A review by Joey Madia
Let’s face it. There are more books available about developing the self through spiritual disciplines than any one person could ever hope to read in a lifetime, with more being published every day. In these times of crisis, I have read and reviewed several good books on this important subject, and each has a little something to offer to this popular and ancient genre, although, at their core, much is just a repeat.
And when you think of the luminaries in the field, including my favorites—Brené Brown, Wayne Dyer, Joseph Campbell, Caroline Myss, Joe Dispenza, Ram Dass, Elizabeth Gilbert, Gay Hendricks—one again has to wonder if it’s all been said already, and better than anyone else could ever hope to say it.
In partial answer to these challenges, I suggest you read (and actively work with) Mary Krygiel’s Reign. When you do, you’ll see that perhaps the best books—or at least, the most compelling and helpful for our times—are still being written.
To begin with, the subtitle contains two concepts—Authenticity and Grace—that I hold to be the core practices of a life well lived. I actively work with them every day.
As to the author, Mary Krygiel is “a board-certified, licensed acupuncturist, classically trained in the Law of Five Elements.” This background, coupled with core Taoist principles (e.g., “work with the flow of nature’s transformations rather than against it”) make her wonderfully well-suited to the framework within which she works.
In Reign, Krygiel applies the five basic Chinese elements—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water—to what she calls the “Kingdom of the Superpowers,” a kingdom governed by the five Chinese seasons, each of which are tied to one of the elements: spring = wood, summer = fire, harvest season = earth, autumn = metal, and winter = water.
There are many parallels in this work with Ayurvedic medicine, developed (or at least written down) in India circa 1,000 BCE. Although this framework also uses five elements, it substitutes Ether for Metal. Further, there are three constitutions, or doshas: vata (space and air), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (water and earth). Those who adhere to ayurvedic practices adjust their diet and lifestyle to keep their doshas healthy and balanced.
I’m a pitta, experiencing in my youth an excess of fire, so I welcome water in my diet and spiritual practices. I’m also interested in the alchemic goal of allowing fire and water to coexist, complementing instead of canceling one another.
I found Reign an invaluable tool to keep achieving these goals.
As to Krygiel’s Superpowers, there are 12, each with their own unique characteristics, both in terms of Light and Shadow aspects.
This is where I really began to pay attention. In this age of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, endless Star Wars space fantasies, Witcher, continued interest in the animated series Avatar, Dungeons & Dragons, immersive fantasy-based video games, and Marvel and other Superhero movies, Reign is akin to a player’s “guidebook” (with whimsical and engaging illustrations by Jen Yoon [www.jenyoonart.com]), that provides an opportunity to reach young people where they live.
As Krygiel introduced the 12 Superpowers, each with a “Scroll of Meditations” and “Lexicon of Powers” to help the reader/participant understand and identify how they work in their lives, I saw abundant connections to creating a character in D&D or in video games, and equally abundant opportunities to introduce young people to Jungian archetypes in a formal, yet fun and useful, way (since they live with them constantly in their gaming and with their social media avatars and in the online images they share).
This connection should not be surprising. Krygiel has two children, and she has seen the strong influence of the Internet and social media on them and others, especially the way they breed inauthentic presentations through what we each choose to share to be “liked.”
Having read and watched fantasy since elementary school, I would have welcomed this book as a teenager. After leaving the Catholic Church at 20, I did not begin my study and application of the world’s spiritual systems until I was 34. Those intervening 14 years were full of personal turmoil and illness (my pitta fire being much too dominant).
Each realm features two attractively illustrated full-page plates related to the element, and each Superpower has its own illustration. Krygiel begins with the Fire Realm, which has four Superpowers.
The kingdom is laid out from a center-point stone castle, with inner and outer Guardians (the first two Superpowers), and works outward with each realm and its Superpowers. Fantasy lovers will enjoy the characters and archetypes, from gatekeepers, to advisors and scholars, to generals, to nobility. There are also the all-important workers, such as gardeners, who are often forgotten or seen as expendable in many stories. They are far from that in this schema. And in life.
Each Superpower has a chart, preceded by a quote from Lao Tzu, possible author of the Tao Te Ching, or another great thinker, with its name, its weakening and amplifying realms, and other information that will look and feel familiar to D&D players. Each Superpower also has a series of questions to answer and a space for Additional Thoughts.
As you get to know the Superpowers through the journaling process, it becomes clear that—similar to Ayurvedic practice—the realms are meant to be paired in a synergistic, alchemical process. Superpowers also complement each another.
The weakening effects on a Superpower, from mis-, over-, or under-use, can be likened to the Shadow in many schemas using Archetypes.
By the time we reach the Metal Realm, we are far off in the kingdom, where the mountains rise like mysterious towers in the sky, evoking the stories of Dwarves and evil wizards with their dark minions in the terrains of Tolkien. It is here we meet the Treasurer and the Scalpel, two of the most interesting and complex of the Superpowers.
The Vessel, which is in the Water Realm, focuses on meditation, which is a practice that has been proven across many disciplines to be of benefit.
The last realm, Wood, is a “verdant forest filled with ancient, colossal trees.” This metaphor of the primordial forest is perfect for journeys into the subconscious and other-worldly realms after the grounding of meditation through water. In our current times of crisis, the leadership roles considered in this realm—and how they are carried out—are of immense importance to us all. Excess, abuse, and under-use are in play all the time, everywhere in our lives.
I applaud Mary Krygiel for creating something new and powerful in a field where one might think it’s all been written, and for doing so with an abundance of Authenticity and Grace.
TITLE: Reign: A Guide to Ruling Your Inner Kingdom of Self with Grace, Power, and Authenticity
AUTHOR: Mary Krygiel
PUBLISHER: Archangel Ink Publishing Services