Reviewed in the United States on September 30, 2020
Since receiving this book in the mail yesterday, and reading ten of the one hundred prayers contained within it, I have purchased it three more times for loved ones, and suspect I will continue to purchase it for those I am called to gift with this already timeless and boundless masterpiece on prayer.
Admittedly, I have never been able to grow as enthused about Caroline Myss' books as much as I have her lectures and teachings on Audible, Sounds True, YouTube, and on her website, myss.com. This has always surprised and perplexed me, and I have not yet pinpointed exactly why I feel this way. Perhaps I have lacked maturity and patience to digest her teachings in written form. (Note: I think it has something to do with my preferring the charism of her spoken word, which is piercingly particular - both filled with wisdom and undeniably modern. Myss does not suffer fools. Additionally, if I were to recommend any of her books beside this one, they would be "Entering the Castle", "Defy Gravity", and "Anatomy of the Spirit". I also highly recommend her following lectures, found on Audible: "The Power of Prayer", "Entering the Castle", "The Courage to Confront Evil", "Defy Gravity", "Channeling Grace", "Transforming Trauma" (with James Finley), "Navigating Hope", and "What Makes Us Healthy?")
Nonetheless, her spoken word teachings and lectures have often catapulted me into intense, often mystical states, of meditation, contemplation, self-reflection and -recognition, and prayer, or communion and communication with the Divine. (Her blunt and fierce observations and suggestions have just as often provided me with what I have often needed most in certain confounding situations: a swift kick in the tuchus!)
I was first struck by Myss' spoken words when I happened upon a copy on YouTube of her series on prayer - "The Power of Prayer" - for Sounds True. I was in the midst of a particularly dark and overwhelming time in my life, blighted by depression, addiction, intense fear and anxiety. At the time, faith and prayer were as distant to me as the Earth from the Sun; both seemed as unattainable to me as sobriety, peace, and security. I was not only lost - I was paralyzed.
I was also confused about the direction my spiritual life should take. Did I even have a spiritual life? Should I go the New Age route or the tried, tested, and often torturous religious route to attain one? New Age platitudes and religious condemnations at best eluded me, and at worse seemed to intensify my already tenebrous state. I could find no way out - or in, for that matter - and I grew evermore weary and despondent.
One afternoon at work, while in the middle of some menial task, I came across her series “The Power of Prayer”. Instinctively, as if something were guiding me forward by an invisible thread, I clicked play. Based on the cover-art for the audio series – a stone statue of an angel in deep prayer and contemplation – I assumed the series would be Christian-based in the Evangelical sense, and though I hesitated for a moment, tempted to search for something else, my own Catholic upbringing beckoned me forward with memories of a time when life could still, for me, contain the holy, and be filled with the hope and possibility of miracles.
What first struck me was Myss’ staunch and abrasive quality. Who is this woman, what is she going on about, and who in the hell does she think she is, were some of the first questions that sprung to mind as I listened to her. I couldn’t tell if she was religious or “New Agey.” Still, I was as intrigued as I was confused. Hell, I thought to myself, at least I’ll be entertained for the day. Then it happened: the moment that hurled me inward.
She began, gradually, then suddenly, to speak about evil – a topic I had always found antiquated and useless. Below is the specific segment from “The Power of Prayer” that I have transcribed unabridged, and that I have bookmarked on Audible, and which struck me that day at work, and still serves to remind me during vital moments in my life, not only of the power of darkness, but of the importance of seeking the Light through prayer:
“… Darkness counts on your pride, your arrogance, your greed, your fear. And it turns up the volume on these, which is what spiritual direction is about: to take you and sit you down and say, ‘I’m not interested. I am so not interested in your childhood. Do you understand how I’m not interested in it? I am so not interested.’ I’m interested in right now, how you are regulating your pride. That’s your weapon. I’m interested in whether you walk humbly on this earth. Because the only one in your shoes is you, not your mommy, not your daddy, not your teachers, not your brother, not your sister. For all that has happened to you, and for all that has yet to come, are you humble? Because if you’re not, you are hurting people constantly and blaming someone else for your actions, and allowing yourself to get away with it. And that is evil. Because what evil will say to you is you have a right to hurt another person because someone hurt you. And you do not have that right. No one has that right. No one has the right to pass on their suffering to someone else because they were hurt once upon a time. No one, no one, no one. But that is how evil works and that is what evil will tell you. It will allow you to excuse yourself: But you had a bad day. In fact, evil will tell you that you have a right to poison yourself. You can eat that. Of course, it’s not good for you, but you had a bad day, so you can do whatever you want. But you’re almost diabetic – but that’s okay, because you had a bad day. You’re unhappy, so you can do that. You can do that. You’re lonely, somebody hurt you, so go ahead and poison yourself, you poor thing. And it will produce things in your mind that give you permission to abuse yourself. And out of that abuse tumbles self-hatred that then tumbles into depression and despair. Becomes a drug habit, becomes an anti-depressant habit, becomes a habit of withdrawing from others. Pretty soon you can’t get off the couch. Pretty soon you lose an appetite for your own life. How do you feel about your life? I hate it, I hate it, I hate my life. Your life? Your whole life? Everything? I can’t bear to get up in the morning; I can’t get up. You can’t get up? What if I came over and held you in my arms and lifted you? I have nothing left. You don’t? Where are you getting this? Who’s putting these thoughts in your head? Who’s whispering such darkness to you? A demon. That’s how it works. That’s how it works.”
Talk about a swift kick to the tuchus! That day at work, and later at home, I replayed the segment repeatedly. I felt as if I had recognized something about myself and my circumstances that I had denied for a very long time. I realized I had been completely oblivious to the darkness around and within me, which I not only harbored, but attracted to me through a lack of consciousness and, mostly importantly, a lack of conscience, regarding how I not so much treated others, but how I treated myself. Of course, how we treat ourselves goes hand in hand with how we perceive and treat others - and I had work to do in that department as well - but my own form of intense self-abuse was of most importance at the time.
That was in January of 2016, and though it took another two years of battling demons, of restructuring my conscience and consciousness, and of seeking refuge in God through submission to and in prayer, I finally became clean of my most self-destructive addictions on New Year’s Eve of 2017. The years that have followed have not been easy, and have included further release of additional, though less obvious, addictions, but I have often depended on Myss’ teachings and lectures for strength, guidance, and galvanization. Her work has helped me to find my own faith, and to carve out my own path into prayer and, ultimately, towards Light.
“Intimate Conversations with the Divine” is the first book of Myss’ that has made me feel how I felt that day, nearly five years ago, when I first encountered her work. It is a guide into prayer that breathes with life and with the sacred, and which reminds one of the universalities of doubt, despair, and ultimately, of dependence on something greater, more powerful, and more loving than we dare to imagine or experience.
As I noted in the opening paragraph of this review, I have only reached the tenth prayer, and still have ninety more to go but instantly, I have recognized the mystical, sacred, and holy spark of communion and communication with God, with the Divine, with YHWH, with Allah, with Mother or Father, with Truth and Light – or whatever other names you choose to ascribe to the Creator.
Prayer is a practice we are both called and fall into. It must become for us a daily act as essential and necessary as breathing, consuming a meal, or bathing; as rest or sleep; for it does provide all of those things - and much more - in overflowing abundance. Prayer is an act of withdrawal just as much as it is an act of ultimate liberation.
I suspect I will be keeping this book by my bedside for easy access during times of deep gratitude, and also intense doubt and uncertainty. A handy index of graces has been included at the end of the book for quick reference when one is need of, as Myss often puts it, “a prayer – fast!”
The power of “Intimate Conversations with the Divine” lies in its accessibility - and the accessibility of its prayers - to people of all faiths, denominations, and doubts, too. I have written this review to beckon those who may hesitate though they may be in dire need to pick it up. I consider it Caroline Myss’ breathtaking – and breath-giving – masterpiece.
“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Thank you, Caroline. May you and all of the readers your book has touched, will touch, and has yet to find, be blessed, and may the power and light of the Creator hover over and through you.