Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review : Living With Evolution or Dying Without It

Title : Living With Evolution or Dying Without it
Author : K.D.Koratsky
Publisher : Sunscape Books
ISBN : 978-0-9826546-0-6

Reviewed for BookPleasures
A great book written by K.D.Koratsky with the most appropriate title. A factual book that chronologically takes the readers through the journey of evolution. The journey which began approximately 13.7 billion years ago with the grand Big Bang explosion.

The natural selection - the fundamental base of almost every phenomenon in the entire universe gets instrumental in deciding what goes or stays, where, when and how. There is a sneak peek through different eras that universe went through and specifically our planet where the ingredients got right at the right place and at the right time to make life possible. Many species came, evolved, and became history, making room for the next ones. The nature has been displaying its brutal intelligence by silently churning different species testing them on their adaptability and fitness quotients. Not just the species, even the specific features in some species get eliminated if they fail to provide the required functionality making themselves redundant. In such cases, nature chooses to release the energy held up to maintain the existence of those superfluous features or the whole superfluous species, for better application of the same energy. Species that learn the trick of adapting with the natural changes increase their chances of survival at the cost of those which fail to do the same.
The author emphasizes the importance of understanding that humans in no way will be favored by this natural law, and there are enough evidences to prove it to be so. However some cues can be taken from how the selection process works to handle or manage the survivability challenges facing humankind.

The book discusses the sequence of significant events in the evolution process of - the universe, the earth and the living beings. Life began with the most simplest form breathing first in the ocean, gradually life moved from sea to the land, followed by the arrival of innumerable species of amazingly various kinds which established themselves as more adaptable and more advanced. So far humans have surpassed all the rest in terms of their brain power and their adaptability skills. With them came the language, the religion and not to forget, the conflicts too - the world wars, the cold war and much more. This intelligent species, even tries to challenge the nature, so much so that environment which is known to have influenced the life at all times is being forced to get influenced by life now, at least that is being attempted.

A wonderful book presenting the facts in a very objective fashion. Highly recommended for all those who want to learn more about where we came from and where we are heading to

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review : The Wheel Turned

Title : The Wheel Turned
Author : Malathi Ramachandran
Publisher : Pustak Mahal
ISBN : 9788122311044

The story unfolds in the pristine and picturesque valleys of Himachal against the backdrop of 1960's Chinese invasion in Indian territories. As mere pawns in a game, Meena and Anand find themselves together in a wedlock completely unprepared for their sudden change of status. Meena reconciles with her destiny and accepts the relationship but it takes a little longer for Anand to overcome his misplaced resentment against Meena. After initial hiccups, they experience the blissful married life which turns out to be very short lived. Anand leaves with his unit to protect North Eastern Indian borders. While in action, he becomes untraceable, leaving no clue for the search teams to follow. Like a house of cards, Meena's life and her dreams come crumbling down, but she retains her faith on her husband and on her magical Tibetan Prayer Wheel. The wheel, which she believes brought her and Anand together initially and the same wheel would work its wonders again in uniting them
. The Prayer Wheel signifies Meena's undying faith and belief that everything will be as it was during those wonderful days when she reveled in deep affection and love of Anand.

But she learns that her belief is not good enough. One of Anand's colleagues, another Army officer, expresses his love for her and his desire to marry her. She finds herself on the crossroads of life where some very difficult decisions are to be taken - whether to keep hanging from the string of unfazed belief, waiting for Anand or to accept the reality and move on. Is it easy to move on, is it even possible to replace Anand in her mind?

Does her prized possession - the prayer wheel shows its magic again and brings Anand back to her or does it leave her disillusioned?

This is the story of an Indian soldier's deep commitment for his motherland, his courage and undiminished spirits. This is the story of endless trust, yearning and waiting of a wife but more than that, this is a story of destiny's royal game. The prayer wheel symbolizes unstoppable life's wheel, which reinforces that time does not wait for anything or anybody.

An interesting story, no signs of attempting to be a literary masterpiece though, felt like a story from a Bollywood movie. Readers may feel a little disconnect in the sense that the prayer wheel which seemingly is the pivot of the story gets forgotten as the story progresses, it could have been made more integral to the narrative. This book belongs to the category of - read it once, enjoy it, shut it and forget it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview with Dr. Anthony Raimondo

"Without knowledge of one's theme, we plant seeds of an uncertain harvest or we plant seeds that bear no fruit." Dr. Anthony Raimondo enlightens us to reach out for the ultimate goal - Oneness with God, in his book 'Return to Eden' (reveiwed here)
I got an opportunity to conduct an e-interview with Dr. Raimondo and am grateful for the enlightening thoughts he shares through the answers here.

1. Can or should the meditation techniques be generalized or shouldn't there be customized ways of meditation suiting different temperaments and the degree of individual peace?

Meditations can be both generalized or customized for a particular purpose or need. In Return to Eden the meditations are of both methods. Predominantly the meditations are designed for a generalized audience with diverse backgrounds, natures and temperaments partly due to the variable of not personally knowing the reader. Also the intention for the mediations is to lead an individual to self-discover of a personal theme. This form of meditation must utilize a language that promotes images unique to the individual meditating. However, in exercise 5: The Dreamer, the purpose is reversed. The meditation is designed for everyone to finally share a similar experience. Therefore Return to Eden utilizes both forms depending on the objective for the meditation.

As a teacher I am aware that not all students will arrive at an understanding with the same degree of success on the same number of trials. In addition, not all individuals learn the same way, for this reason I included several preliminary exercises designed to strengthen different forms of learning modalities, and inner sense imagination. However, just as anything else we master in life, it is through consistent effort that we achieve success.

However, when guiding and individual through a meditation in a private setting the meditation can be adjusted as it is being conducted. A skillful and knowledgeable guide will know what variables need to be changed in order for the meditation to be more effective. Also, there is the post-meditation process that can help to alter and make changes if needed.

2. What are the techniques which can/should be taught to children of new age generation to keep their minds calm and at peace?

What I used for 7th and 8th grade students both in the general population and in special education classrooms was breathing and relaxation techniques. Simple meditation designed to have the student experience complete relaxation and to associate that experience with total peace.

3. Have you ever experienced Oneness with God yourself? If yes, would you like to share that experience with us ?

Yes, I will begin by asking a question. What is the sensation of a dream? In a dream you are the creator of an imaginary world. Everything in that dream is a part of your thoughts. What is the sensation between you and the images in your dream? Now as you read this imagine you are a thought in a dreamer’s mind what sensation do you experience? So to take this further when I am dreaming, God is dreaming that I am dreaming therefore we are dreaming together. This exercise is to help you understand the experience. It is a sensation that you experience with your consciousness.

I experience His presence during meditative state while working. I have experienced Him assisting me while working. I have heard His voice as he as guided me in a task as simple as placing a liner in a wastepaper basket. I have experienced Him using my voice to speak. I have often felt the possibility of physical leaving this physical plane and entering into another. I have had the sensation of Oneness with everything around me. The most common experience for me is sharing His thoughts. Especially when I use the name that God gave me. This name I call my password and when I use the term I have clear access to Him. These states have been difficult to maintain for long periods of time due to the worlds many attractions that quickly separate us from Oneness.

4. Personally how I see God is in the duties that I fulfill which have been assigned to me by Him. Its my way of conveying that I believe in the work that has been designated to me. Is this not a form of meditation in itself - not allowing the mind to drift to negative thoughts but keeping it focused to the work in hand?

Yes, I speak of living your theme and mission. When you are performing as His will without sensing His presents you are nearly at the state of Oneness. When we are aware of Him in control of our bodies and we sense is presence within us we are as Christ, One with the Father. I would also like to add that all our thoughts we entertain in our minds are meditations. Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This is why from our meditations must become how we think all day.

5. In the beginning of the book you mentioned something on the lines that if you can communicate directly with the God, why go through some intermediaries. But in many scriptures its mentioned that the Guru or the Master is the one who smoothens the path or accelerates the journey to reach the ultimate goal of Oneness with God. What is your opinion on this?

Your question is in reference to my own personal journey. At the age of nine I began to pray to God on whether or not I should become a priest. I heard a voice say, “No, I have something else planned for you.” At first, I felt much rejected from this experience. By the age of sixteen I was inspired to seek the truth, but most of the so called Masters around me at the time seemed to have their own personal agenda, which didn't sit right with me. Therefore, I decided to seek out the greatest Master in my mind, which was God, so I prayed and meditated and asked Him to teach me. The way that He instructed me was by revealing something to me, most of the time in a book or a passage from a book that confirmed the message. For example, when I had made the decision to have God teach me, I found this passage in the Bible: Jesus says, in John 6:45 “It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.’ When I saw that, I knew that I had made the right decision for myself.

Many of the Masters were taught by God, Enoch, Elijah, Buddha, and many of the prophets. I do not claim to be a Master or a prophet. It is said, “When a student is ready the teacher will arrive.” God knows the type of teacher we need, and if we put our trust in Him, He will provide the right teacher. Our job is to always seek discernment in order to have the wisdom to recognize the teacher when he arrives.

The author of Return to Eden was primarily God. It is His book for those who wish to find him. Once they begin the journey He will lead them, with or without the aid of a human being.

6. You explain in the book that following up the mission with the affirmation helps in making the mission a reality. How to incorporate positive affirmation in the daily life, which seems to be the most difficult task.

I have indirectly already answered this question. Positive affirmations are the autosuggestion needed to change our negative thinking into positive ones. For example, if you pray or meditate on a problem or issue for a solution for one hour and for the rest of the day think of the problem you have now prayed or meditated on the problem therefore more prayer was spent on the continuing of the problem and not the solution. Affirming that the problem is solved and holding on to that thought is what manifests the solution.

Jesus said, in Luke 11:11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” The other side of this is also true if you ask for a snake would you get a fish. Where your heart is, that is where your treasure is.

Another example, I wish to sell my house. Which is better to affirm the house is sold or to pray for a buyer? Praying for the buyer is affirmation that I am still the seller. Affirmation that it is sold means it is no longer mine. Affirmations are autosuggestions used to alter the way we think this is, how we are able to generate a more positive means of thinking.

7. Out of all the meditation techniques described in the book, which is the one that you would recommend people to do regularly?

Exercise 3: “Be still and know that I am God.” This is all one really needs. Once you arrive at the stillness, call to the Father and listen.

8. There are many self help, self empowerment and spiritual books in the market. What do you think was your aim while writing 'Return to Eden' and were you able to achieve it through this book?

My original aim was to help individuals to simply find their true calling by discovering their own personal theme. Return to Eden evolved into something that well exceeds my personal expectations. It went from discovering a theme for a career to discovering the Father within. During this process I evolved as well simply because I was letting Him guide my thoughts.

9. Do you plan to write any more books and what would they offer?

Yes, volume 2 of Return to Eden deals with the narrative concept of creating characters for our stories. The main character, supporting and adverse characters. Once again a plan to use elements of a narrative to guide the reader in evolving to a higher state of being.

10. How do you see the world - a place where mainly we come to atone for our sins or a place where we get the unique opportunity to take our souls to higher levels or the combination of both . To what degree do we get to control or influence our lives?

You are asking two questions. Your first question is really the same thing to atone for sin is to raise our level of perfection, for sin is a matter of falling short of the mark. However, there is another possibility some return not to atone for sin, nor to take the soul to a higher level but to guide the way for others. However, returning always bears a risk of falling short because we have freedom to choose. The choice is always to be at One or not in any plane of existence. We are always in control we always have the final say. However, when we decide to trust in God and permit Him to lead the way the task is much easier, but we can always refuse to follow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review : The Little Yellow Leaf

Title : The Little Yellow Leaf
Author and Illustrator : Carin Berger
Publisher : Greenwillow Books

Just the thought of any change elicits many emotions - the anxiety, the anticipation, the apprehension, the fear, the uncertainty… of unknown, which make it always a daunting task to accept change or get prepared for change. Most changes just happen with the course of time but just imagine for a moment, if all these changes were to happen with our consent, how many would have actually happened, perhaps just a small fraction of the actual.

This is the story of a Little Yellow Leaf during one autumn who is watching its peers float off the tree and fly past but the Little Yellow is Not Ready, it clings to its tree.

Days pass, slowly all other dry leaves gather to make huge mounds. Autumn moves on to make room for chilly weather. One after another seasons change, obediently following the cycle of nature. But every time, the Little Yellow Leaf thinks - I'm not ready, not yet. It holds onto the tree. With every change the Leaf feels its unpreparedness to take that final leap, the final jump. It is alone hanging from its tree but can not muster the courage to leave its familiar zone.

One fine day, the Little Yellow Leaf finds a companion, a Little Scarlet Leaf - another leaf holding tight to the tree. Silently they understood the inner commotion of each other, the same apprehensions, same fears, same anxiety.

Will the Little Yellow Leaf ever get ready? You must read the book to know the answer.

This book portrays the predicament of the little yellow leaf in each one of us and what role does the Little Scarlet Leaf plays in our lives to help us identify our courage and self-belief.

This book is for all age groups and a beautiful keepsake. The author and illustrator - Carin Berger is an award winning artist. The clutter-free illustrations magnificently portray the turmoil of the Little Yellow Leaf page after page. There is not a lot of text in the book and there is no need for it as the gorgeous pictures convey everything.

Friday, July 9, 2010

stitched a simple wallet for my son...

thought of stitching something for my son...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review : Walk the Grasslands with Takuri

Title : Walk the Grasslands with Takuri
Author : Nima Manjrekar and Nandita Hazarika
Artist : Maya Ramaswamy
ISBN : 978-81-87649-86-1

The book begins with an open invitation from the pygmy hog - Takuri, to take a tour with him through the place which is home for him and his friends -the exuberant, lush green grasslands which seem to spread even beyond the horizon.

The green magical grasses yet so unassuming, support innumerable life forms and are great survivors withstanding rough weathers and difficult conditions to protect the fertile top soil. The readers will be surprised to know how grasses spread and how much percentage of our breakfast comes from this family.

I liked the way Takuri introduces almost all significant categories of living organisms thriving on such grasslands - the beautiful feathered friends, the giant animals like elephants and rhinoceros, the majestic hunters, the reptiles, burrowers and dwellers and creatures as tiny as termites also find their mention here. They may seem insignificant but presence of each one of them contributes to the health and prosperity of the grasslands.

A great source of information for young children introducing them to many concepts along the way - the food chain and the variety of flora and fauna. This book is a wonderful opportunity to know more about grass, the grasslands and facts about them.

In the end Takuri touches the somber mood by bringing to notice the plight of grasslands in the hands of humans for their short-term benefits, thereby disturbing the natural cycle and balance.

He implores all of us to join hands to save the grasslands and the first step to do that is to spread the awareness about how important these beautiful grasslands are for the whole ecosystem.

The art work is magnificent, rich with beautiful details and attractive colors.

This book was a pleasure to read, a treat for the eyes and mind, a book full of information presented in an extremely readable format. I would recommend it to everybody

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Book Review : Return to Eden

Title : Return to Eden
Author : Anthony Raimondo
Publisher : dogear publishing
ISBN : 978-160844-113-6

Return to Eden is a spiritual book aiming to guide readers to live a joyous life. This book helps in making readers realize that the ultimate theme of one's existence is to attain Oneness with God and to reach that state, the one most important ingredient which needs to be present throughout this learning process is to have a focused pure thought.

God is waiting for us asking 'If you desire only me, you will find me and I will be One with you.' For that to be achieved, there needs to be a conscious detachment from the worldly desires. Meditation and fasting facilitate in bringing this detachment from the worldly desires and only then the desire for the Oneness with God will get the required focus.

I specifically liked the order of the chapters - Theme, Mission, Affirmation and Outcome Oneness. As it is prerequisite to have a central idea for a story or a narrative, the first step towards self-empowerment is to understand the Theme of our existence and the theme then becomes the force behind the thoughts, behaviors and actions. Having a theme and supporting it with repeated affirmation, makes the theme transition from subconscious to the reality. Affirmation can be positive or negative but what and how we feel gets manifested in life.

I must appreciate the way author has compared the two states - 'no-where' to 'now-here', the former gets manifested when there is total chaos and our emotional experience is that of worry, fear and anxiety while the latter is that of oneness with the Father which places us at the right place at the right time.

This book offers some wonderful thought provoking ideas, explanations and conclusions and great guided meditation techniques as well as some exercises which readers can make use of to create checkpoints in the journey to self realization.

But can't help pointing out a few spoilers in this book - the first being, a lot of mistakes in the written language, there is wrong usage of some words as simple as 'then' and 'than' and not just once but at many places and some grammatical mistakes.

Also, in some chapters the narrative becomes too complex which hampers the connectivity that any book should attempt to build with the reader. Some books, in spite of offering very complex concepts or ideas, beautifully manage to flow neatly in the minds of the readers through the words that are chosen to convey the same. However, in some, that flow appears to be very jerky and ambiguous. My personal opinion : this book could have been edited properly and the bumpy ride could have been made a pleasurable journey for the benefit of readers.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review : Kachru Rabbit

Title : Kachru Rabbit
Author : Sangeeta Gupta and Vinita Krishna
Illustrated by : Neeta Gangopadhya
Publisher : CBT

I remember having very specific preferences for some food items while not being open to some, when I was very small. On my mother's coaxing to try something new, I used to say "Sher mar jaayega par ghaas nahin khaayega" (Lion can die but will never eat grass). But with time, this "sher" has undergone great transformation and now eats and actually likes everything without any hangups. As a mother of two little children now, I am on the other side doing exactly what my mother did - convincing children to try different fruits, vegetables and other food items to get desired nutrients.

'Kachru Rabbit' is a great book to bring the same point across to the children. All parents go through times when they look for some innovative ideas to make children try new food items to get a balanced diet. Kachru Rabbit is one such kid who just likes to eat his favourite carrots all the time and refuses to try anything but carrots. He has his graden full of carrots and he enjoys them in all forms.

He munches his favourite food and sings along -

"Yummy yummy carrots, thick and juicy,

Eat them as halwa, eat them soupy,

Tender carrots as salad

I chew, I like them, I love them, what about you?"

Unlike Kachru, his neighbour Matru likes all vegetables and sings along munching his medley of veggies.

Something coerces Kachru to consider options other than carrots and what happens when he tries them - does he like different vegetables or does his loyalty to carrots grow even stronger.

Read the book to find out.

Young readers of 3 to 6 yrs, would enjoy reading this simple picture book. My younger one especially liked the small poems that Kachru and his neighbour sang along expressing their love for what they eat.

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