(Elected) Summer Reading!

Besides watching way too much How I Met Your Mother this summer, I’ve been reading some really interesting books on God while trying to find integrate Him into my life. While I haven’t been in love with all of the books I’ve read, I’ve still learned from each of them. And it’s pretty cool too: the more I read, the more I want to read. The more I want to learn about God and open my mind to new and different things. My books-to-read list has lengthened substantially, and just the thought of that makes me happy and excited.

Because I’ve learned so much from these books, I thought I’d share pieces of my newfound knowledge with you.

The first book I read was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I have to say this was the best one of the summer (so far) and probably what really got me interested in learning more about myself and God. It follows the journey that the author took to discover, well, everything that is important in life: who she is, what she wants, what she believes, etc.

I loved everything about this book. Liz (the author) was just so funny and interesting, and it was really hard to put the book down. Not to mention that she leads the life I dream of, one in which I could spend my days reflecting and writing and be able to make a living out of it.

The one argument that comes up the most frequently about this book is that she’s very self-centered. The way I feel about it is this: the book is a memoir about a journey she alone took, and she used writing to discover who she really was during this time – of course it’s going to be about her! I thought it was very interesting and made me think. It was down-to-earth, and most of what she offered was really simple yet sometimes easily overlooked. The following are some of the lessons I learned from reading it:

  • It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. I mean, this is your life, after all – make sure you do have some say in it.
  • Embrace your feelings and emotions – they’re real and a part of life. And also, it’s okay to cry. As she says (and as Davis reminded me a few days ago), without crying, we are robots.
  • “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of someone else’s life with perfection.” – from the Bhagavad Gita
  • “You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”

I think the most important lesson that this book taught me was how God appears in many different ways and in many different places. Liz decided to go to an Indian ashram to look for God and would spend hours of her day meditating. I think this is just as valid as, say, going to church would be. Finding God is a very personal thing, and I’m starting to think there isn’t a set, methodical way to do it. We can still learn from each other, but we have to find our own path.

The next book I read was Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, a prominent North American psychiatrist. It was centered around a patient he had who had revealed messages from the Masters from beyond to him through hypnosis. The book also covered the possibility of reincarnation. Now, I know it sounds a little… well, different, and it’s certainly something I’m not used to being raised Catholic, but I did feel that he made some very interesting points and that a lot of what he was saying were things that made sense. I also liked how he took a scientific approach to researching and presenting the information. I definitely need to go back and read this book again, or at least parts of it, because I feel like there was so much in it that I know I missed a whole bunch of stuff.

The major point of the book is that each life we have is meant to teach us something. We elect to become human and we learn one vital lesson in the period of our lifetime. This explains why some people are naturally better at things than others, like trusting. As humans we don’t really know what this lesson is, but our soul does (and can tell you if put in the right circumstances). Weiss also claims that some of our fears can be rooted in our past lives. The main patient, Catherine, was almost irrationally afraid of water. Upon examining her past lives, he discovered that in one life a deadly disease was being spread through the water and that the villagers were afraid to drink it. In another life, a flood tormented her town and she almost drowned. Once they discovered this together, Catherine’s fears disappeared.

My favorite part about this book was how Weiss learned and explained that souls generally travel together. This means that the same people are generally with you throughout your entire existence. I really like this idea – it means that there are such things as soul mates (and you don’t have just one – you get many!) and that your friends and loved ones get to stay together. It also means that you’ve known some of the people you know now in previous lifetimes. I think it’s pretty cool.

Much of what Weiss said made sense to me. I’m not sure if I believe it all, but I feel like it offers a different perspective and some valuable lessons, and I’d like to look into learning more about it.

The third and final book I’ve read this summer was The Shack by William Paul Young. This was a (fictional) story of a man who meets God in an abandoned shack and spends a weekend with Him (or well, with God’s three parts). I mostly enjoyed the book, but I did get bored with it on occasion – it was a little wordy and kind of dense for my liking, but I did find it interesting. I thought it had a lot of good quotes, all of which I copied down and put below!

  • “You were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around… Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings and removing its ability to fly.”
  • “Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.”
  • “I want you to be with me and discover that our relationship is not about performance or you having to please me. I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love. And I do love you.” – God
  • “You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms. That is a hard pill to swallow, choosing only to live in me.” – The Holy Spirit
  • “Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse.”

My favorite part about this book was the segment on judgement. The book talks about how we judge everyone for everything, but don’t really know their stories. It isn’t our place to judge at all, so why do we? This really got me thinking, and I’m going to work on trying to not judge people as often as I tend to.

I enjoyed this book but thought the ending was a little weak. There’s a lot in it, so I may go back and read parts again, but it wasn’t something I could sit down and read all the way through once more. I am glad I read it though.

So there you have it: the three books I’ve read this summer. I would definitely recommend them all. I just started How to Know God by Deepak Chopra, which I really like so far. I’m also going to read 1984 by George Orwell soon, which I’ve heard good things about. My sister has to read it for school (which is my primary motive to read it right now) and I think it’ll be fun to discuss it as we go along.

Yay books! And yay summer! And yay no required summer reading! I’m so glad I get the opportunity to choose what I want to read.

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