Here, There and Everywhere

Whatever Works

41nM1xKgcaLLetting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse by Gwendolyn M. Plano. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

When you’ve been emotionally and physically abused in a 25-year marriage, it takes not only courage to get out, let alone heal, but also an array of support and resources. Ms. Plano provides not only the details of her childhood, adult life and abuse, but also explores what helped, and what didn’t. Adding insult to injury, she later discovers that her daughter was abused by a Catholic sister and several priests. 

The first part of this story is anything but “perfect love”, but its important to provide context and depth to the despair, isolation, and shame that was experienced. The support and realizations that come to the author are as varied and individual as was the abuse. From the instruction’s of a zen teacher, theological inquiries into Christianity and the bible, feeling the presence of an “angel”, and getting psychological support, to the love and care of a Franciscan priest, and a center for abuse survivors. Whatever worked for insight, growth, and healing, is what Ms. Plano reached for.

Two quotes really stood out. “Rather than seeing the controlling behavior for what it was, I focused on what must be wrong with me.” This is such a common, and understandable, feeling that many abuse survivors have echoed. The other was, “It was a delusion to imagine that I was alone, just as it was to imagine that I was unworthy of love.” Self-loathing, self-doubt, and internalizing abuse as one’s “fault”, is one of the most horrendous effects for survivors. The other is feeling isolation and having nowhere to turn.

Another insightful passage, which is seldom spoken of, is about why some people never get out of an abusive relationship. “Domestic violence is usually not reported, and this fact is often misunderstood. Certainly, victims do not report the violence because of the real possibility of retaliation, but there is a deeper reason for their silence. To report partner violence is to betray the partner, it is to forsake the dream of a happily-ever-after marriage, it is to contend with the real and imaginary voices of condemnation, and it is to destroy the family unit.”

Letting Go Into Perfect Love is a blow to the heart, that leaves the reader with a sense that it is possible to survive the unsurvivable. It is possible to acknowledge, confront, and walk away from perpetrators of violence. It is possible to find support – sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are no cliches in this memoir (thank Goddess). There is an honest look at what has, and is happening, to thousands of women across the globe, and how each can find their way to not only survive, but perhaps learn to love again.




Breathing Saved My Life


the art of breathing
The secret to living mindfully.
Just don’t breathe a word of it..
by Dr. Danny Penman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I haven’t seen any book quite like this since the classic Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, back in 1971. Those pages about consciousness, meditation and oneness, opened my eyes to seeing life in new ways, and discovering that I was not a victim of circumstances, or destined to live with pre-conceived conditions. In many ways that book saved my life. The art of breathing can save yours. 

Though half the size of Be Here Nowthe art of breathing is also similar in the way it is designed, using different fonts, layouts, and illustrations, throughout. Dr. Penman includes sections on breathing, happiness, curiosity and awareness, that are straight (or circular) to the point(s), easy to understand, and even easier to practice. There is also a link included to an online site that has all of the meditations available.

Here is a brief excerpt.

“You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. It’s a subtle distinction that’s only perceived with practice.

Your thoughts are a running commentary on the world; a ‘best guess’ of what’s truly happening. Often, your thoughts will reflect the powerful emotional currents swirling through your mind, body and breath. Sometimes they are true, sometimes they are a frantic work in progress, sometimes they are wrong.

Mindfulness teaches you to take the long view, to put your thoughts, feelings and emotions into a broader context. And when you do so, your most frantic and distressing thoughts simply melt away of their own accord, leaving behind a calm, clear, insightful mind.”

There you have it. The means to not get caught in drama after drama, but learn to pause, take a breath, and observe the dance. Our experiences are shaped by stimulus and response. It is the space in between, the breath, that provides the opportunity to see what is there and make conscious choices. The art of breathing is an international best-seller, and when you get your copy you will see why. Become conscious – one breath at a time.


Dying and Living Zen

41CcmYmNunLJewel in the Mud: Zen Musings by Harmony Kent
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Jewel in the Mud is a laywoman’s guide to living life like a nun, as a householder living in the world. It is laid out beautifully, in fifty-two week increments, for anyone who chooses to practice being more aware of what is taking place with their inner and outer world. The author speaks from experience, having lived in both worlds. Ms. Kent resided in a Zen Temple for 13 years, and in mid-life decided to leave that environment, and began a new vocation, meeting a loving partner, and getting her own home.

Many of the weeks thoughts and words were previously conveyed on Ms. Kent’s blog. Luckily, for all who read Jewel in the Mud, she expanded her “Monday Musings” into book form. The weeks include titles such as, Nobility of Silence”, “No Strings”, “First, Breathe”, “Dying to Live”, and “It’s Okay. Have a Meltdown”. The illustration of the lotus flower for each week is lovely, and the caption summing up that section always fits perfectly. For example, in a talk about appreciation, she concludes with, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Here is a brief excerpt from Week Eighteen, called “Life Before Death”.

“Mindfulness is simply about seeing what we have right here, right now, in this moment. It’s about noticing the myriad of small things that make our lives whole. And about catching the stories we tell ourselves. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way right in the present moment. The easiest way to notice as much as possible is to live each moment of your life as though it were the last moment of your life. Or, the first.”

In many ways, Jewel in the Mud, reminds me of the classes Stephen Gaskin held each week in San Francisco, California, in 1969 and 1970, which were later turned into a book called Monday Night Class. He spoke about life, death, community, love, and awareness, in a way that was easily relatable and personable. Ms. Kent’s work has the same vibe. Like Stephen, she does not come off as preachy, egotistical, or superior. Jewel in the Mud has gifts of compassionate and experienced insight for one and all.


Sensual Robin and Miriam

51l1u-uPg1LUnmasking the Knight by Terri Lyndie.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Come with me to the Kingdom of Mercia, in 911 AD England, and read about the love of Gisella and Ranulf. Sounds of Lorena McKennitt’s mystical music floated in the air, and visions of unicorns, magic, and misty meadows filled my vision, as I read Unmasking the Knight. Memories of the Robin Hood film Robin and Miriam, with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, flirted with my mind.

Gisella’s friends, Nesta and Drogo, warn her that Sevarin, the druid prophet, will soon insist on choosing a husband for her, if she does not do so herself. Gisella wants no one but her childhood friend, kindred spirit, and love, Ranulf, but he was lost years before when taken by the King’s army, or so she believes. Here is a brief scene of Ranulf desperately waiting for a rendezvous with Gisella.

“The air was cool, and a low mist had settled upon the moor. Crickets sang a continual melody in the inky beyond. Ranulf could make out the silhouette of the stone circle jutting up in the grassy field but there was no sign of Gisella. Fog bellowed, a figure seemed to appear, and then…”

This sensual first novella, by Terri Lyndie, is a surprising treat. It didn’t take long to read, but took me quickly to a lovely land of longing, and romance. The characters are lovely, there bond is strong, and the emotions and environment are weaved skillfully into the story. Unmasking the Knight isn’t the next War and Peace, but it never pretends to be.


From the Depths

51+ATsTqTWL._UY250_She’s Gone: Broken, Battered and Bruised
by JAnn Bowers. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You wouldn’t think  that poems awash in sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and darkness, would be interesting to read, but this collection is. The poet, JAnn Bowers, has used this form of writing as a catharsis, without any filter, or concern, for sharing her deepest hurt and pain.

She’s Gone is not for the faint of heart, or someone who wants to read happy, lyrical poetry filled with flowers, love, and sweetness. Though there is nothing wrong with that poetry, this is different. Here’s her poem Such A Fool which speaks of friendship and loss with insight and clarity.

As I sit here wiping the tears from my eyes

Knowing that I have lost you as a friend

You meant the world to me

My heart breaks because I know I will miss you

But then I know it’s time to move on

To deal with this loss

And bury the hatchet

That broke us apart

As I say my goodbyes

With tears in my eyes

I will walk away with my head up high

For I know you will always be there in the back of my mind.

And in my heart

For I know you are

Fighting it to

So take care, my friend

I will always cherish you.

Ms. Bowers states in the book that she has moved on and found some solace and breaks, from episodes of depression and hopelessness, but felt that the poems in She’s Gone were needed, for her, at the time they were written. Readers can identify with times in there lives when they too may have touched the edges, or were inundated, with such feelings of despair and pain themselves.


Stars Rising and Falling

51KWV913P1LMy Stars Are Still Shining: A Memoir by Amina Warsuma.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Amina Warsuma has experienced abandonment, bullying, abuse, jealousy, drugs, rape, destitution, wealth, celebrity, insight, care and compassion in her life, so far. In My Stars Are Still Shining she shares these childhood, adolescent and adult events, reactions, and consequences with complete honesty and understanding. Nobody is vilified, or perfect, including herself. I found her life to be both fascinating, and instructive.

The story begins with the background of the two women who had the most influence on Amina – Miss June and Miss Billie. She describes there lives growing up in Mobile, Alabama, how they ended up in New York, and how they came into Amina’s life. She shares there relationships, families, ups and downs, and personalities. Once that foundation is set, she takes the reader into her confidence and explores her own beginning years, and the mother (Virginia) who was so often absent.

“We were at Miss June’s no more than 10 minutes when my mother said, ‘I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.’ She exited Miss June’s apartment and day after day, Miss June and I waited for her to return. A week passed and my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mother disappeared for 5 years.” Similar occurrences took place throughout Amina’s life, including moving from one house to another throughout New York City.

This is a fascinating book. It is part historical (about the South in the last century, and New York City and Harlem in the 40s, 50s, and 60s); part autobiographical (as the author grows up and comes into her own); and part biography (about Michael Jackson, and her longtime friendship with him and his family). Amina has endured many things, and flourished as a model, writer, actress, producer, and dancer. She reveals herself with both objectivity, insight and emotion. Don’t hesitate to get a copy of My Stars Are Still Shining.


Water Under the Bridge

51JYwz0aZ4L._SY346_The Flowers Need Watering by Marcus Lopés
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This story was not at all what I thought it was, and I’m not sure what I thought it was before reading it. Either way, it turned out to be a real treat. The title alone is worth the price. In essence, The Flowers Need Watering is a love story that involves boy meets boy, falls in love, then moves away and loses boy. Then, boy returns, they meet again, and… let’s just say there is a lot of water under the bridge.

The primary characters are Mateo, his partner Simon, and Liam. All of there family and friends (Melinda, Zane, and others) are intricately involved and come together with the death of Mateo’s father. There is also a long-term conflict with Mateo and his family, that involve a painful split when he was a young man. The tension between Liam and his father, and especially with his religious mother (Doris), are perfectly portrayed and explain why Liam is estranged.

The Flowers Need Watering feels real, which speaks volumes for the authors insightful writing. The story is both ordinary, and extraordinary. It is the understanding of human behavior, and our need to love and be loved, that shines throughout this tale of love lost and found, though not found as one may expect. This reads like a good romance, interspersed with family drama, and a big dose of realism and undercurrents of unspoken sorrows and events. Recommend picking this up when you can, and anything else the author writes in the future.


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