10 Things On My Mind

What a thrill to receive feedback from people who visit my blog, more so when the topic they are responding to is about books. With regards to my list of top ten books…..hmmm! I must warn you that I am NOT your usual bookworm who buys what’s hot. In fact, I am a snob in many areas in my life, from music, food, and yes, books and so deliberately avoid anything that’s uso or popular most of the time.

But since you ask, here is a list of books that touched me in some profound way or had a lingering effect on me.

1) Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell–This is a book in Q and A style with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell as interviewed by Bill Moyers. They talk about how myths rule our lives and give it meaning and structure among other things. I just love the way Campbell is so erudite and insightful and can make the case for myths as relevant to every era including ours.

2) Conversations With God Book 1 by Neale Donald Walsch. –This book just blew me away. It opened up my view of God and His/Her unconditional love for us all. I loved it so much I formed discussion groups and even invited the author to visit Manila and give two talks.

3) The Power Of Now by Eckart Tolle—The book takes the reader to a very deep understanding of being in the here and now. I could write volumes about this but I do not wish to spoil anyone’s journey by coating their experience of this book with my own take on it.

4) One Taste by Ken Wilber—I must warn you about this guy. He is definitely a hard read. You have to give his books about 50 pages before you get hooked. The first book I bought by him was A Brief History Of Everything. This guy has the answers to all the big questions of life but he answers it coming from a mind that seems to have studied the way every great thinker has answered it. And then he gives you his take that goes farther than anyone else. I’ve read so many of his works and I really love the guy. Another book of his that is easier to read is No Boundaries. He is definitely THE philosopher of our time.

5) Awareness By De Mello—The writer is a priest whose books are among those banned by the conservative wing of the Church. His understanding of God, faith, human nature, life seems to have been brought about by years of experience in eastern and Christian spirituality.

6) Down Under by Bill Bryson—A travel book on Australia. Funny, witty, informative and full of traveler’s tales that can keep you reading till you finish it.Thoroughly enjoyable and informative. I understand his other books are great too.

6) Love Poems by Pablo Neruda—This guy dances, prays, makes love with his poetry. Try to get the soundtrack of Il Postino on CD. You will weep with delight hearing his poetry recited by famous actors and actresses.

7) The Art Of Possibility By Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander—If you are a teacher like me, you will appreciate the writers’ approach to bringing out the best from students.

8)Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden—A story of womanhood, love and a person’s coming into her own in the secret, fascinating, and sooo Japanese world of geishas in Gion,. Marvelously narrated, I could not put this down.

9) The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck—Here is a book that started me on my spiritual journey. Still a great read.

10) The Gift by Hafiz—This is a poetry book written by a Sufi poet who is similar to Rumi, but even more joyful.

These are not my all-time favorites but more like top- of- mind right now. But it’s an indication of what I’ve been feeding my mind the past few years.

Mind Stuff and a New Cyberhome!

I read two books recently. One is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and Stllness Speaks by Eckart Tolle. Memoirs is quite a book. I saw it in a shelf last January 1 in my Baguio house and decided to browse through it since I forgot to bring my planned reading material for the trip. After the 1st two pages, I was hooked! This book takes the reader through the life and times of one of Japan’s outstanding geishas in the pre-war to post-war period. The story-telling will captivate you and the description of life and love in those times is quaintly exquisite, charming and extremely fascinating. A must read. Incidentally, I checked the web and apparently, Spielberg’s Dreamworks Productions has bought the rights and is now filming it.

The other book, Stillness Speaks, is Eckart Tolle’s long-awaited book after The Power Of Now. If you are the meditative type, get this one. It is a book that one should not finish in one sitting. It is best consumed in tiny doses daily. It is rich in insight and rings true, so true you shudder at how the world seems to have gotten everything wrong about the big ticket items of life like happiness, the self, suffering, meaning, grace and all that.

My next reading will be The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. My wife, daughter and some friends have given them a high must-read reco!

Lastly, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I have a new address now. Thanks to Ate Sienna whose offer to host my blog I accepted even if I still have to meet her in person, I am now in pansitan.net. Soon, I will put up a gallery of my pictures to share with everyone.


Are you ready to "walk the edge"?

-Have you been looking at your life lately and asking yourself, “is this all there is?”

-Are you in between jobs, relationships, careers, dreams?

-Do you find yourself feeling you’ve reached a dead-end and can’t get to the next stage of what or where you want to be?

-Are you sapped of energy and can’t “get into” living the rest of your life? If so, then read on.

At the risk of being accused of peddling, I am pleased to announce the 23rd run of TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE Workshop. This cutting edge workshop I have designed (and which I facilitate) will awaken the inner joy and creativity that you were born with and will introduce practices that will make you creative and unblocked for life. Dozens of students, office types, CEOs, artists, religious, housewives, teachers, parents, etc. have taken this workshop and can vouch for its effectiveness in their rediscovery of their power and creativity. It runs for 6 days at two hours per session. If you want to invest in your own happiness, here’s how:

WHEN: January 26, 28, 30, February 2, 4, 6

WHERE: Rockwell Club

TIME: 7 to 9 PM

COST: P5,000

Snacks will be served.

Please call 426-5375/ 929-0230 for reservations and inquiries and ask for Ollie. If you wish to receive a syllabus, please give me your email and I will gladly send you one. Incidentally, I teach a slightly different and extended version of this as an elective subject at the Ateneo Communications Department.

Thank you.

Love In The Time Of Cancer

There’s something that I’ve been wanting to share in this blog for the past two months but have hesitated. The reason for this is it’s about my Significant Other who is quite a private person. But since so many strangers have been coming up to us showing concern, here it is.

Lydia has breast cancer. After our New Zealand-Australia trip with APO and wives last November, she went for a check up and the doctor told her that a cyst on her left breast was malignant-stage 1. Not long after, she had two lumpectomies done. Luckily these days, mastectomy or total breast removal is not standard procedure anymore for breast cancer cases. They ended up taking out an almost two centimeter lump. Even if the prognosis is good, knowing that she has cancer was quite traumatic especially for her. And that seemed the easy part.

Tomorrow she begins chemotherapy. We are all quite anxious about it since chemo can really take a toll on the body. The chemo fluids enter the body and destroy the cancerous cells. But in the process, it also kills the good with the bad fast growing cells. Immediate effects can be vomiting, mouth sores, a debilitated body with extreme discomfort for about two days after chemo infusion. And yes, hair loss in two weeks! She will be getting 4 rounds of chemo (one every three weeks). After chemo, she rests for a month and then begins radiation treatment which will run for 32 days. The doctor says that pain-wise, radiation is a cinch! It’s the chemo that’s worrisome.

Cancer is a strange thing. One can be detached and clinical about it–that is, until it hits home. It reminds me of what an uncle said many years ago about Martial Law. He said, “Martial law is OK until it happens to you”.

But strangely enough, as I have a more direct and extensive understanding of my wife’s case, I find myself NOT falling apart. I am rather calm and collected about it and so can concentrate on being supportive and patient as she goes through her doubts and fears about her condition.

In all this, I see excellent opportunities for greater spiritual practice– of compassion and yes, detachment. While I will be present for Lydia and will be there for whatever she may need, I will also work on accepting the new realities that we will have to cope with as our bodies become more mortal in the coming years.

For Lydia and I, our three kids and all our friends, it is a time when connections, friendships and intimacies can be cultivated in deeper ways. On the one hand, attachments are made, but on the other, one must let go of expectations and allow the course of things to unravel without clinging to outcomes. This is the paradox of existence. You may love as much as you want, but must do so without expectations.

I am convinced that in the end, God really does not give importance to the things our bodies hold dear–youth, vanity, health, wealth, fame, comfort and all that. While His/Her value system seems based on intangible stuff, I am sure it is no less real–probably the only real stuff there is..

Just the same, I pray that if we cannot have the outcome we want, we may have the peace to accept whatever shows up!