A review of my favourite books of 2021

My top books for this year:

  • Attachment Disturbances In Adults: Treatment For Comprehensive Repair – Daniel Brown
  • Fascia: What Is It And Why It Matters – David Lesondak
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (as A Topic, No Specific Book But It’s An Interesting Theory To Have In The Tool Belt)
  • Spiritual Midwifery – Ina May Gaskin
  • How Can I Help – Ram Dass
  • Dependent Origination – Leigh Brazington
  • Saints And Psychopaths – Bill Hamilton
  • Living This Life Fully – Mirka Knaster
  • Unseen City – Nathaniel Johnson
  • The Alchemist – Pablo Coelho
  • The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten
  • Sand Talk – Tyson Yunkaporta

Attachment Disturbances – Daniel P Brown has the only method to repair attachment styles in a therapeutic context. Attachment styles are usually adopted as a baby and usually last our whole lives. If you have a poor attachment style, it will lead you to unhealthy relationships. The good bit is in section 2, after the extended literature review – when it talks about the method and provides transcripts for how the therapy works. It’s important because many therapy methods won’t access the early years of development, before you have episodic memory or narrative or time understanding, so it’s hard to work with therapeutically.

Fascia – Our bodies are held together by an extracellular matrix of fascia. 70% of your nerves terminate in your fascia. You are exeriencing the world through your fascia. I think the medical system is in for an overhaul of it’s understanding of fascia and what it does (currently a not very important part of the body). There’s a pseudo field around fascia that looks like a variety of massage therapies. They are on to something! And they know it. The field is in the process of standardising and organising the knowledge. I think that fascia is also the link between the east and the west, where we ask, why can’t we see meridians or chakras, and I suspect it’s because it’s been hidden in plain sight, in the fascia al along. I also think that fascia stretching explains DOMS and DOMS has eluded scientific explanation because we don’t know enough about fascia. I think that fascia controls muscle sizes and limits cells from growing too much. Fascia literally holds us together and it’s important to know about.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (as A Topic, No Specific Book But It’s An Interesting Theory To Have In The Tool Belt)
TCM isn’t “correct” in the western science perspective because western science rarely explores interiors and what it’s like to have an ailment from the inside of a condition. TCM explores, notes relationships and sometimes has solutions to the mysterious conditions that the west struggles with. Conditions of discomfort that are not particularly as bad as diseases such that they get studies and treatment. Conditions that fall through the cracks of the western system because we don’t have much of a category for them. TCM has a place for exploring and working on them. It’s a system of balancing forces (think yin/yang but more complicated). It’s not science but it does seem useful.

Spiritual Midwifery: Ina may describes the experience of childbirth and the spiritual phenomena of being in the room for the experience. She’s a pivotal figure in childbirthing and travelled all over america in the 60s, helping mothers give birth. The book is 60% anecdotes of herself, the person giving birth and the people in the room, and 30% some basics and practicals of baby stuff. I’d encourage anyone giving birth or expecting to read this book to know what experience is coming.

How Can I Help – Ram Dass
Ram dass took a lot of acid. He then went on to live a life filled with contribution to the world. He reflects on the struggles of wanting to help but also discovering the limits of his capacity (effective altruists would do well to read this book). He reflects on the balance of work and play and also doing the helping for the right reasons. Somehow you can gather a room full of people who are desperate to help (like a conference) and have them come into conflict around that helping. It’s a fascinating read and it’s Ram Dass, and excellent story teller.

Dependent Origination – Leigh Brazington
A well documented account of personal meditative experience of the buddhist concept of dependend origination. The mind follows patterns in how it experiences the world. We have certain glimpses befor other glimpses. We know before we judge, and we judge before we (often) suffer for it. To know your own psyche and your own step by step dependent origination can help you choose not to live in the many versions of the world with suffering and instead choose to live in the versions of the world with less suffering. (at least for the self caused suffering)

Saints And Psychopaths – Bill Hamilton
Bill hamilton reflects on his life in the 60s with Ram Dass and the culture of people who took a lot of acid, discovered spirituality and then accidentally fell for predatory psychopaths. It’s a sad tale of how a brilliant person struggled and experienced hardship because he was too focused on spirituality to notice his life being screwed up. He did eventually seem to break away from the mess but the book describes his experiences. He also talks about the true saints, the ones that are worthy of the spiritual credit that the psychopaths are trying to claim. A short and good read (free online copy available).

Living This Life Fully – Mirka Knaster
This book is about the meditation teacher Manindra and stories of his life. Some of the stories paint him as having magical and saintly powers. It’s a fun read, even if you don’t believe the stories. On par with “miracles of love” about Maharaji and “Dipa Ma” about Dipa ma.

Unseen City – Nathaniel Johnson
This book covers the author’s journey to deeper know the place they live in, specifically the plant and animal life that can be observed. Especially in a “dead” city, there’s always life, plants, animals, history and patterns. And a fascinating opportunity to meet them if you let yourself. Even the pidgeon is worth learning about. And especially the trees that are older than me. They have probably seen things.

The Alchemist – Pablo Coelho
A short book about personal transformation, agency, subjective experience and finding your path through life with a bit of mythic spirituality gently woven into the mix. Not too much to make you puke, and just enough to add some wonder to the world for the reader.

The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten
Victor wooten tells the story of a mysterious mentor who appears in his life, makes him relearn everything about music and reconnects his passion for the craft. He was asked to write a book about music theory but insisted that you can’t teach what he has learnt. Instead he wrote a narrative about connecting to lady music and having a conversation with her. It’s a cute story and a good way to point at the basics of connecting to the spirituality of a creative craft like music.

Sand Talk – Tyson Yunkaporta
(I think I read this in the last year?) Sand talk presents the aboriginal culture and the way that people in that culture come to know reality. It’s a lot more collective meaning making and a lot more narrative, and a lot more relational in nature. Each chapter, Tyson talks about going to meet an elder, or a relative, or a wise friend and actively “doing” something together like making a fishing net. While the doing happens, a talking happens that shares wisdom between people. There isn’t a written philosophy to it, it’s an experiential practice of being with another person and sharing wisdom. It’s well presented to have made me want to also do the practice of meeting, doing and learning together with people.

I’m looking for new books for next year and it seems I’m headed in the direction of books that are about “novel ways of thinking about the world”.

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