Reviews written by KJ Stanton
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Despite the fact that information about the ecological and economic challenges our planet is facing is widely available, there seems to be relatively little action taking place to change things. The authors of this book suggest that this lack of action stems from the fact that most of us have embraced one of two stories about the situation: the “Business As Usual” story that says the threats are exaggerated and we should continue as we have been, or the “The Great Unraveling” story that says that it is too late for action to have any positive effect. Some of us even waffle between the two stories on a regular basis as we become overwhelmed with information, disinformation, and the magnitude of the problem.
Macy and Johnstone propose a third story that they call “The Great Turning.” This story says that we still have time to find new ways of living on this planet that will prevent the predicted disasters. These new ways of living involve many people making small changes by working together toward the global shifts that need to occur. This story is one of active hope because it gives people the hope to work actively toward making these necessary changes, rather than relying on wishful thinking.
The authors use their backgrounds in psychology, systems theory, activism, and eco-philosophy to inform the ways that readers can shift their stories and perceptions into active hope, and how to work with others to create coordinated changes that can build into the Great Turning needed for our future. While ecological and economic issues are mentioned in order to put this work into context, this is not primarily a book about the challenges we are facing. It is instead a roadmap and an inspiration to work individually and in community to deal with these issues in a productive manner while there is still time.
This book is important reading for anyone who recognizes the magnitude of the challenges we face for co-creating a life sustaining future, and hasn’t known where or how to start making a difference.
Most of us chronically wish for more time to do everything we want to accomplish, and there are many time management books available to help us better use the time we have. This book, however, takes a completely different approach to this issue. Instead of trying to manage time better, author Marney K. Makridakis helps us to change our relationship with it by learning to experience it differently.
Throughout the book, the author, who is also a creativity expert and founder of ArtellaLand.com, includes creative exercises, called ARTsignments, to help readers use their creative instincts to deepen their understanding of the ways we can experience time. These exercises include writing and artistic components that weave together to explore each experience.
The first section of the book guides readers into exploring their current relationship with time, including their beliefs about time, their experience of it, and the effect of different activities on how time feels. The second section contains a wide variety of methods for creating time through specific creative techniques, such as ritual, gratitude, stillness, metaphor, and flow. Each method is supported with personal stories, scientific concepts, and ARTsignments. The third section explores how to apply each of these methods to address specific time challenges and gives the reader ideas for developing their own ARTsignments to continue their exploration of creating time after completing the book.
This book is filled with inspiring, full-color illustrations of artwork created by the author’s students who have worked with these methods, along with personal stories and descriptions of the pieces they created. Artistic ability is not necessary to learn from the techniques, but a willingness to work with creative art and writing activities will enhance the reader’s integration of new ways to experience time.
Lama Marut, an ordained Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition and a retired professor of comparative religions and Sanskrit, begins this book with his proposition that the purpose of our lives is to be happy. He claims that this desire for happiness is hardwired into our nature and that the greatest minds in the East and the West have recognized this search for happiness as central in our lives. He spends the rest of the book demonstrating that we can control our own happiness, now and in the future, and tells us how we can do so through changing our thoughts and our actions.
Although the author’s ideas are strongly influenced by his Tibetan Buddhist background, the material is presented with a lightheartedness that makes the book a fun and easy read. No prior study of Buddhist thought or practice is necessary to make good use of his suggestions for enhancing our happiness through changing the way we think and how we treat others. His suggestions include focusing on gratitude, forgiving others and ourselves, treating others with compassion, letting go of the expectation that things or people outside of us will make us happy, and focusing on the present moment.
Each chapter concludes with a “Couch Potato Contemplation,” leading the reader into deeper contemplation of that chapter’s content, and an “Action Plan” for putting the material into action right away. These features help bring the “happiness” suggestions to a practical level for immediate use. Throughout the book, there are scannable images called QR codes that allow users with the downloaded smartphone app to connect directly to videos of Lama Marut’s additional teaching on the information presented in that section of the book. (For those without smartphones, the videos can also be accessed online via links printed in the book.)
Marut’s philosophy in this book is heavily based on the concept of karma and its effect on our lives; consequently, to my mind he could have done a better job of defending the validity of karma up front. However, even without a firm grounding in karmic principles, this book offers much for changing our relationship to the idea of happiness as a valid goal and how to achieve that goal through our thoughts and actions.
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