learn more about the narratives shaping our lives (many of which aren’t the healthiest and deserve some care from us) and then “reconstructing” ourselves in more realistic ways that allow for self-acceptance, grace with our mistakes, and affirmation that we are enough.

I tried this practice myself, after a few months of feeling woefully inadequate and caught up in a comparison-game with others, and found it to be very relieving. It helped me to see what stories I was telling myself and then actively reshape them into a more accurate and honest perspective, bolstered with a dose of “good enough” and self-love.

One of Tygielski’s defining moments in her life is finding out she has uveitis, which is an inflammatory disease of the eye, when she woke up blind one morning! I honestly can’t even imagine how scary this would be for her. She described the sensation, as well as how she had to get her toddler son ready for school without her sight, trying to remain calm until a friend could take her to the hospital.

Since it’s the leading cause of what makes people under 40 go blind and she’d require treatment the rest of her life, being diagnosed with this was a huge shift in her life. Naturally, she spun down a rabbit-hole of fear, but she made a decision to lean into her emotions, rather than try to suppress or deny them, inviting the reader to also stop masking their own pain and find happiness that isn’t based on the condition that things are all good. Tygielski writes, “I came to recognize that by changing my perception of these problems, or if I saw even the worst experience in a different light, I experienced them all differently. I felt set free.”2

It was at this point in her journey that Tygielski began examining her Jewish faith, taking up meditation, and learning more about the path of Buddhism. She describes racing thoughts and the challenges of starting this practice. However, by breaking things into small chunks, she was able to move forward with her goal of practicing self-care.

One of my favorite things Tygielski did was creating “chunks” in her to-do list (which she shares an image of!) that breaks things down into categories. I started doing this with my own to-do this and have found the organization of it to be both practical and pleasing. So, the book has not only meaningful inspiration, but also real examples that can be practiced in one’s life to cultivate this foundation.

Tygielski realized this path to change wasn’t going to happen overnight, yet her dedication to working towards getting to the root of her negative thinking, make changes in her life, and develop self-care practices never waivered. Through trial and error, she was able to find a self-care practice that works for her. And while she suggests times to include self-care, such as when transitioning from one thing to another during the day, her message encourages readers to find self-care practices and routines that fit their own lifestyle.

She also reflects on the importance of authentic self-care, as well as how it has been misconstrued in society “by corporations to create a very profitable industrial wellness complex, one that focuses on beauty, happiness, and comfort in the name of self-love and self-compassion.”3 YES! I am really glad she pointed that out, while also explaining how self-care is a key component to making the world a better place through participatory transformation.

What I like most about Sit Down to Rise Up is how Tygielski brings it outward to her community. During the pandemic, she created a grassroots mutual aid organization called Pandemic of Love. She explores the importance of mutual aid, which once was the center of community-life, but has recently disappeared in our modern culture.

Reviving this solidarity and calling upon the strength of one’s village is a self-care practice in itself, one that has a power to change the very fabric of society as people choose to offer love, kindness, generosity, and support, even to those who seem very unlike themselves. Tygielski’s organization has grown exponentially, and I’m glad because she has her priorities straight and an agenda that is truly devoted to service.

“The success and growth of Pandemic of Love proved that mutual aid goes beyond charity by mobilizing humans on behalf of humanity. It provides us with a powerful vision of the type of alternative society that is possible, one where we can be a global community connected by cooperative compassion and where we are no longer consumers in endless capitalist competition.”4

I am all on board with this call to practice self-care on behalf of not only oneself, but the entire world, so perfectly framed by Tygielski. If this message speaks to you, if you’re ready to change the world by going through the effort of changing yourself first, then Sit Down to Rise Up is definitely a must-read. It’s inspiring, empowering, and liberating to one’s spirit. As we change ourselves, the world around us changes too. By caring for ourselves, we learn how to create communities that care for others as well. I’m thrilled to see Tygielski’s community thriving — its success definitely points to what the heart of society is longing for right now.