Book Review: Mind Your Life, by Meg Salter

Review by Bob Pajer

“It’s not just about following your breath” says Me Salter, who writes an excellent book on meditation practices from her own point of view as well as from the point of view of many who have worked with her on development an individualized program of meditation for themselves.  The practice of meditation described in Salter’s book has many facets.  We get to choose what’s best for us.  And then go on adjusting based on our own experience. 

“Regarding which mindfulness method choose, the most important guideline is that it doesn’t matter.  All the methods in the this book develop the core skills of concentration, sensory clarity and equanimity.  So pick whatever appeals to you.  The more you enjoy, the more you will practise (sit), the sooner you will develop mindfulness skills and taste the positive rewards.”

However, and this is my qualifier, based your reviewer’s experience with meditation.  Few really serious meditators are that lenient with the practice they have studied and teach.  That may be a good practice or one that’s not so helpful.  My own teacher is dedicated to what he has practiced for over sixty years.  He is a Roshi in the Empty Cloud Lineage and I can pretty much assure you, he is staying with what he has practices and does not drift at all from his long education on the subject.  Its just a matter of greater and greater development of the method you are in, and, those who feel they are really doing well with what they have don’t try a little of this and a little of that.  It is the method. 

After my studies with him for many years now, I can see the importance of perseverance and dedication.  It has taken a long to feel I know anything about it, which is little, why it works and what the future of my life with it will unfold. I just keep doing what I have been doing.  As the years go on I do see how much I feel differently, see differently and can see anything “out there” differently (all experiences that may have something to do with again).  My mind has changed about my mind, however, and I prefer how I see it today.  This new view, which I believe, in a large part comes from my meditation practice, is getting stronger and I’m less likely to take myself too seriously.  I’m simply OK leaving here with a passing grade.  There is within me now a general inner peace to which I can go to anytime and anywhere. 

All I do is sit and focus on the koan, which is at the moment for me,  mu (no-thing.)  I have found it can take much of a lifetime to delve deeper and deeper into just that and just to realize I’m not there and it doesn’t matter. I have no intention of ever trying to permanently stop my mind wandering, the “bad” mind that is so noisy at times I grow weary of it.   It is just there.  And it’s not going anywhere. I seem to have little power over its.  It’s a nuisance for sure.  But minds do this here. The world is made upon it.

I can, however, listen to it, or not.  That is the practice.  And the ego is extremely unwilling to let its “cover” go.  So I don’t try.  The ego, however, does hate to be watched, more or less, and will stop its incessant noise if it sees I’m watching.  It’s very life depends on it.  In addition to whatever it can use to get me to believe I’ve separated from my Source and join with the force it makes up for a better world, or a worse world, whichever is my on my menu for the day. 

Notwithstanding these remarks, which come from perhaps thousands upon thousands of hours sitting in mediation for over thirty five years, this is a good book for anyone wishing to improve their meditation practice or learn anew.  If I were starting over again, I would just continue to sit based on certain natural ways of pursuing a better life through mediation.  Worry not about the results, nor how frustrating it can be at times, because our minds have been trained to make up a body that is in fact an illusion.  The turning point for me occurred when I asked myself why I can’t make better headway on the control my noisy mind, why I go off on a side road so frequently, seeming to have no control over it at all.  The answer came quickly:  Stop cavetdhing about the times you left the field and congratulate yourself for every time you returned.  You are always a step ahead of your own disappointment over your progress.” 

I recommend this book for the novice considering mediation as a practice and anyone interested in the subject.   

Review by Bob Pajer

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Wisdom Walking – Pilgrimage as a Way of Life, by Gil Stafford

Book Review by Bob Pajer

 

Wisdom Walking is one person’s experience in soul transformation.  A beautifully written diary of Gil Stafford’s journey into the woods with expectations and coming home with a larger life experience that he reports transforms his spiritual life.  That is the theme of the first part of the book.  His transforming experiences in the last half of the book are about his journey living, with family and others.  He is deeply affected by those close to him and he describes a compassionate and warm understanding of those who are affected and suffering.  If I were going though a painful time, I would want him around. 

That is Stafford’s real contribution to the world of searching, all of us, who have  experience here.  It is a great breath of fresh air to hear it as a genuine experience.  Stafford reminds me there is no universal theology.  There is only a universal experience.  Truth comes with the second.  Perhaps all truth can be seen in a universal experience, if we search there for it.  Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are just that.  And it is why they can embrace all religions and philosophies in the the success they have for helping people recover from the deadly decease, which alcoholism is, where past programs have always fallen in failure to do so.  Of course not everyone recovers in these programs, they are perfect in the practice of principles leading to sustainable recovery for most.  When someone like Gil Stafford shares his heartfelt experience in a world being restored to sanity, I want to listen,  

Alchemy is often referred to in this book.  That comes best where minds join and bodies are put aside for awhile, waiting for the power of the messages minds can give when there is a “we” program involved.  Stafford talks about solitude and quietness that comes from a walking pilgrimage, the way of life toward greater and greater looking into oneself and becoming comfortable with what we really are, in truth just  as God created us.  We are not bodies.  We are free —  freedom we get from being OK with oneself, walking through  the woods, or in relation to another person on the same journey, which everyone one is.  Our own equanimity.  Relationship is key to our own healing and recovery from separation.  And it is this aspect of spiritual growth that brings us to God, and in many ways Stafford tells us through his own experience.  

Quietness is essential to spiritual growth I believe, yet it is in compassion for others and loving, not special love, but loving one another as we are:  perfect, holy children of One Creator and Source, that we get to see that is what we are.  We find our identity in one another.  That in itself is the master key to the Kingdom of God, for that is what we are.   When I see you as God’s child, of a loving Father we both share equally in union with this Father, the world changes.  I am deeply impressed with Gil Stafford’s ability it seems to do this.  His description of his family relationships are poignant and inspiring.  A beautiful example of “I see you as God’s child and my brother or sister.”

For all who want to see the passage of healing that God brings to everyone, eventually, whether they seem to want it or not, this book is a great read.  This is truly an exciting journey.  If your soul is having a dark night, it will be helpful for you to see some light ahead in the tunnel, I think more so by our author’s beautiful love stories describing his experience with “love one another, as I have loved you.” 

Following Jesus’ practice of love is not so easy in a world that denies him and God — along with his being the Christ in all of us.   But it is simple I believe: Jesus tells us to follow my example and teaching of unconditional love together, and you will see God standing there right before your poor unseeing eyes, in the other person’s oneness with you.  And don’t ever deviate from this one thing.  For it is the crucible of our experience that the the Holy Spirit, the only alchemist, teaching us the only alchemy there can be how to regain sight of our own identity. 

Reviewed by Bob Pajer

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book

review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are

my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part

255

“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom.” — an interpretation.

Jesus spares us nothing in his teaching.  As always, he does not equivocate.  Heaven is, or its not.  God’s Kingdom, which is God’s children, God’s off-spring, completion.  God is incomplete without us.  That is why God is so continuously nudging us to come home — the home we have never left, actually.  Although we think we are somewhere or elsewhere, we are nowhere out side the thought of God.  We are God’s thought.  We have no will, life or mind separate from that One glorious place to be.  The only place we can be.  

We are in the habit of making up a world that in God’s mind simply isn’t.  Nothing can happen in God’s mind that is not perfectly love.  So if we think there is such a place and condition, there isn’t.  We, in the mind of the only Power that exists, can think we are some other place.  But we dream only.  And we dream on.  God either is, or God isn’t.  And God is.  We dream the isn’t.  

The poor are fortunate to be the Kingdom.  Isn’t it like Jesus to use what we might consider the “least among us” to identify as the fortunate poor.  He does that because those of us who are not poor are much more likely to be clueless about what God’s world is, since we are doing so well on our own.  We believe.   Why would we think about God’s world when we are busy, far too busy, “managing” our lives:  bigger houses, better cars, better colleges, better, better, better.  Not to mention bigger wars, armament that kills greater numbers  — a signal there is something better than what we already have.  This is  the kingdom of the ego, not such a pretty place.  But we seem to endure.  We do have a little trouble ruling this kingdom of course.  But someday we think we’ll get it right. 

Ah, but the ego (we) are so “powerful”  we even think that avoiding such “riches” is virtuous.   A number of us think that resisting what we think completes us is a virtue.  Many who do that spend lifetimes here in arduous work, trying to make real the extras we collect, then not knowing how to get rid of, or resist them.  Jesus said, “Resist not evil.”  I think because resisting makes real what is not.  We are masters at making the unreal real.  It is one of the ego’s favorite cards to play out.  I think Jesus always wants us to ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of what I am thinking or doing in this world.”  Perhaps its condition will spell out its poverty for us to see.

But it isn’t enough to be poor to realize the Kingdom of God.  We have to admit, fully believe, we are poor.  Otherwise we just don’t get it.  

One of the gospels, Matthew, adds the phrase “poor of spirit.”  That is a step in the direction of understanding that Jesus isn’t referring to material things in his words about God’s Kingdom.  I think, rather than adding the reference to “sprit” as Matthew does, just “poor” was exactly what Jesus wanted us to hear.  Poor being in the place where we actually think there’s not enough of God’s gift to go around, or to satisfy us.  We need something more.  We surrender to the thought, “our way just is not working.  There must be a better way.”  

On the other hand, those who are in the state of poverty this way, believing in scarcity, (as I am for sure most of the time), God’s plan for salvation probably sees this as a good thing.  A word about “we”: (please forgive me for the we statements here.  I hate being alone in what I think.  If you think otherwise about yourself as I write this, go on thinking that way and ignore my “we” statements. And I do believe there is on “I” to experience with “us” who we really are.”  

When we think we are poor we believe there’s something missing.  If we believe in God, who has all power, there cannot be anything missing.  God does not create parts of, to be developed later into what is whole.   God says, “Let there be….” and there is.  Our dream here is a constant belief we need something, lack something, God creates scarcity, parts of something greater, our wholeness in union with God.  There is no wholeness of mind in a dream.  We have half a mind perhaps, we believe.  Or, we’ve lost our minds.  Fortunately, no matter what we believe about this subject, God doesn’t.  Either God is insane or we are.  I prefer the latter.  Dreams aren’t real.  No matter how much we think we can make them real in the dream.  As the dream takes place for us, Jesus tells us God is real, God is All Who gives all to All.  It is the fulfillment of God, however, that we dream on and on, without much thought about God’s participation, except our mouthing prayers that are prayers, but we cannot hear the answer from God, or refuse to listen to it. Adam changed God for us into a smaller non-being who punishes us for generations to come.  As a result we believe the unbelievable, impossible thought, insane thought:  God is small, Who Creation is incomplete, faulty and poses questions like “How could God let this happen?”, referring to the suffering in the world we make.  That is a question only the ego could ask.  For it is asked within its own made up world.  God has nothing to do with it.  We have nothing to do with it.  We are dreaming.  

Speaking again of Adam, remember he is put to sleep by God in the Bible.  Nowhere else in the Bible is he awakened.  

For me, I’m grateful for this one belief.  My restoration to sanity.  I believe I am being restored to sanity here in this world and that grace that this implies is to be carried out with my accepting the Atonement for myself.  That’s not “atonement” in the sense that I must atone for my sins, but in the sense that I don’t have to atone for anything but my belief in separation from God.  Which cannot be.  “At-one-ment” is the true meaning of this word.  I am as God created me.  I just have mistakenly forgotten who I am.  And that is insane.  Of course I have many other believes that compete with my belief about restoration to sanity: worry, fear, lack, I’m going to lose what I have, or not get what I want….. are just some. 

A belief in restoration to sanity by a Power greater than oneself is in the Twelve Steps, as Step Two, which Bill Wilson wrote in the program of recovery that he laid out for suffering alcoholics in the 1030’s:  (“We”) “Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  This Step occurs at a key place for the alcoholic:  admitting powerlessness over alcohol and admitting powerlessness over a life of unmanageability.  Alcoholics, some extremely rich, many very poor, most just of some means, reaching insanity in the fight to conquer “incomprehensible demoralization” over their terrible dilemma:  their inability to stop drinking, yet seeing death as a strong possibility, or jail, or institutionalization in the near future, (from the book Alcoholics Anonymous) are clearly poor.  It does not mater how much they have, materially or otherwise.  They are among the poorest lot to see in this world.  I grew up in New York City in the ’30s, not too far from the Bowery, where all wants, beliefs, pain and suffering are evened out amongst the least of us perhaps right within one of the richest nations in the world.  However, don’t believe one has to wind up any place like the Bowery or Skid Row to suffer.  There’s plenty of suffering to go around wherever we wind up in Jesus’ definition of poor.  

Bill Wilson being one of these who had millions and then millions over again, only to be finally entirely lost, knew what it was to be poor.  Although his geography was slightly different, by just ten or so New York City blocks, he knew what it was to be poor.  And he knew he himself would not begin to recover as a sober person for the rest of his life, without being poor.  And of course the miracle of being a founder of the only program that successfully affects the lives of millions of sick alcoholics, now, and most likely as long as the world goes on.  

Alcoholics, and I’m sure many other groups of the suffering, who come to know the poverty of the soul (although an impossibility in itself) know what poor means.    Accepting Reality, our very poorness opens up, as this Beatitude states the Kingdom of God is at hand.  It is the only Beatitude that states its promise as right here and now.  All the others are about things that will happen in time.  Beatitude One is a condition of the mind, now; the moment where we must be to hear God’s direction very clearly.  The only place God is, in the moment, now, where we join with God, as God’s thought.    

Jesus decided to tell us in the Sermon on the Mount one of his greatest truths, we are complete no matter what we think, completely in and of God. Nothing else matters in a world made to dispute this.  We are as God created us.  Not what we think we need, or think God needs from us, to reach God.   I often think how much Jesus must have loved the Twenty Third Psalm:  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  I think he read it as “I cannot want, for all has been given to me, I need just pass this on through “for-giving”, to see this in everyone, as we reach out in compassionate understanding of those who still perhaps believe they need.  Everyone has all with God, because God has given all to All.   For those who believe otherwise, it is our purpose for being in this world, to give, no matter how much they believe they have, or have not.  Our job is to see their’s is the Kingdom.  Our devotion to that is the measure we recall as our own poverty and through that knowing, our own identity. 

Bob Pajer