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March Book Review: Lying by Sam Harris

As a young, impressionable grade school girl in Catholic school in sunny California in the 1970’s, I learned to lie. Yes, you read that correctly: I learned to lie.

Every week, I was required to attend confession, where I was to tell a priest what my sins were for the week. As a very shy youth, I hated confession because I did not like having to tell a stranger what I did wrong. One time, I could not think of a single sin to disclose, so I lied and told the priest I had lied to my mother when I actually had not. I believe I did this to avoid embarrassment (as silly as it was). Ridiculous it was, but confessing our sins was a weekly, unavoidable occurrence and I felt I had to say something, so I lied. This blog, however, is not about my adventures as a Catholic school girl. My point is that telling a lie, like Sam Harris succinctly explains in Lying, can sometime be arduous. I should have told the priest I could not think of a sin instead of lying to him, and we all might agree that lying is wrong, but is it wrong in all circumstances? Read Lying to find out!

Lying by Sam Harris is a short summary of the lies people tell and how they can and do negatively affect us on personal and societal level. Harris explains the two different types of lies: acts of commission and acts of omission, the differences between the two and how they affect us and the people we hurt with these lies. Sam discusses white lies, giving false impressions, false praise, keeping secrets, extreme lies, living a life of lies, when corporations or governments lie and more. In his short book, he also includes an interview with his former professor from Stanford University, Dr. Ronald A. Howard, in which he discusses very thought-provoking, difficult questions regarding the act of lying. Harris sees lying as a refusal to cooperate with others and finds the act very detrimental to the health of the individual and our society at large. I agree with him.

I found Sam Harris,’ Lying, very stimulating, and I recommend it to anyone who is a student of philosophy or ethics. A personal reflection or an introspective discussion with friends will ensue after this read!

A bit about the author, Sam Harris:

Sam Harris is an author, lecturer and neuroscientist with a degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in neuroscience. He is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. His other books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz). The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing and public lectures cover a wide range of topics including neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, meditation practice, human violence, and rationality. Harris’s work has been published in more than 20 languages and has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. Mr. Harris is also cofounder of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values.

To learn more about Sam Harris, or to purchase Lying, visit his website: SamHarris.org.

 

 


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February Book Review: Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

What humble words mumbled by one of my all-time, favorite geniuses, Albert Einstein. I highly doubt anyone on this planet thinks that Einstein was “no special talent;” however, Einstein viewed himself as a kid in a sandbox when he daydreamed about the universe and its intricate details and workings. Work was play. Thinking, figuring and wondering was his unabashed enjoyment. He worked alone and frequently relied on his intuition. Einstein was the ultimate example of tapping into the creative intelligence. His curiosity and unwavering drive for answers would eventually lead him to become one of the greatest minds of all time. Oh, the lessons we can learn from him!As a life-long, passionate fan of Albert Einstein, I knew a bit about him, but after reading Walter Isaacson’s biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, I saw the genius from a different perspective. The book is a detailed summary of all aspects of Einstein’s life. Isaacson not only chronologically explains Einstein’s work in regard to his theory of special relativity, quantum physics, his involvement in the creation of the atomic bomb, but he also tells a compelling story about the geniuses’ personal life and his anti-war activism during WWI (and more!). Professor Einstein, known as the Father of Cosmology, believed in a universal intelligence and wanted a one-world government for ultimate peace on Earth. As a self-absorbed scientist so immersed in his work, he would sometimes spend months ignoring his family. His first wife, a physicist and intellectual colleague, found herself having to compete with him in a male-dominated profession and would eventually become resentful, depressed and physically ill. A bitter divorce ensued and Albert Einstein remarried. Isaacson brings to life the humanity behind the genius.

I recommend Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson to anyone who is curious about the man behind the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. It was a pleasure to read this book and to learn more about this incredible man.

A bit about the author, Walter Isaacson:

Walter Isaacson is an American writer and journalist. He is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. He has been the chairman and CEO of Cable News Network (CNN) and the Managing Editor of Time Magazine. In addition to writing Einstein: His Life and Universe, Isaacson has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger. In 2012, he was selected as one of the Time 100, the magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world. Mr. Isaacson has honorary degrees from Tufts University, Cooper Union, William & Mary, Franklin University Switzerland, University of New Orleans, University of South Carolina, City University of New York , Pomona College, Lehigh University, Duke University, and Colorado Mountain College and has received numerous awards throughout his lifetime.

To purchase Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, visit Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 


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January Book Review: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

In her ninety years young, Louise Hay has transformed millions of lives with her simple message: “What you think and what you believe is what will come true for you. Your thoughts create your life.”

She is absolutely correct!

You Can Heal Your Life by powerhouse teacher and lecturer, Louise Hay, is a profound eye-opener and one of my favorite books of all-time because it is a life changer!  Louise explains thoroughly how every thought that we think in the present creates our future.  She discusses how guilt, criticism and resentment are very damaging patterns that cause a state of disease in our bodies and how releasing these patterns will heal us.  She tells the story of her fight with cancer and how she healed herself without conventional medicine (including chemotherapy or radiation) but instead used alternative healing methods, incorporated new beliefs and released anger and resentment from a horrific childhood.

Although I do not agree with some of Louise Hay’s conclusions, I do believe without a doubt that we are what we think, or in other words, what we think in the present does create our future. I have lived it: Having been ignorant of how the mind works in the past, I created a difficult life; however, when I worked to eliminate the untrue beliefs and thoughts I had for years and replaced them with the truth, I created and lived a beautiful life.  Having recently read You Can Heal Your Life and after incorporating Louise’s suggestions, I have seen positive changes in myself and in my life, once again! The most important lesson that Louise teaches is how to accept and love ourselves wholly.

I highly recommend You Can Heal Your Life by pioneer Louise Hay for anyone who is struggling with understanding why your life never improves or for anyone interested in holistic health,  metaphysics, or living an authentic, beautiful life. Her suggestions do work and they will change your life!

A bit about the author, Louise Hay:

Louise Hay is an internationally renowned lecturer, metaphysical teacher and best-selling author of many books, including Heal Your Body from A to Z and Empowering Women. Her books have been translated into twenty nine languages in thirty five countries throughout the world. Since the beginning of her career as a Science of Mind minister in 1981, she has assisted millions of people in discovering the full potential of their own creative power to heal and transform. Louise Hay is also the founder of Hay House Inc., a self-publishing company that distributes books, audios and videos that contribute to personal healing and the healing of our planet.

To learn more about Louise Hay or to purchase You Can Heal Your Life, visit her websites, LouiseHay.com and HealYourLife.com.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 

 

 


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December Book Review: Obasan by Joy Kogawa

“If I could follow the stream down and down to the hidden voice, would I come at last to the freeing word? I ask the night sky, but the silence is steadfast. There is no reply.” – Joy Kogawa, Obasan

Obasan, Joy Kogawa

Obasan by Joy Kogawa, written in 1981, is a stunning work of fiction depicting the life of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, including their internment and persecution. Set in Cecil, Alberta, Kogawa beautifully tells her story from the perspective of a child. She uses deep, powerful metaphors of water, streams and stones to portray the emotions experienced (or not able to be experienced) during this time of persecution and prejudice. Masterfully written, Obasan (the word for “aunt” in Japanese), weaves the present and the past with dreams and memories into beautiful prose that will remind you of the undeniable pleasure of reading well-written literature!

Kogawa’s main character, Naomi, attempts to understand the sadness and secrets within her family and culture.  The death of her uncle leads Naomi to visit and care for her widowed aunt Aya, whom she refers to as “obasan.” During her brief stay with Aya, she tries to reconstruct her painful experiences as a child during and after World War II. Eventually, Naomi learns that her mother, who had been in Japan before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was severely injured by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Her perspective on the war then changes as she recalls these difficult memories. The story essentially interweaves the past and present with the themes of time, memories, prejudice and injustice. The last chapter weaves the entire book together when Naomi discovers the secret her family has been keeping.

I recommend this fictional piece to anyone who is interested in Japanese culture or World War II (including the ramifications of the dropping of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki) and the persecution and ill treatment of Japanese-Canadians during the war. Furthermore, if you love metaphor in literature, this book is first rate!

A bit about the author, Joy Kogawa:7069_orig

Joy Kogawa is a writer and poet and has worked to educate Canadians about the history of Japanese Canadians. Joy has studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan. Her most recent poetic publication (2003) is A Garden of Anchors. Her long poem, A Song of Lilith, published in 2000, retells the story of Lilith, the mythical first partner to Adam. Kogawa has also published other books: Itsuka, The Rain Ascends and Naomi’s Road.

In 1986, Kogawa was made a member of the Order of Canada; in 2006, she was made a member of the Order of British Columbia; and, in 2010, the Japanese government honored Kogawa with the Order of the Rising Sun. Joy Kogawa is also known for her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history. Obasan is usually required reading in college literature or ethnic studies classes in Canada and the United States.

To learn more about Joy Kogawa or to order a copy of Obasan, visit: joykogawa.ca.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 


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November Book Review:  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, spoken in 2014 in Oslo, Norway, as the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai, a Pashtun Pakistani, is a courageous, compassionate, exemplary and determined young woman on a mission to bring education to every girl and boy in every town, province, city, and country in the world.  Her memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, is a rich, beautifully-written, compassionate and inspiring story that explains her past, her passion, and her life mission.

i-am-malala

Yousafzai begins her memoir with anecdotes about growing up in Mingora, in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, a lush, mountain region full of breathtaking rivers, waterfalls and gorgeous valleys. She describes life as a Sunni Muslim, her love of Allah, and the customs in Mingora. Her book explains the poverty she and her family endured – no running water, no stove, no heat, very little food at times, for example. She explains how poverty and tradition in the midst of paradise kept most girls from attending school. Her own mother could not read or write, for example. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, her hero and inspiration, is a fierce advocate for girls’ education, and after political opposition and financial problems, founded an all-girls school in Mingora where Malala attended.

In the second half of this memoir, Malala explains the fundamentalist beliefs of the Taliban and the extreme damage and fear they exhibited in her country. She writes stories about beheadings and public lynchings, suicide bombers, the bombing and destruction of hundreds of schools, general politics in Pakistan, the horrific damage and tyranny and eventual ruin of Mingora caused by the Taliban, and more.  As outspoken advocates of education for girls (which the Taliban was against), Malala and her father eventually became targets. Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban and survived. Her recovery is nothing less than remarkable. Her story has garnered worldwide attention, which has caused a nonstop collaboration of many individuals and countries for the fight of education for all girls everywhere.

I highly recommend I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai to anyone who is curious about Pakistani life and customs, about Islam, or about the Taliban and the damage they have inflicted in Pakistan. I especially recommend this memoir to human and women’s rights activists. It is an incredible story that left me speechless, in awe, and at times, in tears!

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Opening Malala Yousafzai’s All-Girls School near the Syrian border in 2015.

A bit about the author, Malala Yousafzai:

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.

Malala has received many awards. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured Malala as one of “the 100 most influential people in the world“. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. In 2014, she was nominated for the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, and in May of the same year, Malala was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Later in 2014, Malala was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Today, Malala is founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates at the local, national and international levels for resources and policy changes needed to ensure all girls, worldwide, have the right to twelve years of schooling.

To learn more about Malala Yousafzai and her work, visit: Malala.org.

To purchase I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, visit: Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 

 


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October Book Review: Propaganda by Edward Bernays

Propaganda Considered a fascinating and controversial read, Propaganda by Edward Bernays-written in 1928 and revised in 1955-explains the role of public relations in government and business, or rather, explores how power is used by the ruling elite of our society to curb, control and manipulate public opinion. It is a summation of how the elite control how we think, how we act, what we buy, and what we do. I found Propaganda apropos to read in October of an election year.

The definition of propaganda, according to Edward Bernays, is “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” Not only is propaganda necessary for social order, but Bernays believed that it is also a vital and important element in democratic society, and without its use, the masses would be confused and lost.  Propaganda is used to sell an idea, a product or service, every day. Bernays, although insists that the use of propaganda is essential, does acknowledge that curbing its potentially destructive mass ramifications is impossible; essentially, he does not idealize his stance but rather understands that the use of propaganda is manipulative, covert and only serves the propagandist. Today, the word, “propaganda” has a very negative connotation, and the Oxford Dictionary definition is: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”  An example of this, of course, is the propaganda deliberately used by the mass media in this election year of 2016 with the goal of shaping public opinion in regards to the two major presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In addition to analyzing the role of propaganda in politics, Edward Bernays scrutinizes how it is used in education, social services, business, art, science, and what he terms “women’s studies.” He also briefly discusses the psychology of public relations. I found Bernays book a brief but thorough introduction of the subject of propaganda. Even though this book was originally published in 1928, it is still very pertinent today, almost one hundred years later. I recommend this reading to anyone who seeks to understand how the masses are covertly (and sometimes overtly) manipulated into thinking and acting on all levels. It is truly and eye-opener!

A bit about the author, Edward Bernays:Edward Bernays

Austrian-American intellectual Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion. During WWI, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda machine that sold the war to the American people as one that would “make the world safe for democracy.” The marketing strategies for all future wars would be based on this model. Bernays fashioned a career as a proponent of propaganda for political and corporate manipulation of the population. His career earned him the well-known title of “father of public relations.”

To learn more about Edward Bernays, visit Wikipedia.

To read a copy of Propaganda, visit Amazon or download a PDF version.

© 2016, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 

 


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September Book Review: Fearless: 7 Principles of Peace of Mind by Brenda Shoshanna

Fearless“Whoever can see through [all] fear will always be safe.” -Tao Te Ching

Profound verse, isn’t it?

In a time of tremendous internal and external fear, I found Brenda Shoshanna’s Fearless: 7 Principles of Peace of Mind a breath of fresh air and very encouraging. Like the author, I believe that in order for us to change our collective consciousness of fear to that of love, we must learn to become fearless and find peace internally, primarily. Brenda Shoshanna, a practicing psychologist and therapist, discusses in detail her principles of peace of mind. They are: the courage to be who you are; letting go of attachment and grasping; recognizing the voices within; finding a safe harbor; blessing others: deeds of love; letting go of control and domination; and lastly, discovering your perfect nature: becoming a friend. The author then discusses what it means to live as a “whole” and healthy person.  Additionally, in the last part of her book, Dr. Shoshanna supplies very practical steps to dissolve our fears so we can live peacefully and powerfully.

I found Fearless: 7 Principles of Peace of Mind by Dr. Shoshanna very helpful personally. I was reminded that if I want to live in a loving world, I must be the one who promotes peace by living with peace in my own mind. Living fearless begins with my internal thoughts and emotions. This book has helped me recognize my unconscious fears and taught me how to remove them (of course, this is a work in progress). I highly recommend Shoshanna’s book to anyone seeking to learn how to confront fear for what it is – a bully. This book is a keeper!

A bit about the author, Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D.:

brenda-shoshanna-bio

Dr. Shoshanna, psychologist, author and workshop leader, works with individuals and couples who wish to find relief from stress, anxiety, depression, loss, and relationship difficulties. She helps clients discover inner resources, engage in heathy communication and build uplifting, satisfying relationships both with others and themselves. She works with a wide variety of life problems and issues, from depression, anxiety and stress relief, to relationship difficulties, grief, loss and more.

She has lectured and taught psychological subjects at the New York State Psychological Association, Barnard College, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, The Center for Practical Nursing, Marymount Manhattan College, Adelphi University and more. Dr. Shoshanna has published five books about various aspects of psychology such as relationships, mourning, and personal achievement.

To learn more about Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, visit: DrShoshanna.com. To purchase a copy of Fearless: 7 Principles of Peace of Mind visit: Amazon.com.

© 2016, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being