A review by Joey Madia
As I type this review—my 198th—I do so in the midst of an America (and a world) in crisis. We are in day three of a contested, contentious election. England has locked back down for at least a month, and people were leaving Paris in droves ahead of a second lockdown because the pandemic is once again spreading at alarming, and in some places unmitigated, rates.
Colleagues, clients, and just about everyone I talk with feel a Pressure. A dark, invasive Cloud of Worry, Fear, and Stress.
We don’t yet understand the extent to which the world has changed in the past seven months. Let’s start with the hundreds of thousands dead, and those who have survived COVID-19 but will live with its effects for the rest of their (potentially shortened or diminished) lives. How about the many industries, businesses, and livelihoods that have been irreparably damaged or people displaced from their homes? How many twenty-somethings have moved back in with their parents, their lives put on hold, as have our son and his closest friend?
We must have something New. New Voices and Visions. New Stories. The stakeholders of the current Systems, which are slowly bleeding out and dying, are screaming out their stories through a handful of International Multimedia Companies and massive manipulation.
So where do we get this much-needed New? I mentioned earlier that this review makes nearly 200. A good number of those reviews, going back more than a decade, have been for Larson Publications. And with ample reason. With authors like William Douglas Horden, master of the I Ching, and Paul Brunton, whose Short Path to Enlightenment has helped innumerable seekers and searchers (as was he) over the years, Larson’s been consistent and insistent in their discovery and publication of authors bringing the New.
Falling Open in a World Falling Apart, by spiritual teacher Amoda Maa, fresh off the presses at the exquisitely perfect time, is no exception. A practical, no nonsense handbook (it is “fru-fru” or “whoo-whoo” free), structured in a series of Socratic dialogues, Falling Open takes the reader beyond spiritual practice and temporary respites from Reality and into the core locations of Love and Truth—the human heart and consciousness itself.
As did David Mamet for theatre and acting, Amoda Maa dispels (with a kindness edged with forcefulness, as any master teacher must) the notions of a lifetime of complex study in systems that take you OUT OF instead of situate you INTO your own authentic life.
Fear not—spirituality and its practices certainly do figure into Amoda Maa’s teachings, but they are the starting place—not the destination. This is the way to “deal with the conflict between the demands of everyday life and the inner journey” (15). This is refreshing. I have often felt that meeting life head on by having a family, career, and all the rest is a greater challenge when it comes to spiritual health than sitting in silence in an isolated temple day after day.
In essence, what the spiritual seekers of the 1960s said about drug users as opposed to meditators is what Amoda is saying about those bound up in meditation as a way to try and escape their life, their Essence, and their Being.
Falling Open, the title states. Always falling open…
But also Falling Apart. As scary as it sounds, this is inescapable in order to see the Golden Buddha that resides inside us all. As Amoda reminds us, chinks in the armor are the way the light gets in.
Although Amoda’s approach is in many ways unique—as was her sudden revelation about the Oneness of everything after struggling with spirituality and darkness for many, many years—she doesn’t refashion the wheel. If you’re familiar with Brené Brown’s work on Authenticity, Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world,” John Kabat-Zinn’s “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf,” Ram Dass’s “be here now,” or Joseph Campbell’s interpretation of Sat Chit Ananda (“follow your bliss”), then you will have a full and fine foundation for the teachings of Amoda Maa.
I was pleased to see that Amoda mentions grace, which I have found to be a worthwhile marker of response to what you encounter. When you practice grace, you meet life’s challenges with peace and acceptance. This was central to Brunton’s work.
Central to Amoda’s own teachings is, of course, Love. Falling open, while practicing “loving kindness” as Pema Chödrön has long encouraged us, along with truly listening, is the path to ending fear.
Along with Love is Truth, defined here as “clear seeing and the absence of resistance to what is” (56). Of all the practices, this can be the hardest. There is always confusion when someone invokes the Buddhist precept that “Everything is as it should be.” Joe Campbell, in his Bill Moyers interviews and subsequent book, met a sea of criticism when he offered up that, under this idea, what we call monsters are sublime.
A nice summation to this important, timely book is, “Problems in life are not what happens, but the conclusions you come to about what happens” (114, emphasis in original). From the Serenity Prayer to Kelsey Grammer, this is an almost embroidery-worthy maxim, best expressed to me by Neale Donald Walsch in his book Home with God in a Life that Never Ends: “Whatever happens to you happens through you and whatever happens through you happens for you.” This is all about beingness, awareness, and acceptance—all of which Amoda explores and explicates in detail.
This truly is a time of Crisis and Chaos, brought into being by corrupt and self-serving Systems, so Amoda’s thoughts on selfish people in power is especially relevant, as are the closing sections on surviving and contributing in these difficult, dangerous times.
Next time you want to take to social media to yell and scream about Hatred and Injustice, consider instead buying and reading this book.
You’ll learn to commit to Falling Open in the midst of Falling Apart.
TITLE: Falling Open in a World Falling Apart
AUTHOR: Amoda Maa
PUBLISHER: Larson Publications