Sunday, March 06, 2011

Bibliotherapy—reading as a therapy

Category: Conversations

Richard A. Singer is learned in Eastern Psychology, Buddhist Healing, and Non-Violence at the Doctoral Level. In his book Your Daily Walk with Great Minds, Richard provides a complete day-by-day schedule of healing and personal growth through meditation and practicing words of wisdom. For him, reading good books serves as a therapy in itself – what he terms bibliotherapy. Here’s my Q&A with Richard Singer, hoping to be informative and helpful to all readers. Those interested can keep up with Richard at his website http://www.EmbracingthePresent.com.

Ernest: Rick, five years after the first publication of Your Daily Walk with Great Minds, the book is about to come out as a third edition. It has been called a “divination tool”. What exactly is it that makes it stand out from the heaps of self-help books we see in the market today?

Rick: Yes, it’s been five wonderful years since the book has been released and I am so humbled by its success and the feedback that I get from readers.  One of the most prevalent comments I get is that it is a “divination tool” as you mentioned. This means that for each particular day, it aligns with each individual’s life and gives them the exact guidance that the Universe has for them to transform their lives and maximize personal growth as well as Universal transformation. I must say that this has nothing to do with the work of my ego or my talented writing. It’s simply because the words in this book were delivered to me and I was able to write them down for the purpose of helping and guiding human beings. The words come from the creative energy of our Universe. I can take no credit for this except that I was in tune with that energy in those moments and was able to act kind of as a scribe.

As for the uniqueness of this book, it simply is meant to be read and practiced daily rather than be read from cover to cover and be put away. Each day, it’s a very short, but powerful passage that can guide your life just in that one day. The program for each day is very simple, yet extremely effective and powerful. Those that practice this process and live the message will positively experience growth and certainly lend to the spiritual evolution of humanity.

Ernest: In the context of your work, what were some of the biggest and commonest problems plaguing the lives of people and that you felt you needed to address through your book? 

Rick: That’s a great question. I think the main causes of human beings’ discontent are their inability to live for the moment and lacking a purpose and a connection to humanity. There are many important principles discussed in the book but these are a basis for developing peace and contentment in life as well as helping humanity to evolve rather than destroy itself.  Our intimate connection to one another and having a purpose come along with a foundation of mindfulness, which is simply being present in our lives.

Ernest: So would you kindly share with our readers the important transforming principles that can bring lasting peace and happiness?

Rick: I believe that peace and happiness will only appear when we live our life based on a foundation of mindfulness. Specifically working for peace and happiness often leads us astray. Thus, we need to live our life mindful of each moment and work toward some purpose and passion that will help other human beings. Then happiness and peace will appear.

Ernest: Rick, going through the book, I saw that for each day in a year’s course, you have quoted some word of wisdom from some great mind, as we call it. Why so? I mean what role has an intellectual’s word to play in a layman’s life?

Rick: We are all human beings and those minds of the past are part of our human family. We can relate to these individuals and be inspired by their insight, vision, and how they lived their lives. We are no different than Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Oprah. We all have the capacity to be great in our own unique way and contribute to changing the world. Inspiration and healing is also gained through books, which can be called bibliotherapy, because identifying with the expressions and the stories in a book can change one’s life immediately if the individual transfers what they get from the book to their daily life. For me, books have saved my life, been my friend in tough times of loneliness and despair, and inspired me to continue living a life that matters. Books are my life, whether it be writing them or reading them. Books are amazing because they let us deep into the minds of fellow human beings.

Ernest: Meditation sounds central to the healing philosophy explained in your book. I assume there are different forms of meditations in different cultures. What is the one, or those more than one, kind that research has found the most beneficial in mental and spiritual healing?

Rick: Yes meditation is extremely important in life and healing. This may mean many different things to many different people; however what I encourage is a living meditation, called mindfulness. Research has recently shown mindfulness to be extremely effective in all aspects of a person’s life, especially physical and psychological health. There are many different definitions of mindfulness, sometimes making it much more complex than it really is. Mindfulness is simply living completely in the moment without judgment. Just experiencing the Now right in front of us; embracing this very moment with all our being. The past and future are illusions and all we really have and are guaranteed is the Now. This is actually the focus of my newest book that was released in July titled Now: Embracing the Present Moment.

Ernest: Like other self-help writers, you highly recommend journaling as a healing practice. From my experience, I can say that some of us tend to get attached, possessively so, to our journals/written words; such that we become dependent on it, somewhat compulsively. Is it so?

Rick: We can become attached to or obsessed with anything in our life and journaling is no exception. It certainly takes practice and commitment to practice journaling daily. However, I encourage journaling as a pleasurable healing practice rather than something that you need to do every day. Being attached and obsessed are functions of the ego; however, if we have a firm foundation of mindfulness in our life, we recognize when our ego is attempting to control us and we can allow this ego energy to come and go as mere thoughts that are not related to who we are or what we need to do.

Ernest: So, do you think this is healthy or do we need to take care of the way we practice journaling?

Rick: As discussed previously the basis of healing and growth is a foundation of mindfulness, thus being able to experience our being rather than being controlled by our ego based thoughts. When we can recognize the talk of our ego and detach from this, we can be healthy and peaceful in everything we do.

Ernest: And what is the significance of group work or group therapy in one’s recovery/healing process?

Rick: Group work is the most powerful form of therapy or healing there is, whether self help groups or therapist-run groups. The more people involved in a purpose, and the more insight that can be gained, the more beneficial and powerful the healing. Support groups with a specific purpose and a related population are often more healing than any other form of therapy. When we can relate to other human beings that share our concerns and suffering we gain powerful insight and inspiration. A group is a microcosm of real life and we can learn and practice skills that can be applied in our daily life outside of the group. My hope is that we as human beings realize eventually that if humanity was to get together as one group and unite to change the world, it would happen. However, we can start small in groups practicing the principles in this book and expanding our passion and purpose to include more and more human beings. This will shift the consciousness of humanity away from destruction and toward peace and unity.

Ernest: Would you agree that, in reference to Your Daily Walk with Great Minds, healing is an art to be learned by oneself with personal involvement and not just following the dictation by a healer/therapist?

Rick: Absolutely, first of all, any “real” healer or therapist will not dictate to a human being anything. They will guide them to find true growth and self-realization that lives internally. We are all personally responsible for our personal and spiritual growth. Human beings have within them everything they need to become enlightened and transcend suffering.

Ernest: Right. Rick, before we bid a bye, what role does our daily environment play in our mental or spiritual health? What is the ideal environment to live in for optimum health?

Rick: Peace and enlightenment can be achieved within any environment. We are only as free as we allow our self to be.

Ernest: Many thanks Rick for taking time out for this conversation! Hopefully, we’ll talk more about it in the coming weeks.

Rick: Thanks so much for chatting with me.  It’s always such a pleasure to discuss what I am truly passionate about.  I look forward to many, many years of writing in order to bring the world anything I can to help with transforming humanity.