Stephanie Dowrick is the author, among other books, of Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love. This talk on the vital theme of forgiveness was recorded at the Happiness & Its Causes Conference in Sydney, in 2007. Stephanie spoke after His Holiness the Dalai Lama had spoken to a packed and highly receptive audience. The talk was recorded by ABC Radio National and played in 2007 and 2008. This is the link to the MP3 download of Stephanie Dowrick’s talk. You are welcome to comment on Stephanie Dowrick’s Facebook page where she regularly posts inspirational thoughts. You can purchase Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love at the Stephanie Dowrick Bookstore, administered by Collins/Seek. You can also buy from that same bookstore the unabridged AUDIO version of Forgiveness – or you can click on this link to purchase the unabridged MP3 version from Bolinda Audio Books.
A ‘tour de force in matters of the heart’ Claire Scobie, Kindred Spirit This powerful, beautiful, transformative book reminds us on every page that a life worth living is a life of love. Love is the currency that transcends all others. Love connects us most deeply to our best selves, as well as to other people. The presence or absence of love makes the greatest difference to our happiness, our health and wellbeing. Yet seeking love and sustaining it continues to disappoint many people.
In Dr Stephanie Dowrick’s latest book, EVERYDAY KINDNESS, she writes extensively – and with compassion and great encouragement – about mood, food (what we put into our bodies and our minds), as well as our attitudes to our own and other people’s bodies. Here is an abridged extract from her book – now widely available.
I’m no weight loss expert. On the other hand, most people who write diet books or promote diet products are not especially expert either. They may be able to tell you which foods to cut out or down. Or urge more exercise. What they can’t do is help you keep weight off in a sustained way.
Stephanie Dowrick’s new children book is The Moon Shines Out of the Dark, an enchanting, tender story of a little boy called Harry who must wait through a long night for the moon to reappear in the sky – and for Mum to return home. All the while Harry is remembering the lovely rhythms and events in his everyday life: Dad’s kindly humour, Mum’s love for plants (and Harry!), his friends, his precious marbles…and his own love for the wondrous sky and moon. The book is perfect for imaginative children – are there any other kind? And is illustrated with magnificent, engaging paintings from award-winning Anne Spudvilas. “A great addition to any bookshelf and a moving story to be shared by families everywhere.” Australian Bookseller and Publisher
The Moon Shines Out of the Dark is Stephanie Dowrick’s first children’s book for many years. It’s a tender, touching story for 4-7 year olds, focusing on an enchanting little boy called Harry. The book is wonderfully illustrated by award-winning artist and illustrator, Anne Spudvilas. “A great addition to any bookshelf and a moving story to be shared by families everywhere.” Australian Bookseller and Publisher
Launch events for The Moon Shines Out of the Dark – Sydney. October 2012 (Allen & Unwin) Stephanie Dowrick will read the book, talk with children (and adults!) and sign copies at the following venues:
Stephanie Dowrick reviews Anna Funder’s exceptional debut novel, recent winner of the Miles Franklin (published by Penguin Australia). This review first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
What kind of people dare to dream of a better world than the one in which they find themselves? Ruth – one of this immensely fine novel’s two narrators – names empathic imagination and the actions that arise from it as critical: “Imagining the life of another is an act of compassion as holy as any… We risked our lives to help our fellows…imagine.” But Ruth’s “fellows”, in pre-1939 Germany and in London, did not sufficiently “imagine”. And, largely, did not act or react compassionately. Ruth continues: “It is not that people lack an imagination. It is that they stop themselves using it. Because once you have imagined such suffering, how can you still do nothing?”
My on-line bookstore is administered and run by Seek/Collins and is less than exciting in design (I’m in their hands on this). However, because of their size it offers a vast range of books, many available immediately, and all at a minimum discount of 10% off the retail price. That means you can find for $20 or less some exceptional books, including Jeanette Winterson or Anna Funder’s glorious bestsellers (Why be Happy When You Could be Normal? or All That I Am) along with some other brilliant, less well known books in my long list of special recommendations. You can also find my books – available immediately – plus the unabridged audio editions of Choosing Happiness, Forgiveness and Seeking the Sacred (the last two read by me), as well as my meditation CDs which are much harder to find elsewhere.
Religious belief – or its absence – is key in shaping how we will interpret the world and respond to it. It also profoundly influences how we value life as well as our own lives, and all the choices that flow from that.
This makes it surprising how relatively few contemporary memoirs are written primarily as spiritual explorations. In the last year I have read just two outstanding examples. The first was The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana, an impressive young American who spent enough time in Syria to explore not only the outer culture of that increasingly troubled country but also her own inner spiritual evolution. The second, and the focus of this review, comes from Richard Holloway, a magnificent writer with a string of thoughtful books already to his credit.
One in 8 Australian adults drinks alcohol to excess. Fourteen per cent of our children live with at least one parent who drinks to excess. (And is frightening, sometimes violent and always unsafe and self-absorbed.) More than 3000 Australians die each year as the result of excessive drinking. Alcohol abuse and misuse is estimated to cost our society more than $25billion annually. And the personal agonies are incalculable. Cheers, anyone?
Most of us talk a great deal about freedom. And regard it as an ideal. Living that ideal though – and the sense of choice and inner authority that it implies – is something else altogether. In my own life I struggle not to use the “slave” words: “have to”, “must”, “can’t”. And I try to catch myself when I say, “I have no time to…”.
Thomas Merton: “If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not at all. No man [or woman] can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
If the day feels impossible and it’s hardly begun, take charge. Make a list! Invest a few minutes to identify and write down those “countless” demands. Look hard at them. Strike out any that are not 100% necessary. Consider what you could pass on to other people. Think creatively about how you could do something differently or faster. Number them in order of importance. Check if they matter to other people and how. Be honest about what you are habitually postponing. Do that first. As things get finished, encourage yourself by striking them out. Reconsider your resources and priorities as the day progresses. Best of!
Your physical health as well as your emotional wellbeing is dramatically affected by the quality of your relationships. As we approach Valentine’s Day 2012, it’s worth thinking hard about the people on whom we most depend, and that may be your partner. An intimate relationship can so easily be overloaded with a mountain of expectations (No, your partner is NOT your parent…!). Or burdened by resentments and complaints. We can so easily be distracted by what we are not getting, rather than thinking about what we are mutually creating. Here are simple ideals and ideas that will transform and uplift any relationship where goodwill and hope continue to exist. My guess is that just one or two will stand out and provide a gentle nudge. I hope so!
1. Come into the present moment. When you panic, your thoughts break time barriers. You imagine, “This will go on forever.” Or, “Nothing will ever change.” Take as much time as is needed to move your awareness around your body, noting where you are in time and space at this very moment. Breathe slowly into the moment. I know it sounds silly. That’s good. Silly is better than panic. “Breathing slowly as I stand in the airport…I calm my body.” Or, “Breathing in through the soles of my feet, I feel more grounded.” You will actually feel some of that anxiety leave you and a greater sense of control and calm return. I promise.
There’ve been lots of questions in the twitter and Facebook spheres in recent weeks about why writers write. My own shortest answer would be: to know more. For me, there’s no better way to understand humankind as well as ideas in greater depth – and to use the gifts of mind and spirit that are our species’ greatest blessing. I read for joy, distraction, insight, pleasure, knowledge. I read because I am an idealist. Because I am incurably (I hope) curious. In fact, because I am increasingly curious as I age. Because books have been my most faithful companions since I was a tiny child. Because they speak to me, as Rainer Maria Rilke would say, of the “deepest things”. Reading creates meaning for me. And, in the presence of words, I sometimes laugh out loud. Or cry over lives that otherwise would never be part of mine. An introvert, I am never “alone” when I have something to read. Never bored. Rarely restless. And I write for similar reasons.
What is the universal message for “all humankind” – regardless of religious labels?
Surely the greatest challenge we face today is learning what the call to love asks of us, inwardly and outwardly. Learning what it might mean to love universally, regardless of “liking” or “agreeing with”. It’s the call that’s at the heart of all religions: the only call or idea fully worthy of our attention. Learning to love because we can and not just when it suits us. Learning to understand that love can transcend personal preferences or even affection. The usual messages at this time of year call for peace on earth. But peace would follow very naturally if we were to heed the call to love. Love is the supreme transformational power. It transcends personality and opinions. It demands and it offers at least a minimum of care. How could we wish harm to people whose lives we care about? Those we know, those we don’t know; those like us, those miserably unlike us: our care could and perhaps has to include them all.
Dear Mr Abbott
Barely a week ago, as most of us were preparing for this precious Christmas break, the media brought us news of the fate of yet more people seeking safety in Australia. This time the numbers of the dead were more startling. More disturbing. And it’s not just the numbers. The agony of the few survivors reminds us starkly how increasingly impossible it is to stand by. The media has also been telling us that you have been hesitating to compromise on more compassionate responses, within Australia or overseas. Or perhaps it’s the idea of co-operating with a government you despise that holds you back?
Dr Stephanie Dowrick’s new book, Everyday Kindness: Short cuts to a happier and more confident life, offers short, wise and often very entertaining chapters on the great variety of experiences that we call “everyday life”. Adding kindness to the mix – or greater care, appreciation, good humour, respect – life itself takes a turn for the better. We feel better. We are far easier and more comfortable to be around.
- Invest in the writers you care about. Buy their books. Don’t borrow or boast of buying 2nd-hand. (Live authors need royalties.)
- Don’t assume that just because authors “love” writing, they can survive on inspiration alone.
- Step outside your comfort zone: read adventurously.
- Read and buy locally, especially if you live in a country with a small “home” market.
- Read and buy internationally. No better way to understand people and places that seem quite different from you and yours.
- Use public websites – including on-line bookstores – to write brief, positive reviews of books that matter. It makes a difference.
This portrait of 20th-century European poet Rainer Maria Rilke is by his friend the Expressionist painter, Paula Modersohn-Becker, painted when both were adventurous idealists in their 20s. I have a particular fondness for it because it was when I working at The Women’s Press in London in the early 1980s that we published the first-ever monograph on Modersohn-Becker. Through that work I made my first discoveries of the exceptional writings of Rilke. Decades later my spiritual and psychological study of Rilke, In the Company of Rilke, has been published in Australia and, now, also in the United States. Yet despite the exceptional reputation of this poet, and the liberating effect his writing has on such a wide variety of readers, I am still asked (sometimes sceptically): Why Rilke? And, less often, what was it like for you, the reader as well as the writer, to spend years in the company of this man? What follows is my attempt to make some of that a little clearer.