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Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want
by Martha Beck
New York, NY: Free Press, 2011
290 pages
Reviewed by Monica McDowell

Wordlessness.Oneness.Imagination.Forming. With these four words, the ever-wise Martha Beck takes readers on an enlightening journey to help them discover their true nature. This adventure includes many entertaining tales about Beck’s face-to-face encounters with wild animals that roam free in the game reserve Londolozi, South Africa—a wilderness reclamation project to “restore Eden,” as the caretakers describe their mission. It also happens to be where Nelson Mandela went to live after his lengthy incarceration and before he helped heal the political wounds of South Africa, testifying to the curative properties that seem to flow through this remarkable land. Like the native animal trackers who feature prominently at Londolozi, Beck expertly guides readers to live out their true lives.

The book is divided into four sections, each focusing on one of the four words above, or what Beck terms the “technologies of magic.”Not unlike the apparent magical technologies of an iPhone, these properties recall the seemingly magical way trackers can find a leopard simply through close observation of minute bends in waist-high grass, or how the wayfinders of Polynesia can find an island hundreds of miles away on a cloudy day with no modern navigational equipment merely by studying the ocean waves hitting their boat. Of course, accessing these technologies requires many hours of deep contemplative practice—hardly magic, but she believes these apparently magicalskills are what are desperately needed to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the modern world. By the end of the book she profoundly convinces us that significant rest and sacred play are the only deep practice methods by which humanity and the earth will be restored.

To be sure, this is primarily life-coaching material, overflowing with outstanding self-help instruction. However, at its most mystical, there is little difference between Beck’s style of life coaching and spiritual direction. Spiritual directors of spiritual seekers and others who are of a more inter-faith or inter-spirituality bent will be delighted with the numerous contemplative exercises, meditation tips, guided visualizations, and quotes from mystics of all traditions sprinkled throughout the book. So, too, will spiritual directors who enjoy reading about brain research and other scientific studies that point to the interconnectedness of the universe, as Beck, a Harvard-educated social scientist, adeptly bridges the gaps between science and spirituality.

Beck’s famed wit often had me laughing out loud in some places, while other stories (primarily involving Adam, her adult son with Down syndrome, whom she calls her little Zen Master) moved me to tears. A longtime fan of Beck’s writing,I found this to be my favorite book of hers to date, with the exception of her best-selling autobiography, Expecting Adam, detailing the difficult pregnancy she had with Adam that first broke her open to the reality of miracles in everyday life. If you are looking for a good read that will help you heal as you seek to help the Divine heal others, I can make no stronger recommendation than this tour de force, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.

The Reverend Monica McDowell, MDiv, is an ordained minister, energy healer, spiritual director, and speaker in Seattle, Washington, USA, and the author of Confessions of a Mystic Soccer Mom, You Are Light, and My Karma Ran Over My Dogma. She was the first ordained minister in the United States to be granted civil rights in a federal ruling.

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