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bookbuffet features Book Review: Giving Thanks for What Is

abstract:Following upon the American holiday of giving thanks, we bring to you two books recommended not only for their messages of gratitude but for the very differences in perspective that make them a forceful combination. At the core of these two writings is a belief in embracing one's reality that perhaps can resonate for each of us at a time when so many are anxious and fearful and experiencing the pain of dramatically altered lives. Here is the review of To Love What Is, Alix Kates Shulman Loving What Is: Four, Byron Katie


December 01, 2008

From The New Having It All Book Review Series

To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed is Alix Kates Shulman's recent book about her marriage of twenty years and how that marriage was dramatically altered with her 75 year-old husband's fall and resulting brain damage. Shulman's writing is, in itself, reason enough for reading this book. Her opening sentence may be one of the finest in recent works: "On a moonless summer night my husband fell nine feet from a sleeping loft to the floor and did not die". Shulman -- author of several other widely respected books -- tells a poignant story of love in the face of tragedy, and does so with great transparency and honesty. Weaving stories from the past and the present, she allows us to see the person her husband had been -- the person she fell in love with -- and how those traits can still be found, sometimes dormant, in the man she now devotes her life to caring for and protecting. We come see the celebration of the relationship, the acceptance of the present, the resilience of the human spirit. Shulman writes, "[L]ove, life's great natural sweetener, can ease the way to embracing whatever you are called upon to do and accepting whatever lies in store."

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie, outlines a process for personal development often referred to as "the work". The Work is based upon the premise that individuals are disturbed not by what happens to them, but by their thoughts about what happens. To transform the thinking is to ameliorate or even dissipate the problem, as a problem. The ability to "love what is", then, is developed out of the simple truism that suffering is often optional; that our internal arguments with reality create our stress and anxiety. "The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what we want."

At its most basic, the message brought to us by these two very disparate books is one of acceptance. And, yet, each of these writings urges us to go well beyond acquiescence. Writes Katie: "No one wants their children to get sick, no one wants to be in a car accident; but when these things happen, how can it be helpful to mentally argue with them? We know better than to do that, yet we do it, because we don't know how to stop. I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. ...When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind and fearless."

As we strive to understand the current landscape of markets and money and unemployment -- and to resolve what all of it will mean for our children and their adult lives - perhaps we can consider Shulman's perspective. "My fate took a turn on July 22, 2004," she writes, "Absurd it would be to hide from it or wish it away, much less to resist or rail against it, as if it could be undone by an act of my puny will. Not enough even to merely accept it. To live life fully within my limitations I must struggle with it, adapt to it, make the best of it, milk it for all I can. Love it."

This review provided by the brilliant women at founders Marguerite Dorn, Esq. and Carol O'Day, Esq. Check-out their website and book them for a talk at your next PTA, staff meeting, or women's support group meeting. They offer speaking, training, consulting and mentoring.

Browse TheNewHavingItAll bibliography of books. It's an excellent compilation for every phase women face today in the quest to balance work, family and self-fulfillment.



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