Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review - Living Deeply

Title: Living Deeply: The Art & Science of Transformation in Everyday Life
Authors: Marilyn Schlitz, Cassandra Vieten, and Tina Amorok
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications, 2008
Pages: 256
Amazon link
Living Deeply site

Attempting to document the process and aftereffects of a transformative experience is a daunting task. Ultimately, it is a personal and subjective event. However, the authors of Living Deeply succeed in bringing a scientific perspective and methodology to this subject as they skillfully explain what is otherwise ineffable.

The introduction to the book contains a well-delivered, brief education into how the authors define the terms “living deeply” and “transformative experience” as well as the term “noetic knowledge.” In doing so, they frame the reader’s perspective for the information presented in the rest of the book.

On the first page of the first chapter, the authors give their definition of consciousness. It is a necessary prologue because each field of study, from quantum physics to philosophy, has their own working definition of consciousness. In fact, an over-arching definition of consciousness that functions for multiple disciplines has become somewhat of a holy grail in its own right.

The rest of that chapter presents first-hand accounts of people who have undergone a transformative experience and how it has changed their perspective and behavior. While approaching the subject from this angle is not novel, what sets Living Deeply apart is the breadth of variety of the people interviewed. The content of this book is based on a decade-long research program and includes rigorously analyzed data from over 900 interviews. The participants were selected from a wide diversity of background and culture, including Eastern, Western, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous peoples.

After this initial presentation, the authors adeptly begin to explain situations, customs, practices, and beliefs that open opportunities for transformation. They also educate the reader on the different types of transformative experiences. The most basic type is the common “ah-ha” moment that opens a person to another perspective or deeper understanding. However, it usually does not produce life-changing effects. The more profound transformation is at the level of consciousness itself and it does produce long-lasting changes in the way someone relates to themselves, others, and the world.

The authors further explain the differences in the types of transformative experiences by stating that assimilating a new idea and accommodating it are not the same. Assimilation means we simply add a tidbit to our current belief system. But, if it won’t fit, we must widen our beliefs and our worldview to accommodate the new idea.

They also address the internal struggle of striving toward living deeply while enduring the necessary changes it brings by saying, “Even though you may have an internal resistance to change, you also have a natural inclination toward growth.” This is a profound statement of the nature of dualism, which is One knowing itself.

Each chapter is followed by a guided journaling exercise that helps the reader absorb the information and then bring it forward again into a working knowledge that has practical application in their own lives.

Toward the end, the authors restate why they wrote this book, which was “to develop a map of the transformative process that will help you do just that. We offer you a story of how transformation happens that is applicable no matter what spiritual, religious, or even atheistic philosophy you already hold.”

In my opinion, they have succeeded in their goal. Living Deeply is an experience, an education, and a workbook that will help you gain a noetic knowledge of the transformative process.