A Collective Gathering Place for Readers, Writers, and Seekers

The Inner Work of Age, by Connie Zweig, Ph.D.

The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul, by Connie Zweig, Ph.D.
Park Street Press, 9781644113400, 393 pages, September 2021

As a woman of a “certain age”, I was not surprised when the Universe placed The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul by Connie Zweig, Ph.D. in my hands. Of course, the information would be pertinent as I contemplated taking an early retirement option to join others in what is being termed the “Great Resignation”. And yes, I had faced a life-alerting disease that served as a wake-up call. The real question though, was how receptive I would be to doing the inner work offered in the book to shift from “role to soul.”

Dr. Zweig explores the “inner ageist” that exists in us, and in parables, stories, and interviews, “uncovers a realm of aging that is unexplored territory: the unconscious, or Shadow.”1 The book explores ways to remove inner obstacles to aging from the inside out and in doing so, connect to the soul.

Aging is not an option, of course. But how do we shift from a role-centered life to a soul-centered life? If you ask someone to tell you a little about themselves odds are they begin with describing what they do for a living; their role that’s earn money is often their first identity. The shift to doing one’s soul work, transitioning to the role of the Elder, does not automatically manifest due to one’s chronological age. It requires intention and inner work, which is outlined in the book.

The book is divided into four parts. Part One centers on Divine Messengers and offers ways to age from the inside out. How does one break one’s identification solely with one’s role and focusing on nourishing one’s soul? It describes three portals to aging consciously – shadow awareness (the portal to depth), pure awareness (the portal to silent vastness), and mortality awareness (the portal to presence). It also explores two divine messengers – retirement and life-changing illness.

This section of the book most resonated with me. The chapter on retirement offered me the opportunity to explore what was holding me back from accepting a very generous retirement package and shifted my focus to wanting time affluence – time to do what I want, when I want to do it – versus a fixation on financial affluence – and facing my shadow of fearing financial destitution.

Part Two focuses on Life Review and Life Repair where one is offered the chance to work in ways to review one’s life – both lived and unlived and the ways to repair and release the past in order to live more fully in the present. The section offers ways to repair one’s past, to look back and reconcile to move towards closure. In reframing the negative, one can see betrayals as initiations into the shadow.

The focus of Part Three is on moving from Hero to Elder and describes the many forms of the Elder archetype – the spiritual, the creative, the Earth, and the activist among others. Elder wisdom calls one to “serve something larger than ourselves” while also transmitting knowledge gleaned over one’s lifetime. Part Four centers on Life Completion and consciously moving toward a completed life. It allows one to reimagine death – not as a finality but as the completion of a cycle.

Each chapter of the book begins with a parable that exemplifies the chapter’s focus. Each chapter also contains interviews with a wide range of individuals from mystic Robert Atchely, Buddhist teacher, Anna Douglas, and two of my personal favorites, kirtan chant leader, Krishna Das and Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. The interviews often encapsulate the focus of the chapters in a nutshell. I particularly loved how Marion Woodman spoke about the “crown of age,” knowing that the word crone is derived from the word crown – relating to the crown chakra.

As the book encourages action and inner work, at the end of each chapter one is offered questions focused on Shadow Work practices as well as Spiritual Practices, or “contemplative practices to turn your attention from role to soul.”2

“Each chapter offers practices from shadow-work and spiritual contemplative traditions to help us break through denial, become aware of these inner obstacles, and overcome them. These practices ask us to slow down, turn within, and self-reflect.”3

Dr. Zweig reminds the reader that “as each of us chooses not to merely grow old but to grow whole, to intentionally step across the threshold to become and Elder, we discover that aging can be a spiritual path.”4 There is a lot of “stuff” that comes up as one ages and reaches certain milestones that are too often associated with redundancy, where one feels relegated to the corner of the room, no longer viable, when one’s “doing” slows down and as such, one might be termed a liability to society and instead of an honored and revered member. This inner work, this move to self-awareness will greatly benefit the reader in particular – and one’s community as well.

Dr. Zweig’s writing style is easy to understand despite the book being laced with studies from publications such as the Harvard Gazette, Psychology and Aging, and Scientific American. Her descriptions of sessions with clients offer insight and analysis on various archetypes and Shadows, such as Victim and Victimizer.

I highly recommend reading The Inner Work of Age, but more importantly, I recommend doing the work as prescribed.

“With inner work, we move beyond midlife and cross a threshold into later life, emerging as the Elder. We let go of the striving and the pushing; we let go of the “should.” We release our past identifies but carry all that we’ve learned, all that we love, always, within us. In this way, we are evolving from role to soul.”5

Do the inner work necessary to transition to the role of Elder – you’ve earned that crown. Wear it with pride.

Rituals of the Soul, by Kori Hahn

Rituals of the Soul: Using the 8 Ancient Principles of Yoga to Create a Modern & Meaningful Life, by Kori Hahn
New World Library, 978-1608687527, 240 pages, October 2021

There are times when you start reading yet another book about yoga and you think to yourself: “Is it worth my time? Is this one going to just be like all the others?” Sadly, that is sometimes the case: the book provides the same information, just wrapped up in slightly different packaging. But this is definitely NOT the case for Rituals of the Soul: Using the 8 Ancient Principles of Yoga to Create a Modern & Meaningful Life by Kori Hahn! I was absolutely delighted to surf my way through this book (Kori loves ocean metaphors and is an avid surfer), and I think other readers will find it an incredible guide on their spiritual journey.

As you move through the pages, it’s quite clear that Kori’s book (her first!) is a labor of love and comes directly from the soul – which is exactly what the book is all about. More than achieving an intellectual understanding of yoga – or solely enhancing the physical exercises that the western world associates with this practice – Rituals of the Soul was created to help readers completely transform their lives. The book proves to be both an excellent source of information about the holistic practice of yoga, as well as a fantastic aid to help the reader develop a blend of spiritual exercises attuned to the unique path of their own soul.

The main current that Kori presents to us is that connecting with our intuition is the key to manifesting the dreams that flow from our deepest source – the soul. However, this book is not just about how to manifest the values given to us by society (or even our biology): financial security, success, notoriety, pleasure, etc. All of these things may come with realizing the dreams of our soul, but these are not the goal. Nor, Kori tells us straight-up, is this dream manifestation itself the purpose of yoga. “Your dream isn’t the ultimate goal. It’s merely a tool for soul growth through the eight-step yoga process.”1

It is exactly this sort of direct message that sets Rituals of the Soul apart from other books. Kori is not trying to “sell” her readers on an idea or set of beliefs. She is describing a path – a way of journeying, not simply a route – that she has found for herself, and is lovingly sharing of herself in the hope that others discover their own way of spiritual growth. Thus, what she is doing throughout the book is providing a set of techniques aimed at helping the reader become better at listening to the messages of their soul. In doing this, the reader can discover the way of spiritual growth that is unique to their own soul’s journey.

Even as I am writing this review, I feel a closeness with Kori that I don’t get from reading many other authors – something I didn’t even realize until I noticed myself referring to her on a first-name basis. At the same time that Kori is sharing her yogic knowledge, she is also sharing her own story: the lived experiences that were pivotal to her coming to the realizations she is now passing on to us. Rather than a lofty guru who is speaking from a place of mastery, Kori’s narrative sections demonstrate how much of an “average human being” she is, and how her life transformed through the deep yogic practice she presents in the book.

Rituals of the Soul has a very simple structure: one chapter each for the introduction and conclusion, and one chapter on each one of the eight steps in the yoga process. Again, Kori excels with her simplicity and directness! The eight steps of yoga that serve as the foundation of her approach are based upon principles she has distilled from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, an ancient text discussing the principles of yoga. I was surprised to learn that almost none of the Sutras deals directly with the physical practice of yoga – most of them pertain to the other, more expansive aspects of the yoga process.

This very idea is another one of Kori’s main points: most people who practice yoga in the modern world are barely scratching the surface. The postures and breath work that constitute most yoga classes, while beneficial, are ultimately meant to serve as tools for opening ourselves to our intuition – the primary means by which our soul can guide us towards growth. When all eight steps of the yoga process are integrated into one’s life, they build upon and reinforce one another, enabling the practitioner to live the dreams of their soul.

I am also deeply impressed with the thoughtful way that Kori structures her chapters. In the opening section of each one, she uses a story from her life to help create a backdrop for the more in-depth discussion of the topic. I like this strategy because it makes the principle immediately relatable to human life, and also demonstrates the principle put into practice.

After her discussion of the principles, Kori then provides clear, concrete methods for how to integrate that principle into your own spiritual practice. This could be different styles of meditation, postures, or exercises to open yourself to the whispers of your intuition. She presents these merely as examples, encouraging you to find the methods that speak most to you, and provides a step-by-step guide of how to build a spiritual practice that you can gradually incorporate into your life.

Kori’s ability to speak from a place of understanding is one of the shining features of Rituals of the Soul. She is able to offer you her wisdom and guidance in a structured, yet flexible, system – helping you to develop a style of spiritual practice that you actually can integrate into your daily life. This is not to say that doing so will be an easy journey – souls experience growing pains too – but Kori delivers a very down to earth presentation and approach that leaves you feeling much more confident in your ability to expand your spiritual journey.

All in all, I think this is an excellent book for readers who want to feel a connection with a guru, but may not be able to take up an in-person practice at the moment. Or even if you do have a spiritual teacher, Kori’s book would be a great supplement to their instruction. As Kori points out, your soul chose to be incarnated here and now for a reason, and cultivating the disciplines that allow you to better listen to its subtle messages can unveil a life of amazing possibilities. Even if you already know a thing or two about yoga and/or have spiritual practices of your own, her spirit comes through loud and clear in the book and can help further ignite your passion to follow the dreams of your soul.

360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny, by Ellias Lonsdale

360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny: A Zodiac Oracle, by Ellias Lonsdale
Destiny Books, 1644112825, 416 pages, August 2021

As a huge fan of Sabian symbols, I was eager to read Ellias Lonsdale’s latest book 360 Degree of Your Star Destiny. While this book is based on Chandra Symbols, which differ from Sabian symbols, I very much enjoyed reading about the esoteric wisdom of each degree in the zodiacal wheel. Lonsdale’s poetic writing brings astrological energy to life, filled with metaphor and imagery, going beyond the static, traditional interpretations of these potent power points.

Before diving in, I think it’s beneficial to highlight the differences between these various star degree systems. Sabian symbols were channeled in 1925 by Elsie Wheeler, along with assistance from Marc Edmund Jones. The story is actually quite lovely and can be read here. Master astrologer Dane Rudhyar  was fascinated with the symbols and interrupted them through his own lens.

However, Lonsdale, who has studied with both Rudhyar and Jones, drew inspiration for this book from the Chandra system, which was channeled by John Sandbach in 1983. Sandbach’s spirit guide, Chandra, which is Sanskrit for “Moon”, shared the symbols with Sandbach in the span of four hours one afternoon. He intended for those symbols to facilitate new awareness in astrologers, going beyond the labels of some degrees as “negative” and some as “positive”. His aim was for astrologers to be able to tune into the energy of these points, which is ever changing, without overthinking or over-rationalizing the symbolic meaning.1

With this foundation laid, Lonsdale has continued the work. 360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny is a collaborative work between Lonsdale, his current partner, Sharuna, and his former partner Sarah, in the form of spirit guide Haven, having passed beyond this world. It was channeled while Lonsdale and Sharuna lived in a “wildly open state”2 in the Singing Hills, bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It has taken them nearly 25 years to write this book based on the original transmissions.

Tapping into the Chandra Symbols’ energy is very intuitive when following Lonsdale’s method. Detailed are the “core activator”, or word image, for the nine planets, along with Rising Sign, Moon’s nodes, and asteroids Vesta, Juno, Ceres, and Pallas. The core activor descriptions of the planets are intended to help the reader connect with the esoteric wisdom of astrology. The descriptions of the planets based on their core activating imagery really adds a new dimension to one’s relation with each planet. For instance, here is part of the description for “Pluto as Winged Prophecy”3 (core activator: winged prophecy”):

“The true Plutonian depth process keeps us perpetually in the dark, yet it is a laser that reveals whatever we need to know to move deeper in order to get through the underworld. Clairsentience shows us that we do not need to see nor hear in the physical or subtle worlds. All is vibrationally and immensely re-creative.”4

I find there’s great advantage in relating to the planets through this core activation imagery. It brought the planets alive for me in a new way. Two that were especially revelatory for me were “Mercury as Intonation”5 and “Mars as Being and Becoming”6 Lonsdale’s elucidation on this word imagery renewed my  connection to the planets, inviting me to relate to them in a way different that I normally do.  He reminded me that planetary energy is both malleable, ever-changing, and multi-dimensional.

“In this way each planet opens as a portal and an evolutionary impulse into uncharted waters. So the planets don’t just tell us how it has always been. They reveal the mystery of what can be, as all is moving forward and deeply through us at any given time.”7

After opening the reader to all the planetary energies, Londales then delves into all the Chandra symbols and their star spark, which is the interpretation of the symbol. The book moves from Aries-Pisces, starting with the first degree and moving upward. In this system, the degree should always be rounded up. For instance, my natal Sun at 29 degrees Aquarius would be rounded up to 30 degrees. And speaking of this, let me share my star spark to give you an idea of Lonsdale’s poetically thought-provoking writing style:

“Aquarius 30
A large pool filled with white water lilies in bloom
Light in the spirit food that permeates the ethers of the planet with all that we need to grow and evolve. It’s a signal, a direct emanation of that sense that there is so much more where this came from. To inhale light in abundance is to be greatly blessed, honored, show the way.”

This is only a small snippet, yet I felt like there is so much wisdom in just this paragraph that I want to meditate on it for a week. I mean, naturally, I was so eager and curious that I read through all my natal planets immediately. But now that I went and did that, I can spend time with each Chandra symbol and let it’s insight reveal itself to me as I ponder the star spark and how it energetically shows up in my life. I have been taking it slow to absorb the information, and this delicacy with the imagery and interpretation has made all the difference.

I am trained in depth psychology, and one of the greatest things I learned is that you can’t rush the unconscious mind, which views the world in symbols, metaphor, myth and imagery. What is hidden must be accessed by indirect routes, allowing the mind to open and reveal itself as it feels ready. You can’t force the process, though it can be guided with the right words and images. This is what 360 Degrees of Wisdom has been for me: a subtle and powerful guide into the more esoteric wisdom of the planets, as well as the more subtle layers of energy in play within my own astrological chart.

Another way that I have been connecting with the Chandra Symbols is through drawing. By sketching and coloring the symbol, I feel like I am opening up new channels within myself for information to flow through. I have even tried translating my interpretation of the symbol and star spark into poetry. The beauty of this book is the invitation to be creative in how one approaches planetary energy and becomes attune to it in their own life.

Lonsdale writes how the reader can use the Chandra Symbols to learn about their natal chart (as I have been doing), as well as a form of divination by opening to a page to take in its meaning, following meaningful transits, and looking back on special moments in life to see what the planetary energy was at that time. These symbols and star sparks help to create meaning about one’s  astrology journey.

I plan on moving more slowly through the star sparks in my natal chart, moving towards each planet as it calls to me. Right now I am really wanting to work with Mars a bit more closely. The star spark feels SO resonant that it’s soul-warming. Here’s the Chandra symbol and part of the star spark for my natal Mars:

“Capricorn 15
A woman wearing a necklace of skulls
At the center of the maze, in the heart of darkness, she stumbles on the power that is given her, the power she cannot deny. She goes anywhere and everywhere in her search to become the other. Then she returns to the place she started from and the magic is right there, stronger than ever, refusing to be held within the structure and forms she tries to impose on it.”8

I have been reading this paragraph to myself every morning. I feel it within me, and it taps into an inner source of power I often overlook, though I cannot consciously describe what hits me so deeply. The imagery is especially potent for me since my middle name is Kali, a Hindu goddess often portrayed wearing a necklace of skulls! I have even thought about purchasing a necklace with a skull on it to remind me of my Mars energy. And this is what is so amazing about all the ways the Chandra symbols can be integrated into one’s own practice.

The core activators of the planets are not closed-off, bound definitions of each planet, nor are the star sparks walled-in interpretations. There’s so much room for contemplation, application, growth, and revelation within Lonsdale’s system, which make it mighty appealing to this philosophical astrologer.

I am also excited to refer to the Chandra Symbols and star sparks during certain impactful transits, such as Saturn crossing my descendent. I feel like going into the energy of that degree, while keeping in mind the planetary activator of Saturn, will help make the experience more meaningful. I certainly believe this consciousness to our transits can impact how we experience them, and I’m grateful Lonsdale has shared his channeled wisdom about each degree to help guide us in the process.

I highly recommend 360 Degrees of Your Star Destiny for those looking to expand their relationship with planetary energy. As I’ve said, these are not text-book definitions. Lonsdales has done a wonderful job of translating multifaceted, ever-changing energy into imagery that one can use as a starting point to delve deeper into the insight of the stars.

If you are someone who enjoys working with imagery, either as an artistic, writer, or depth-psychologist, this is definitely a must-have for one’s astrological collection. Because of the simplicity of the method and boundless possibilities of integrating the Chandra Symbols and star sparks, I think this is a great book for astrological beginners. Though even those who have lived by the stars for quite some time are sure to find something meaningful in Lonsdale’s works.

I keep thinking this book would be great to explore as a group, perhaps through meditation, art, or poetry. I would really enjoy discussing it with others, and for that reason, I plan on recommending it to friends. There’s something about it that calls to be shared, as though the information doesn’t want to be static and wants to keep moving. Perhaps it’s been passed along to you now! 🙂 

Manifestation Magic, by Elhoim Leafar

Manifestation Magic: 21 Rituals, Spells, and Amulets for Abundance, Prosperity, and Wealth, by Elhoim Leafar
Weiser Books, 9781578637423, 192 pages, July 2021

In Manifestation Magic: 21 Rituals, Spells, and Amulets for Abundance, Prosperity, and Wealth, Elhoim Leafar truly delivers on his description of this book as “a practical guide to prosperity magic using amulets, talismans and rituals.”1 This wonderful book is written in three parts:

  1. Magic & Sorcery
  2. Abundance, Prosperity and Wealth
  3. Desires, Wishes and Spells

Born in Venezuela into a family of healers, Leafar draws on his spiritual and magical traditions to not only live an abundant life, but to also share his tools and tips for the reader.  In 2015, he left his native country and moved to New York City with only one suitcase and $15. Five months later, he signed a contract with a publishing firm and published his first book Wicca! Love & Soul.  He has published books in both English and Spanish.

I was interested in this book because I began investigating magic and forms of manifestation over the past two years.  The title was intriguing, as well as the number of rituals and spells that the author promised to provide. 

The book is very easy to read and  I found it both entertaining and educational.  Leafar’s style is down-to-earth and he speaks to the reader as if you were sitting across a table enjoying a coffee or meal.  He shares information from his heart and you can tell that he has years of experience with the tools he shares. He begins by explaining the difference between magic and sorcery, which forms the baseline for the book:

“For many theorists, sorcery includes a group of knowledge, practices, techniques and tools for studying magic.  I propose to use the study of magic for the theoretical and sorcery to refer to the practical application of this knowledge.”2

He goes on to say that it is as important to “unlearn” ideas as it is to learn new ones. I love the idea that you come to this practice with a beginner’s mind and see magic and manifestation with new eyes.  He goes on to say that “your magic skills work like a muscle.”3  He recommends that you use the visualizations and tools regularly and even goes so far as to recommend how often to utilize certain techniques. 

There are many great visualization exercises throughout the book. The one called “Visualization Magic”4 will help you start your adventure. I recorded the visualization exercise sat on my back patio and enjoyed the sounds of nature while I listened to the recording.  I felt closer to Mother Nature and began to feel my own innate power connecting with the earth and coursing back up through me. 

In the next section, Leafar lists the tools that you will want to use for manifestation, each of which symbolizes an element. These include a cup or chalice for water, a cauldron for earth, candles for fire, and so on. Along with this list, which includes tips on choosing and using each tool, Leafar also provides a “Consecration Ritual,” in easy steps.

Leafar recommends that you create your very own “Personal Book of Magic.”5  Whether you use a simple spiral notebook, a journal or a folder on your laptop, he lists the ways that this chronicle of your magic journey can aid your growth, as well as celebrate your accomplishments.

I was particularly interested in the chapter that covered using the sun, moon, and planets in magic. As an astrology student for the past 15 years, anything that touches on the stars and planets interests me. Leafar’s explanation of when to work with solar energy and when to call on the moon’s magic really hit home for me. He also had brief information on the moon in each of the 12 signs and how that sign’s energy might contribute to your spells or works.

He gave an example of using the moon phases and days of the week for a healing ritual for two sample clients. It helped me to see the importance of working with the phases of the moon and days of the week to “greatly increase your results.”6 Leafar also talks many times about the importance of clarity regarding your intentions.  This is a critical element, not only for rituals and spells, but for your life.

Next, he covered the energy of the days of the week, various Gods and Goddesses, colors, and crystals.  I feel that he presented a very good foundation for the next section, where he goes into background information for abundance. My favorite passage from this section:

“Every time something good happens in your life, every achievement, every joy, every celebration, let it flow and memorize how it feels. Once you have memorized it and embraced it, you will have filed it in your brain and in your soul and enriched yourself with this emotion.”7

In the section Rituals & Spells, Leafar shares 21 rituals for abundance.  My favorite was the Scroll of Abundance. I’m looking forward to seeing how my scroll works on a long term goal. 

Lastly, Leafar shares several prayers that can uplift you and work to call on Divine support.  My favorite was the “Daily Prayer to the Spirit of Prosperity that Rules the West,” which starts with:

“Oh great spirit of prosperity that everything you touch prospers and grows . . .”8

Everything in this book, from the spells to the prayers comes from the heart of this magician and flows like a beautiful river. This book is best for the student of magic, whether a beginner or someone who has practiced spells for a few years.  It is easy to read and comprehend, and many of the rituals and spells are shared in step-by-step processes that anyone can follow. I really enjoyed his writing style and how he shared his knowledge and years of experience with magic.

I look forward to continuing my work with the spells and rituals from Manifestation Magic. I’ve already received a few ideas about modifying the altar I have in my office, as well as continuing my work with the moon in various phases and zodiac placements.

Inner Practices for Twelve Nights of Yuletide, by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung

Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide, by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung
Earthdancer Books,1644113244, 144 pages, October 2021

I’m sure we’ve all felt that liminal in-between realities that occurs between Yule and the New Year, where we are often left wondering “What day is it?” This year, rather than getting lost in the transition of time, I plan to actively integrate the past and divine the future based on what I’ve read in Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide by Anne Stallkamp and Werner Hartung. Filled with meditations and journal prompts, I am  looking forward to delving into the spiritual energy of this sacred time. Reading this book has made me very excited for the Yuletide season, though I am still not fully on board with all of its information.

Originally published in German, this book has been quite the success. Stallkamp and Hartung are a married couple and both are dedicated to spiritual healing. Stallkamp teaches classes on geomancy and spiritual healing, while also working as an interior designer who clears energy in living spaces and arranges to foster energetic balance. Hartung is a medium who also leads workshops on geomancy and spiritual healing, as well as channeling. Both Stallkamp and Werner are Reiki masters too.

I’ve always felt there was a special energy between Christmas and the epiphany, though I’d never realized that other cultures and traditions honored this time as a sacred pause. Stallkamp and Werner briefly mention this, but choose to not delve further into detail, though I wish they had done so to provide a bit more background information. Rather, the book opens with a channelled message from Minerva, known for being a Roman goddess, who asserts herself as a Elohim, or energetic being, in the transmission. Unfortunately, this seemed like a detour from what I had hoped was going to be a book about the Yuletide season; I suppose I was looking for something more grounded and rooted in tradition.

What follows is Stallkamps and Hartung’s system for the twelve nights of Yuletide. For the most part, the twelve nights correspond with traditional Pagan holidays of the solstices and equinoxes, along with cross-quarter days. However, there are some corresponding dates that are not explained at all, plus there is no information about why these dates were selected. I longed for a deeper explanation of how this system works and where the information came from, rather than just a general overview from a channelled message.

The premise of doing these inner practices during the twelve nights of Yuletide is to both reflect upon the year prior and discover what the year ahead will hold. Since there are twelve nights, each one corresponds to a month of the year, though the days vary and this is not thoroughly explained as I already mentioned. Readers are prompted to use reiki to heal and integrate the past year, while also looking to God, the Creator, and our dreams for guidance about our future during this time.

Meaning, by page 20, we are somehow incorporating channeled messages from a Roman goddess/Elohim for Gaia, while corresponding the nights of Yuletide to Pagan holidays, and now we’re supposed to be doing a Japanese form of energy healing and engage in dream interpretation to determine God’s plan for our lives in the next year. Needless to say I was befuddled about the way the authors have presented this system, as it doesn’t seem to have any coherent spiritual basis and is rather a grab-and-go mash up of whatever spiritual path seems suitable for their purpose.

Not to say things can’t all be integrated, but I think it’s too much to piece together in just the opening pages. The remainder of the book is mostly Christianity-centered, even quoting the Old Testament at times, though it does include prayers to Mother Earth. So, if you’re looking to approach Yule from a Pagan perspective, this probably isn’t the best choice.

Now that I’ve vented my frustrations with the book, I will highlight what I like about it. The actual practice of connecting with the past and present during the sacred pause of Yuletide seems like a meaningful spiritual practice. The authors do provide great questions for reflection, meditations, and energy exercises to integrate the past and prepare for the future. I think I will refer to the book during this time and practice some of their suggestions. Though, I will be doing this based on the tenets of my own spiritual practice, rather than the mix-and-match method suggested by the author.

At the very least, this book heightened my interest in the twelve nights of Yuletide and prompts me to be more intentional this season. I will be looking for signs as to what the year might hold for me during this week, as well as consciously tying up loose ends of the past.

Unfortunately, Inner Practices for the Twelve Nights of Yuletide is not a book I will be recommending this holiday season. However, if a reader is willing to look past the spiritual inconsistency and open to the idea that this is a sacred time of transition, they may benefit from engaging in the practices suggested by the authors. I sincerely hope another book is published on this topic, as I feel there is great value from honoring the traditions of this time during the transition from one year to the next.

Psychedelic Consciousness, by Daniel Grauer

Psychedelic Consciousness: Plant Intelligence for Healing Ourselves and Our Fragmented World, by Daniel Grauer
Park Street Press, 9781644110300,  256 pages, July 2020

Daniel Grauer’s book Psychedelic Consciousness: Plant Intelligence for Healing Ourselves and Our Fragmented World goes as wide as it does deep. This book is an inspired inter-mixed odyssey of both the historical and personal in relation to psychedelics, the culture of usage and practice, and the implications and opportunities present to us today. The best thing about this book is that it lacks the usual pretense, which is part of its charm. At it’s heart, this book is a testament to the author’s desire to relay the message that a meaningful, modern personal journey with psychedelics as a spiritual path is both possible and presently available to us all.

In an era where first hand experience trumps all and the very nature of psychedelic experimentalism is often a solo pilgrimage to begin, this book is wonderfully timely. The jump between subjects occasionally feels like leaps, but the author’s aim is evident and reflective here in the book’s construction, providing a landscape that doesn’t sink us into theory but rather invites us into understanding. Psychedelic Consciousness is an optimistic book — one that looks towards the reader with an open-ended invitation.

This book lends itself to thought-work relating both to becoming-aware-of and dismantling our current biases on psychedelic culture and plant medicine. There is an intimate communion with Grauer as he shares his unique path into his own understandings. He offers practical tips for journeying along with a myriad of personal findings through his explorations.

I think many a psychedelic journeyer has reached the moment of desiring to leap into authentic journey into the jungle or connect with indigenous practices, casting aside the nihilistic and/or purely hedonistic usage and entering a deeper mystery, meaning, and mythology of these sacred medicines. It is natural to start longing for something transpersonal, restorative, and spirited. Grauer, in sharing his experience, offers a lens into what this longing can offer and how it influenced him in his own work, his own dream, and his own hope for bridging the indigenous world with the modern practitioner. 

Psychedelic Consciousness calls the reader to the question what it actually means to be on an integrative, integral journey with our plant teachers. Grauer poses the question to us that he asked of himself: If I were to die, what song would I be playing? If the world were to end tomorrow, would I be happy with who I am?

Beyond the individual in relationship to journeying and practice, Grauer calls readers to lean into our relationship with the unseen, which takes both courage and maturity. Trauma and oppressive ideologies bring fragmentation to the psyche, and Grauer posits that it’s our plant allies that can aid us in restoration. Grauer’s pathways of explorations and guidance offer an opportunity to explore how we ourselves relate to our plant teachers and what our journeying is all about.

The ending of the book is an invitation to connect with Grauer personally through his website — a testament to the book’s weaving qualities and the author’s desire to instigate and inspire an ongoing, evolving, experiential conversation. 

Overall, Psychedelic Consciousness is a wonderful resource for the tidal wave of people who are new to psychedelics and contemplating consciousness. It’s especially geared for Western minds who have had mystical experiences, or perhaps simply *an experience* with psychedelics and wondered what it was all about. I think it’s best for people experimenting or new to their journeys, though people who have been on a medicine path can also benefit from the questions it poses throughout to further refine their own practice and dream of what the possibilities and potentials are.

Yemaya, by Raven Morgaine

Yemaya: Orisha, Goddess, and Queen of the Sea, by Raven Morgaine
Weiser Books, 1578637430, 208 pages, September 2021

Back in May, sitting atop a small mountain in Joshua Tree National Park and meditating as the sun rose at dawn, the word “Yemaya” came through the silence. Instantly, I felt a sense of peace rush through me. I knew Yemaya was a great ocean goddess, but that was my extent of knowledge about her. When I returned home after this experience, I followed an intuitive nudge to bring some cowry shells down to the ocean and honor Yemaya, thanking her for the beauty of the ocean that I enjoy and the calmness that it brings me.

While I felt a call to continue developing this relationship and explore this quiet prompting from either my intuition or the Universe (not sure!), my summer travels took me away from my home on the California coast and into the canyons of Utah, woods of the Sequoia trees, and cities of the east coast from Philadelphia, PA to Providence, RI. Within my heart though, I kept remembering Yemaya and doing my best to connect with her energy wherever I went.

Now that I’m settled into my daily routine again, back to combing the beaches for seashells and spending my weekends reading on the beach, I felt ready to explore this budding relationship a bit more. However, I will admit I didn’t know exactly where to get started. The Orishas have always felt unreachable for me, a white American woman with European ancestry, due to their African heritage. I am well aware of the training and dedication that goes into becoming a devotee of the Orishas, and I also know how inaccessible these traditions can be to outsiders.

Therefore, you can only imagine my joy in discovering the recently published book Yemaya: Orisha, Goddess, and Queen of the Sea by Raven Morgaine. It was all I’ve been searching for and more!

Morgaine is a spiritual artist who has dedicated his life to Yemaya. He practices Candomble, New Orleans Voodoo, Santeria, and witchcraft. He also owns his own shop, Familiar Spirits, in Coventry, Rhode Island. Most of all, he’s an incredible storyteller that brought all facets of Yemaya to life in this wonderfully written book. His inclusion of practical wisdom, anecdotes, recipes, recipes for making oils and candles, along with plenty of Orisha stories made my connection to Yemaya so much more tangible and alive.

In fact, there were times reading this book when I would put it down and have my thoughts be washed away in feelings of love, tenderness, and security. It felt as though I was coming home to a mother who wanted nothing more than to make me feel loved, nurtured, and supported. While I am only in the beginning phases of building my altar and figuring out what this relationship is going to look like in my life, Yemaya assured me this pathway is open to all and that I will find my way.

Filled with his own written prayers, blessings, and spells, this entire book is imbued with Morgaine’s energy in the best way possible. His love and reverence for Yemaya streams through every word written, from warning those seeking to develop a relationship with Yemaya about what she does not like (never put metal on her altar or use it as a ritual tool, also she’s not a dog person!) to all the ways one can win her favor (beautiful combs, pearls, mirrors, white roses). Morgaine does not cut a single corner in laying out the foundation for establishing a relationship with Yemaya, and he happily delves into stories to illuminate the meaning behind why the practices are done the way they’ve always been done.

I truly loved learning more about many Orishas, from Yemaya’s younger sister Oshun to Shango and Eleggua. Morgaine’s writing was one of the most inviting introductions to the Orishas I’ve ever come across, and for the first time, I felt welcomed to partake in and honor these gods and goddesses.

Though, I will also admit, Morgaine’s solemn warning of what is involved in creating and maintaining a relationship with Yemaya is both awe-inspiring and a bit nerve-wracking all in one. More than anything, he conveys that she is not a goddess to call upon on a whim or to instantly demand quick results from. She is royalty, and thus she wants to be treated with respect, care, and devotion. She enjoys her lavish praise and will actively pursue what she wants, letting the practitioner know what does and does not please her.

The experiences shared by Morgaine of working with Yemaya for over 35 years made me realize just how misconstrued my previous assumptions of this great ocean goddess had been. I particularly enjoyed how he went through all the different facets of Yemaya, naming each one and sharing a bit of background information related to that incarnation of her, so that a more well-rounded picture of her was painted.

Morgaine openly shares trials from his own life, from despair at the end of an abusive relationship to being evicted at a very sensitive time in his life following his brother’s passing, to show readers Yemaya’s ever-present compassion for her children. Likewise, he also recounts times where she graced him with her presences, highlighting that Orisha gods and goddesses are more than just abstract energies; they are dedicated protectors, guardians, and way-showers of the natural world and humanity.

What has me most inspired is the descriptions of how to build an altar. I am looking forward to creating the time and space to do this soon. I knew I had been collecting seashells, sand dollars, and mermaid figurines for something! And thanks to the wisdom Morgaine has imparted in Yemaya, I also plan on creating cleansing and protecting my house as well.

Once again, I must impart how thorough Morgaine is in his details of doing these things. He even describes how it’s good to have an altar with drawers to store sacred objects, where to find affordable old furniture, and how to cleanse the furniture. At other times, Morgaine reminds the reader to use a dust mask or that a certain spell might smell weird, but that’s okay. His conversational writing style makes it feel like I am directly receiving this valuable information from a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend.

Somehow, Morgaine finds the perfect mixture of lightheartedness and seriousness to impart these lessons with care and consideration both of Yemaya and the well-being of the practitioner. He very much wants to ensure Yemaya is honored in a way that is pleasing to her, and he also wants to make sure practitioners don’t make foolish mistakes that can have detrimental impacts. Truthfully, he’s the perfect mediator between both, an ambassador if you will, in establishing this relationship.

And what’s so special about Morgaine’s perspective in Yemaya is that it’s inclusive. For him, having a relationship with Yemaya is not limited by one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural background. He draws parallels between Mother Mary and Isis with Yemaya, as well as acknowledging that many pagans choose to work with deities outside of their own culture’s pantheon. There’s a lovely section on how different aspects of Yemaya are protectors of people of all gender and sexual orientations — Yemaya is mother to us all.

Oh, I could keep raving about this book forever! All in all, Yemaya is a wonderful book to begin a relationship with the great mother ocean goddess. Morgaine teaches the reader how to cultivate a spiritual practice dedicated to Yemaya through telling her stories with the Orishas, sharing her many aspects of self through reincarnation, what offerings she loves and what things she dislikes, and how to establish a relationship nearby or far from the ocean. The anecdotes, recipes, magical associations, and practical wisdom from Morgaine are enough to get someone started on this path for at least a few years!

Cell Level Meditation, by Barry Grundland and Patricia Kay

Cell Level Meditation: The Healing Power in the Smallest Unit of Life, by Barry Grundland, MD and Patricia Kay, MA
Findhorn Press, 9781644112243, 176 pages, March 2021

… Dr. Barry Grundland was a psychiatrist whose specialty area might have been called psychoneuroimmunology. This is a big word that basically means min-body healing.  The mind, including our thoughts, emotions and attitudes affects the body, and in turn the body affects our minds, thoughts, emotions and attitudes. For over 50 years, Barry worked with people as a true healer –one who helps others come to Wholeness, or a sense of being who they really are…1

Cell Level Meditation: The Healing Power in the Smallest Unit of Life by Barry Grundland, MD and Patricia Kay, MA provides the reader with a broad perspective of the wonders and amazing capabilities of the wisdom of our bodies to heal. The quote above may not be innovative in our current society that is flooded with self-help tools, self-awareness training and contemplative practices of all manner, but the quintessential intention held in this statement about the co-author Dr. Grundland speaks to the simplicity of the book itself and acknowledgment of our capacity to thrive, heal and remain in a state of well-being simply by engaging the healing nature of our bodies in the process. 

“Cell Level Meditation” is a term crafted by Dr. Grundland to describe the power-and simplicity of establishing dialogue with the body at the cellular level and programming those related cells to function in a specific way. Co-author Patricia Kay speaks to the inherent directive and energy of the cell….

… The Cell is a real thing in the material world., and it is a metaphor as well, since it carries a basic “pattern” of organization you can find in every level of Life. The cell has a nuclei for example, which is a central area where you can find very basic information, that is very precise instructions for how things work; this information is inscribed on strands of tightly coiled threads called DNA…2

Kay further sets the tone for what follows and how the reader will be using the cell as a tool for healing:

… For our purposes, at the “level of the cell” we engage the workings going on there at different levels and states of awareness, which we can find with concentration, focus and participation through breath…3

Cell Level Meditation is separated into twenty chapters and makes use of poetry and quotations throughout the book. In general, there is a very poetic tone running through the information provided, which serves to engage the reader at all levels of being and all levels of understanding of neurobiological studies. 

The Introduction lays the groundwork for what follows in the subsequent chapters:

Cell Level Meditation is a vehicle for finding our way “home”.  We take the breath to our cells, offering them our deepest desire to be happy and healthy and strong.  In some way, they hear us and respond…This meditative form is a gift that helps the mind and the body come into healing, which in turn, helps us be ourselves in fullness…4

One of the things I appreciated about Cell Level Meditation is the way in which the reader is enveloped in the intention, whether overtly or subtly in the writings, with a gift of opening to the experience of meditation as a healing soured, as well as greater knowledge of the physical aspects of our being that are co-creators in that healing. 

Chapters one to five act as a primer for the reader and offer tools, exercises and insight into the art of Meditation and its use at a cellular level (chapter one and two), mind (chapter three), body (chapter four) and breath (chapter six). This information in and of its self is valuable in delving deeper into the “whys” of the contemplative arts, whether directed towards cell level use or general mindfulness

There is a specific and supportive rhythm that flows through the teachings of Cell Level Meditation. Each of the remaining chapters expands on these basics and moves through the process of this meditation in a style that is user friendly and allows for time to process and digest what has come previously. Moving through the book, the information has a wonderful way of capturing the mystical in the scientific and the scientific in the mystical. 

Chapter 19, “Conditioned Habits”, is one that calls the reader to awareness of their body’s (cells) wisdom and inherent dialogue (if we train ourselves to listen); and, the acknowledgement that we are all “programmed” (conditioned) towards certain habitual behaviors.  The previous chapters have established the importance of breath as a vehicle of movement and enlivenment, and the practice of breath focused meditation to further awaken the cells and enable these changes and shifts towards a more balanced state. The reader is reminded that this desire and action towards change often brings about chaos, a term used widely in the scientific community denoting the precipice of change or shift from one state of being to another, a naturally occurring evolutionary process found throughout nature….

… Rather than being too worried about being at the edge of chaos”, you are now empowered to stay present with your experience… Even in chaos, you have the breath. You are going into Unknown Territory, but with your intention and hope and the breath. The rest … comes from a higher place. … By working with the edges of our conditioned habits with awareness, willingness to stay present for what is actually going on as sensations in the body, even stuck patterns are called to a higher level when there is a ripe moment…5

These are merely highlights of this book. It is difficult to capture an “experience” in the writing of a review. I believe, however, that the authors have done just that, and more. Additionally, the publisher Findhorn Press was aptly suited for this title. Having reviewed several of their titles now, there is most definitely a theme and level of quality in the work of their authors that provides representation from the scientific/academic community as well as the more esoterically inclined. The overall themes are those of wholeness and collaboration at the levels of the environment, the planet and most importantly those beings who remain as stewards of themselves and their surroundings.

Cell Level Meditation takes the reader into a journey of the microcosmic nature of our self and the profound power of healing and wholeness contained in the singular component of our physical make-up – the cell. And, from that place of the cell the potential for what can be brought back into the macrocosm is limitless. 

Pagan Portals: Hellenic Paganism, by Samantha Leaver

Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism, by Samantha Leaver
Moon Books, 9781789043235, 104 pages, March 2021

When I first got my hands on this book, I thought I knew what it was going to be about. I mean, it’s Hellenic so it’s about Greek Gods and Goddesses, right? Let’s be clear: Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism by Samantha Leaver is not the typical book that lists the various Olympian deities and provides a basic framework for how and when to worship them. No, this book goes much deeper than that. 

Citing a life-long fascination with Greek mythology, Leaver has crafted a beautifully written book that details the many participants in the Hellenic pantheon. A self-proclaimed Kitchen Witch, Leaver has always felt drawn to the Mediterranean and this book is her personal journey through the various deities and how she works with them in order to foster a connection with the divine. 

Chock full of useful information around the practice as a whole, the book starts with an artfully crafted introduction that explains the society of the Hellenes and gives a brief overview of what Hellenic Paganism is. Leaver makes points on how things have changed since those times, noting that some of the Hellenic practices are no longer viable choices in today’s society. She suggests a variety of ways to do the same things in today’s context, something I found to be quite helpful in aligning myself with the practices in a modern time.

Written simply and with a profound sense of reverence, this book is a delightful entry point into the mythical world of the Greeks and the way they performed their rituals. Leaver clearly enjoys herself as she writes and is eager to share all that she has learned in her personal journey through the pantheon, while at the same time making distinctions between their world and our time. She notes that the psychological aspect of Hellenism differs from other well-known forms of religion, saying:

“Hellenism is more about connecting with and understanding the relationship you have to the natural world, it is all about living the best life you possibly can, with virtue, rather than sin, punishment, and redemption.”1

I really appreciated the depth of knowledge imparted by Leaver, as she delved into many aspects of ancient Hellenic life. Maybe some would find it tedious and want her to get on with the spells already, but I want to know where the rituals and ceremonies come from and why they were done. To me, that fleshes out the ‘why’ of the practice and I feel that is a vital piece of the ritual puzzle.

Leaver points out that much like Wicca, there are multiple paths in Hellenic Paganism and details a few to show their similarities. With that comes different names for deities in the pantheon, something I had not considered much to my chagrin. Of course there would be different names for deities depending on where you lived. Why would everyone use the same name? We don’t even have the same for a spatula in today’s society (seriously, it IS a spatula, not a lifter, and I will fight you). 

What I loved about gleaning this particular nugget of information is that Leaver also expresses her own double-take. She says, “To be honest, I thought I had a good handle on the Gods, until simple things like, ‘wait, the Hellenics call them Theoi’ happened, or ‘wait, there are numerous versions of each mythology out there by different writers at different times.’”2

This admission of disconnect solidified that this was the book for me. The honesty with which Leaver presents her journey, flawed as it was, is an absolute dream to partake of. It also made me feel much better about my own personal journey, as I have experienced similar things while bobbing along trying to figure out what kind of witch I am and who I should devote my time to. There is a difference between knowing that these things happen with others and then actually reading about an experience, and while it’s uncomfortable to watch others struggle in their search for sovereignty, it’s comforting to know that despite what path we find ourselves on, we are all having similar experiences. 

The book is cleverly divided into four parts and a section called “Closing thoughts from a Modern Hellenic Pagan.” The four sections clearly divide up the vast knowledge Leaver has on Hellenic Paganism: the introduction is both straightforward in laying out the structure of the information that will be presented and Leaver’s own journey along this particular path. Subsequent sections titled “Living the Path”, “Relationship with Deity’” and “Magic and Mysticism” are equally well laid out and written in a very approachable manner. 

It’s always interesting to take something like auspicious days and try to make them relevant to today’s society. Leaver does this admirably, making connections to more modern tactics rather than leaving you to figure it out on your own. The best example of this is listed in Hesiod’s Auspicious Days: Day 4: a good day to bring home a bride, begin building narrow ships, and open jars. Leaver offers another way to look at it, saying, “I like to think of this day as the day to begin building projects, a crafty or creative day. This is also a good day to take care to avoid troubles that eat out the heart. I like to use some time on this day to concentrate on all that is good in my life.”3

Pagan Portals – Hellenic Paganism is a great jumping on point for those interested in Hellenic Paganism or just want a deeper dive on the Greek pantheon. I found the information to be very helpful and detailed in a way that was not overwhelming. One thing I did not expect was how many gods and goddesses are considered to be part of the Greek pantheon: there are literally too many to name. If you have even a glimmer of interest in knowing more about this particular branch of paganism, I highly recommend picking up this book. I am happy to add it to my growing collection of books.

The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching, by Rosemarie Anderson

The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching: A New Translation and Commentary, by Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D.
Inner Traditions, 1644112469, 160 pages, April 2021

Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D., has many accomplishments – she is professor emerita of psychology at Sofia University, an Episcopal priest, an author of several books, and the recipient of the Abraham Maslow Heritage Award. She has traveled widely through Asia, and she has decades of experience with the Chinese language and the Tao Te Ching – all of which more than qualify her to author The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching.

However, the qualification that touched me the most was declared in the very first sentence written in the book, in the acknowledgments section: “Translating the Tao Te Ching has been a work of love.”1 The love that this author has for the Tao Te Ching, and for the language in which it was written, informs her entire translation.

Anderson begins with a few short pages explaining her personal story of moving to Asia as a young woman and how she very quickly learned, and fell in love with, the Chinese language. She explains her love for the elegance of the calligraphic form and the etymology of the characters, along with the reverence the Chinese people seemed to have for them. 

In exploring and observing the Chinese way of life during her time in Asia she recognized that she was beginning to learn a concept the Chinese call “wei wu wei, which means to ‘act without acting’ or ‘know without knowing’.”2

This concept of wei wu wei, she explains, is essential to understanding the Tao Te Ching, requiring one to slow down, to read with patience, to allow the poems to enter one’s knowing almost of their own accord.

Anderson originally decided to translate the Tao for her own benefit and delight, using her basic knowledge of Chinese supplemented by scholarly books that would teach her any characters she did not recognize. She began this process expecting that she might discover something new in the Tao Te Ching along with some new discoveries about herself. The thing she did not expect was to discover that the Tao was profoundly feminine – full of self-descriptive words such as “mother”, “virgin”, and “womb of creation” – all intrinsically feminine ideas! 

In fact, the descriptor of Anderson’s translation in the title as “divine feminine” is what drew me as a reader to this version. And it seems so obvious upon reading these ideas that the Tao would be referred to as “She” in most if not all places where pronouns are used, but historically that has not been the case. “Only in a rare poem do a few translators refer to the Tao as “She” when the reference to “mother” or “womb” is blatant.”3

Something I found profoundly interesting was that the author’s experience of the wei wu wei method of translation is that it was “rarely mental but typically took the form of bodily impressions.”4

This idea of allowing input (in this case the poems of the Tao Te Ching) to reverberate in the body instead of automatically depending on the mind to figure everything out seems to be something worth exploring in earnest. 

The next idea to help us ingest the poems (and to enter into wei wu wei) is to read the poems aloud, or to sing them – even perhaps to a favorite tune, along with a suggestion to read one poem per day and to truly commit to listening and hearing what the Tao has to offer. 

I particularly liked this specific instruction:

“Sing out loud and sing long. This is hermeneutics in action. The term hermeneutics comes from the Greek god Hermes, the great communicator who brought the gods’ messages down to humans. In singing the Tao Te Ching, communicating with the Heavens and back to planet Earth is precisely what you are doing. Do it. Improvise on the text as an ancient storyteller might. Begin your own legend – your own pathway to the Heavens and back again.”5

This instruction seems like the perfect way to begin or expand one’s exploration of the Tao Te Ching, especially The Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching – unhurried, embodied, and without any specific expectation other than “communicating with the Heavens and back to planet Earth.” For me, as a beginner, this encouraged me to not overthink or overdo, but to just sing.

So far, one of my favorite poems in Anderson’s translation is poem 34, which I place here for your enjoyment:

-34-
The Tao flows everywhere!
She stretches to the left and to the right
All things rely on Her for life
She never turns away
She accomplishes Her work
And makes no claims
She is free of desires
We call Her small
All things return to Her
Yet she never controls
We call Her great
In not striving to be great
The wise accomplish great things

This selection seems to align well with the author’s instructions and contemplations of wei wu wei, and this particular passages encourage me in the idea of “accomplishing great things by not striving to be great”6 and to “grasp the Great Mirror”7 of the Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching.

The poems are presented in a beautiful, flowing form, the typography spacious. And the book wraps up nicely with Notes on the translation and calligraphy, as well as an annotated bibliography. 

I recommend this little gem of a book to anyone wanting to study the Tao Te Ching – especially to consider it in the context of a gentle, non-striving practice.