Category Archives: Self-Help

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence by Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is not your casual mid-afternoon read. It is a thought-provoking and in-depth presentation of a still-controversial topic, Transcendental Meditation (TM). The authors, Barry Spivack MA and Patricia Saunders Ph.D. have created a monumental piece by critically analyzing decades worth of scientific research on the social effects of the practice. After a careful evaluation of evidence, the authors conclude that there is indeed an antidote to violence.

This universal antidote is accessible to all and completely free. While this might sound like oversimplifying a vastly complex and far reaching issue, that is not necessarily so. While researchers have linked group meditation to measurable growth in social welfare (under different forms), they do not consider the TM effect the sole cause of these measures. Rather, they view it as part of a complex web of forces which govern the world and life as we know it, yet, often fall beyond our regular conscious grasp.

To those less familiar with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his teachings, there is ample opportunity to acquaint yourself throughout the pages of the book. Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders take a peek behind appearances and explore the science behind this elusive phenomenon. They gradually walk the reader through different scientific experiments and statistical analyses of growing complexity to answer a set of questions and consequently ask new ones.

By bringing to the forefront a series of socio-psychological experiments that offer perceivable proof of decrease in violence and increase of social welfare, “An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” aims to attract the attention of both individuals and governments to this feasible antidote. Organized groups have ventured into volatile war zones to bring outer peace through their inner tranquility. And they seemingly succeeded time and time again.

The authors discuss in-depth the implication of paradigms in the history of ideas, mainly paradigm shifts. Discoveries and systems of thought that did not conform to the mainstream view of the time were often first ostracized before being accepted as groundbreaking leaps. The historical contextualization outlined by the authors acts as a possible explanation of why the TM continues to be met with resistance by so many. It simply does not comply with our modern Occidental view on reality and the self.

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is somewhat similar to a meta-analysis, in that it collects a vast body of academic literature and analyzes the data and results presented. However, it is far from being a sterile statistical account, as it is deeply infused with the passion of the authors. Although starting from different fields (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Music respectively), both Barry Spivack’s and Patricia Saunders’ life journeys merge in the blossoming universe of Transcendental Meditation.

Overcoming: Lessons in Triumphing Over Adversity and the Power of Our Common Humanity by Dr. Augustus White III (Author), David Chanoff (Author), Jon Land, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski (Foreword)

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

I wonder when the esteemed African-American orthopedic surgeon Augustus White III conceived the idea for his book OVERCOMING if he had any idea how current events would conspire to make this an absolute must-read. Indeed, the combination of political turmoil (putting it mildly) coupled with a raging pandemic have left all of us with challenges we’ve never faced before. Something to overcome, in other words.

This is a book a man of Dr. White’s background and repute is uniquely suited to write, given his own inspirational and groundbreaking history. Known as “the Jackie Robinson of orthopedics,” he was the first African-American medical student at Stanford, the first black surgical resident at Yale, the first black professor of surgery at Yale, and the first black chief of service at a Harvard teaching hospital. Dr. White has truly lived a life of “firsts,” breaking barriers and overcoming adversity every step of the way. And now he’s sharing the lessons of that journey with all of us, on the occasion of Black History Month no less.

I so enjoyed his own story in OVERCOMING, but this is not a book that focuses on him. Instead, the attention turns to twenty everyday heroes who’ve overcome levels of often incredible adversity, usually with the help of others who may be friends or strangers. That’s where the “Common Humanity” part of the subtitle stems from.

There are athletes in the form of a paralyzed wrestler who recovered to become a champion and a female football player who went on to become the first ever Division One college football position coach. There are doctors in the form of the first African-American orthopedic surgeon and an oncological orthopedist who also served as an astronaut. One of the Lost Boys of the Sudan is featured, along with a transgender young man, a blind psychotherapist, two sets of parents who lost children, a family raising a disabled needs child, a one-armed female champion weightlifter, an advanced stage lung cancer survivor and a whole bunch more who make our everyday problems pale by comparison.

In these turbulent times, they are examples for us all, serving to make OVERCOMING the first must-read book of 2021. Not only do the twenty profiles entertain, they also inform. We come away with a unique appreciation for the strength and power of the human spirit, reinvigorated ourselves by the hope these stories provide. If the subjects of this book can overcome the likes of the examples above, then we can plow through the residue of political strife and a pandemic that won’t let go.

And that’s the whole point of OVERCOMING. The legendary Studs Terkel used a similar approach with both “The Good War” and “American Dreams Lost and Found,” and I haven’t found another comparably themed book that approached the greatness of those until OVERCOMING. Its message will inspire you, its lessons will leave you humbled, and its stories will stay with you long after the final page is flipped. Here is a tour de force of style and substance, a contemporary classic on the human condition that will be read for many years, and crises, to come.

bLU Talks – Business, Life and the Universe Compiled by Corey Poirier

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

More than just an assortment of self-help lectures, BLU Talks Presents: Business Life and the Universe offers a thoughtfully produced collection of unpretentious, coaching soul-help discourses. Compiled by Corey Poirier, this is the first book in the series, which contains an expansive variety of lectures and intimate anecdotes which together culminate into an overall varietal hosting of meaty subjects created to guide, edify and inspire.

Brimming with sparks of cogent knowledge, each “talk” primarily focuses on a different element, situation, or practice in life. The inspiring lessons come across powerfully but are related in such a warm and welcoming style that allows for easy and authentic resonance between the author and reader.

Additionally, the expertise involved is vast, your instructors come from all walks of life, including mothers, authors, business owners, advisors, leaders, spiritualists, Reiki masters, overall intelligent thinkers, and go-getters, with many of them wielding expertise in multiple disciplines. Some narratives are based on life experiences that touch the heart as well as expand the self, such as Alli Mackenzie’s A Day We Will Remember Forever or Carey Lowe’s chapter which presents character flaw identification titled, Self – Improvement. Others sharpen the business acumen from a very different perspective like The Secrets They don’t Teach You at Business School by Dr. Allen Lycka. Similarly, the Universal element emanates from the enlightened perspective in Aurora Light’s Intention, Synchronicity, and Love Co-Creation with the Universe, which is absolutely one of my favorites. Likewise with lectures like Grow by Jennifer Eckel which discusses stopping negative attachments or Caroline Stewart’s Radical Honesty as well as Cultivating Resilience Through Trauma by Gary Benoit.

Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free by Suzanne Harris and Paul Brunetta

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Often easier said than done, quitting smoking can be one of the more daunting experiences that someone can face in life and while there is an abundance of guides on the market, it may seem like when you have read one, you read them all. However, within the text of Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free, readers/potential quitters become empowered by virtue of its expert authors, encouraging tone, motivational success stories, a bevy of resources and easy to manage exercises. Co-authored by Suzanne Harris R.N. and Paul Brunetta MD, this book is more than just another guide to quitting smoking; it is more like the bible for quitting smoking.

Overall, the book presents a full-spectrum view of the multilayered and quietly intimate process of taking back your life from smoking. Both well-written and thoroughly organized, the book text is divided into two halves; the first half of which explores and delves deeply into an intriguing series of questions concerning smoking which also are the same questions that smokers looking to quit should challenge themselves with answering; for example, Chapter 1 queries “What Moves You to be a Non-Smoker? ” followed by an overview of the issue and original documented experiences told from the experiences of several past patients. The connection to their struggles comes easily as their stories ring as relatable, candid, and insightful with the ultimate outcome of their eventual successes bearing a gift of motivation.

Also, there are included pictures of the patients which adds an additional dimension of realism to their included testimonies. Each chapter ends with a reiteration of key points, action steps and also includes a space for personal notes. Additionally, within this half of the book, Chapters 9 and 10, amply provide a blueprint to be implemented for embarking on your personal smoking cessation sojourn.

Consequently, as a whole Learning to Quit: How to Stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free brims with inspiration and powerfully important information presented in an attention-grabbing multi -perspective view of a life-threatening habit that to some (myself included) seems almost impossible to overcome. Entirely, this was not only an intriguing read but a necessary read for any smoker period. As you move through the content, your mindset becomes altered as you stop and take pause while wallowing in the fact that when you smoke, you have lost authority over yourself, your life and your health. Anytime is a good time to start taking it back, as a matter of fact, the sooner the better as proven by the many success stories within the book, including the authors. One aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting was the poignant look at the difference between fear-based and desire-based motivation. Also, the authors offer access to a multitude of helpful resources through their website Learningtoquit.com. Ultimately, this book is a must-have for anyone thinking about or determined to quit. It is an eye-opening and mind-altering call to take back your power.

The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be by Drake E. Taylor

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Drake E. Taylor, an officer in the United States Air Force, advocates four types of hats that will help individuals become effective and successful leaders. The Preface is an excellent tool for drawing readers into The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be. The four types of hats are The Farmer’s Hat, The Drill Instructor’s Hat, The Psychologist’s Hat, and The Self-Care Hat. Taylor does an excellent job of providing an analogy between a farmer’s job and that of leading a team of people, describing the role of when it is appropriate to use the drill instructor’s hat in a civilian environment, the value of the psychologist hat and ways to help people with their emotional well-being, and the importance of the self-care hat for a leader’s mental health.

Bound by My Choices: How a Death Nearly Broke Me But the Navy Saved Me by Keshawn A. Spence

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Bound by My ChoicesThis illustrated memoir is a modern fairy tale of how a troubled young boy managed to overcome the many obstacles thrown his way and how he continues to do so as an adult. Keshawn A. Spence claims that he is bound by his choices, but as his story unfolds, the opposite message seems to emerge, one of freedom and possibilities.

Bound by My Choices is mostly rooted in the childhood of the author, focusing on the influence of the external factors over his life. The book debuts with a series of photos immortalizing some of the most important events throughout his life, but also some that are precious precisely because they mirror the nakedness of real life. So, ever since the beginning, the intention of the author to create an intimate bond with the reader on his journey of self-discovery is quite clear.

The Journey from Poor Procrastinator to Invested Millennial by Jeremy Kho

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The Journey From Poor Procrastinator to Invested MillenIf you are looking to learn how to achieve financial independence, Jeremy Kho has prepared a book just for you. The Journey from Poor Procrastinator to Invested Millennial will teach you the basics regarding how you should manage your finances and make you curious to learn more. However, the book is not limited to this topic, it can also just help motivate you to overcome your general state of procrastination.

Don’t be scared that the information presented will be too technical for you, it is far from that. With a friendly tone, Jeremy Kho takes you on a journey of self-discovery. He uses a lot of colorful examples to make the economics part more accessible. There are plenty of stories with realistic characters throughout the book containing noteworthy morals. You might even recognize yourself in one or more of these.

The Dot on the Left: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve by Dave Swanson

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The Dot on the LeftWhen readers turn to a self-help book they are looking for something new and different. There have been thousands of books written about overcoming adversity, striving to improve yourself, finding strength from within, etc… The question when promoting these self-help books is not only how to market them but finding something unique that no one else has written previously.

Dave Swanson’s self-help/inspirational book entitled THE DOT ON THE LEFT: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Ahead of the Curve is not as much another primer or how-to book. Rather, Swanson simply tells his own story and how he overcame adversity, negativity and labels others wished to place upon him and instead listened only to his inner feelings as he pushed himself to succeed at every goal he set for himself.

This is a great start, but to really grab readers and keep them engaged you also need to have some credibility beyond just a good story. Swanson has that in droves. In addition to being a published author he is also a motivational speaker and former U.S. Army infantry platoon leader. He knows about real adversity as he survived over 100 firefights while deployed to Sadr City, Iraq. There’s an old adage that states ‘there are no atheists in fox-holes’! Well, to survive the type of warfare this man was faced with required much more than faith alone. Dave Swanson sounds like the type of person I want to listen to when he has something to say.

Understanding the Patterns of Your Life: Take Charge of Your Destiny by George Pan Kouloukis

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Understanding the Patterns of Your LifeDo the events in your daily life follow patterns? It is usually easy to find math patterns. What about nature? Is there a pattern in examining pine cone? The mathematician Fibonacci certainly saw that pattern. Are there other patterns?

Are there good years and bad ones or is that just a balance of life? Obviously, not every second of each day is good or bad, but what about the overall year? Of course, every day is not typically all good or bad.

Think about the major shifts you have experienced. Examine your health issues, your money situations, your career ups and downs, and your love life. Do any patterns appear? When you analyze your results in chronological order, surprisingly you are likely to see a pattern. Could this help each of us begin to predict our own futures? Would it help each of us with our family, relationships, career, or life issues in general?

George Kouloukis analyzed the lives of twenty-two well-known people who lived in the last five-hundred years, a few still living today. He quickly found the not many ordinary people chronicle and publish their lives. Due to this, he chose famous people in various parts of the world with different careers who experience their own good and bad years. He studied the lives of Ludwig van Beethoven, Giusepppe Verdi, Pablo Picasso, Mikhail Gorbachev, The Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Christopher Columbus, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Victor Hugo, Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis, Nelson Mandela, Maria Callas, Sarah Bernhardt, Napoleon’s wife – Josephine, King Henry VIII, Jimmy Carter, and John Glenn.

Surprisingly, the author, George Kouloukis discovered a pattern in their lives, a sixteen-seventeen year cycle. The short biographies of these famous people help every reader to properly assess the good and bad seasons for each individual. Naturally, not everything is good in the good season and bad in the bad, but the major overall events are the focus. The author examined the health, wealth, their positions or careers and love.

Kouloukis researched other findings of patterns identified by other researchers. The Universe by Time-Life Books explained how the magnetic poles of the sun alternate every eleven years. Strangely, this pattern seemed to have little to no relevance to human behavior. Another consideration was The Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel J. Levison explained the four seasons of every life with each lasting round twenty to twenty-two years. Again, George Kouloukis found no normal correlation with his life or those he studied. These resources appealed to Kouloukis but seemed slightly flawed.

Lacking few biographies of ordinary people or regular people, he began to study these famous people throughout the world, varying the time periods, the gender, the situations, and delving into their personal lives focusing on their wealth, health, love, and successful or failed careers.

He discovered the patterns through these people and allows you to examine your own life to discover the season you are now experiencing so that the author’s realizations can assist you with your life in the future.

Reading the book, Understanding the Patterns of Your Life allows you to learn to examine your own life to allow you to make choices for yourself. George Pan Kouloukis has opened his wisdom to read your own personal crystal ball.

I’ll Be Looking at the Moon: A novel about finding Home by Lucia Barrett

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

I'll Be Looking at the MoonA fitting book for spring, since it is about rebirth and life, I’ll Be Looking at the Moon by Lucia Barrett will fill your lungs with the fresh smell of wild flowers. While it can easily be cataloged as romance, the novel has deeper layers to it, which surpass the stereotypical love connection between a man and a woman. It is also a story about family and above all about the Self.

Click Here for More Information on I’ll Be Looking at the Moon

The story kicks off with a strong start. The reader is practically thrown into the inner world of the lead protagonist being exposed to her most personal thoughts. Once we share a glimpse of Elizabeth Parker Morgan’s present, we are torn away from it and sent back to the past, on a journey to discover (alongside her) why and how this present came to be. With a Freudian approach, the focus falls on her childhood and how the relationship with her parents and brother, but especially her mother, helped shape her as a person, and more particularly her capacity to give and receive love. As she matures into a successful businesswoman, she experiences France with all the romantic perils that would make such a cultural experience whole. She meets a man torn from her dreams in which she finds the coveted reciprocity she longed for all her life. But the illusion of a fairy tale love story soon shatters and both parts are left only with shards that will not fit together anymore. It is up to Elisabeth to rebuild herself and integrate this story into her life experience.

While the main focus falls on the love Elisabeth shared with Antonio, there are several other romantic strings that run through the pages of the book. Lucia Barrett takes on an intergenerational love story presenting very different type of relationships. First, there is the accomplished couple represented by Elisabeth’s grandparents, who are best friends for life and still care deeply about each other at their old age. The second pair, Elisabeth’s parents fell in love with each other easily, but they grew apart over the years. Their shared experiences uncovered mainly their differences and widened the gap between them. Finally, the love story of the heroine remains for you to discover in which category should fall, but hold your judgment until the last pages of the book.

I’ll Be Looking at the Moon is a play on perspectives. A surface will materialize before our eyes depending on how the light will cover it. Whoever controls the light source controls what we see. In this case, Lucia Barrett takes the steering wheel and directs your attention to unexpected details.