Reviewed by Lee Sinclair
Setting Your Heart On Fire: Seven Invitations to Liberating Your Life by Raphael Cushnir
This book started off as a 4 star book but dropped to 3 stars about halfway through. The change was subtle, and initially, the only thing I noticed was that my attention was no longer being held by what I was reading. I thought it was my fault, that I was too distracted by other things to focus on it. But when I went back through the book to remind myself of the content before writing this review, I was able to find where the book lost me. As a result, this review focuses mostly on how the book was written, rather than the content.
There were two parts in the book that contributed to this problem, both in different ways. The first was when Cushnir was talking about the Fourth Invitation, “Live Like You’re Dying.” Ironically, it was not the topic of dying that was the problem, although it’s not the most comfortable thing to think about. Instead, it was his use of the “stop reading and do this exercise” technique. I generally don’t stop reading in the middle of a book to do an exercise that takes longer than 30 seconds. I’m an impatient reader, eager to get to the next interesting point, especially when a book is good. Exercises disrupt my train of thought and also create a major distraction. In the back of my mind I’m conscious of the fact that I did not do the exercise. And if the author does not include a clear statement about the intended results from the exercise, an element of uncertainty is introduced as well.
In the part about dying, there was more than one exercise presented that I didn’t do, so my focus had already been broken up when I got to the Fifth Invitation, “Live Like You’re Dreaming.” This is where the book lost clarity for me. The change in the writing wasn’t immediately obvious, so it took me a while to figure out what happened. There is an odd phenomenon in writing—too many specific details confuse readers rather than give them a clearer picture. Yet, time after time, writers will pile on more and more details whenever they themselves are not totally clear about what they want to say. At the same time, philosophical or summary statements that guide the reader’s thought processes become vaguer and wordier. The reader is left to figure out for themselves what details are the most important and what meaningful conclusions are suppose to be drawn.
I stumbled through the entire section about the Fifth Invitation and never felt like I truly understood what he was saying or where he was going with it. It just didn’t seem to have the same clarity as the first four. After that, the book was never able to recapture my full attention. Even worse, I felt that when he was discussing the Seventh Invitation, “Widen Your World,” he was attempting to foist his own personal beliefs on me, rather than showing me how to discover them myself, although the feeling was probably my fault, most likely an overreaction and resistance to being told what to believe.
In spite of all this, I do recommend reading the book for the content. If you’ve read books by Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Gay Hendricks, and Frank Kinslow, etc., much of what this book covers will be familiar. But Raphael Cushnir does have a somewhat different perspective and presents the information in a more practical and less spiritual way. This book expanded familiar concepts, filling in gaps and answering some of my questions, making the ideas more applicable to every day life.
The first three Invitations were particularly worth reading. “Feel Everything” addressed the problem of emotional shutdowns, the triggers that cause them and the ways we numb ourselves to feelings. “Question Everything” delves into your beliefs and judgments about yourself and world. “Resist Nothing” covers resistance and acceptance of what is. Other readers may not have the same problem I had with relating to the second half of the book. At the very least, if you do have the same experience with it as I did, perhaps it will be less disconcerting and confusing since you will have been forewarned. And the book was good enough so I plan on reading two more of his books.
The Seven Invitations:
- Feel Everything
- Question Everything
- Resist Nothing
- Live Like You’re Dying
- Live Like You’re Dreaming
- Love Like You’re Dancing
- Widen Your World