Category: Book Reviews

Philosophy, Booklists and The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Under the Rainbow at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Blue sky, white clouds and a rainbow over a beach scene

My day at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival began with John Gray on ‘The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom.

book cover The Soul of the MarionetteThere were a lot of questions:

  • Can knowledge set us free?
  • Will we ever understand ourselves well enough to design a better version?
  • Do we really want to be free?

There weren’t a lot of answers but I did come away with a list of authors who might help with my research: Philip K. Dick, Theodore Powys, Gertrude Bell, Michel de Montaigne might help me see life a little more clearly which might mean less disturbed by the beliefs of the world around me.

I’m all for a closer examination of beliefs, their nature, their shifting sandiness and our unwitting of living as if they were true and this was a thoroughly enjoyable stroll in that direction.

 

 

On, then, to A Celebration of the Life and Work of Judith KerrA little girl opens to the door to a huge, lovable, cartoon tiger

What a life and what wonderful work Judith Kerr continues to create. 92 years old and as entertaining, gently profound
and moving as ever, Judith Kerr is an absolute delight.

I read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ to children at school, to my own children, and now to my grandchildren and it has an irrepressible charm. Who knew that the illustrations include two versions of the father? I must go back and have another look.

And then, of course, there was ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and now we have ‘Mister Cleghorn’s Seal’ based on her father’s real experience of saving the life a seal pup and taking it home to his flat to live on the balcony.

I hope I can be so irrepressible, good humoured and lively when I’m 92.

 

“Can you remember a time before you could read?

Hilary Mantel’s Life in Books conversation picked up a thread touched upon by Judith Kerr who questioned the content of the Janet and John books she encountered in school.  Whether it was Janet and John, “John has two caps.”; Nip and Fluff “Nip is a dog. I see a dog.”; or Peter and Jane, it seems wonderful that we ever saw the point in learning to read unless, like Hilary Mantel, you managed to discover a world of books actually worth reading.

Amid this fascinating conversation books and authors tumbled like a glorious domino rally with one book prompting another until my notebook was almost full.  ‘Kidnapped’ clearly deserves revisiting as I had completely failed to notice the perfection in its form. Oliver Sacks, Beryl Bainbridge, and Ivy Compton-Burnett are all favourites of my own who were highly commended while I admit my ignorance re Molly Keane, Sybille Bedford and Alison Lurie.

I’ve added them all to my ‘must read’ list, and I still haven’t finished reading “John Aubrey – My Own Life” by Ruth Scurr so I’m ill-prepared for tomorrow!

 

Jamie Smart’s CLARITY – One Man’s Clarity and One Woman’s Response

A book offering clarity of mind lies on an empty beach

Jamie Smart has developed a clarity of mind which allows him to achieve ‘better performance and bigger results’, and in this book, he sets out to explain what he considers to be the essential foundations, deep drivers and way forward in the direction of focus, problem solving and success.

If you are looking for a book that investigates the process of thought; examines how we come to experience feelings as a result of our thoughts; and explains one man’s understanding of the discovery of his own innate capacity for clarity, then this is the book for you.

There are many points at which Jamie Smart and I agree and, as I re-read his chapter titles, I can see how the book appealed to my coaching curiosity: How Perception is Created; Habitual Thought Patterns; Creativity and Disruptive Innovation; Authenticity: Your True Identity; Capitalizing on Chaos, Complexity and Uncertainty; Living a Life You Love.

And, if I have a criticism, it is prompted by an admittedly very subjective sense of disappointment. It is true that this is a very interesting and thorough book. It is well written and the argument develops coherently. As a reader I am fully convinced that the clarity which Jamie, and many others, experience can make a profound difference to their lives. My disappointment lies in the author’s apparent conviction that his ‘understanding of thought’ is the only route to achieving the ‘necessary’ transformation.

Almost every chapter stirs my indignation with the author’s insistence. Here’s a classic example re Chapter 14, “The Power of Presence”. While I agree that you don’t need to be meditating to be in a meditative state, I can’t agree that “Deepening understanding of  the principles behind innate thinking” will necessarily bring you more and more fully into the present.  On the contrary, I believe that it is in fact being more and more in the present that will bring you still further into the present, and that the access portal is an experience of being in the present which can arise in an infinite number of ways, many of which involve no understanding of thought whatsoever.

I fully accept that my own response to the book could be described as being just a part of my own ‘story’. I can see that, in appearing to want to ‘defend’ NLP, Narrative Practice or any other ‘traditional application model’, viewed from the Clarity model, I run the risk of undermining my own argument and yet I believe I have something to offer in speaking my thoughts and do so from a position of open minded integrity.

It is not just that Jamie Smart seems to deny that a powerful Narrative Conversation, a significant NLP session, or a profound experience in any other context can be the experience that allows you to discover that you can let go of searching; that ‘getting’ of something clear and profound that lets you know you don’t need to improve yourself, you are already fine. No, it is the black or white, either or nature of the author’s view of the world. It’s either Clarity, by the author’s definition of the word, or it’s superstitious thinking.

Even while I agree with most of what I am reading, I am alienated. As I reread Chapter 21. Living a Life You Love, and experience a cumulative sense of free-flowing, in the moment, resilient, open, fearless, reflective, appreciative, innovative connection, by the end of the same chapter I am dismayed at its exhortation to ‘Keep increasing your clarity of understanding’. The clear message throughout the book is that it is only when you ‘make it a priority to increase your understanding’ that true transformation becomes possible.

Near the beginning of CLARITY I was assured I was going to ‘catch’ something. That it would ‘spontaneously result in “symptoms” of increasing clarity, resilience and peace of mind’. Towards the end of the book, I began to wonder whether it might be less the well-intentioned offering of a new way of experiencing life and more an exercise in the promotion of the Innate Thinking brand. That’s how I was disappointed. If I recommend this book it is with the proviso that, as you read, you engage your own vital and enthusiastic curiosity about what else might be possible.

To the author I would say, Yes, I agree that new thinking can show up at any moment and I invite you, from my Narrative / NLP perspective to consider a few questions.

What else might you discover if you were to also engage in not-understanding?

Might you have missed any possibilities about outside-in understanding?

What might an alternative 4th wave (thought revolution) be if it was not dependant on understanding the nature of thought?

If the 4th wave could include not only outside-in and inside-out understanding but also not-understanding, what might this make possible?

What might a 7th wave include?

What if, instead of a deeper, more profound understanding, we experienced a deeper acceptance of the mystery?

Might both be possible?

And what else?

I quote the lines that Jamie chose to end the book:

Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.”

Rumi, Poet

When I find myself reading a book with a pencil in my hand I know it’s a book worth reading, and reading CLARITY resulted in an entire notebook full of notes, arguments and questions.

It doesn’t get much better!

Secrets of the NLP Masters by Judy Bartkowiak

 50 techniques to be exceptional

Metal door in stone wall with NLP CREW graffittiPrompted by my own curiosity and enthusiasm for exploration – described by Judy Bartkowiak as ‘key drivers of NLP’ – I opened this book enthusiastically, and I wasn’t disappointed.

 I like what I think of as ‘Pick and Mix’ books; books that can be read with both an open mind and, simultaneously, a mind ready to gather information relevant to my life and work; books that can teach me something fascinating. This book fits the bill perfectly.

 It is a book for everyone with an interest in change, overcoming obstacles or achieving goals. For the NLP practitioner the book is full of prompts and reminders alongside new perspectives on techniques you will already be using. For newcomers it is a comprehensive and readable explanation of NLP’s powerful insights into how NLP can make a real and lasting difference to your life. If you have children, or work with children, you will find much here to throw light on strategies and techniques that work well with young people.

Of course you can read ‘Secrets’ from beginning to end, it is interesting, informative and well written, but you can also flick through and find the part most relevant to your current experience.

Its style, organisation and layout make it stand out from many of the NLP technique books I have encountered. I particularly like the chapter numbers down the right hand edge meaning that you can open the book at any page and know immediately where you are.

Each chapter begins with a selection of well-chosen quotations from people generally acknowledged to be the ‘NLP masters’ such as Gregory Bateson, Sue Knight, Virginia Satir, Tony Robbins, and others from different contexts like Albert Einstein, Carl Jung and Helen Keller.

 ‘A few well-chosen words at just the right time can transform a person’s life’ Joseph O’Connor 

Repetition – so often the missing ingredient in books which set out to help us learn – is used with a light touch so that you don’t need to flick back through the book to find that neat ‘how to’ of a technique. At the end of each chapter you will find ‘Putting it all together’ and I suggest that if you read these first in the light of the chapter heading you will know how directly a particular chapter will speak to you.

If there was a single addition that would improve Secrets of the NLP Masters for me it would be an index. Children, beliefs, and goals, for instance, appear throughout the book and sometimes it would be helpful to be able to find them all.

The book ends with an Appendix perfectly placed to sum things up and be a readily accessible, and very visual, reminder of these two keys to being exceptional: The filters through which we make our own peculiar sense of external events and the logical levels which model the context in which it all takes place.

Knowing your purpose facilitates exceptional behaviour and if your behaviour disappoints you in any way then re-examine it in the light of your purpose. You could do well to take this book with you on the journey.

front cover of the book

WordPress Themes