“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~ Audre Lorde
1.) The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin:
“Wizardry is Artistry.” ~ Ursula Le Guin
The Word for World is Forest was Avataring long before Avatar was even a twinkle in James Cameron’s eye. Taking place on the verdant planet Athshe, home of the peaceful humanoid Athsheans (‘creechies’), men from earth (‘yumens’) have arrived to enslave the poor Athsheans and log the abundant forest to send the valuable timber back to earth.
The previously nonviolent Athsheans, led by Selver, must now learn the nature of violence in order to defend themselves and preserve what they love. Their nemesis is Captain Don Davidson, who considers himself a “world-tamer.” He is opposed by Raj Lyubov, an anthropologist who sympathizes with the Athshean culture and has become friends with Selver. Under Selver’s leadership and Lyubov’s friendship, the Athshean slaves rebel against their captors.
This amazing novel strikes at the heart of eco-consciousness, inhumanity and violence. A kind of spiritual ecology arises from the work that puts the interconnectedness of all things into perspective. It reveals how sometimes a line must be drawn in the sand, and self-defense must become paramount to preserve life, love, liberty, and ecological balance.
2.) To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf:
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” ~ Virginia Woolf
To The Lighthouse is a brilliant book fragmented into stream-of-consciousness observations by its characters. A wide range of human emotions are experienced through growth and decay, the sacred and the profane, and life and death, which resonates from the characters interactions over the course of the book.
Transience and ephemerality are major themes throughout. The powerful effect of the passage of time is especially poignant in the second section “Time Passes.” Characters age, some die. The once clean and domesticated house is overgrown by dirt and wildness.
Existential angst and wrestling with the mortal coil of the human condition permeates throughout the first (The Window) and third sections (The Lighthouse).
The lighthouse, looming across the bay and meaning something different and intimately personal to each character, is a powerful symbol for that which is illuminating and infinitely decipherable. Another powerful symbol portrayed in the novel is Lily’s painting, the completion of which represents female empowerment and misogynistic overcoming.
3.) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant:
“Why had no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test? Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers?” ~Dinah, The Red Tent
This is a powerful novel that uncovers the sacred bond between women. Told through the eyes of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph, The Red Tent takes place in Biblical times. Diamant expands upon the story of Dinah in a sweeping tale of love, loss, sisterhood, and motherhood.
The main themes are childbirth as a defining experience, the burden of memory, and the power of the moon and nature. The moon is a powerful symbol, denoting the harmony between the women themselves and the women with the Earth. The worship of the moon’s power also signifies the renewal of a woman’s body and the gifts of health and fertility she receives from the goddess Innana.
The most powerful symbol of the novel is the Red Tent, which symbolizes the private and magical world of women. It is a sacred gathering place for women, where they honor each other and the power of renewal, menses, and childbirth.
4.) A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” ~ Marianne Williamson
This is a landmark book from the spiritual renaissance of the new millennium. Williamson reflects on the principles of A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman, which was a program of spiritual psychotherapy that claims to assist its readers in achieving spiritual transformation.
The beauty of A Return to Love is its focus on Love overcoming Fear. As she writes in the opening pages, “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.”
The passionate baring of her soul and the spiritual awakening she experiences along her journey pulls the reader in. She discusses relationships and the power of unconditional love. She describes the ego as “The Great Faultfinder,” explaining how soul-centric relationships will be challenging and transformative by teaching us how to be patient and humble, and to love more. Whereas ego-centric love will give us fewer problems and easier pleasure, seductively pulling us away from the possibility of deeper discovery.
5.) The Seeker’s Guide by Elizabeth Lesser:
“What will matter is the good we did, not the good we expected others to do.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser
The Seeker’s Guide is a blueprint for transforming your life into a spiritual adventure. Lesser defines spirituality as “a fearless investigation of reality.” She teaches us how to slow down, to quiet the mind, to feel hungry for something, and then use that hunger as a compass for spiritual exploration.
She guides us through the four landscapes of the spiritual journey:
The Mind: learning meditation to ease stress and anxiety.
The Heart: dealing with grief, loss, and pain; opening the heart and becoming fully alive.
The Body: returning the body to the spiritual fold to heal and overcome the fear of aging and death.
The Soul: experiencing daily life as an adventure of meaning and mystery.
She also warns us against various spiritual traps. Including, but not limited to: narcissism, superficiality, instant transformation, grandiosity, the inner child tantrum, and the guru trip.
Elizabeth synthesizes the lessons learned from an immersion into Zen Buddhism, Sufism, and multi-faith spirituality, and intertwines them with illuminating stories from her daily life. The Seeker’s Guide is a Varieties of Religious Experience 2.0.
6.) The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:
“Creativity—like human life itself—begins in darkness.” ~ Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way is in the “Self-publishing Hall of Fame,” and is one of the most popular self-help books of all time. Written as a comprehensive twelve-week program, she emphasizes the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life. This book speaks to the artistic soul within us all. It links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe.
She recommends two ongoing core activities to overcome blocks and self-defeating tendencies: Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates. Morning Pages are daily stream-of-consciousness writings about anything at all (I call mine Meditative Writings), which overcomes the writer’s internal censor and makes writing habitual. The Artist’s Date is a weekly block of two hours spent simply observing, experiencing, and sensing the world.
The connection to the universe experienced within the throes of creativity is the primary experiences in this book, which jump-starts both the creative and spiritual process. Like she says in the book, “God is an artist. So are we. And we can cooperate with each other. Our creative dreams and longings come from a divine source, not necessarily from the human ego.”
7.) Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“As with any descent into the unconscious, there comes a time when one simply hopes for the best, pinches one’s nose, and jumps into the abyss. If this were not so, we would not have needed to create the words heroine, hero, or courage.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Women Who Run With the Wolves is a masterpiece of mythological insight and should be read by all people, but especially women. It takes the reader through wise fables, parables, legends, and myths while interpreting it through a feminine, eco-conscious lens of “deep knowing” that mystically reveals how all things can be connected through the power of human stories.
Particularly poignant is the following wise alliteration of spiritual advice – forego: leave it alone; forebear: abstain from punishment; forget: refuse to dwell; and forgive: abandon the debt.
Pinkola-Estes strikes the heart of the female condition, while also tapping the cornerstone of the human condition, by revealing the elusive philosopher’s stone of deep Truth in balance with the human soul.
Through wild knowing and sacred myth-making, this book is a salve for the many wounds inherent within the human condition, and a spiritual boon for the religiously perplexed. Wild Woman (La Loba, Wolf Woman) has much to teach women, let alone men.
As Clarissa Pinkola-Estes advises in the book, “Be homesick for wild knowing.”
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