This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 725 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW : How Soon Is Now? : From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation by Daniel Pinchbeck

Can the human  race survive? That is the question addressed by this book.

I’m not sure when I started thinking that we were doomed. Perhaps some time in the 1980s. It seemed obvious to me. We have an economic system dependent on ever-increasing levels of growth, which means ever-increasing consumption of material goods and energy, the production of which are eating away at our ecological life-support systems. Even before there was much attention being given to climate change, it was clear that we were headed toward a metaphorical cliff, and the fact that very few people, at the time, seemed to want to acknowledge it made it seem as if a solution was unlikely. Then, as now, I tried not to think about it too much, but it hung like a black cloud over my head.

Pinchbeck, after much inner-exploration with psychedelic drugs, has come to the belief that we have unconsciously brought this crisis upon ourselves as a way to motivate ourselves through the process of a dramatic metamorphosis as a species - that it is our initiation by crisis into existence as a specie organism - a fully-integrated global society. A similar idea has been expressed by Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman in their book Spontaneous Evolution (Hay House, 2009), which he credits as an influence.

One of the problems with the ecological crisis (not to mention associated humanitarian and economic crises) is that they inspire feelings of fear and guilt in many of us. Fear and guilt can be paralysing emotions. How are we to be motivated to act? Those who would motivate us flood us with scary facts, but these just make us feel more frightened, guilty and hopeless, and so we turn off and seek some form of comfort in more materialism or superficial escapism.

What we need more than scary facts is hope. We need a vision of how something can be done. And Pinchbeck does a great job of outlining such a vision. Of course he can only sketch in the broad outlines of what is possible. He’s not a specialist in energy systems or farming or economics. He has to point us in the direction of those who can help us in these areas.

This is a consistently fascinating book. Pinchbeck’s hyperactive mind and personal, indeed sometimes confessional, approach ensure that. But I didn’t find it an easy book to approach. There is a bitter comfort in putting things in the “too hard” basket. I start to read that I should give up eating meat and minimise buying new products and a large part of me says, “Let the planet burn. Let the innocent people die. I’m not going outside my comfort zone.” And I don’t even drive a car. What is the response likely to be from those who live far outside the bounds of ecological limits? I’m reminded of Matthew 19:24 “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” There’s no room for excess baggage aboard the specie individual.

What is at the basis of this stubbornness? When faced with a challenge, sometimes we grasp it enthusiastically and sometimes we put our head in the sand. I don’t want it to be implied that I’m not a good person. That isn’t what Pinchbeck is saying, but it is how it feels. And how it feels is what matters to motivation. Why does it give us pleasure to do things which deep down we may feel we shouldn’t? Why does the rich celebrity who travels to Africa and sees people living in poverty (and does some charity work there), nevertheless live in a ridiculously ornate mansion? In our insecure state there is a kind of relief to be found in defying what our conscience tells us we should do. This is also the lure of the forbidden. Are we going to squirm in humiliation beneath the bully who says “You mustn’t!” or are we going to feel the power and release of screaming “I will!” To my mind this is the key impasse to the realisation of the kind of plan that Pinchbeck puts forward. His emphasis on the spiritual underpinnings of the transformation acknowledge this, but I think that there are aspects of this psychological dimension that need to be understood more clearly.

The cultivation of unconditional self-acceptance will need to provide the grounding for change. A fully self-accepting individual need not experience a call for a change in their lifestyle as a condemnation. It is through unconditional self-acceptance that we unleash our capacity for the love of others and thus provide a basis for true community. Without this there is a danger that a spreading cultural imperative to adopt an ecological lifestyle might manifest itself in a toxic culture of eco-shaming, equivalent to some of the examples we see today where political correctness has taken a particularly hostile form - decentralised authoritarianism in which individuals take out the frustration of self-imposed discipline by victimising anyone who doesn’t do likewise, or doesn’t appear to be doing likewise. A healing evolution has to be motivated by warm and generous feelings.

I suspect that some may be very nervous about Pinchbeck’s references to Marx and calls for a post-capitalist economic system. The problem is that we’ve seen capitalism bring us rapid technological development and an increase in material comfort for a larger proportion of the world’s population. And we’ve seen an alternative - communism - produce most of the worst horrors of the 20th Century. Capitalism’s success was riding on temporary trends. Now it’s in trouble. Can we transition to something which suits our needs better while avoiding the catastrophe that was communism? Again, I think a lot hinges on the psychological. Has capitalism worked well because it accommodates our selfishness, allowing that selfishness to be the motive engine that drives it, or is our selfishness a product of capitalism? Are we encouraged to want more and compete more because the system doesn’t foster a sense of community which would be counter-productive to it? Of course the two are not mutually exclusive, but I think new economics will be more likely to succeed if the insecurity of ego which lies at the heart of our selfishness is healed.

Pinchbeck also examines the subject of sexuality. Is our materialistic consumption partly fed by pervasive disappointment in our erotic lives? Are we meant to be monogamous? I think this is an important subject to look at. It’s been a troubled area for Pinchbeck himself. But when we repress any aspect of our being we also end up repressing our capacity for openness, honesty, spontaneity and generosity - our capacity for love. So if we are going to have a community which functions more smoothly and productiveness, it needs to be one which knows what to do about erotic desires as an alternative to repressing them. There is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this, something which Pinchbeck acknowledges.

When it comes to spirituality, Pinchbeck really throws it all in. He even touches on reincarnation, clairvoyance, tele-kinesis and astral travel. (David Icke’s lizard men get a mention to.) This may lose him credibility in the eyes of many, but he does provide a lot of food for thought for the open-minded. Do these things seem more credible to someone who has taken ayahuasca? Maybe. Since I’m not prepared to take some of these things with a handful of magic mushrooms, I’ll take them with a grain of salt, but it is important to acknowledge that he is only presenting these things as “maybes” and the fact that he has a very open minded on these subjects doesn’t diminish the importance of the bulk of what he has to say. I think he is right that we will need something similar to the religious spirit - a shared vision of something greater than ourselves to unite and motivate us.

He places a lot of importance on the media as a possible way of generating fast change. If new trends spread like wild-fire across television and social media, why not the enthusiasm for this rescue mission along with all the information we will need to bring it about? And look at how the propaganda effort turned around U.S. society to fight World War II. It has to be said though that it is easier to appeal to our hedonism, our paranoia about germs crawling around our bathroom or our latent aggression and xenophobia, than it is to genuinely inspire us toward a community effort. We need autonomous individuals, not sheep, but with that caveat aside I think he is right that both mass and social media can provide us with the network we need to share practical skills and information as well as the kind of vision Pinchbeck provides us with in his book - one of a bright future that yet may be.

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