Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review - Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason (Caroline Myss)

Hay House sent me a free review copy of the newest book from Caroline Myss: Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason. My girlfriend Jami, who is a therapist and is familiar with several of Myss's books and tapes, read the book, not me, so this review is based on her perceptions regarding the book. Consider this Jami's first guest post at IOC.

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Myss rose to prominence with her books on spiritual healing, Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing and Why People Don't Heal and How They Can and has since gone on to become a fixture on the spirituality and New Age conference circuits, as well as producing several more best-selling books and audio courses.

Where previous books have been more general and based in her own brand of intuitive healing, this one moves more solidly into the mystic traditions inherent in most of the world's major religious traditions. Yet, this is not a how-to book, it's more about our limitations as mental creatures in creating healing in our lives.
This is not an ordinary book on healing. It does not offer guidance on how to heal any particular illness, for example, nor does it proceed on the assumption that all illness is rooted in the mystery of wounds. Instead, this book challenges that approach to healing, and more- it invites the reader to examine the very real limitation of the holistic model of health and to explore a path that breaks with the conventional wisdom that the resources and skill of the mind is sufficient to ignite a transformation in a diseased body. Or, for that matter, that the mind alone can transport a person into the vast domain of the soul. (Introduction, xv)
Some of what Myss talks about are things that I have seen in my own work as a therapist, although her view of therapy is much more limited in scope than how I practice therapy. She talks about healing as a mystical experience and the importance of prayer and spiritual practice. Myss seems to hit on the important stuck points that prevent people from healing.

One of her main points, and the First Truth (of Five) is that we can't reason will illness, crisis, or God. People always want to know why, but sometimes there just isn't a why that we can ever know. I have seen people get stuck in exactly this issues, often wanting to blame others and consequently getting stuck in the victim role, unable to heal. I agree that knowing "why" is not the source of healing, but sometimes it is important to acknowledge that what someone else did impacted us.

Thus she brings in the issue of forgiveness. She feels this process can be circumvented by the three Unreasonable Reasons (pg. 34-39).
1. There's a lesson the crisis - I just have to find it.
2. It's my karma.
3. Illness is the result of negativity.
If you have been around the spirituality an New Age world for any length of time, you have no doubt seen all three of these (Law of Attraction come to mind?). In order to circumvent this limitation on healing, we must get outside of the reasonable mind that looks for reasons why things happen. Our fears our powerful and our "reason collides with reason and pride." Our reasonnable mind gets in the way of humility and forgiveness and keeps us stuck in our fears.

I think that she hits this in a clear way and with considerable depth.

To summarize, all Five Truths are as follows:
1. We can't reason will illness, crisis, or God
2. Connect with meaning and purpose.
3. Courageously navigate the dark night of the soul
4. Rely on the power of your graces
5. Defy gravity and learn to reason like a mystic
I will leave these for you to discover on your own.

While there is much like in this book, including her insistence on the power of prayer (a contemplative practice is at the heart of all mystical traditions), I found her use of the seven dark passions of the soul and her attempt to link them to the seven chakras a bit forced at times, and to me it was not completely clear. That said, it would make sense that the dark passions and seven graces link to our energy field in some manner. I like that she attempts to link perspectives into a larger picture and conceptualization of the self and spirituality.

The seven dark passions (also known as the Seven Deadly Sins) are:
1. Pride
2. Avarice
3. Luxury (self-entitlement and sexuality)
4. Wrath
5. Gluttony
6. Envy
7. Sloth
An example of how her attempt to link these to the chakras does not work is that she links greed to the second chakra and sexuality to the third chakra (which seems different from everything I have learned about sexuality being a second chakra issue in most other systems). For reference, here is one very common chakra system (from head to base of the spine in this one):
She also links the seven graces to the chakras, which seems even less clear to me at times. While I do find the attempt to link them interesting, I failed to see the connection between many of these graces to the corresponding chakra (listed below). What was useful was the prayers she included for each grace.
1. Reverence - Base Chakra
2. Piety - Sacral Chakra
3. Understanding - Solar Plexus Chakra
4. Fortitude - Heart Chakra
5. Counsel - Throat Chakra
6. Knowledge - Brow Chakra
7. Wisdom - Crown Chakra
~ Chapter Four
Overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in spiritual and mystical approaches to healing. This book, along with Entering the Castle, seem to represent a new phase in her work, more poignant and powerful. Along with these, I can also recommend the corresponding CDs that go with these books.

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