Friday, October 05, 2007
I know Wikipedia isn’t the most academically reliable website on the net, but gosh darn it, it’s always at the top of the google search!
Here are some clips about various self-help and inspirational books. You might find some interesting ideas to respond to in your essay…
 The Seven Habits
The chapters are dedicated to each of the habits, which are represented by the following imperatives:
- Be Pro-active. Here, Covey emphasizes the original sense of the term “proactive” as coined by Victor Frankl. You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you act about certain things. Being “proactive” means taking responsibility for everything in life. When you’re reactive, you blame other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Initiative, and taking action will then follow. Covey shows how man is different from animals in that he has self consciousness. He has the ability to detach himself and observe his own self, think about his thoughts. He goes on to say how this attribute enables him. It gives him the power not to be affected by his circumstances. Covey talks about ‘Stimulus and Response’. Between Stimulus and Response, we have the power to choose the response.
- Begin with the End In Mind. This chapter is about setting long-term goals based on “true-north principles”. Covey recommends to formulate a “personal mission statement” to document one’s perception of one’s own purpose in life. He sees visualization as an important tool to develop this. He also deals with organizational mission statements, which he claims to be more effective if developed and supported by all members of an organization, rather than being prescribed.
- Put First Things First. Here, Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at long-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear to be urgent, but are in fact less important. Delegation is presented as an important part of time management. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed in advance, rather than on prescribing detailed work plans.
- Think Win/Win describes an attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought, that satisfy the needs of oneself as well as others, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly listening to another person’s concerns instead of reading out your own autobiography is purported to increase the chance of establishing a working communication.
- Synergize describes a way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that, when this is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
- Sharpen the saw focuses on balanced self-renewal. Regaining what Covey calls “production capability” by engaging in carefully selected recreational activities.
Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus
Gray suggests that while a man might count a $200 present as 20 points and a $10 item as 1 point, women count each item as 1 point. The emotional stroke delivered by the sincere attention is as important as the value of the item. This can lead to conflict when a man thinks he has earned 20 points and deserves appropriate recognition while the female has only given him 1 point and recognizes him accordingly.
Another major point of Gray’s books are the differences in the way they react under stress. He believes that many men withdraw until they find a solution to the problem. He refers to this as “retreating into their cave.” In some cases they may literally retreat, for example, to the garage or craft room. On the other hand, he believes that women want to discuss problems when they occur. This leads to a natural dynamic of the man retreating as the woman constantly tries to grow closer. This becomes a major source of conflict between any man and woman. As one reviewer put it: When men go into their cave, they are actually going through a phase of their relationship with a woman, when they want to be left alone. Any woman who has wondered why a boyfriend is not e mailing/calling/messaging/meeting her will know what it feels like to be shut out of the cave. Women and ‘the wave’ is a concept [which] means that women go through periodic phases when they are unable to keep up their spirits without help and assistance from understanding men. At such times, ‘the wave’ crashes, and it needs to be given love and reassurance to rise up again with its usual confidence. 
Some researchers agree with Gray’s ideas about male-female communications differences. Deborah Tannen’s studies of male/female communication find that “for women, talk creates intimacy… But men live in a hierarchical world, where talk maintains independence and status.” . However, other studies do not find such differences. Erina MacGeorge found only a 2 percent difference between communication styles and argues that “when it comes to comforting, the Mars-Venus concept is not only wrong, but harmful. For the most part, men and women use, and strongly prefer, the same ways of comforting others – listening, sympathizing and giving thoughtful advice.” Some feminists have criticized the book for being misogynistic and patronizing  When discussing relations with the opposite sex, one often hears the complaint, “It’s like she’s from another planet!”, while others accuse it of being written as a ’self-improvement’ book for women, blatantly suggesting that women should adapt to men’s ways of communicating, rather than both genders co-operating. Susan Hamson’s web site “The Rebuttal From Uranus” says: “Despite its promotional hype, at its very core it is a sexist, patronizing, male-centered invective which does little more than perpetuate long-held negative gender stereotypes” Hamson objects to the lack of reference and details about the research Gray claims to have made, as well as to two central points which she feels Gray makes in his book:
- “that men fulfill active roles and are seen as ambitious and powerful. Women, however, satisfy passive roles”; and,
- “although the author may grudgingly admit that women are cognizant human beings, they must necessarily take a back seat to the dominant male in their lives in order to routinely accommodate his wants and desires.” 
Formal education: The quality of Gray’s PhD status is by some reports, dubious at best, and fradulent at worse, as the educational organization his PhD is purported to be from was, at the time, reportedly a “paper mill for doctorates”.  
The Celestine Prophecy
The nine Insights:
- The First Insight… A Critical Mass
A new spiritual awakening is occurring in human culture; an awakening brought about by a critical mass of individuals who experience their lives as a spiritual unfolding, a journey in which we are led forward by mysterious coincidences.
- The Second Insight… The Longer Now
This awakening represents the creation of a new, more complete worldview, which replaces a five-hundred-year-old preoccupation with secular survival and comfort. While this technological preoccupation was an important step, our awakening to life’s coincidences is opening us up to the real purpose of human life on this planet, and the real nature of our universe.
We now experience that we live not in a material universe, but in a universe of dynamic energy. Everything extant is a field of sacred energy that we can sense and intuit. Moreover, we humans can project our energy by focusing our attention in the desired direction, in that where attention goes, energy flows, influencing other energy systems and increasing the pace of coincidences in our lives. It is possible to see this energy enveloping all living things.
- The Fourth Insight… The Struggle For Power
To gain energy, we tend to manipulate or force others to give us attention and thus energy. When we successfully dominate others in this way, we feel more powerful, but they are left weakened and often fight back. Competition for scarce, human energy is the cause of all conflict between people.
- The Fifth Insight… The Message of the Mystics
Insecurity and violence ends when we experience an inner connection with divine energy within, a connection described by mystics of all traditions. A sense of lightness or buoyancy along with the constant sensation of love are measures of this connection. If these measures are present, the connection is real. If not, it is only pretended.
- The Sixth Insight… Clearing the Past
The more we stay connected, the more we are acutely aware of those times when we lose connection, usually when we are under stress. In these times, we can see our own particular way of stealing energy from others. Once our manipulations are brought to personal awareness, our connection becomes more constant and we can discover our own evolutionary path in life, and our spiritual mission, which is the personal way we can contribute to the world. Here the four main “control dramas“—the Interrogator, the Intimidator, the Aloof and the Poor Me—are discussed. Each person unconsciously prefers one of these four to suck energy out of others (as described in the Fourth Insight). A way of getting these under control is disclosed.
- The Seventh Insight… Engaging the Flow
Knowing our personal mission further enhances the flow of mysterious coincidences as we are guided toward our destinies. First we have a question; then dreams, daydreams, and intuitions lead us towards the answers, which usually are synchronistically provided by the wisdom of another human being.
- The Eighth Insight… The Interpersonal Ethic
We can increase the frequency of guiding coincidences by uplifting every person that comes into our lives. Care must be taken not to lose our inner connection when we have become part of romantic relationships. Uplifting others is especially effective in groups wherein each member can feel energy of all the others. With children it is extremely important for their early security and growth. By seeing the beauty in every face, we lift others into their wisest self, and increase the chances of hearing a synchronistic message.
- The Ninth Insight… The Emerging Culture
As we all evolve toward the best completion of our spiritual missions, the technological means of survival will be fully automated as humans focus instead on synchronistic growth. Such growth will move humans into higher energy states, ultimately transforming our bodies into spiritual form and uniting this dimension of existence with the after-life dimension, ending the cycle of birth and death.
I’m Ok, You’re Ok
Harris introduces Transactional Analysis in this book, which was subtitled in the US “A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis”. Intended for the average reader, the book’s early chapters lay out some of the theory behind TA in a simplified form before going on to practical applications as befits a self-help book. The phase “I’m OK, You’re OK” is one of four life positions that each of us may take. The four positions are:
- I’m Not OK, You’re OK
- I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK
- I’m OK, You’re Not OK
- I’m OK, You’re OK
The most common position is “I’m Not OK, You’re OK”. As children we see that adults are large, strong and competent and that we are little, weak and often make mistakes, so we conclude “I’m Not OK, You’re OK”. Children who are abused may conclude “I’m OK, You’re Not OK”, but this is much less common. The focus of the book is helping people understand how their life position affects their communications (transactions) and relationships with practical examples.
Conversations with God (sometimes abbreviated as “CwG”) is a sequence of nine books written by Neale Donald Walsch. Each book is written as a dialogue in which Walsch asks questions and “God” answers. Walsch claims that these dialogues are truly inspired by God. The first book of the Conversations with God series, Conversations with God, Book 1: An Uncommon Dialogue, appeared on bookshelves in 1995, and quickly became a publishing phenomenon. Publishers Weekly reported this first book staying on the New York Times Best-Sellers List for 137 weeks (over two and a half years). The succeeding volumes in the trilogy also appeared prominently on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. In an interview with Larry King, Walsch described the inception of the books as follows: at a low period in his life, Walsch wrote an angry letter to God asking questions about why his life wasn’t working. After writing down all of his questions, he heard a voice over his right shoulder say: “Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just venting?” Though when he turned around he saw no one there, Walsch felt answers to his questions filling his mind and decided to write them down. The ensuing dialogue became the Conversations with God books.
 Basis of the dialog
Containing nearly 3000 pages of material in total, the series presents a vast number of ideas. The second and third books in the original trilogy deal with political and social issues.
In Friendship with God (page 373), “God” presents four concepts which are central to the entire dialogue:
- We are all One.
- There’s Enough.
- There’s Nothing We Have [an obligation] to Do.
- Ours Is Not A Better Way, Ours Is Merely Another Way.
The first statement is understood to mean that existence is essentially nondual in nature. At the highest level there is no separation between anything and there is only one of us; there is only God, and everything is God. The second statement, following from the first, means that we, in this seeming existence, lack nothing and if we choose to realize it, we have enough of whatever we think we need (or the means to create it) within us. The third statement combines the first two to conclude that God, being all there is and is thus always sufficient unto Itself, has no need of anything and therefore has no requirements of humanity. The final concept puts an end to our need to always be right. Given that we have and are everything, and there’s nothing we have to do, there are an infinite number of ways to experience this, not just the one way we may have chosen so far. According to the books, God recommends many economic and social changes if people want to make a more functional, adaptable, and sustainable world, recommends that more attention should focus on the environment. The conversations also teach that reincarnation and life on other planets exists.
In Walsch’s first dialogue, God notes that “knowing” and “experiencing” oneself are different things. Before creation there was only That-Which-Is, which cannot know or experience itself fully, without something it is not. It cannot know itself as love, since nothing exists but love. It cannot know itself as giving since nothing else exists to give to. It cannot experience itself in myriad ways because everything is one. This present creation then, in Walsch’s viewpoint, is established by and within God, so that sentience can exist which does not directly remember its true nature as God. Split into infinite forms, all life can live, experience, and recreate its nature as God, rather than just “know” itself as the creator in theory. It is essentially a game, entered into by agreement, to remember who and what we are and enjoy and create, knowing that ultimately there is no finish line that some will not reach, no understanding that is not without value, no act that does not add meaning to the future or for others. In Walsch’s view we have a common interest in keeping the game going, for there is nothing else to do except to experience our existence and then experience more of it, to uncover deeper layers of truth and understanding. There are no external rules, because all experience is subjective, and is chosen. But within this, there are ways that (it is stated and implied) people will gradually come to see their thoughts, words, actions are either working or they are not working. A thing is either functional or dysfunctional. These rememberings take place over “time” and can take hundreds and thousands of lifetimes.
|This section is written like a personal reflection or essay and may require cleanup. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style.|
The voice of God states in Book 1 that words are not the truth, and thus readers must ultimately take what is being said and consult their own feelings to determine if they are in agreement with it. The voice says this is true of any other book or words we come across. Though the books bear the title Conversations with God and the author introduces the first book by stating he is “taking dictation” from God, the voice of God in the trilogy explains that the dialogue is God speaking to everyone all the time. The question is not to whom does God talk, but who listens. This is clarified by the statement that God can communicate with you in the next song you hear, the next breeze that caresses your ear, the next conversation you overhear. “All these devices are mine. All these avenues are open to me. I will speak to you if you invite me.” At the deepest level consciousness is and that there is only one “voice” regardless whether it is thought to belong to God, or an individual, or imagination. This leads to a statement of the Divine Dichotomy: that two contradictory truths can exist, neither making the other untrue. This is possible only in the realm of the relative, because, as was stated above, in the absolute all things are one thing, and there is nothing else.
In the dialogue many philosophical ideas are presented that had already been advanced earlier by major Eastern and Western thinkers, but Walsch presents the information in language for modern readers and does not specifically cite any of these philosophers. In fact, Walsch claims that he had never known most of these ideas before his revelatory experiences. Since the beginning of the series, and especially in the latter volumes, Walsch and “God” acknowledge that most of the concepts presented are previously known to humanity, but are profound enough to warrant being explored repeatedly, and put into this cohesive unified form. Since humanity is still mired in strife and conflict, there is value in their restatement. Fundamental parts of Walsch’s writings are also mirrored within other well known spiritual writings and traditions:
- Souls reincarnate to eventually experience God-realization (Bhagavad-Gita/Hinduism).
- Feelings are more important as a source of guidance than intellect (Rousseau).
- We are not here to learn anything new but to remember what we already know (Plato).
- Physical reality is an illusion (Hinduism/Buddhism’s concept of maya).
- God is everything. (Spinoza / Brahman)
- God is self-experiential, in that it is the nature of the Universe to experience itself. (Hegel, and process theology as first outlined by Alfred North Whitehead)
- Good and evil do not exist (as absolutes, but can exist in a different context and for different reasons as Nietzsche).
- Reality is a representation created by will. (Schopenhauer)
- Nobody knowingly desires evil. (Socrates)
- It’s just a ride. (Bill Hicks)
Contemporary writers whose philosophies agree with much of CwG includeRichard Bach author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Jane Roberts author of The Seth Material, popular psychologist and author Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle author of The Power of Now (Tolle refers to much of this work in his reference sections in his own book). Whether by accident or design, the ideal of existence espoused in the book mirrors almost exactly the philosophies related by the late comic Bill Hicks on his album “Rant in E-minor”. His final album, recorded in 1993 and released posthumously three years later, details Hicks’ belief that all humanity is in fact one eternal consciousness separated by a loving God only by illusion. Hicks had touched on these ideas repeatedly throughout his career, most famously in his “It’s Just a Ride” speech, and claimed to have received these revelations through the use of psychedelic substances.The CwG books sometimes make hints and suggestions about future events. An example of this is The Impeachment of Bill Clinton in book 2 of the trilogy. This account was first published in May of 1997, “God” told Walsch in Chapter 19 (p.226) that because the President Bill Clinton was “courageously fighting big money’s vested interest” there were going to be “tremendous powers attempting to remove him from office.” Less than a year later, in 1998, the Lewinsky scandal broke and resulted in calls for Clinton’s impeachment and possible eviction from his position. Eventually President Clinton was officially impeached, the resulting vote to convict and remove him from office then failed to win sufficient votes.
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