Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mindful Silent Retreat

I Am Mindful!
Yesterday, I attended a day long silent retreat with Mindful Shenandoah Valley. It is a day with no computer, no cell phone, and no talking. Some of you will find hard to believe that I can go a day without talking! I did and this was my second time. During the day, I often wished for a pen and paper to document my shifting thoughts and feelings. However, this morning I realize that one simply cannot capture this in written or spoken word. It's an experience of self-discovery, self-awareness, and insight that cannot truly be understood by anyone until he or she has gone through the process. 

 Photo by Shell Fischer
During my meditation walk, I decided to walk along the trail in the woods.  We were told to not wander off far so that we could hear the Tibetan singing bowl. I started my walk with feeling my breath and how each part of my body felt while walking. Then I noticed the heart shaped leaves on the redbud trees, the smell of the earth, which evoked a good memory of my grandfather when he took me hiking on Ruffner Mountain
Ruffner Mountain
I started to feel a bit anxious and wasn’t sure how long I had been walking, and I started to worry that I might get lost.  Yet, I brought myself back to my breath and said inwardly, it is ok to go a bit further. 

I am so glad I did, as I turned the corner, a large amount of wild ripe blackberries were in view. I stopped and examined a few. Then picked one and ate it. It was the best tasting blackberry, I believe I have ever had! As I turned around, I saw a clump of white daisies. The sun was filtering through the trees just right to enhance the colors. The inner yellow reminded me of my own light that I carry. How it can be enhanced or dulled.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  Marcel Proust

I continued to walk and the path completely turned to moss. I have never seen this before, so I slipped off my sandals and walked on it. It wasn’t wet and spongy at all but it was a dry tickle. I felt joy. The moss had a flexibility, it could be compressed without damage as I walked on it. Again, this brought personal insight.  I walked a little further and crossed a stream bed of dry dead sticks. The sound of each crunch, crackle, and break reminded me of how I can hold on to anger, fear, hurt, resentment, pain or ill will that causes suffering – everything arises and everything passes away. 

 Photo by Shell Fischer
It was at this point that I felt release and I watered the trail a bit with my tears. That too was ok. It was now the time to turn around and walk back to the meditation hall. As I approached the long red side of the building, the familiar ring of the Tibetan bell brought me home. I wasn’t late, lost, fixing, or attempting to change anything. I just was being in the moment. I understood that “Now” is a feeling, a sensation, a presence that is tangible if you slow down long enough to feel it. I am reminded of the great words of Eckhart Tolle, 

“All you really need to do is accept this moment fully. You are then at ease in the here and now and at ease with yourself.”
Photo by Shell Fischer
Today, right now, at this moment,
 I am mindful! 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Veronica Roth

 Divergent by Veronica Roth
A Book Review

This book came to me as a highly recommended read by a good friend. I am breathless, and so grateful that he told me to read Divergent by Veronica Roth. The Novel begins in a futurist Chicago with 16 year old Beatrice Prior testing for insight into one of five factions that she will devote her life. Each faction is committed to the conviction of a specific virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). This fast paced, captivating novel will completely take the reader on a journey of self-evaluation, entertainment, and a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish.

Imagine growing up in a family where you uphold the ideals of your parents. Only allowed to look in the mirror once a year, outfitted in the simplest, dull clothing, and devote oneself to others. Beatrice, the female protagonist of the novel, has struggled to be as kind as her mother, as calm as her older brother, and as good a civil servant as her father. Yet, she knows that she is different inside. Veronica Roth has woven a complex exploring theme that can convey philosophical debate, political messages, and the human nature of becoming oneself in a world of chaos. This dystopian society is carried over into the setting and the development of characters. I thought it was very cleaver of the author because it enhances the tone and plausibility. Some may argue with this, yet it is common practice now to give aptitude tests to our children and inject them with immunizations within our trusted government framework.

Photo by By Andrew Sims (@sims) Check out his interview with Roth!

Divergent is the debut novel by Veronica Roth and is the first of a series of the trilogy. It is a young adult's novel but can be enjoyed by a much older audience. My favorite quote in the novel was, "There is power in controlling something that can do so much damage- in controlling something, period." Tobias Eaton, better known as his nickname, Four, was my favorite character. He is later revealed to be the Dauntless transfer initiates' instructor. He has several remarkable developments within his character that is discovered as the plot thickens.

Many readers will be able to relate to Four because he envelops transformation and growth. His best quote is, "I don't want to be just one thing, and I can't be. I want to be brave and I want to be selfless, intelligent and honest and kind." Readers will find the motives and actions of each character as credible. The ending is almost a tease but I have already purchased the next two books in the series. A comparison of the work by American writer Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. I highly recommend Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Peter Collier


By Peter Collier

Amazon Digital Services, Inc. $4.99 ASIN: B00J8CNA2G
A 5 Star Stanza Rhyming Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

Peter Collier is quite the children's storytelling master
With his latest novel of Triumph and Disaster
The setting is Spring in a country field
Amazing what an `Immovable Rock' would yield

The farmers there are of a 'different mind'
Their doors are often unlocked and their hearts so kind
Farmer Ken Grimm and his neighbor Farmer Orville Grun
Grab picks, shovels, and that's how it begun

Just when you think all is resolved
Farmer Ned and the bees are involved
Peter Collier has a talent for Prose
Words, images are craftily composed

Written for children ages six to ten
Yet enjoyed by older women and men
Grandpa and grandma read this at night
Little ones will relish it under moonlight

Don't let this book go unnoticed or unread.
A good bedtime story should be widespread
I highly recommend "OUR TOWN COLLECTION"
It is available to you in the Amazon Kindle section

A Canadian author with stories and style deserving attention, Peter W. Collier beganwith writing rhyming prose stories for his own children. His stories are both a delight to read and to hear.

It wasn't until recently that the e-book format provided a conduit for sharing his quirky rhyming story style to a broader international readership. Peter's Canadian homegrown originality has been well-received, with new myths like the 'Snow Alligators', 'The Garden Party', 'Lou and Stu', 'The Fishing Derby', 'The Immovable Rock', or 'The Very Last Apple' are poised to become creative milestones.
Currently, readers will find 21 stories available in EBook format, some including illustrations, as bedtime reading for children of several age categories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Elie Wiesel

By Elie Wiesel

A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman
Night by Elie Wiesel is best defined as humility, horrific times, and passionate memories; devastating to its core. It tells the poignant and difficult story of Elie Wiesel's experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. I initially became interested in this novel after a discussion of Viktor E. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Ellie Wiesel, transports readers to a place no one should ever have to go, a concentration camp. After reading several Holocaust experiences, I was most touched with the raw honest nature of Night. With intense imagery, symbolism, and literary devices, Elie Wiesel develops a thematic base of inhumanity vs. faith.

Foreshadowing is prominent throughout the book. For example, Moshe the Beadle returns to his village after escaping the Gestapo in Poland near the end of 1942. He considers himself a messenger however, the villagers believe he has lost his mind and ignore his frenzied warning. Another scene on a train describes Madame Schächter with a ten-year-old son who hysterically cries "Fire! A terrible fire! Mercy! Oh, that fire!" This use of foreshadowing adds to the theme of disbelief and silence as rational excuses are made to explain both of their behavior. Furthermore, it gives a seriousness to the tone of the memoir. Intense imagery creates a haunting and devastating true story for the reader. The scene with Juliek the musician on the train and the interactions of The Pipel increases the sense of hopelessness and that humanity is irredeemable as well as God having abandoned his creation. 

Although this is a rather short read, it has a very profound and powerful impact. Night cautions of the dangers of silence in the face of hatred and persecution. Elie Wiesel cautions the world to never forget the Holocaust in order to prevent it from happening again. The main characters are Eliezer and his father, Chlomo Wiese. Without giving the memoir away, the most profound and heart wrenching scene are between father and son. My favorite quote was, “For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.” My purchased edition included the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech along with other valuable resources such as the preface to the new translation. Books such as Night will forever remain a voice to the global world. There is great emphasis of the importance to never forget the past and that we must never be afraid to speak or fight for those that society has blindly ignored. Author Elie Wiesel states it best when he wrote, “I believe it important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.” Yes, people and books invite and create the destiny of change, hope, and remembrance. I give my highest recommendation to Night by Elie Wiesel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daniela I. Norris

On Dragonfly Wings – a Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship
By Daniela I. Norris

Axis Mundi Books (April 25, 2014) 152 pages
ISBN-10: 178279512X Paperback $14.25
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

As a reading fan of the Geneva Writers Group, I was asked for an honest review of Daniela Norris’s book, On Dragonfly Wings – a Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship. Daniela Norris, a former diplomat, now writer began a spiritual quest following the loss of her younger brother Michael in a drowning accident in 2010. This powerful enlightening book was so touching that I have purchased three copies. One for the local library, a friend, and one for myself. The book is a personal journey that is educational, unpretentious, almost breezy, and written in an intimate personal style. 

Listen to June 13th Radio Interview by Daniela Norris – A Skeptic’s Journey to Mediumship
On Dragonfly Wings – a Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship is not intended to convert skeptics. Norris is speaking to the interested average reader, and not to people whose minds are already made up. As a reader, I was completely captivated by the personal stories such as the lonely spirit and the fire alarm. The personal hypnotic regression stories are intense, emotional, and have an amazing quality about them. Each are well written and interesting. In fact, after the memory of the French Resistance fighter, I had a sense of gratitude and learned that all memories, emotional and physical, are powerful tools to help each of us benefit in the present. Furthermore, the memory of the young Tibetan boy and his mother’s love teaches that love is not only letting go, but the lasting gift toward others that will create an imprint upon both souls.
Photo by: Rinat Halon

Daniela Norris further provides the reader with many exercises that enhance the self-discovery of mediumship. The author observes that her principal interest in mediumship is not the mechanism behind the phenomenon, but its spirituality and social utility that has evolved over centuries. As she points out, “Scientists are the first to admit that there is very little in our world that science can currently explain – and this is not because its methods are flawed – but because it does not have all the right tools and information – yet.”

Photo: Rinat Halon

Photo by: Rinat Halon

Photo: Rinat Halon

Daniela Norris feels it should be possible to gain advantages from mediumship even if we don't have a theory by which to explain it. One of her top priorities in her personal journey of mediumship's value is in the grieving process. She began this process after the loss of her brother and found that science and spirituality can build a respect for each other. This was proven at her brother’s funeral when a Palestinian, called “to offer his condolences, the look of disbelief on the faces of Michael’s young friends only intensifies. A Palestinian? Calling to offer his condolences for the death of an Israeli soldier!” It is this connection that science and spirituality will have one day.

Reading at Off the Shelf June 2014 
As our society ages, this topic may become even more relevant than it is today. For instance, when the author was toward the end of her pregnancy she had an experience with spoon bending that brought a powerful personal lesson. Each of these lessons presented to the reader are also unique and this book is much like a foundation to enhance your own personal self-discovery. I really appreciated how the author provides several “How To” useful guidelines, and an appendix with helpful links for additional reading. Daniela Norris also uses subtle symbolism. For example, the author had only 20 chapters but this was the same amount of years Michael lived. I also really enjoyed the quotes and poem provided by the author which enriches the book. From the death of her brother to the birth of her daughter, Daniela Norris gives the reader a full, thought provoking book on the power of self-discovery, death, reincarnation, past life regression, and on mediumship. I give my highest recommendation to, On Dragonfly Wings – a Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship by Daniela Norris.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Oh The Perspective!

Compassion and taking a step back to look from a different perspective is often empowering.

 To pause and consider other viewpoints mindfully is an essential skill for problem solving in all areas, from understanding conflict to finding alternative strategies for solving problems. Mentally standing in someone else's shoes requires reflection and giving up ones ego, pride, and can forestall an unthinking reaction. 

"Stopping the unending flow of daily life for a pause and possibly a moment’s thought…"Alan McCluskey  

I myself have done this for a female who hurt me terribly and as soon as I opened my heart to her, the compassion and true forgiveness began. I became OK. This is often completed privately but I was surprised at how many others noticed the change in me without knowing what was going on inside. Furthermore, our brains are very involved with this process! Calm perspective talking directs incoming information on to the reflective part of the brain.

Hmmmm.. How can I put this. Our emotional amygdala will stand down and our prefrontal cortex becomes in control. It is this part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) that makes superior decisions, facilitating good choices. I could go on with how this creates neuroplasticity.... However, I think each who reads this will understand.

Special thanks to Janice Phelps Williams for inspiring this post! Oh and to Mindful Shenandoah Valley for the wonderful tools you have given me! And gratitude toward many others who are part of my path of life!


"True generosity requires more of us than kindly impulse. Above all it requires imagination – the capacity to see people in all their perplexities and needs, and to know how to expend ourselves effectively for them." I.A.R. Wylie.

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