The Book of Lost Fragrances – M.J. Rose

I enjoyed this book a great deal. I have a more than passing – okay, voracious – interest in all things mythological and specifically archetypal, this spoke directly to one of my passions. However, that is not by any means the subject of this work. Rose manages to incorporate mythology, psychology, reincarnation, Chinese politics, Tibetan history, the Chinese Mafia in places as far-flung as Paris, along with the science of perfumery, archaeology and metaphysical exploration into one surprisingly coherent whole.

For those of you who cannot stand a story without a love story – it’s there. If you want a thriller – it’s there. If you want history, ancient and more contemporary – it’s there. So is science and a host of other issues that all wind around each other to create one of those intricate Chinese decorative knots, each strand necessary and holding together the whole.

Towards the end, I began to wonder about why not as background had been given for one character in particular, and why two other past-life memory aids kept being mentioned. It finally occurred to me that the author had a previous book entitled The Reincarnationist, and that is the term used to describe the troubling character. I need to do a bit of digging, but I bet he showed up in some of her earlier work. Rest assured, however, this book can and does stand on its own quite well.  You might even want to go back to some of those earlier works!

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“Enlightenment 101: Live Like a Window, Work Like a Mirror”

Quite the goal that, enlightenment, eh?  While part of me says “All in!”, the more rational part has a few caveats: got to make a living, be an involved aunt, write what is for me to write.  I can’t spend the rest of my earthly life cross-legged under a banyan tree.  Bet you can’t either.

So, why did I delve into Live Like a Window, Work Like a Mirror by Mark C. Brown, Ph.D.?  The endlessly curious, less rational part, of course.  But even the rational bits are glad that I did.  And even if you are not actively seeking your personal nirvana, I’ll bet this book would be helpful to you as well.

Brown warns in the introduction that the first couple of chapters will be slower going, and it was fair warning.  While definitely dense, these chapters serve as the basis for all else contained.  Not to ruin the surprise or anything but Brown sets out his understanding of Consciousness as Creator.  He views everything material to be Consciousness manifesting itself, and each developmental step, physical as well as mental, being the push toward enlightenment.  Once humans and the human brain developed, Consciousness let go of now needless physical transformations to focus all that power on mental, thought-based development.

It does get a bit boggy, but I urge you to press on till you digest it.  Everything else in Dr. Brown’s explanations and methods flow from these ideas.  And, I must add, flow logically, which can be tough to find in this area.  That logical grounding went miles in helping me to accept the more metaphysical stuff to follow.

If you fancy yourself a Buddhist, or at least well acquainted with its tenets, you won’t find great surprises here, but you will find a more reasoned presentation.  Its about learning detachment, over and over and over, deeper and deeper and deeper.  Now, while I don’t aspire to complete detachment, I was able to see a reason for developing some of these skills.

Brown describes the process of learning self-observation, the ability to step outside your self, with all its messy emotionalism and bias, and to see yourself and others engaged from an observer’s stance.  As a writer, this ability is invaluable, and I am grateful to Brown here.  I’ve never been able to wrap my head around detachment before, and he showed me that I already do this.

That is another fundamental point for Brown – we are ALREADY IN PROCESS.  Because Consciousness is constantly pushing for growth/expression, we’re all on the road to enlightenment, albeit at different points on that road.  While frustrating to my Type-A friends, we CAN’T rush enlightenment.  We are where we are, learning what we need at this point, and the best we can do is step out and observe it.  So guilt – GONE!  No need to kick yourself, cause you’re as far along as you could possibly be right now.  Lovely!

Living like a window, then, is the practice of detachment, letting the occurances of life and thought and feeling flow through you like a breeze through an open window, here and gone, here and gone.  Working like a mirror is how we deal with others, remembering to take ourselves and our tumult out of the equation, so our friends, co-workers and loved ones can more clearly see their own tumult and know what they need to open themselves to.

So, if I’m not converting to Buddhism, or devoting my life to contemplation and meditation, why bother with enlightenment?  Cause I get tired, and I bet you do as well; tired of the drama and the emotional roller coaster.  No, I don’t care to eliminate them completely, become some unfeeling aesthetic.  But I could stand to let some of the daily chaos of work or family life blow through me like an open window instead of having my view blocked by the blotches of stuff stuck to a more closed off mind.  And learning to view my conflict with others not as a personal attack requiring self-protection, but instead stepping outside the scenario to learn what I can from watching it play out and blow on through can only do my emotional and mental state good.

So take the plunge and give swimming toward nirvana a try.  If Mr. Brown is indeed correct, you already are!  Pick up Live Like a Window, Work Like a Mirror.  Lets see if we can’t help Consciousness along just a little bit.

 

 

Live Like a Window, Work Like a Mirror – Mark C. Brown Ph.D. – First Light Books – 2012

Gypsy Boy

Mikey, call me!

Okay, sorry about that but I had to.  I finished the ARC of Gypsy Boy before Christmas, but I had to let this bubble for a bit.  And now, for the requisite cliche:  I laughed, I cried, he had me at the first paragraph.  Anyone who can, wiht tangible warmth and affection, describe his grandmother as an oger is a guy I want to spend time listening to . . . so I did, much to my delight.

Mikey Walsh is a pseudonym for this remarkable young man, who grew up a soft-hearted, kind young boy in a culture that demanded he be a cold, tough fighter, the Romany gypsy community in Britain.  Surrounded by the perfect set of “characters” for a memoirist, but a nightmare family come to horrifying life for a sensitive boy.  Mikey’s story will resonate with anyone who has ever felt they  just don’t quite “fit” in their family, their culture, or the world in general.

As anyone who has felt that “otherness” knows, life is far from a sitcom script, and Mikey’s was likely worse than most.  There are portions of his story that are literally gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to read.  I can’t even imagine what they were to live.

Is there a happy ending to Mikey’s story?  As in all real life stories – kinda.  I think he would say yes.  A fairy-tale happy ending?  Nope.  He is making his way through life, day by day, working as a teaching assistant in a school for special needs children, a post I bet he is fabulous at.  It also allows him ot fill in the yawning gaps in his widely intermittent formal schooling.

Perhaps what I find most remarkable is two-fold.  First, that with so very little education, Mikey Walsh’s voice is clear and compelling, more engaging than any I’ve read in a long, long time.  It is that voice that left me feeling both like I know him intimately, and wishing that I knew him better.  Second, he has to be one of the most genuinely loving and forgiving souls ever to walk this planet.  With all the truly horrific abuse heaped on him from as young as two or three years old at the hands of those who should have been protecting him, even after being what it is me inexcusably neglected by those who didn’t physically harm him but blatantly turned their backs, refusing to intervene, and the betrayal by those he trusted most deeply who turned their backs on him when he needed them most, Mikey still looks on them with a deep and abiding love, seeking to find the reasons for their pain and choosing to forgive and engage with them, even after being hunted as s fugitive for years at their order.  There is much to learn from a heart this magnanimous.

The highest compliment I can think of for a memoirist is this: I want to meet this  man, to spend time talking, laughing and learning together, not about his past, but just to share lives as friends.  And Mikey, should this ever make its way to your attention:  Please, please, please, do not stop writing.  Have at non-fiction, fiction, plays or screenplays, whatever.  The world needs your voice, your humor, and your wisdom.  I, for one, will be waiting.

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies, by Mikey Walsh, is due to be released by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins Press this coming February, 2012.