Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

Review: The Body Keeps the Score by B. van der Kolk

A friend posted this book in her Instagram story, then in the same week it caught my attention at my therapist’s office. I can safely say it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. Bessel van der Kolk has spent the last 30 years working with patients severely affected by trauma, mostly veterans or victims of sexual abuse in this book he outlines what he’s learned and how its informed and developed his practice.

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” – Bessel van der Kolk

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” – Bessel van der Kolk

After noting the way certain traumas were held in the body and finding tradition therapy had its limits he began trialing different methods in which to shift it, using more physical practices including theatre. The book is packed with enthralling anecdotes, brilliant facts, techniques for you to try at home, and is backed with just the right amount of science to not leave the average reader feeling bogged down or out of their depth.
That being said, considering its size, it did take me a month or so to get through as I was frequently left reflecting on what was being said.

I think one thing I found most fascinating was that “economists calculated that every dollar invested in high-quality home visitation, daycare, and preschool programs results in seven dollars of savings on welfare payments, health-care costs, substance abuse treatment, and incarceration, plus higher tax revenues due to better-paying jobs.”

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” – Bessel van der Kolk

Review: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by O. Vuong

Review: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by O. Vuong

Sometimes, every once in a while, a book will cross your path, seemingly by chance.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to someone on a dating app and she mentioned that this book was “the best thing she had ever read” (maybe my choice of topic is where I’m going wrong in the dating scene…). However, it wasn’t her stellar recommendation that caught my attention, it was the name. Something in it spoke to me. Like most online dating conversations, it withered and died, but I’m eternally grateful for this brief dialogue.

“Too much joy is lost in our desperation to keep it” – Ocean Vuong

I really don’t have the words to give you to portray even a smidgen of how this book left me, only to say that some things need only speak for themselves. The final pages read through increasingly blurry eyes. What Ocean and his family endured I cannot even begin to imagine, but through what can only be described as pure poetry, Ocean helped me try. To tell a story is a fantastic skill, but to be a storyteller is truly spell binding.

“Sometimes being offered tenderness feels like the very proof that you’ve been ruined.” – Ocean Vuong

The way Ocean captures ideas and links them throughout is pure art. The book is a letter to his Vietnamese mother who doesn’t speak a word of English. A biography of sorts, of growing up as an immigrant in the US and the challenges of being Asian and gay in an already accepting society, fraught with domestic violence and drug abuse.

I think I will leave it at that. On Earth We’re Truly Beautiful is as magnificent as the name suggests.

“I miss you more than I remember you.” – Ocean Vuong

Review: Already Free by Bruce Tift

Review: Already Free by Bruce Tift

Already Free by Bruce Tift was recommended by a good friend of mine mid last year (I’m a little behind with my reviews) . Bruce Tift is a psychotherapist who practices Buddhism and brilliantly portrays how two compliment each other.
It bounces between the approaches psychotherapy would take toward challenges and the Buddhist perspective, covering all manner of topics including our thought patterns around relationships and decision making. Bruce uses fascinating anecdotes to help portray his ideas. I think an aspect I found most fascinating was “embodied awareness”, sitting in the sensations of a thought or emotion.

All in all, it’s really jolly good, so I’m just going to leave you with a bunch of quotes.

“Its actually when we try to avoid our feelings that we tend to “solidify” them and make them appear significant” – Bruce Tift

“Although we look like adults, and have the adult capacities in other parts of our lives, in the arena of intimacy, we’re like a child trying to have a relationship with another child”- Bruce Tift

“As we cooperate with ourselves, we cooperate with life, and strangely enough, we begin to experience that life is cooperating with us”- Bruce Tift

“If I stay, I’ll be disturbed. If I move on, I’ll be disturbed” Once we are clear that any choice we make will never represent all of our very real and valid feelings, we can make decisions based on criteria other than the avoidance of disturbance”- Bruce Tift

“We approach neurosis not as “wrong” but as our best out-of-date effort to take care of ourselves”- Bruce Tift

“We may discover that the most satisfying life is one that is fully lived, rather than one in which we’ve accumulated the most positive experiences”- Bruce Tift

A brief stint with Stoicism

A brief stint with Stoicism

The Obstacle is the Way, and How to be Stoic

A good friend of mine in London first introduced me to Stoicism after gifting me his copy of How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci. He had found some profound insights from the perspective he received from Stoicism and thought I may be interested.

How to Be a Stoic is written as a series of “conversations” the author has with Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, and covers topics including love, suicide, religion, and living according to nature. In all honesty, and I feel bad for saying this as it was a lovely gift, but it was pretty punishing and I didn’t really gain much from it. There are a few fascinating ideas here and there, but that’s about it.

“Shaping your character is ultimately the only thing under your control.” – Massimo Pigliucci

“Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.” – Massimo Pigliucci

I decided to give Stoicism the benefit of the doubt and read The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It was far better written is more to the point than How to Be a Stoic and uses nice little anecdotes of both ancient philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and modern examples to reinforce some of its points. Its very much focused on the perception of your reality, the way we perceive and react to events. 

Stoicism seems very focused on preparing for the worst, and (in no way) hoping for the best. 

If I’m honest it doesn’t resonate with me at all. There was a few noteworthy view points including reframing the challenges in our life and the importance of observing high morals over all else, and questioning our perspective of an event against the actual facts, but it disregards any sort of “magical thinking” or higher power. 

All in all Stoicism is extremely pessimistic and at points leaves the reader feeling like life may never get any better. I’m definitely grateful for reading Ryan Holiday’ book, and giving stoicism a second chance, but its not likely that I will convert to Stoicism in the foreseeable future.

Interestingly, since gifting me the book, my friend has actually turned away somewhat from Stocism due to the similar reasons I didnt connect with it.

See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must.
What blocked the path is now the path
What once impeded action advances action
The Obstacle is the Way.

“Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.” ― Ryan Holiday

“The only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.” ― Ryan Holiday

All in all, Stoicism is extremely pessimistic and at points leaves the reader feeling like life may never get any better. I’m definitely grateful for reading Ryan Holiday’s book and giving stoicism a second chance, but it’s not likely that I will convert to Stoicism in the foreseeable future.

Interestingly, since gifting me the book, my friend has actually turned away somewhat from Stoicism due to similar reasons I didn’t connect with it.

Review: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr W Dyer

Review: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr W Dyer

It’s been a while since I wrote a book review, not for lack of reading, more just prioritising other work, but now I have a bit of a backlog.

This book, Your Erroneous Zones, is a great little reminder to question more or less every aspect of our perception, both of ourselves, and the world around us, and to be mindful of self talk.

”You can be motivated by your desire to grow rather than a need to repair your deficiencies”. – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

For those who are familiar with Dr. Wayne Dyer, you can tell it was written before his spiritual awakening as he can be a little inconsiderate in the way he speaks of showing a little less respect to others than I would be comfortable with. That being said it’s great in the way in which he questions countless social constructs like etiquette and pleasantries. Why hold your fork a certain way, why give a gift because you have to, not because you want to, why complete tasks out of moral obligation not because we feel inspired to.

”The essence of greatness is the ability to choose personal fulfilment in circumstances where others choose madness” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

He makes some fascinating points especially in regard to being yourself, our frequent use of “I ams” and not holding back. He speaks a lot on worrying less and doing what needs to be done through creating positive habits, and avoiding approval seeking habits.

when you use ‘I ams’….“You are really saying ‘and I intend on being the way I’ve always been”…….”any I’m which keeps you from growing is a demon to be exorcised. If you must have an I’m, try this one of for size ‘I’m an ‘I’m’ exorcist – and I like it” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

I think what I found most beneficial was his comprehensive breakdown of approval seeking and negative self talk. Dr Wayne Dyer is one of those authors that comes at you from so many angles that you cant help but retain the concepts.

”Seize every second of your life and savour it. Value your present moments. Using them up in self-defeating ways means you’ve lost them forever”. – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

Personally I quite enjoyed the book. I think his newer work is better (there is a lot of it) but even so I believe he raises some interesting ideas and questions some social constructs that are definitely passed their used-by date.

“You are responsible for your own emotions and so is everyone else. No one has control over your feelings except you.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

Many years ago the late Dr. Wayne W. Dyer made a movie. Its a little cheesy, but non-the-less brilliant. It can be found here.

If you have any other book recommendations please feel free to list them in the comment section.

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Review – Joseph Campbell

Review – Joseph Campbell

I picked this up off the back of a podcast I watched recently on the art of storytelling. I’ve had a fascination with Joseph Campbell for a long time, probably since I first read The Alchemist. He’s best known for his quote “Follow your bliss” which has remained as the background on my phone ever since I heard it many years ago.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”” – Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is his most well-known work. In it, he draws from myth and legend, the stories of the ancients, the Vedas, as well as verses from the bible. He unpacks them in his unique way, showing us the underlying similarities each contains and uses them to describe the Hero’s Journey, a process in which an adventure is called to action, and goes through a series of challenges, and eventually returns home with his  “treasure”. I can expand on this but its probably easier to just watch this video.

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” – Joseph Campbell

“Myths are the masks of God through which men everywhere have sought to relate themselves to the wonders of existence” – Joseph Campbell

If I’m completely honest, I really struggled to get through this book. I do not doubt that this isn’t brilliant. Joseph’s concept has influenced all matter of individuals from songwriters, to movie producers to authors. His work was truly groundbreaking for its time. But boy did I struggle. But I think that’s more on me, I’ve always struggled with maintaining interest in myth and legend, ironic considering I’m fascinated by ancient Egypt. It also probably doesn’t help that it was written 70+ years ago and how we speak has changed a lot since then. There is no denying the importance of this book, and I’m glad I read it, but I for those interested it might be best to watch his Netflix series which was produced in the late 80s just before he passed away.

“When people say they’re looking for the meaning of life, what they’re really looking for is a deep experience of it ”- Joseph Campbell

I mean no disrespect to Joseph Campbell. I’m most likely just not intellectual enough to understand where he is coming from. And in fact, I went on to read The Hero’s Journey, Joesph Campbell on his Life and Work, a spin-off of the documentary interview which is available on Netflix, as it was written in the late 80s, because of this it’s far easier to grasp. The book features the transcribed discussions that were had during the making of the documentary. Because of this, the concepts are approached far more colloquially and reinforced from a number of different angles. Funnily enough, I found the book on the side of the road while reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s an old library book from Austin, TX, complete with classroom purchase orders for pizza, airline tickets, and old car hire receipts which are almost 20 years old.

“Social pressure is the enemy! How in heavens name are you going to find your own track if you are always doing what society tells you to do?” – Joseph Campbell

I was shocked by the fact that, during the great depression Campbell lived in a cabin in the woods and read for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 5 years. 

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell

One last thing I’ll mention is that by today’s standards some of his ideas could be seen as a little sexist. One in particular that I sat with was his concerns over the rise in feminism and its impact on relationships. He refers to the yin and yang, the importance of the equal representation of each energy within relationships. His concern was that as feminism develops, the feminine softness will be lost, throwing off the equilibrium. I can see where he is coming from, but maybe this equilibrium can be returned in other ways.

“The whole energy of life depends on polarity, and when you give that up all you’ve got left is a blob” – Joseph Campbell

In short, unless you feel like being a hero I suggest reading Life and Work, it’s easier to digest and gives you an interesting background of the man himself.

“Life has to be spontaneous. It has to come from whats called in India the ananadamya culture, the Sheaf of Bliss. Life is an expression of bliss” – Joseph Campbell

“Don’t be afraid of what you are becoming” – Joseph Campbell

Review: This is Marketing by S. Godin

Review: This is Marketing by S. Godin

Like most people, to me, marketing has always felt like a dirty word. When I think of marketing I think of cigarette companies, influencers, and people forcing more crap I don’t need down my throat. And sure, there is plenty of that. However, with that in mind, recently I’ve felt drawn to understand the process a little better, after all, if I ever want to know how to market this blog or myself in the future I will need to have some understanding of the process. Last week I was looking for a new podcast to watch and stumbled across the name Seth Godin. The podcast (here) itself is outstanding and so I decided to purchase his book. Now I think about it, that’s pretty good marketing…

“A lifeguard doesn’t have to spend much time pitching to the drowning person. When you show up with a life buoy, if the drowning person understands what’s at stake, you don’t have to run ads to get them to hold on to it.” –  Seth Godin

This Is Marketing challenged my perception of the modern world of marketing and gave me some good building blocks for moving forward. Seth makes a great point that marketing the right product/service to the right person really can change the world for the better. 

“Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.” –  Seth Godin

The book covers everything you need to know to get going, complete with tasks to follow, and real-world examples. He talks to the importance of finding your niche, defining the problem you wish to solve, creating a narrative, developing a strategy, getting your audience’s attention, and most importantly, pivoting if things don’t work. 

“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone.” –  Seth Godin,

There is a wealth of knowledge in this small book, but one other thing I’d like to mention is the emphasis he places on the way marketing has changed in recent times. It’s no longer helpful to pour money into sponsored advertising as we, the consumers, are far more cautious of the data we consume. He believes that in this day and age ideas travel horizontally through people discussing our product and the best way to make an impact is through consistency. Sure it will take longer, but this way your system is built to last. Whether you aim to start the next Tesla or selling crystals on Etsy, this book is worth picking up. It’s smart, succinct, and is an easy read.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories—stories that resonate and spread.” –  Seth Godin

One really important point was that we need to get out of our heads. How many times have you seen someone do something similar to what you want to do and thought ‘that person doesn’t even know what they are talking about, I know more than them’, chances are you are right, but the difference between you and them is that they took the leap. I think its an important message, and we should be grateful to these people, because they have paved the way for us, and if they can do it then so can we.

Review: A Walk in the Woods by B. Bryson

Review: A Walk in the Woods by B. Bryson

I stumbled upon A Walk in the Woods whilst looking for a film to watch a few weeks ago, and felt compelled to pick up a copy after realising that the film was based on a Bill Bryson novel by the same name (I still have yet to watch the film, and probably won’t, the book was just too good). Bill Bryson has a talent for making seemingly mundane topics absolutely fascinating, both through the quirky facts he presents through fastidious research and the method in which he tells them. Bryson’s books feel like he’s just chatting amongst friends.

“Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.” – Bill Bryson

I first came across Bryson when I was in my early 20s with this well-known book A Brief History of Nearly Everything, and later read his book on the origin of the English language called Mother Tongue. Both were brilliant and I would highly recommend them. A Walk in the Woods is the retelling of Bryson’s hike of the Appalachian trail in the early 90s. Much like A Brief History, it’s full of jaw-dropping facts, and anecdotes from other hikers, and is fantastically written. There were times where I was laughing so hard I was nearly brought to tears.

“That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.” – Bill Bryson

This isn’t a story of man’s search for meaning or even much of a heroic journey, it’s just a fascinating recount of a couple of mates in the outdoors scattered with laughs, stats and well researched historical, and regional tales. If you want something light-hearted that may well inspire you on your own adventure, this is a great place to start. I don’t want to give too much away, but its worth checking out this town in Pennsylvania which has been burning since 1962. And this fact I found interesting: In ‘93 the average American walked 1.3 miles (2km) a week. A WEEK.

“There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere. However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods.” – Bill Bryson

Review: Own the Day, Own your Life by A. Marcus

Review: Own the Day, Own your Life by A. Marcus

I’ve been following Aubrey Marcus’ journey for a long time now and in some ways its been a love hate relationship. For those who don’t know, he is the founder of the neutropenic/supplement company Onnit. One of the only supplement companies to do peer-reviewed testing and come out with favourable results (Sorry, Isagenix/Arbonne). He is also a big advocate for the likes of plant medicines, cold showers, meditation, and kettlebells, etc.

“I can’t lose! I can only win in ways I didn’t expect; through the teachings of failure” – Aubrey Marcus

Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex, is a guide to exactly that. If you don’t have the time to do the research yourself and want to live a healthier life, in pretty much every way, Aubrey’s book is for you. Everything is backed up with science from leading experts and nothing goes into too much detail that it becomes overwhelming.  The principle is brilliant/simple. Just focus on one day at a time following these guidelines. As the byline suggests he covers everything. 

“To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.” – Aubrey Marcus

“You know what’s over that mountain? More fucking mountains.” – Aubrey Marcus

Aubrey is one of the few who is living the transformation and being truly authentic about it, whether it gains him a following or not. I should know, I’ve unfollowed/re-followed him a bunch of times. Sometimes I felt his approach was a little too much and wonder if he is putting unnecessary struggle in his life, but you cannot fault his openness, vulnerability, ability to call himself on his bullshit, or his commitment to taking you on his journey.

If you’re not sure the book is for you I highly recommend his podcast. Flick me a message and I’ll recommend some for you.

“The sun does not measure its light by the shadow it casts” – Aubrey Marcus

“small things, when compounded over time, tend to have big consequences” –  Aubrey Marcus

Review: Shantaram by G.D. Roberts

Review: Shantaram by G.D. Roberts

I recall Mum reading Shantaram years ago, probably when it first came out. A few months ago, while I was at a house party, we were in my friends room watching him get a tattoo when a thick tree stump of a book on his bedside unit caught my eye. I instantly recalled the name and was drawn to it. As soon as I reached for it to take a look my mate told me to take it, he was sure I’d love it. He wasn’t wrong and even at a solid 900 odd pages, I blew through it in a matter of weeks.

“every human heart beat is a universe of possibilities.” – Gregory David Roberts

I recall being told it was a true story, however, when I did a quick bit of research it appears that it was based on true events with a touch of artistic flair. Whatever the case, it’s a masterpiece. The story is so jaw-dropping that I’m not sure you could make it up. The retelling is probably helped by the fact that he had to write three times due to prison guards destroying it. Practice makes perfect, right?

“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.” – Gregory David Roberts,

Shantaram recounts the author’s escape from Melbourne’s highest security prison, making him Australia’s most wanted man. Then on a fake passport, he flees to Bombay, India. Whilst in Bombay he opens a medical center in a  slum, is left to rot in a local prison, joins the mafia, and becomes a Bollywood actor. I don’t want to give too much away, but you get the gist, and that’s not the half of it.  The things this man has seen will leave you speechless, and if the story itself wasn’t enough to keep you hooked, Gregory David Roberts’ storytelling brings the novel to life, while making some quite profound statements along the way. 

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have – to hold on tight until the dawn” –  Gregory David Roberts

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but I think this is a book everyone needs to pick up at some point in their lives, all the more so if you are missing traveling or adventure as much as I am right now.  Shantaram is one of those books synonymous with backpackers, and this copy was no exception. Inside was a docket from a previous owners’ bus ride in India. Interestingly, I thought that upon finishing it I’d want to jump on the next flight to Bombay, however, my biggest take away was that I want to live my life to its fullest, in hope of creating my own adventure worth reading about.

“The more you try to be like someone else, the more you find yourself standing in the way.” –  Gregory David Roberts